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.

7 thoughts on “I’ll admit it…

  1. I just had a similar conversation in the car with my son this morning. Granted, it wasn’t about meets or anything but he asked me if swimming was supposed to be ‘fun’ and then said the only fun thing for him was meets. Drills at practice and swimming like a sardine? Not fun.

    I reminded him that not everything in life is fun. I told him there were a lot of things and events I was part of at his age but now that I look back on my life, when I challenged or wanted to quit a sport they let me. I’m not letting him quit. I’m making an investment in his future so that he has skills and learns time management and has a healthy outlet and all those other jargony buzz words so that when he’s in high school he may be able to get a job as a lifeguard. So that when he’s in college he will know how to manage his time and may be able to get a part-time job as a swim coach. All these things that he’s learning now are tools he needs to learn that many children don’t get to learn because they either have parents that don’t support them or parents that don’t want to spend the money on.

    That said. I don’t think it’s a problem to challenge your kids. You weren’t the sideline parent who critiques the swim while in the stands and contradicting the coaches. You were the caring parent who was pointing out to your kid that they didn’t work to their potential. And… obviously it paid off. No harm in that.

  2. Mine swam the IMX terribly….she was very upset about it. I asked her why…..

    She said she thought she could swimmer better….and my response to that question every singe time is and always will be, “So what are you going to do about that. Because if you don’t decide to do something, nothing will be what you get instead.”

    It works surprisingly well.

  3. Oh don’t worry we all have fun conversations with teenage swimmers.

    Ours went a little something like this a couple of weeks ago. I won’t get into the details but needless to say our swimmer wasn’t doing everything outside the pool to make herself better in the pool. She did have an injury Oct-part of Dec.

    Two main themes were conveyed. One we were not going to kill ourselves as parents to make every practice and meet if our swimmer wasn’t going to put forth the all around effort. I have the swimmer who will go to every practice and her effort stops there for the most part. She did not win the genetic lottery so life outside the pool can be just as tough as going to practice. We made it known that eating right and doing extra work outside the pool on breaks was required for us as parents to turn our schedules upside down to make all the practices and meets.

    Her main complaint was I coach her too much. I always viewed what I told her as tips and passing along of information. I never put pressure to make cuts. But if she wants me to back off I will.

    We tell her plenty if she wants to quit go ahead. I see too many kids that want to quit when their parents won’t let them. I am not making a kid play a sport they don’t want to. It isn’t worth it. Of course once you hit high school and you don’t play sports you get a job in our family and I don’t care what you do, but you will work.

    What I do know is the more I tell my swimmer what to do the more she won’t want to do it. Typical teenager. She will have to do things for herself.

  4. I was waiting for my teenager after a meet this weekend and witnessed a father berating a little girl – probably about 8 or 9 years old about whether or not she was swimming a time trial, why hadn’t she spoken to the coaches, why wasn’t she taking responsibility for herself, etc etc. He saw me look at him and lowered his voice, but honestly, people wonder why kids want to quit sports? I tell my daughter all the time, swimming is not your job, your job is to go to school. Swimming is your priveledge, treat it that way. My swimmer is hard enough on herself. Sometimes she gives it all at a meet and sometimes she doesn’t, it is not my job to point out to her when that happens, because she knows it already. And I definitely don’t want to see tears and drama – it is just swimming, I mean really. I think it is the most physically and mentally challenging sport out there and these kids all work hard. Some have natural talent, some have an inner drive and some of them just work that much harder then everyone else, but they all deserve a little slack. I don’t think any of us have all the answers, and I don’t know what kind of swim parent I am trying to be, but I will tell you what I don’t want to be, and that is the guy yelling at his kid in public at a swim meet.

    • I absolutely agree with you, I have never yelled at my 10 year old, 13 year old OR my 15 year old about their performance at a meet and I probably wouldn’t have said a word at this particular meet had I sensed she cared about her performance. She moved to a more expensive club this year, much further from our home and where my other two girls practice. I have literally given her everything I can to help her succeed. And when she didn’t do the same for herself it was maddening. She was on a path of self defeat and I couldn’t watch it anymore. I couldn’t watch my amazing 15 year old continue to be her own worst enemy. I would guess that I have watched several thousand races between my three girls over the years. I yelled at one once. I have jumped for joy, wiped their tears and shed many of my own.

      She has had a rough year, I have given her everything, the least of which is my unwavering love, support and dedication. If you read my blog you know that.

      • I completely understand. Your post just reminded me of what I had observed this weekend, which in turn reminded me how hard some people can be on their kids. Teenagers are their own worst enemy and it is maddening to watch them attempt to self destruct – I have been known to utter to my daughter “pull your shit together” on more then one occasion!

  5. I had a similar conversation but it was about school work and if it did not get done he was not going to swim this past weeknd which he really wanted to because it was his last chance to make states in the 200 IM. He was up at 6:30 am finishing his first draft and worked on it for 2 hours. I also told him if his revisions and final draft were not done by the 12 th he would not attend the travel meet that weekend which he needs if he want a last chance to qualify for the 100 IM. He went to this past weekend’s meet and qualified in the 200 IM and 100 back. And today after school his teacher told me he was refocused and back on track. Sometime our children need a reality check.

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