Can’t believe I am saying this

Day two with the teenager was a walk in the park.  It was just last year that I was always nervous when she swam.  Up until recently Sarah didn’t really care about swimming, she just did it for the socializing and she enjoyed the exercise.  Sophie was 7…if we could get through a meet with her with no tear we considered it a success.  The tide has shifted and all three girls are very focused on their races and success in the pool.

This isn’t to say I don’t care about Grace’s swimming any more.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I am in awe of her dedication and focus to the sport.  She has been swimming consistently since she was 6.  It hasn’t come easy to her all the time either.  She has weathered unpredictable coaches, long plateaus and years of girl drama.  And still loves it.

Grace is becoming a young woman.  She used to need pumping up before meets and lots of encouragement.  She has found that inner fight on her own.  As well as inner peace.

Going into this meet she only had one JO cut and about 7 she was close to.   She had to pick five events and struggled with which five to choose.

During the morning session she swam 50 and 200 free.   While she didn’t make the JO cuts she took time off in both events and was pleased with her results.  After a quick rest at home we went back to the pool – stopping at Starbucks for her “go-go juice” – some kind of soy vanilla frozen thing.  She was concerned about how she would do in the afternoon session, she had 200 IM, 200 Back and 100 fly in pretty rapid succession.  Her coach and her dad suggested scratching one of the events.  She was furthest from the JO time in 100 fly but it was the last event and the one she most wanted to swim.

My advice is always different.  I am not a swimmer – I was in sales in my professional career.  My motto?  Simple, throw a lot of shit against the wall and see what sticks.  Simply put, swim your heart out in all three races and see what happens.

Her IM – the race she debated scratching was awesome.  She only needed to take off a second for the JO cut.  All was going well until she hit breaststroke.  I think she was tapering or something.  Not her best performance.  She added a second.

This is when I usually get really nervous.  But I didn’t.  Her next race was 200 back and I knew she would get the JO time.  She had swum it twice recently, once getting an oops DQ and once slipping on her start.  She had run through her excuses and it was time to swim it well.  And she did, taking of almost 4 seconds and getting her time.

She warmed down for 6 minutes and was back on the block for 100 fly.  She had a great swim, took off enough time to qualify for Dolan but missed JO’s.  And just like that we were out of there.

She was thrilled with her swims.  Having two JO times she gets her bag tag and t-shirt but also gets to swim at Spring Champs.  She swims great when rested and is excited about both meets.

After the meets they get a two-week break and we head into LC season.  Grace loves long course and is excited for the change of pace.  The car ride home was lively conversation.   About shopping.  Teenagers are great.  Did I just say that?

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.

 

It’s a disease?

True to form, Sarah has been complaining of foot pain lately.  For some reason every spring she has managed to injure a body part.  We have been through two stress fractures and one pulled tendon in the knee.  This time around she was having ankle pain which I was attributing to the Achilles tendon.

I feel like I have earned an MD since having kids.  A google MD that is.  After complaining about the pain for a few weeks I decided to take her to our orthopedic specialist.  I say “our” like we own them.  We might.  When we leave they say “see you in six months”.  When your kid has the nickname scrappy it is bound to happen.

After a few X-rays it was determined that Sarah has Sever’s Disease.  I gave an air fist pump and Napoleon Dynamite style “YES!’.  I hit the self diagnosis jackpot.  Love google.

Sarah’s eyes got enormous….I HAVE A DISEASE?  Sounds frightening doesn’t it?  It is actually quite common amongst active kids.

Sever’s disease, also called calcaneal apophysitis, is a painful bone disorder that results from inflammation  of the growth plate in the heel. A growth plate, is an area at the end of a developing bone where cartilage cells change over time into bone cells. As this occurs, the growth plates expand and unite, which is how bones grow.

Sever’s disease is a common cause of heel pain in growing kids, especially those who are physically active. It usually occurs during the growth spurt of adolescence, the approximately 2-year period in early puberty when kids grow most rapidly. This growth spurt can begin any time between the ages of 8 and 13 for girls and 10 and 15 for boys. Sever’s disease rarely occurs in older teens because the back of the heel usually finishes growing by the age of 15, when the growth plate hardens and the growing bones fuse together into mature bone.

Sarah is going to live.  No need to send flowers.  But it sure makes the painful decision not to play soccer in the spring seem like a brilliant one.

We decided to push the “no weight-bearing activities” treatment plan a little.  She won’t practice futsal but will play her last three games.  She is willing to deal with the pain, knowing it will be the end.

We did get some good news.  Sarah, the smallest on the growth scale of the three, may end up the tallest.  The upside of large growth plates at 11?  Lots of growing left to do.

And once again, thanks to Sarah, we have met our annual deductible by February!  I love my scrappy girl.

Some you just don’t forget

Sophie has a meet this weekend. The annual Gender Blender meet. Boys vs. Girls. Sophie cannot wait for this meet. Me? I am a nervous wreck. She is trying to make the 50 fly JO cut at this meet. She will be the first kid in our family to get a 9-10 JO cut at 8 if she does it. And since we are done having kids, she would also be the only.

I will be the first to admit when my kids have a pie in the sky goal. In this particular case though she has everything it takes to reach her goal. I’m worried that if she doesn’t she will be really disappointed. Without discouraging her from doing her best I have also told her that it isn’t a big deal if she doesn’t make it. She has one more shot. Oh and two more years!

Above all I told her no crying. Her memory is better than mine, she said nothing could top last year! How long ago this seems. How could I have forgotten this one?

Just add water

I am pretty confident she will do well. There are a few obnoxious boys in her group that she would like to teach a thing or two. Grace assured her that they get worse not better as they get older. Gracie’s advice? Don’t beat them. Destroy them.

Grace wants to go cheer her on. I suspect in part because she will get out of her 6:30 am practice. Sarah is even pulling for her, even though this means baby sis will be faster than her in that event.

Keep your fingers crossed for baby fly girl.

Not sure what to do with this one…

Sarah is playing indoor futsal.  Her soccer coach decided to do this rather than indoor soccer.  Sarah is not a huge fan of it so far.  There practices and games are on a gym floor and it involves more bouncing than indoor soccer.  It seems to be kind of hard on the body.

Her coaches last season with the girls is the spring season.  We just got the email with the practice days, times and fees for spring.  As a parent I have learned to ALWAYS ask my kids if they want to continue something before I pay for it.  I made this mistake once.  You don’t make that mistake twice.

I asked Sarah if she wanted to play the spring season.  Her response took me by surprise.

Sarah is all or none.  She IS or IS NOT going to do something.  Adamant, forceful, determined, firm, tenacious, stubborn and relentless are words I would use to describe Sarah.  I am pretty sure I have never heard her speak the words I don’t know.

Her response, you decide.

I went to her coach and explained to her what happened.  She agreed to give Sarah a week.  We are on day 5.   She will not commit to me if she wants to play or not.  I don’t care either way, I want her to be happy.  I can’t make this decision for her.  She has to decide.  Today I decided to ask her to list the pros and cons of continuing to play.  Pros – she sees her friends.  Cons – she can’t commit fully to swimming.

She has two more days.  I don’t have a clue what to do with a “you decide”.  It isn’t in Sarah’s character to be non committal.  I should be able to read what it really means.  I can’t.

 

Man I am tired

I mentioned sleep in my last post.  Swimmers are sleeping machines.  Our friends son has been known to fall asleep in the car and even at restaurants on the way home from meets and practice.

Our Wednesday night meets are prone to going late in the night.  The flyers get to hit the deck around 10 PM most weeks.  Last summer little Sophie was sitting in a chair waiting for the clerk of course to come get her.  I went to wish her luck and found her legs crossed, elbow propped on knee, fisted hand to temple – sound asleep.  I gently woke her up and said “baby you have to swim”.  She dove in, swam across the pool – we grabbed our bag and went home.  Hey, she got a best time, who is to say her 90 second nap wasn’t just what she needed.

The sleep part of swimming is great.  It is the eat part that is hard to keep up with.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Penny Presser

Lions and tigers and bears OH MY! Took the kids to Out of Africa today and saw some pretty amazing animals. Sarah fed a giraffe a carrot out of her mouth. Sophie petted the hugest snake I have ever seen. Grace fed a tiger raw meat.

We went to the Music Museum the other day and the Out of Africa Zoo today. Living in DC I am a big fat cheapskate. I can not stand paying for zoos and museums. I expect them to be free and if they are boring I want to leave. I try to keep it under wraps when I am bored. I have no clue what keeps my kids entertained.

I feel like my kids are pretty well travelled and have been to lots of cool places but the one thing that they are always entertained by is the penny smoosher.

What the hell is up with that? Tigers, Lions, Giraffes and musical instruments from around the globe don’t hold a candle to the penny smoosher. And I never have the .51 cents required to partake. I suck as a parent. Thank heavens they take plastic to get into all of these places. Next time I go into DC I plan to take 6 quarters and three pennies. I plan to show them fun.

20120405-211506.jpg

20120405-211519.jpg

Check your ego at the door

The older two participated in a NFT meet this weekend. Sarah loves these meets, she gets to swim her good events against a smaller, slower group of kids. Despite having swam at the Age Group Champs last weekend, Grace opted to swim some events that she had tanked (breast stroke) at the JO Qualifier in February, as well as some events she fell just short of qualifying for (IM’s and 200/500 free).

This landed me in split sessions with 7 hour days. Apple needs to work on the charge capacity of the iphone, thankfully this event was at our home pool so I knew where all the wall outlets are and had the foresight to bring a charger. I usually drive around during the second warm ups juicing up the phone, but I had a primo parking spot and I wasn’t giving it up.

Sarah swam the morning session and did really, well, all over the map. Status quo. I struggle with this kid, her effort is about half assed and it shows in the results. But she also loves to swim, has a great attitude and always has fun at meets. It is funny, I never get nervous when she swims and I am grateful to have one that really just swims because it is fun. It is expensive fun but fun none the less. Glad her soccer is cheap. Yeah no, I am dreaming.

Grace swam the afternoon sessions. She felt a little awkward swimming this meet, it was a no faster than meet so she could only swim some of her “off” events and only one other kid from her group is in this age group.

As luck would have it, I ended up siting next to the “off” mom who felt it was unfair that kids who had the qualifying times for the meet the weekend before were allowed to swim at all. I didn’t feel any guilt about it, the meet specifically stated that you couldn’t swim any events that your time was faster than the posted time. It also happened to be a home meet hosted by our team. For half a second I thought about reasoning with her. And then my friends showed up. Woohoo for friends.

It didn’t go away. She realized that my daughter was in the last heat of 200 free and I am not ashamed to admit it, she won it. Grace was having a good meet. My friend to the left was not.  I have no clue about her kid, she was too worried about mine.  Apparently it isn’t fair that my daughter was also taking away all the ribbons. (1-8). In Grace’s defense she prefers medals. Dear me. I wasn’t going to cheer any more. Her boyfriend showed up and I slid to the right to make room.

Grace swam 6 events and posted 5 best times, 3 really freaking awesome time drops. I am sorry I don’t feel guilty. The lady can have the stupid ribbon. Coming to a meet, swimming your heart out on events you suck at (breaststroke) and doing well means more than a ribbon or a medal. For the record she didn’t get any ribbons in breaststroke. She will keep trying!

We are keeping the free t-shirt though. My kids love their swagger wear!  Check the ego at the door, if the kids can do it, why can’t the parents?

Oh and the cops came to this one too! Glad I kept that awesome spot, illegally parked cars were being towed. Loving the police smack down at meets!

20120326-191401.jpg

(Side note – I am lucky to have a great group of friends.  We highlight ALL of the kids names that we know in the ONE heat sheet we buy and we cheer for ALL of them)

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.