Skill vs will

Right now I suck at being a swim mom. I’m pretty good at most things that the sport and parenting hand me. But this one thing? It’s making me cranky.

I’m not generally a worrier. That’s because I like to be in control. When I am in control things go well. When I’m not I’m a bitch. When I lose control in regards to something that affects my kids? Run away from me. Far.

Sophie is stuck in no mans land. She turns 9 on Tuesday. She can no longer be a mini. Which leaves her two options. Juniors or Advanced Juniors.

I personally think she belongs in Advanced Juniors. It’s the group she will absolutely be in next September. I’m all for keeping things simple. Put her in the group now, shut the box and tie a bow on it. Plus Sarah is in the group. Three kids two groups trumps three kids three groups. The practices will be a challenge for her but she can do them. She has the will.

Unfortunately she lacks some of the skill. Her freestyle needs some work. Advanced Juniors does some pretty long free endurance sets – the coach has concerns and feels that she will get more stroke work out of juniors. I’m not convinced he is correct. There are too many kids in the group with not enough coaches or lanes. I see it as a mess. Sophie hates it. They put her with 12 year old kids. She doesn’t want to swim there.

I’m doing what’s best for my kid. I am not sure yet what that is. But it has me pissed off. She has a fast fly and will be making some big meets as a 9 year old. She wants the challenge of the tougher group. I’ll do what it takes to get her the skill. But don’t mess with her will. You can’t teach that. I’m willing to play hard ball. A good coach will be too…someone can take her from good to great. Who is that going to be?

Really Grace, you too?

Grace woke up the day after I took Sarah to the Doctor, complaining of acute chest pain.  I usually know when my kids are sick, their coughs keep me up at night.  I hadn’t heard a peep from her roon, quite close to ours.  I agreed to let her stay home for the day.

I had to teach a few classes so left her home.  I got a call from her begging me to sub out my yoga and to get her to the Doctor.  She is not one to want to go to the Doctor so I obliged, subbed the class, made and appointment and raced home to pick up Grace.

She was pale and very quiet.  If there was any doubt before, I was certain now that she needed to see the Doc.

Our pediatrician spent a sizeable amount of time listening to Grace’s chest and back.  She listened to her lungs and heart, each enough times to cause some concern.  She then looked in her eyes, ears, mouth and nose. quietly she put all of her instruments down and with two fingers pressed on an area about an inch from Grace’s armpit.

Grace, all five feet and seven inches of her, almost threw her Doctor across the room.  The source of pain had been located.  Little miss sunshine had sore muscles.  Turns out she has been doing push ups and crunches a few times a day to increase her strength.  Grace out her head down and a small smile crept onto her face.

Turns out, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  She too had been google searching her pain.  She missed the diagnosis target by a mile.  She thought one of the following (and in no particular order):

Heart Attack
Lung Cancer

We left giggling and decided to celebrate with a lunch out.  She asked me not to tell anyone.  She must have known that wouldn’t happen!

Staying on top

Staying on Top
If your son or daughter is among the Top 16 when they are 10 years old, shouldn’t they be in the running for a national championship when they turn 18? In fact, quite the opposite is the case. Improvement is not a steady positive slope, especially for swimming prodigies. A study by USA Swimming using the All-Time Top 100 swims in each age group found that only 10 percent of the Top 100 10-and-Unders maintained their status through age 18. Only half of the swimmers among the Top 100 in the 17-18 age group had made any top-100 list when they were younger. “Those winning races at 10 probably won’t be winning races when they are 20,” says John Leonard, the executive director of the American Swimming Coaches Association. “This is one of those things that is obvious to coaches but can be a mystery to parents.”


I just read this on our LSC website.  I am always intrigued when I read articles such as this.  It seems clear that success in the older age groups has very little to do with being top dog at 10.  Yet so much emphasis is placed on those younger swimmers who are at the top, even in the LSC.

I personally am thankful that there isn’t pressure to succeed placed on my kids by anyone but mom and dad.  They know we are pushing them to THEIR very best and aren’t measuring their success by the success of others.  Their egos are fairly in check and they don’t believe success is guaranteed.

A Tale of Two Cities

Actually two states.  Saturday morning.  7 AM warm ups.  One an hour away in Maryland, the other an hour away in Virginia.  Stop right there if you are jealous.  This is just the beginning of the fun.

Chris took Sophie to her mini meet in Virginia. Who came up with the idea of 7 AM warm ups for minis?  This person sucks.

I took Grace to her warm ups.  Bambi was still there.  Looking really rough.

Sophie was out for blood at the mini meet.  They gave caps to the heat winners.  Last year Sophie did really well at the meet.  But no caps.  She was bound and determined to get the cap that she felt was rightfully hers.  And that she did.  A yellow one, her favorite color.sophie cap

I miss the simpler times of swimming.  When being a heat winner held some prestige.  Chris was texting me updates and I was texting him updates.  While Sophie was busy having a great time winning caps, Grace was hard at work swimming pretty half assed.  She swam 100 fly and added a second.  About two tenths too much to get her into the finals.  She then swam 200 backstroke, her event.  She had a goal in mind.  For the first 100 she was well on her way.  Well, her first 90.  Then she decided to glide into the wall.  Swimmers are taught to keep swimming, hoping that perhaps the refs won’t see the offense as critically as the swimmer.  Or even better yet, the won’t see it all.  OR they are standing right on top of you on the pool deck and they shoot their hand straight in the air.  As was the case in this event.  Backstrokers have it hard.  She held it together pretty well for the next 25 but at the turn she could see me.  I kept cheering for her and she started to cry.  Crying during a race makes no sense.  Two days later.  At the time it is a very natural reaction.  At the 175 mark she looked me straight in the eye and said “AM I DONE”?  I nodded yes.  “ARE YOU SURE?”  Yes.  At this point she was laughing.  She had blown the race and forgotten where she was in it.  I didn’t care that she got DQ’d, nor did her coaches.  But it was a great teachable moment.  Think about your race.

She got it together and soon after pulled out a respectable 200 free.  One that earned her a spot in finals.

Sarah’s session was up next.  She had a ride there.  I drove Grace home for a nap.  Then I drove back.  An hour each way.  Two more trips on the toll road.  The roadkill was still not cleaned up.  I needed a new route.

Sophie’s meet ended and Chris took her home to chill with Grace.  Sarah swam next.

The pool was not crowded for the 13-14 and 15-18 session.  I was still enjoying the meet.

Whoever got the bright idea to put 9-10 and 11-12 together though should be looking for a new job on craigslist.  When I got back I parked very far away.  The seat I had saved for myself with a towel and been reduced to half its size.  It was ridiculously hot and there wasn’t even standing room.   The fire marshal showed up at Junior Olympics at this same pool last year.  This was worse.  People were cranky.   I don’t know why, they all got to sleep in, I was up at 5:30.

Sarah swam three events.  All three she did a great job on.  Sarah is a nice middle of the pack swimmer.  This was her first meet as an 11-year-old, her birthday was the day before the meet started.  She got best times and swam with a lot of heart and determination.  I wish Sarah would take swimming on full-time, she has a lot of potential.  She is a wicked fierce competitor.  She may not win her race but she gives it 100%.  And then some.  She is thinking through the race and doesn’t make mistakes.

Her last event was 50 fly.  Her last time swimming that was 2 weeks ago when she went head to head with her baby sister.  This time she went head to head with her swim BFF.  They stayed together the entire race.  Until the end and Sarah’s friend out swam her by a few tenths.  Sarah knocked a half a second off her best time and was elated!  And speaking of exciting, they had nachos at concessions.  Sarah wolfed them down.

On the way out she told me that she loved racing her BFF.  That her friend pushed her to swim fast and they were both happy to get best times.  A kid that loves to compete and can handle the competition?  Go Sarah.

We passed our little friend on the way out.  May he rest in peace.

Chris took Grace back for finals.  She swam a nice 200 free.  And the day was done.

Total trips back and forth to meets at this point?  Eight.  My E-Z pass bill was going to be more than my mortgage.  Grace was begging to bag the last day of the meet.  Sophie wanted another cap.  Sarah?  She wanted nachos.

Wake up call in ten hours.


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


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 great outdoors…aka the meet I didn’t go to

Well, I survived not going to a travel meet with Grace and all of her friends parents, my friends.  Having three kids that swim really makes life easier but as a mom I also have to find balance in making sure that everyone is doing fun things and that our entire lives are not spent at a pool.  Just most of it.  Chris wanted to go.  Grace wanted him to go.  How do you say no to that?  You don’t.

Grace and Chris headed out-of-town Friday afternoon.  It was going to just be Sarah, Sophie and me for the weekend.

We spent Friday night at an end of the season soccer party complete with a bonfire, hay ride and s’mores.  Two of their friends came back to the house for a sleep over.  The kids slept in (glee) and we had a nice big breakfast.  I realized Saturday mornings don’t require nearly as much coffee without the early wake up call.  I took my two girls, my best friend, her four girls and three other friends to the National Zoo.   The weather was unbelievable, it was a sunny fall day, the foliage was beautiful and sweatshirts weren’t even required!  Afterwards we built a big fire in the fire pit, fed the kids and made s’mores yet again.  Sunday we slept in again!  After yet another slow start we went on a big hike and arrived just as dad was pulling in.

While I really wanted to be at the meet I had a wonderful time with my younger two.  Grace survived and thanks to dad I got nice videos of all of her races.  His commentary in the background was awesome.  I just yell GO really loud all the time but being a swimmer, Chris is able to narrate exactly what she is doing right.  And wrong!!!  It was fun to watch.

The reality is, soon we will have three age group swimmers and one also doing soccer.  We cannot be at every single meet or game.  We already have a weekend in December that I am going to need a master’s degree in logistics to get everyone where they need to be.  We are going to miss a race or two.  I am not going to apologize for it.  I survived a meet weekend without stepping foot in a pool. It didn’t hurt that it was a stunning weekend.  Grace survived too.  When she was done swimming, rather than come home with dad she opted to watch the 11-12 session and cheer for her friends.  She caught a ride home with a friend.  This weekend was a blast for her, it wouldn’t have mattered to her if neither of us went.  Except someone had to buy her dinner!

All in all it was a great weekend.  I get so caught up sometimes in what is going on at the pool that I forget about the fun we can have when we aren’t at one.  I love swim meets.  I also like beautiful fall days and I have missed many of those while at a swim meet.  I won’t be eating s’mores again anytime soon but other than that, I call it a success story.   I was a little miffed when I walked in the pool tonight and everyone wanted to know where Chris was.

It just isn’t fair

Life, politics, swimming, you name it.

Grace has a very good friend who swims at our club.  She swims in the practice group that is one step below where Grace swims.  Grace’s group is by invitation only.  Her friend was asked to move into the group and very politely declined.  She is a very talented musician and wasn’t willing to make the commitment to the five required practices per week.  Grace was disappointed, they are very good friends.

This past weekend Grace tanked her 200 free.  I knew it was going to happened BEFORE she got in the water.  Her friend was in the same lane as her, the heat just before Grace’s.  Grace watched her swim, cheered her on and then made the fateful mistake of looking at the time board.  I could see the look on her face and I knew right then and there that this was not going to be a shining moment for Grace.

I was correct.  She added a few seconds from her best time, a time she got about 6 months ago.  Keep in mind the day before she shaved 4 seconds off her 100 free and two days before she swam the first 200 of a 500 faster than she swam her 200 free.

On the way home she said she was tired.  I challenged her.  She psyched herself out.  Her argument quickly changed to one of “it isn’t fair”.

You see, her friend only practices 2-3 times a week.  The rest of her time is spent on other sports.  She doesn’t even care about swimming.   The child is not only talented but also beautiful, kind and compassionate.  It is hard not to like her and easy to be jealous of her.  Grace quite obviously was.  I can’t blame her.

It isn’t fair.  She only practices 2-3 times a week.  She is fast.

Grace has to practice 5 times a week.  She wasn’t handed talent.  She has to work hard for it.  Sometimes I think if I could hand my kids talent I would.  Other times I am not so sure.  Developing a work ethic is a life skill.  So is recognizing that sometimes things come easier to other people.   I tell my kids all the time that I don’t care what other people’s kids are doing I only care about my own.  I will give them the tools they need to be successful in life.  But what they do with them, what they make of their own lives is entirely up to them.  I can’t do it for them.

My kids have to work hard.  Life isn’t fair.  Blah blah blah….  Swim your own race.  Or you walk home.  Don’t hand your race to someone who doesn’t even care if they beat you.  Don’t hand your race to anyone.

The pool didn’t get smaller

Part One

Grace is coming in to the wall and I decide to look up 1.14 and ticking. She is close. 1.15. Still hauling. She is definitely close. She finally touches at 1.15.95! So close!

It was a jump for joy and an oh shit moment all wrapped up in one. She blew through her goal time and missed the zone cut by three tenth of a second. Hallmark does not make a card for this occasion. That pool was just too long!

I had no idea what her reaction would be. She actually came to find me. I was shocked. She needed money. And then she asked to go home. As much as I would have love to have taken her home at that point she still had to swim 100 free and a relay. Reminding her of this brought on the tears. She was done.

She decided to cheer herself up with a donut. It might have made her happier but it didn’t make her faster. She added a second on free and I watched 8 teams swim the most non-enthusiastic relays ever. It was OVER. We were so excited. UNTIL….

Her coach told us she was swimming another long course meet next Sunday. I am all for second chances but this news would have been better received in a few days.

All in all, it was a great weekend. Grace did better than she had expected. And I ate less than normal.

Oh and about the small world…I was talking to this wonderful family that also has three girls, same age as mine. They swim for the same club but at a different location. Grace swam a relay with their oldest at a recent meet and was excited to connect a name she had seen for years to a face. As I was talking to them towards the end of the meet they asked me if I wrote a blog. Slightly more embarrasing than being caught reading “50 Shades of Grey”! I am interested in seeing if they run the other way next time they see me at a meet! Their oldest daughter is has an injury that kept her from the last day of the meet. I hope she is back at the next meet and feeling 100%.