Girl on fire

This weekend is our February Qualifier meet for Junior Olympics.  We once went to a qualifier that they called Last Chance Meet which I always found humorous, especially if you kids are 9.   This meet was a little different than usual meets, instead of the kids swimming two sessions on two days they had two sessions on one day.  The 12 and unders had two sessions Saturday and the older kids are swimming today.

Sophie swam 100 fly in the morning and 50 fly in the afternoon.  She had never swam 100 fly but based on her 50 fly times the coaches thought she had a legitimate chance of making the JO cut.  She needed to take 1 second off her 50 ly in the afternoon to get it.

I was very proud of Sophie – she never doubted herself or her abilities to swim 100 fly.  The only mention of nerves came as we were walking into the pool, she said “I have butterflies for butterfly”.  I gave her a quick kiss on the top of her head and she went on deck for warm ups.  I was a nervous mess.  I paced for two hours until she swam.   Sophie hopped onto the block like a total badass.  She was the only 8 year who swam.  The other kids ranged in age from 9-12.

She had a beautiful swim.  She fell just short of her goal of 1.30.69 – but still clocked an impressive 1.33.69.  She was ecstatic.  We left, she came home and napped.  Despite not making the JO cut, she did make the Dolan time for next year.

For the afternoon session Sarah and Sophie were both swimming.  Sophie had 50 fly and Sarah’s coach had put her in three events.  I was appreciative of his putting her in the meet, they kids were supposed to be close to the JO times and having just turned 11 late in November Sarah really didn’t have a shot.  Sarah’s coach picks her events and as luck would have it, she ended up in 50 fly as well, same heat as Sophie.  Lanes 3 and 4.  I use the term luck here, people often forget there are two kinds of luck.  Good luck and not so good luck.

Sarah actually figured out Friday night that they would be racing one another.  She wasn’t happy.  She isn’t the kind of kid who gets over things quickly.  She had almost 24 hours to stew over this.  Or perhaps brew.

We opted to take one car, a risk I know, to the second session.  Both girls were on edge.

Sarah swam 200 IM and 50 breaststroke.  After watching her two races I had already determined who would prevail in the sibling showdown.

When it came time for the two to race my heart was literally racing.  I really wanted Sophie to get her cut and I also wanted Sarah to win.  This was the best possible case scenario for me.  (Yes it is about me, I have to live with them!).

Unfortunately, nerves got the best of Sophie and she lingered on the block.  A painfully long time.  There is no room for error on a 50.  Sophie’s race was over before it started.  Sarah however was ready to take this heat down.  In flames.  She destroyed the heat and took off 3 seconds, swimming a 35.59!  (Sarah doesn’t even like fly for the record!).  Sophie added a second which was impressive given her start.  Had she nailed that start she would have made her time, there is no doubt in my mind.  The awesome news is she has two more years to hit it!

Sophie cried for a moment.  I was very happy that she knew what she had done wrong.  Sarah made sure that Sophie knew she beat her.  And then apologized.  It was a peaceful ride home.

Sarah was the dark horse of this meet.  While she didn’t make any qualifying times at this meet, I do see them in her future.  I thought her coach put her in the meet to be nice.  I was wrong.  He put her in because he believed in her.  I asked him to take a chance on her at the beginning of this season and he did.  He let her in the group and she struggled for a bit.  She now belongs there.  Her future is bright.  Sarah is a competitor, once she knew she had her sister in that 50 fly she took on everyone else.  She handed in three brilliant swims.  Sophie two.  After 5 swims at a qualifying meet, none actually making the cut, I left full of pride.  It was a great day.

 

Can I move down a lane?

Grace swims in a group of about thirty five. At the beginning of the season her coach had made lane assignments. Over time the kids were moving into different lanes to swim with their friends. Skill became irrelevant. The kids were having fun though.

The coaches decided to take matters back into their own hands and recreated lanes based entirely on times achieved during meets, using splits and various other techniques.

For a variety of reasons Grace ended up at the end of her lane. Primary reason, she landed with a group of kids who are fast. And that don’t put a lot of effort into practice. She found they wouldn’t let her pass them and she wasn’t getting out of practice what she was hoping to put into it.

She found an easy solution. She asked to move down a lane so she could lead the lane. She was concerned her coach would be upset. He wasn’t. He thought it was a great idea. She has found practice is more challenging since moving down a lane. I applaud her for advocating for herself and taking a risk, then making it work.

As a parent I have learned that in group setting I prefer to be a follower. There are too many Super Moms in this world and I am more than happy to let them have the title. I really don’t feel like putting myself out there as a leader anymore. My kids are better people than I am, they have learned that being a leader makes you a better person.

At least I am a good listener (eavesdropper). That is a good life skill right.

Simple thoughts

We have been around swimming for a while now.  Grace started when she was 6.  She is now 13.  All three girls swim year round.

I admit when we first started out, I didn’t know anything.  Sometimes I think ignorance is bliss.  Grace was this adorable, toothless first grader running around in a swim suit in the dead of winter.  She liked the ring pops then.  Somethings don’t change.  She still likes them.

It was fairy easy for me to be uninvolved in swimming.  I had a 2-year-old.  There is nothing worse than a bored two-year old at a swim meet.  Ask anyone.  Just don’t sit next to one at a meet.  I let Chris handle things.  It was a great sport.  She was having fun and getting exercise.  I was potty training Sophie.

As time went on I became more involved.  When we joined a summer swim team for the first time I had that ah-hah moment.  Everything started to make sense.  Once I understood the “competition” aspect of swimming though, I will admit, I got sucked in.  A little more than I needed to be – and that is when the sport started sucking me dry.  And then I made the decision to find peace and back out.  The crazy swim mom still comes out from time to time.  But I have learned to keep it in my head.  Supporting other people in the sport has become easy for me.  The success of others has no bearing on my kids success and the moment I figured that out, life became simple (albeit quite busy) once again.

Now that I am totally perfect though, I would like to ask others to try a little harder.  Lots of crazy behavior came out the last few meets.  I should ignore it but I can’t.

Parents, don’t TELL your kid they WILL make finals.  Or that they WILL make a qualifying time.  Even when it seems to be a foregone conclusion.  Grace was seeded on 200 backstroke such that not making finals was almost impossible – one simple glide and a DQ cost her the finals.   Another event she felt was a total long shot she qualified for the A finals.  No one has a crystal ball.  I would sell them at meets if they existed.  There is no telling how your child or any other child will swim at any meet.  A fellow swim mom told not only her child and anyone that would listen that her swimmer would make finals in all three events.  So did the child.   It didn’t happen.  My kids felt sorry for the child because she was sobbing.  Adults felt sorry for her.  It isn’t fair to set a child up for failure or disappointment.  Sometimes it just isn’t in the cards.

Crying on the deck.  If you have a 12 or 13 year old daughter you will understand this.  Put a group of them together and one of them is going to cry at a meet.  The others watch it enough times and they feed off of it.  They start doing it too.  I watched Grace go from a non crier to a full on sobbing, emotional wreck in the period of three months.  The final straw for me was seeing her cry after getting a best time.  She won’t do it again.  She can cry as often as she wants.  Just not on the pool deck begging for attention.  As a parent, I know the difference.  I am a girl too you know.

The craziest thing of all to me though is scratching an event.  Not because the event immediately following is one you are hoping to get the Olympic Trails cut in and you don’t want to be worn out.  We will revisit the art of scratching if that is an issue.  I watch two TOP swimmers scratch their TOP events recently.  One because she was seeded to come in second.  Against a 14 year old who literally sets National Age Group Records.  Second against her.  My daughter is happy to come in top 100 at the bottom of her age group at this meet.  The second scratched because she was afraid she wouldn’t get a best time in her top event.  But she was fine swimming another event twenty minutes later (and for the record DID NOT get a best time).

Why does this affect me?  I don’t ever want my kids to think it is acceptable to give up because they aren’t going to win.  I don’t want them to think not doing your best every single time is a reason to walk away from a challenge.  That anything is guaranteed.  These are life skills, not swimming.

If being second isn’t good enough what is the point in swimming if you are 100th?  Or don’t even qualify for the meet?  Should we quit now?  Some of these kids need managers at 14.  If they ever do go all the way interview with fellow swimmers will be interesting.  Don’t be a prima donna.  Even if you are awesome…especially if you are awesome.

My kids can scratch at a meet for one of two reasons.  One, we are holding a bucket up to catch the projectile vomit or two, we are holding the broken appendage together until we can get to the hospital for a cast.  Or some variation of that theme.  If they can warm up, if they can swim the next event or the next day they will swim all of their events.

I will give credit where credit is due.  We have amazing people in our group.  I got a text from a family that was at another meet.  They were following the meet on meet mobile and sent Grace a congrats five minutes after she swam.  Their daughter, the underdog for years, got several sectionals cuts this weekend.  I watch and learn from the best.

We need to raise our children to be good people.  They aren’t swimmers.  They are kids that swim.

T.G.I.F.

Whoever created this saying was clearly not a swimmer.  On a swim meet weekend Friday night usually means “drive your ass to a swim meet for one freaking event” – aka 500 free in our case.

In the past, Grace hated 500 free.  I had for a long time encouraged her to do it and she refused.  She now asks to swim it.  I was thrilled she wanted to do it and decided it was a sign of maturity.

I was feeling some mommy guilt because it was Sarah’s birthday.  She, along with three of her soccer teammates, had won an contest.  The prize was a dinner date with the soccer coach.  Imagine my surprise (relief) when her coach chose the night her birthday to take them to the Melting Pot.  Sarah was thrilled to spend her evening with her coach and teammates.

I convinced Sophie that she would enjoy going with me.  And then she changed her mind.  I am grateful for good friends who will throw in a frozen pizza, rent a movie and take on an extra kid for a few hours.

Grace and I were on our own.

We had a pleasant drive there.  Unfortunately, someone had hit a deer on the road outside the pool complex.  Recently.  It wasn’t a pretty sight.  I convinced Grace to stop thinking about it.

The pool was not crowded, parking was a breeze and the air temperature inside was tolerable.  No one even minded when I walked down on deck and talked to the coach and hung out with Grace.  Normally this is something I do not do and it annoys me when others do.  I went down to time and they didn’t need me and Grace’s coach told me to hang out, they were bored.

I can honestly say I enjoyed the meet.  We were being silly and laughing.  I can’t believe I am going to say this, we were having fun.  Grace was teasing her coach about being so quiet and not yelling when they swam.  We were making fun of the whistler dude and all the other odd things coaches and parents do during meets.  Finally it was Grace’s turn to swim.  Her coach decided to do all of the things we made fun of.  He yelled her name, whistled and yelled some more.  I literally thought she was going to fall in the pool she was laughing so hard on the block.

She had a good swim and got a best time.  Her turns were awful and her coach said if he didn’t want to go home he would deck enter her in the 1650.  On one hand I would have loved to have seen her reaction.  On the other hand, it was past my bed time.  We were out of there.

I was hoping the deer carcass would be gone.  Instead it had been hit a few hundred times.

I left with a false sense of security.  Thinking the meet would be a pleasant one.

I didn’t realize this until Sunday night but I am pretty sure Grace only swam the 500 free as punishment to me for putting her in 200 IM and 200 fly as back to back events on Sunday.  It took four hours door to door for a race that lasted less than six minutes.  Cost me $5 each way in tolls, dinner for her and $12 in gas.  Why was I laughing?  Was she getting the last laugh?

Day two starts in ten hours.

pool 1

YOU ARE A TIGER MOM!

Sarah called me a Tiger Mom yesterday.  It was intended as an insult.  It did not have the desired effect.  I took it as a compliment.

I asked if she had a lot of homework and she said “no very little”.  I will save the whole homework debate for another day, we have very little here in our schools and I like it that way.  The small amount they get I expect to be done and done well.

About 30 minutes later I asked Sarah if her homework was done.  To which she replied “no, I am not going to do it, I have a homework pass”.

You know where we are going with this right?  I made her do her homework.  She was pissed.  She spent more time arguing with me than the homework actually took.  I swear it took her 15 minutes tops.  Her argument?  I was being a Tiger Mom.  Mine?  A whopping 15 minutes of math problems won’t kill her.  I expect good grades, skipping homework equates to slacking off.

On the way to swim practice she continued the complaints.  I picked up a friend’s son who is 13.  She attempted to get him as an ally.  Her hopes were dashed.  His mother had never let him use a homework pass.

Here is where things get tricky.  She is a total Tiger Mom.  I mean look up Tiger Mom in the dictionary and you will find her.  V admits she is, her son does SAT prep on the weekends, goes to Chinese school after swim and she emails his teachers weekly.  His sister went to MIT full scholarship.  I am trying to figure out the bad part.

The reality is, I am not a total Tiger Mom.  I let my kids miss school for swim meets.  I don’t review their homework (I just want it done).  We don’t do SAT prep.  Yet.  I have one foot in the door to the cage perhaps.  Sarah has it all wrong.  What I am is a bitch.  I made her do her homework.

Guess what?  She is going to need that homework pass.  She forgets something every single day of her life.  I give it a week tops before she actually needs it.  She will thank me then.  Well she should, but she won’t.  It’s all good.  I will go with the “Sticks and Stones” defense.  I’m a meanie.

Who is going to hate me tomorrow?

I always joke that I am not doing my job as a parent if my kids don’t hate me at least once a week.  It’s not a hard goal to achieve.

I have been reading a great book that was given to me in August.  The Underwater Window.  I have been waiting for the perfect time to pick it up.  For several months now.  I was on my way out the door for a long indoor soccer practice and as a last-minute decision, grabbed it.  I am half way through it, I can’t put it down.

It is a great book and it has my wheels turning.  In particular, I have been thinking about when all is said and done, which one of my three girls is going to hate me for making them swim.  I hesitate the word make but in essence I suppose I make more of the choice than they do.  I make them go to school, do homework, clean their rooms and eat nutritious food.  If it were up to them I am sure they wouldn’t be quite so “passionate” about any of these endeavors.

Grace has been swimming since she was 6.  She is 13.  She took the sport on seriously a year ago when she shifted to a five-day a week, mandatory practice group.  It was her choice to join this group and at any point if she wanted to be a less intense group we wouldn’t have a problem with it.  I don’t think she will.  She never asks to skip practice and never complains about it.  I am sure there are days she would rather not go and Saturday mornings she would much prefer to sleep in.  She has accepted that she is in a small group, that which the terms are not negotiable.  She likes her coaches and her friends in the group, I suspect she would be lost without them.  Grace swims for prestige.  She likes to go to the big meets and wants the jackets to prove it.

Sarah’s group has a minimum of three, maximum of five practices.  She usually does three, sometimes four on weeks where there isn’t a soccer practice.  She grumbles often about going.  She also grumbles about going to soccer.  But given the option to quit either, she is steadfast in her refusal.  I have come to the point where I expect the negotiations.  I barely respond to them.  Sarah is motivated by recent success and last night had the choice to skip.  She opted to go because her friends were going.  And then complained about it on the way there.  Sarah swims for the social aspect of it.

The mini’s have a maximum of four practices a week.  They like them to attend twice a week.  Sophie has negotiated a 5th day with the group above hers – one she isn’t old enough to be in.  She hangs tough with the middle of the pack in the more advanced group.  Most of the practices are an hour with a lot of instruction at the wall.  When she turns 9 in April she will advance two groups, the same that Sarah is in.  I have already told her that we only want her in the pool three days a week, practice is intense and 1.5 hrs.  She is already protesting that she needs to practice more.  I am seeing signs that she is a little too concerned with her success.  Can an 8-year-old be too driven?  She is my numbers guy.  Knows hers, her friends, and everyone elses times, along with all important qualifying times for when she is 9.

All child athletes do, but swimmers in particular, they give up a piece of their childhood.  If they are lucky they will swim in college.  They all dream of going all the way but the reality is most of them don’t.  I don’t want my kids to regret the missed sleepovers, summers held hostage by the pool, and weekends spent at meets.  I go out of my way to ensure that my kids have a fun life outside of swimming.  We squeeze in two family vacations a year, host sleepovers every chance we get, take road trips and spend time as often as possible outside, more precisely not at a pool.

This moment will pass but every now and then I feel a twinge of guilt that they are in love with a sport that is more of a life than a hobby.  I remind the girls often that they are not swimmers, they are kids who swim.

I went to parent teacher conferences the other day.  Every parent wants to hear that their children are amazing.  And mine were!  But the reasons why surprised me.  All three of my girls were described as focused, driven, hard workers and all three were pegged as true leaders.  As a matter of fact I had not one but four of the teachers at the middle school tell me this about Grace.  One who doesn’t even have her in class interrupted my conference with her math teacher to tell me what a great person she is and a natural leader.

The most interesting thing of all, every teacher was so impressed that the girls swim.  Either they swam themselves (one a collegiate swimmer), their kids swam or they had  swimmers as students in the past.  Their messages were all variations of the same theme, that the swimmers they knew over the years were all amazing people.  It is a tight community and an elite club.  I was proud to be their mom.

Every parents worse fear is that they won’t raise children who are good people.  I am no exception.  I admit, I use swimming to help mold them into better people.  I like the discipline, focus and determination that swimming provides.  I think the physical exercise, emphasis on health and endorphin release is also a critical component in raising children.  I’m just hoping that in the end they think it is all worth it.  And they don’t hate me.  At least for the swimming part.  I wouldn’t be doing my job as a parent if they didn’t hate me from time to time.

Sarah went to bed mad at me tonight.  Called me a Tiger Mom.  Like it was an insult.  Story to follow tomorrow.

The first last mini meet ever

Last Saturday was the first mini meet of the season.  Sophie is 8 and in her final year with minis!  Starting in April she will swim in the big leagues – you know the 9-10’s!  It is the beginning of the end.

I used to dread the mini meets and now I realize I am going to miss them.

There was a time that I thought the parents at the mini meets were absolute idiots.  Either they had no idea what they were doing (as IF I knew what I was doing when Grace was 6, I didn’t know butterfly from breaststroke for two years) or they were so obnoxious about their swim prodigy that I found myself wanting to throw them in the pool.

I sat at that meet with a sense of pride, I had survived minis three times.  Sophie, who would cry before meets, was now beaming with pride being one of the older swimmers in the group.  Grace never waves at me from behind the block or gives me the two thumbs up before the race.  Sarah only comes in the stands for money.  Sophie comes for wet hugs.  Grace and Sarah know their finish time to the exact moment.  Sophie finished her 100 freestyle in “A minute something”.  She dances while she waiting for her turn to swim, picks her wedgies, eats a donut between every race and hugs her friends before and after they race.  They play silly games and laugh.  I sit with friends and cry, tears of joy and pride.  For their kids and mine.

At this meet several of my friends kids raced for the first time ever.   They were all amazing and adorable.  One little girl, a friend of mines daughter, lost her tooth moments before her race.  She ran to mom, handed over the tooth, ran back and swam!  This doesn’t happen in the big leagues.

I am going to enjoy every moment of the mini meets I attend this year.  It is bittersweet.

Sophie had a great meet.  Dancing, donuts and diving.

The “tryhards”

I almost wrecked the car driving to practice last night, I was laughing too hard to pay proper attention to the road.  I was driving one of Grace’s friends, a 13 year old boy.  I don’t have boys and I find him and his take on life so spot on.  And quite hysterical.  I have learned a lot of X-Box speak from him.  I try to work it into my daily life but it doesn’t come out quite so cool from me.

The two were talking about a group of kids in their group and they called them the “tryhards”.  Neither asked the other for clarification as to what that meant or who was in the group and then the story continued.  It was clear this was a common word in their swim speak.  It was also quite obvious what they meant by the term.

After practice I asked Grace why she didn’t want to be a “tryhard” and she said quite simply “oh I don’t want to try, I want to DO”.  Upon further questioning I learned that the kids that were always trying hard were also always trying to beat each other and are very vocal about it.  Apparently, lots of smack talk.

Grace is looking to someday beat everybody.  Not the tryhards, the dohards or the doaslittleaspossibles.  And she hopes they don’t see it coming.  Sneaky.  I like stealth missions…

Do not get sucked in

Do not get sucked in

Do not get sucked in

I am repeating this over and over in my head.  I have tried really hard to stay in my “happy place” with my kids and their sports.  I don’t want to let those little voices in my head tell me that I am not doing enough, or doing it right or making the right decisions.

This year at the pool I am seeing a whole new level of parent intensity.  Parents are pushing their children and the coaches for more, more, more.  I swear the Olympics are to blame.  Suddenly every child is a future Olympian.

Our club turned away several hundred swimmers this year.  Lanes are a little crowded, especially in the lower level programs and everyone is trying to move their kids up a level.  Even me.

Sarah is actually straddling two groups and was offered the chance to practice with both groups.  This seemed to both of us to be a win-win.  She would have the opportunity to challenge herself being at the bottom of a more advanced group and to also practice as one of the top swimmers in the other group.  It also opened up MORE not less practice options.  What isn’t there to be happy about in this situation?  Nothing.  And I need to keep telling myself this.  Yet I find myself worrying about how to get her into the advanced group full time.  I watch practice and count kids in lanes.  This isn’t me.

Conversation on deck used to be about Nordstrom sales, PTA meetings and 50 Shades of Grey.  Now it has shifted to private coaching, changing swim sites and driving to Baltimore with Phelps swim coach.  Oh my…

Seriously, the notion of taking my slightly above average 10 year old to Baltimore 5 days a week (about an hour drive each way) is just crazy.  Private coaching?  And for a year I have been saying we have the BEST coaches in Montgomery County.  Who is going to coach them that is better?  Video taping my kid?  I find it more entertaining to video their races and set them to LMFAO tunes.  Is everyone losing their mind?  Am I?

I thought I could tune all of this out but what did I find myself doing this morning?  Looking up the top 15 clubs in the country and trying to find a place near one of these clubs we could move.  Because my kid deserves the best and surely the parents there aren’t crazy right?  I just went off the deep end.

Turns out our club is number 16.  And I love it.  I decided to change my perspective.  My kids are just so awesome that they can bring our club into the top 15.  I mean there are three of them…

I saw a friend the other day at the pool with his headphones on.  When he got up to leave I realized they weren’t even plugged in to his phone and he was listening to the most awesome sound of all – silence.  I am channeling my inner Phelps and grabbing some Beats headphones and losing myself in the music.  It isn’t worth it.  I tell myself “do not get sucked in” now I need to make myself do just that.

I want to be a Gypsy

After a two-week swim meet turned vacation that involved 6 states and 3,000 miles you would think I would be happy to be home.  I’m not.

When the kids were younger I despised road trips.  When Sophie (8) was just a baby, I would make the trek from Ohio to North Carolina alone – several times a year.  Sarah who was barely 2 was prone to car sickness.  We had this “spot” in the mountains of Virginia where she would projectile vomit.  I pulled over at the exact same stop in the mountains every single trip (both directions) to clean up.  I did get smart after the first few incidents and I moved her car seat to the passenger side.  One, two or all three were always screaming at some point in the trip.  The minivan was appointed with the required DVD player and we would watch the same movies over and over again hoping for any amount of peace and quiet.  I bought the entire stock of pacifiers from Target for Sophie and would just keep handing them back as she would lose them.  By the time we arrived at our destination the entire car floor was covered in wayward pacifiers and mashed up food particles.  I would chug wine immediately upon arrival.  I swore that I hated road trips and always promised “this would be my last”.

Fast forward 8 years.  The girls either sleep, read or listen to music in the car.  Oh, and they keep me company.  With interesting conversation.  Our life is hectic and busy and we really don’t spend as much time as we should just being in each others company.   We laughed, played trivia and belted out Taylor Swift songs.  I enjoyed the conversations but also the silence, I found a certain peace in it.  I savoured the glass of wine at the end of the trip.

I was surprised to learn most of my friends thought I was crazy for taking this journey with the girls.  I tried to reassure them that 8 years is a lot of time and much can change.  They walked away shaking their heads, not persuaded.

The last few hours of our trip we started planning next years adventure.  I am going to enjoy these moments in time while I can.   In six years Grace is off to college, two years later Sarah will be on her way and two years Sophie will leave me.  Then they will all be gone.  Chris and I would love to travel the world and hang out on beaches when they move on but at that point we will be completely broke and may have to live with one of them after paying for swimming, braces, vacations, colleges and weddings.  I hope if we are good to them now they will take pity on us someday.

In the meanwhile, I decided I want to be a Gypsy.  We can get a Winnebago and drive around the country (primarily the parts with beaches and no snow).   I am probably not mentally equipped to home school but they have all that set up on the internet these days.  Chris can be their swim coach.  We will need to figure out how to pull the 25 yard pool off the back of that thing but that’s just a small detail to be ironed out.  Totally doable.