Oh yeah, I go to school

I swear Grace intentionally qualifies for events at the four-day meets that get her out of school!  The kids have also been late to school a few times because of a late meet or I have to pull them out of school early to get to one.  I have found that honesty is the best policy.

Missed day – Dear Teacher, My child was out of school on Friday.  Please excuse this absence.  We are happy to make accommodations to make up missed work.  Regards, Mom

Late to school – This one is easy, we sign them in.  Reason for being late, I simply fill in the word “late”.  “Not here” works too.

Early dismissal – This is where unavoidable conflict comes in.  Kindest regards, Mom.

I have instructed them not to lie if asked where they have been.  They are to say they were at the Olympic Time Trials.  About half the time teachers believe them.

I understand that the schools have a job to do and that parents make it that much harder.  I never know how the school will react to the missed days and it always makes me so nervous.  To date, we haven’t had any issues.

Would love to hear how your schools respond to missed absences for sporting events.

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I have been to the real Olympics

Atlanta 1996. That was really fun.

PVS Junior Olympics 2012 – not so much.

It was hands down the worst meet I have ever spectated.

It is interesting because the meet was very well run. The starters did a great job. They kept to the timeline. Results posted accurately and quickly online. Kids were lined up at the appropriate time and races were not missed. I would give them an A+ on that.

I won’t bore you with the long list of why this was the worst meet I have ever gone to but by Sunday late afternoon people were literally cheering when their kids did not make finals.  Hello, University of Maryland was the only option for a meet this size.  Who was in charge of this decision?

It is never good when there are about 10 of these parked out front, along with the fire marshal.  When the fire marshal has no interest in having dinner with his wife and kids and instead sticks around that is your first clue that you have about 10 times more adults that allowed shoved into one facility.

I would love to say I lost five pounds at the meet but unfortunately I carb loaded with my 12-year-old.

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Swim meet vs soccer game

Soccer Tournament

*  75 degrees and sunny – nice breeze
*  Haven’t opened book I brought during breaks in game – busy shooting the shit
*  Got an email with game times. Games last 45 minutes. No chance of missing the game.
*  Special area in park for open alcoholic beverages!
*  Two options for seating. Lay on a blanket in the grass or bring your own camp chair with footrest option
*  Food options – Chipotle close by.
*  Playing against better kids and losing.
*  Four hours, three hours of play time.
*  Bathrooms? Port A Potties

Swim Meet

*  98 degrees – air as thick as a brick
*  Haven’t opened book I brought during down time in meet (could have read three!) – busy shooting the shit
*  Ten dollar heat sheet. Memorized time line. Blink and you miss it.
*  Cocktails? You wish!
*  Two options for seating. Metal bleachers or bring your own camp chair and if you are lucky you will find a tiny square unfold it most of the way.
*  Food options – Chipotle close by. I research this.
*  Swimming against faster swimmers. Excited about this.
*  My kid is swimming one 30 second event in two hours.  Comes back two hours later, sits around for two hours and swims for 30 seconds again.  Glad it wasn’t 32 seconds.
*  Bathrooms? Every seat is socking wet. Does pool water kill pee germs?

Soccer Tournament and Swim Meet

Overpriced tie-dye t-shirts AND EVERYONE yelling KICK! Who knew?

I spent the morning at the soccer tournament and the evening at finals. It was a day filled with kids laughing, parents cheering, children succeeding and parents rejoicing. There are lots of crazy parents out there. Lucky for me I didn’t spend the day with any of them. It was a day filled with lifelong memories.

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The little things in life

Grace swam 4 events at Junior Olympics today.  400 Medley Relay as lead backstroker, 200 back, 100 free and 50 fly.

Wonder genius mom didn’t really consider that with her seed times she would swim then all within about an hour.  My bad.

Grace has been fearful of relays.  A man who will remain nameless scarred her for life on them.  She rocked it and got a best time, her first AAA cut in 50 back!  Go Grace!

And that was the highlight of the meet.  We will take it!  A victory by all accounts.  Please swim GAWDS let her do it again tomorrow.

 

The highlights for me:

Getting to see my swim meet BFF!  She got to stay for finals and I didn’t.  But I got a Margarita and she didn’t!

Sitting next to a guy who refused to give up “his wifes purses seat” for a man who just had surgery on his leg and was on crutches.  Screw humanity, that purse needed to be comfy.  He literally left two minutes later and we all scored the front row.

Watching my friends twelve-year-old son eat TWO bowls of spaghetti faster than he swam 50 fly (26.37 thank you very much).  We wanted him to eat the second faster than the first, a little shoving food in your pie hole trials and finals if you will.

My daughter didn’t ask for the $79 blue tie-dye t-shirt.

 

I think tomorrow will be a soccer tournament update.  I will be outside for seven hours in 74 degree weather.  A nervous freaking wreck about one silly race.  That will hopefull take place in 30 seconds or less!

Whatcha doing?

Me – Going to bed

You – At 9:21?

Me – Yes. Meet tomorrow.

You – Are you swimming?

Me – No.

You – What time are warm ups?

Me – 11:30 AM

You – Are you lazy?

Me – Pretty much.

It is a lot of work sitting around doing nothing most of the day. If things go REALLY well I will sit on my ass most of the evening too. I secretly like it.

Trials and finals

I never really understood trials and finals meets!  If I blew it out of the water and got a best time I would quit while I was ahead.  It’s like winning the lottery and then expecting to win again.  Except that the lottery is all about luck and swimming is about talent and hard work.  The great sport of swimming.  All about duplicating, recreating, improving and proving.  In your face.

There is also the sport of parenting a swimmer.  It is more of a sport of trials and tribulations.  Parent your child well in the sport of swimming?  Do it again.  Do it better.  Improve upon that.  And then prove it.  And then start over again.

I wasn’t a swimmer so it is hard for me to get into the head of a swimmer.  I can’t imagine a sport like swimming.  Soccer, football, rugby, lacrosse, field hockey – different equipment but essentially the same sport.  Team sports, on a field.  Same goes for softball, baseball and good old fashion kickball.  Sometimes I imagine dance, gymnastics and figure skating to be like swimming.  Long hours of practice and certainly individual sports.  But, these sports are more subjective, based on athletic ability and artistic talent.  Subjective and judged.  Track and field certainly is the sport most like swimming, it is based on a definitive measure, is an individual sport and time is everything, artistic impression means very little.  In the US, kids don’t start competing in this sport until well into middle school and certainly very few train for it at a young age.  At the age of 12 most kids have never participated in a track meet where as they may have spent the last 6 years at swim meets.

Swimming certainly has that in your face feel to it.  The times don’t lie.  When the times are on your side it is the best feeling in the world.  When they aren’t, swimming can become a very isolating sport.  It stares you in the face.  It tears you down, rips you apart and leaves you on the side of the pool.  Begging for mercy.  At 12.

Parenting the child who is dropping time is easy.  Parenting through the rough times?  WOW.

As a parent, I had to learn that swimming is a journey.  Every child has a different path.  I have a 12-year-old who has always been a slightly above average swimmer.  She makes qualifying meets and tends to swim at prestigious meets – usually coming in middle of the pack.  I have a 10-year-old who is an average, middle of the road swimmer.  She does exceptionally well at meets that don’t include all of the fast swimmers.  And then there is the 7-year-old who either does really well or really poorly at every meet.  No rhyme or reason.

I have chosen to parent all three of my children through this sport in the same manner.  None of this came to me right away, as a matter of fact it is still evolving.  I am open to change.  I am learning and growing.  I have learned a few things that have helped ME be a better parent.

Every swimmer has a different path to success.  You can’t look at a 7, 10 or 12-year-old and determine what kind of swimmer they will be at 18.  It is easy to get caught up in the 12-year-old National Record Holders but when you watch the same kids race for many years on end you start to realize that it is very difficult for those fast swimmers to always drop time.  Unless we start racing at the speed of light, there really is a cap on how fast a person can humanly go.  In other words, there is nothing wrong with slow and steady progress.

On the other hand, the crazy fast kids can’t give up because they haven’t dropped time in a year.  Hard work and talent go hand in hand.  It is easy to give up after a year of not dropping time.  Bottom line, at 12, it doesn’t matter where you fall in the pack.  Keep working and success is guaranteed.  Success is individual.

It is so easy to celebrate success.  But, it isn’t the only thing.  To succeed, we have to fail.  Let your 9-year-old swim 500 free if they want to.  Let them fail.  Don’t tell them they will get disqualified for an illegal start, let them.  Let them feel it, let them learn from it.  They won’t be scarred for life.  It is swimming!  All the good swimmers DQ.   Don’t shy away from a challenge, and learn from the mistakes.  It doesn’t always suck, it might not even suck tonight.

Enjoy and appreciate consistency.  The expectation to hit a home run every single time is unrealistic.  Would you expect a baseball player to hit it out of the park every single time?  Consistency is the key to success.  There will be successes and then a period of plateau.  It is normal.  Allow children a foul ball or strike out from time to time.

Encourage the child to have fun.  Yes fun!  Movies with friends after the meet is more important than the meet.  The life of a swimmer can be isolating.  You can’t change that so acknowledge that.  Make it fun.

It is important that you pick a coach you like and then like your coach.  There is nothing else to say…

The most important thing is to listen to your child.  When they say “I love swimming” what they mean is I am riding high.  When they say “I hate swimming”, what they mean is, this sport is sucking the life out of me right now and I need to you to tell me it will be ok.  Last night my 12-year-old (did I mention girl hormones?  No.  Please help me) said I hate swimming, along with I suck at life, I am a terrible swimmer and I want to play Lacrosse.  I looked her square in the eye and told her that sometimes I hate swimming too.  Sometimes I suck at life.  I can’t even float.  I am too old for Lacrosse but Bingo at my age might be a great sport.  We laid in her bed for an hour last night talking.  I really do believe that right now she does hate swimming.  She is tired, she has been swimming 5 days a week for 8 months in a row and she is swimming a huge meet this weekend.  We need a break.  I am not going to sugar coat it, she is right.  It does suck sometimes.  We are ok with that.  We are in it together.  And we will get through it together.

I am not a perfect parent, I have no qualifications to even give parenting advice.  I have made mistakes and I plan to make more.  But if my kid can get up on the blocks and swim a perfect race, then come back four hours later and do it again, I owe it to them to do the same.  Even more importanly, when they swim the race that doesn’t warrant a return to the blocks later than evening, it is ok to go home.

Strike a pose

I teach yoga and have a love hate relationship with the proud dancer pose. I am not particularly good at balance poses but I know I need to work on them and they feel really good.

The life of a swim parent is a bit of a balancing act. I won’t bore you with my schedule – I have three kids who swim, two play soccer and dad is a consultant, travelling during the week. You too? We all do! I had a commenter on one of my blog posts who felt both parents should go to every meet! Not going to happen.

Aside from the obvious, that I can’t drag my other two children to a 5:30 AM warm up three counties over, we also have other things going on in our life. Those of you who have ever been to a trials and finals meet know that they start Friday evening and end Sunday night. With only driving, eating and sleep in between. The other two kids (please don’t tell me you have three kids that always swim in the same meets and if you do I am moving where ever you live!) have their own practices, soccer games, birthday parties and heck sometimes we even score another meet three counties over in the other direction. Both parents at every meet? Not just impractical but impossible.

Go beyond the fact that I can’t teleport and haven’t cloned myself (although a clone or sister-wife who likes to cook and clean would be AWESOME!), other things are important. I look for balance for all of my kids not for one. They are all important and have unique and special things going on in their life. My goal is to be present in their whole life, not their swimming life. We are more than a swim family and if it is 70 degrees and sunny in January you better believe one of is going to take the kids that are not swimming to a park, on a hike, kayaking or into DC for the day to visit a museum or three.

Take it a step further – I have learned swimming isn’t about the meets. It took a while and yes, I cried after many a race because the expectations did not meet the reality of that particular race. And then I learned that no one cares that:

  • you could do a 25 fly no breather when you were 7
  • you missed the 50 breast JO cut by .05 when you were 10
  • at 12 you false started 100 free when you were trying to go under 60 seconds

None of these things matter. What matters is what you do after that. As soon as that meet is over, take it back to practice. Did you work on your kick so you could get that fly under 20 seconds next time? Did you work on your pull out that slowed you down? Did you practice starts until you were blue in the face? Swimmers don’t get better because of meets, they get better for them!

Meets are simply the lessons we take back to practice. It took me a really long time to learn that practice is where the magic happens, not at the meets. After five years in the sport we have gotten to the place were the results at the meets are all but foretold. We have the surprise finish, faster than expected and certainly the blown race from time to time but in general, very few surprises at the meets.

I rarely miss a race and one of us is always there but I feel that we are there as a taxi, ATM and from time to time a therapist. I generally sit next to the person who needs a therapist! More often that not, my kids go to their coaches for the high fives or hugs. They reflect with their friends. My presence doesn’t make my kids swim faster. This theory has been tested on many a 500 free where I am as close as I ever could be to the action and I may as well be on Mars for all they care.

The reality is, despite what other people think of me, we will continue having ONE parent at most meets. The other is making fun memories with the other, equally important children. I have yet to see a race that was the defining moment in my child’s life. Once I realized that, swimming became a hell of a lot more fun for us. And trust me, when we do have that one race that defines my child, you will hear all about it. Hope you have a while.

Last call…

Tomorrow starts what we call a JO (Junior Olympics) Qualifier.  In other words, last chance meet.

Grace is swimming 5 events this weekend even though she already has 6 qualifying times, the max she can swim at the meet.  She has several that she is just .10 away from making the cut and for the first time in her swimming life she may actually be able to make strategy based decisions as to what she will swim.

Sarah (who up until now hasn’t gotten much press time but I do have a great story about her, you will have to check back) is swimming one event.  50 breast.  She is 10 and will age up before the big qualifier next year.  She is 4 seconds away from the qualifying time but the way Sarah swims, she might take off 5 seconds.  She may add 9 too.  She is 10 and hasn’t found consistency.  She has found concessions though and loves to eat a bagel and muffin a few moments before she swims.  She also had to beg her coach to swim as he felt her time wasn’t quite close enough.  She is going to make one hell of an attorney one day as she put out a case worthy of winning her a shot.

Sarah is very worried about how she will do at this meet.  She is worried that this is her last chance!  Last chance at what?  It is her last chance to swim 50 breast on February 26th.  Other than that it is just another meet.  I want her to do her best but I applaud her for fighting for a shot.  I admire her ability to not compare herself to her sisters.  I respect her fight.  Go Sarah go.

Last chance my ass.  It is about the journey not the race.  She wanted a good pump up song for her ipod.  My favorite is “Lose Yourself” Eminem.

You better lose yourself in the music, the moment,
You own it, you better never let it go,
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow,
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime, yo!

Little heavy for 10.

Bagels are on me Sarah, swim your ass off.

P.S.  Spring Champs is way more fun, all the kids with JO cuts stay home and all the kids who almost made it get medals.  And they have Krispy Kreme at that meet!