On the outside looking in….

metros 1metros 5This past weekend Montgomery County was home to the Washington Metropolitan Interscholastic Swimming and Diving Championships aka Metros.  It’s an amazing meet and one we have attended as spectators many times.  This year was extra special, in addition to cheering for friends and Olympic athletes, we got to go cheer for our favorite high school swimmer!  Grace.

Grace knew that making finals was a bit of a long shot but she was hopeful.  She swam two relays and two individual events (the max allowed) and did really well, improving her seed on both but not quite enough to make finals.

Sophie and all of her friends had made plans to go back for finals, this was something they have done several years in a row.   Each year Sophie makes a poster to hold up when Katie swims – much like the posters you would expect to see for summer swim.  Friday evening during the 500 free preliminaries after Katie bettered her own US record the girls held the sign up and yelled “we love you Katie”.  She smiled and waved at them – this is more exciting to them than back stage passes to One Direction would be.

Grace also wanted to go back for finals, as a swimmer she was allowed on deck.  Metros is such a fun meet for the kids, all of their swim friends are there.  It is so neat to see the worlds of summer swim, club swim and high school all collide in one pool.  Her disappointment over not making finals quickly subsided when she realized she could go to a swim meet with her hair done and not have to worry about warm ups, warm downs and those pesky races!  We walked through the door and didn’t see her again for many hours.

We got there quite early, knowing it would be complete madness.  It’s a huge meet, crazy fast swimmers and of course, was Katie’s last high school swim meet.  It was an absolutely amazing night, record after record fell – US records, meet records, PVS records – one right after the other.  Sophie and her friends were in heaven.

Not everyone was quite so lucky; they had to quit admitting people into the facility.  The pool has a large window that offers an unobstructed view of the pool.  It was lined with people watching – looking in from the outside.   It’s sort of ironic, that is how I have always felt about metros .  As a spectator I have always felt as though I was on the outside looking in.

At the end of the evening kids were being traded off for sleepovers, I bartered one for two at one point and ended up with a carful of kids spending the night.   Grace’s friend swam in the last event  which left us amongst the last to leave.  Katie, who was being interviewed by several media outlets, ducked out for a few minutes and signed a few autographs.  She signed Sophie’s poster and posed for a few photos.  Sophie then got a few seconds of fame as she was interviewed by a local news team !metros 3

It was truly a remarkable weekend.  I loved being a part of the meet.  I timed during the preliminary session and got the best view in the house to see my daughter swim.   Seeing Katie swim is indescribable.  It’s exciting to see the talent that comes out of DC metro in the pool.  And nothing will top the smile on Sophie’s face when I tucked her into bed that night.  All in all – pretty spectacular!  And for the next seven years, I’ll be on this inside looking in watching my girls compete at this extraordinary meet.

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You know how when you have a baby all these well meaning people tell you “enjoy every moment – they grow up quickly” and your only thought is “I just want to sleep more than three hours at a time”.  The exact moment that kids starts sleeping, you decide to have another one.  And quite possibly a third.  Do you remember the exact day you started getting a full night of sleep?  Of course not.  Because your kids are swimmers.  That 4 AM wake up call is only tolerable because no one has colic.  But the part about them growing up quickly?  It is no joke.

Having Grace in high school this year has been bittersweet.  It’s hard enough to accept that she is old enough to be in high school but I’m really struggling with the fact that in 4 years she will be off to college and creating her own path in life.  Instead of looking at life as a series of firsts, I’m seeing a series of lasts.  Planning spring break I can’t help but think we only have 4 more spring breaks with her.  Next year she will drive.  The quiet mornings on our long drive to the pool are coming to an end.  I have always hated early morning practices but I have learned that on the cold, dark mornings in January you form an unspoken bond with your child.  We share something completely indescribable to those who have never done it.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world and these are moments I will treasure.

This weekend she will be competing in METROS (Washington Metro Interscholastic Swimming and Diving Championship).  It’s the DC metros championship High School meet, a meet well known throughout the swim world for it’s speed and popularity.  We have gone to watch the meet for many years and one of the highlights of the meet has been watching Katie Ledecky swim.  She was extraordinary at her first high school meet and this will be her last year swimming METROS.  And Grace’s first.  It’s a safe bet that Grace won’t be giving Katie a run for her money. But she will be swimming her heart out anyways.

I’m extremely excited to go see Grace swim against some of the finest swimmers in the metro area.  I’m also struggling with the fact that she is growing up.  I’m trying to complain less about the early mornings and long evenings of driving and I’m trying to enjoy it more.  Soon enough all three kids will be gone and we won’t have quiet mornings.  We will just have quiet.  Enjoy the moment.



I’ll admit it…

I don’t know everything.  Nothing I write is really a fact, it’s more of a feeling.  I think sometimes that instead of reading a self help book I’m trying to write my own.  It’s very cathartic to put it out there – it also makes me feel better hearing from other people that they are going through the same things.

That being said, I’m also far from perfect.  I read all these great articles on how to be a great swim parent or parent of an athlete.  I try really hard.  But sometimes I blow it.

A few weeks ago Grace swam at a meet in Baltimore that also had finals.  It was an early wake up call and we generally don’t talk in the car.  On day 2 I broke the silence and asked Grace what she was swimming.  She very nonchalantly said “don’t know”.  This really bothered me.  Generally before a meet I try to keep the peace – for the sanity of us all.  But not that day.  We went through a nice little back and forth about why she should know and why she disagreed with me.  She finally pulled the “nobody knows what they are swimming at 6 am”.  I already knew that was false, her ten year old sister who was also swimming that weekend, had a white board with events and goal time.  I dropped her off at the pool in tears.  And if I’m being completely honest, I didn’t care.  They get by with a lot but I do ask for respect.

She swam and was far off her seed times.  We got back in the car, heading home and spent the next hour having some quality mother and daughter time.  Actually, we fought all the way home.  Grace is a typical first born.  She is sweet, kind and very agreeable.  She is skilled in keeping the peace and backing down from a fight.  I’m very cautious of her feelings because I know she doesn’t like confrontation.  But on this particular day I didn’t hold back.  We battled.  I won’t bore you with the finer points but the general conversation was that I don’t get a say (I pay for her swimming so I’m complete disagreement), that I don’t know a thing about swimming (I handed her the phone with a video of her race and told her I was more than willing to walk her through every sloppy one minute and six seconds of it) and that she wasn’t just using excuses (tired, sore, sick and it January – I have heard them all a million times).  She went into the meet seeded 12th for backstroke.  I asked her where she placed and she said she didn’t know.  I guessed that she was probably 35th.

In the end, I told her she was afraid to actually try.  She decided the best solution was to quit swimming.  I told her that was perfectly fine with me.

After driving for 45 minutes in pouring down rain with her sobbing and crying we decided to stop and have lunch, we were a few minutes from the house and needed to calm down before walking in the door.  We stopped at Chipotle.  While eating, Chris texted me.  I told him we would be home in a few minutes.  He asked why?  My first reaction to his question?  Crap.

Pulled up meet mobile and sure enough, everyone swam terrible.  Grace was swimming finals.  Chris agreed to take her back.  I felt a little guilty, after fighting all the way to and from the pool she was physically and mentally tired.

She proceeded to go back and swim her seed time.  The rest of the meet she swam like she cared.

I’m not sure having a knock down drag out with your kid is always the most effective way to get them to perform – it was a first for me.  But in this particular case, it was honest.  She needed to hear it.  Probably a lot sooner than she did.  As a parent, it s a fine line, when they do poorly in a race or a meet it is up to the coach to tell them.  But when their attitude is affecting their performance, I feel it is well within my right as a parent to tell them.  She asks a lot of me – my only expectation is that you give it all you’ve got.  No excuses.  And for the record, she didn’t quit swimming.

I will turn this car around right now…

Sophie was really stressed out Friday night over a birthday party she had been invited to.  She did not want to miss practice the night before a meet.  She is very ritualistic in her approach to life, especially when it comes to swimming.  She likes the Friday night practice, they do meet warm-up, practice the strokes they are swimming for the meet and work on starts and turns.  It’s a great quality of hers but it is also important to remember she is ten.

We worked it out that after practice she would stop by the party for pizza and cake and she would have about an hour to catch up with her friends.  We packed up and were heading to the pool.  She had her beautifully wrapped gift to one side of her feet.  Her swim bag to the other.  As we were about to make a right turn into the pool complex she looked at me and said “I guess it wouldn’t have mattered if I had skipped”.  She wasn’t quiet on the way to the pool.  Didn’t appear to be in deep thought.  I am quite sure this thought popped randomly into her head as we were approaching the pool.

Without saying a thing I turned left and simply said “go to the party”.  She never second guessed the decision.

With day one of the meet behind her we can safely say nothing bad happened because she missed a practice.

At the meet (IMX) the kids have to swim all five events (and they must have a time in the events) and they receive an overall ranking at the completion of the meet.  She was entered as a NT in her 100 breast, she just swam it last week so it didn’t “officially” transfer to the psyche sheet.  I thrilled because breast stroke is her least favorite stroke and it was last yesterday, meaning we would get to leave very quickly because she was in the first heat.  What I didn’t count on was that she was also seeded 13th in fly, putting her in the second to last heat of fly.  She swam her fly, and dropped time.  She got out as the last race of fly started, stepped to the left smiled and a minute later hopped on the next block over to swim 100 breast.  It wasn’t a best time but I didn’t expect it would be.  She laughed about it all the way home.

It was a huge win though.  A year ago the very notion of this would have put her into a tail spin.  Missing practice before a meet wouldn’t have been an option.  Sophie has really matured through the sport of swimming and is becoming more adaptable to things outside her comfort zone.  I’m proud of her!  She is back at the meet and her smile has faded somewhat.  She is missing the kick-off to the Super Bowl.  Who came up with today as a good day for a swim meet?