Was I a Tiger Mom?

Shortly after posting about my run in with Sarah and her homework pass my mother sent me a text.  Was I a Tiger Mom?

My response was unapologetic.  No.

My mother was far from a Tiger Mom and is certainly not a Tiger Grandma.  As a matter of fact I have had to remind her not to text or play Words With Friends with my girls after 9 PM.  Not once but twice I have told her.  I caught Sarah texting at 10 PM last night with none other than Grandma!  She is skating on thin ice!  Grandma that is.  No isn’t in her vocabulary and her only goal in life is for everyone to be her friend.  Her parenting style wasn’t any different from her Grandparenting style.

I really do believe that nature plays a huge role in who we become as adults and nurture isn’t as important.  Personality is luck of the draw and that is pretty much determined and not to be changed at the moment of birth.  Our job as parents is to keep that little personality on the right track.

Parenting is something we have to figure out on our own.  Above all else, it has to be organic to us.  I have to raise my kids in a way that feels natural to me.  Some may chose a different path.  Regardless, we are all trying to raise amazing young adults.

I am not qualified to give parenting advice.  Nor are my writings intended to be taken as such.  I am simply speaking from the heart about things going on in my life and that of my families.  As far as parenting goes, I often hear people say “I have no idea what I am doing”.    I don’t feel that way at all.  I know exactly what I am doing.  I am just not sure it will work.

No mom, you weren’t a Tiger Mom.  You are a great mom though.  But no more texting after 9 PM.  Or I will make dad take your phone away.

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.

You win some, you lose some

Last night was the final soccer game of the season for Sarah.  It was extremely cold and windy and I wasn’t looking forward to it.  I contemplated watching the game from the car.

The team they played were some of the worst sports men, women and children I have ever seen.  It clearly came from the coaches, trickled right down to the parents and the kids.  I am sure in the rest of their lives these people are good people, probably people I would hang out with and enjoy their company.  They just don’t know how to act on the field.

I don’t know if it was the cold weather or just that it was a late Friday night but our team responded by having a blast.  We cheered for our kids, laughed, and at one point all broke out in a dance.

I have no problem with winning in a team sport.  It is fun.  It’s the only true test of how well you played.  But I would much rather hang around with this group of losers any day.

It looks like Coach is hanging on another season, so we can get through spring and find a new coach to take over.  Her shoes will be hard to fill.

It was a bittersweet loss, but one I am proud of.

The perfect gift for the perfect child

Grace will be 13 soon and we have been looking for the perfect gift to get her.  I think we have finally found it.

I could use some help.  Anyone have a spare $25,000?  You are welcome to join us at our table. While the price tag seems high, the proceeds from this event will support the USA Swimming Foundation’s mission to save lives and build champions-in the pool and in life.

Make sure you cast your vote for the awards.  Our hometown girl Katie Ledecky has 60% of the vote for breakout performance of the year!!!!

 

You know what, if you want to get us a table we can call this birthday and Christmas.  Much love.

Please don’t go.

Sad.

Sarah has been with the same soccer coach for 4 years now, since first grade.  Coach K is amazing and incredible.  She makes the girls work hard, teaches them to be respectful of each other and fellow competitors as well as respect for the game.  She is the type of role model we can only hope for our young girls to have.

On the way to her soccer game Friday night Sarah said “I am going to play with Coach K forever”.  I had to hide my tears from her.  That same morning we had gotten an email from the coach apologizing profusely because she had to step down as their coach.  In simple terms, life was getting in the way.

I by no means blame her.  She works full-time and is in graduate school.  She also volunteers her time to these girls and is not compensated in any manner.  The gift card we give her at the end of each season doesn’t even begin to properly express our gratitude.

She has asked us not to tell the girls yet and I will respect her wishes.  I don’t even know how to explain it to Sarah, she will take it hard.

I try to teach my kids to be adaptable.  I want them to get along with all coaches and teachers.  I don’t want them to have favorites and I don’t want them to talk about teachers and coaches in terms of mean, bad, hard, easy.  I think everyone who coaches and teaches our children has something positive to offer, we need to learn to deal with everyone and having someone new step in can always be a positive.

Except in the case of Coach K.  She was supposed to be there forever.  Change is good.  Right?

It’s a wrap

First swim meet of the season.  Done and done.  Sophie as you know snuck hers in the weekend before, Grace and Sarah swam this weekend.

Sarah scored the early warm ups.  By scored I mean, sucks to be 9-10 this time.  None of us are morning people.  Sarah is no exception.  Saturday morning though she woke up quite chipper.  So in this particular case it actually sucked to be me who had to drive her hyper self to the warm ups.  Somehow I managed to convince Chris to take her Sunday morning, I have no idea how that wake up call went.

Sarah is still somewhat on the fence about how she feels about swimming.  She never complains about practice, worked very hard to get in the harder practice group a few times a week and gives practice her all.  I am still convinced she does it for the nachos.  She also happens to be ultra competitive.  She swam 6 events and got 6 best times.  She was quite pleased with everything.  Oh and she got nachos.  Twice.  Sarah also had a soccer game on Friday night where she did an impressive header and a rainbow.  Sarah is really into the soccer tricks.  I wish there was a Harlem Globe Trotters equivalent for soccer.  She would be a shoe in!

Grace had a longer weekend, swimming 500 free on Friday, two events Saturday afternoon and three on Sunday.  Grace has a bad habit of swimming too conservative in the longer distances.  Dad harps on her about this, telling her not to swim scared.  The 500 free is the only event that will get me on deck.  Because I have to time.  I got to overhear Grace’s coach giving her race strategy.  He told her simply, swim it fast.  Grace sprinted the first 350 of the race.  And then she died.  I thought we either had a Katie Ledecky in the making OR I was going to fish her ass out of the pool.  I really thought about emptying my pockets in fear I was going to have to go in after her.  That would have sucked, I had blown out my hair that day.  She made it to the wall with a best time.  Not a great time but a best time.  She learned a valuable lesson.  That she wouldn’t die if she went all out.

She had five other races, 200 free she tanked, late on Sunday.  She did well on her 100 and 200 backstroke.  The highlight of the met was that she finally broke a minute on her 100 free!  She showed about the same emotion as she did when she tanked her 200 free, although I think she was jumping up and down for joy in her mind.  She is almost 13, emotion is not an option.  (In swimming that is!).

It was a great weekend.  I am proud of both girls.  They worked really hard and had a great first meet.  I am especially grateful that Sarah enjoys it after wanting to quit at the end of last spring season.

Good luck this year to all our swim friends.  I would love to hear your updates.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-OD_iwFkkw&feature=plcp

And yes that is my stupid loud self yelling!

Living vicariously

She lives vicariously through her children.  Ever heard that term before?  I have.  I have used it myself.  It was never meant as a compliment.

We all have the friends who do this.  They put their tomboy girls in dance because they did it. They want their kids to be “popular” because they were.  Son wants to play an instrument in the marching band yet is forced into football.  The kids are generally unhappy and the parents by and large aren’t that much fun to be around either.  I certainly don’t want to be that parent.

I don’t think it is that difficult to see what a child enjoys or doesn’t enjoy.  What is challenging as a parent is making them do something you know they enjoy when they don’t want to do it.

I am a terrible dancer.  Trust me on this one.  I even cringe a little at the consideration that dance may be a sport.  It isn’t something I ever saw myself wanting for my girls.  And then I had Sophie.

Sophie loves music.  She loves to sing.  And she loves to dance.  She often combines singing and dancing with normal daily activities.  Such as brushing her teeth, cleaning her room and even eating dinner.  If there were ever an Olympic sport that entailed eating chips and salsa while dancing, Sophie would take home the gold.  I think she has rhythm.

I enrolled her in hip hop two years ago.  She took 7 classes before the studio went belly up.  I was worried about her reaction and promised her I would find a new place right away.  Her response?  “I really don’t want to take dance lessons”.  She has quit soccer and girl scouts and only wants to swim.  I never have to beg her to go to practice, she can’t wait for meets and is always looking for ways to sneak into a more advanced practice group.  She is a great swimmer and loves it.  You would think all is well.

I still think that child needs to dance.  I bring it up from time to time and she is dismissive of it.  This Thursday there is a free demo class at a studio near the pool.  I suggested she go try it out.  She reminded me that Thursday is when she sneaks into the Juniors practice and since practice is cancelled this Sunday she needs to swim Thursday.

As a parent, I never saw myself in this situation, one where I am trying to force my child to do something SHE loves and I don’t!

I don’t know what you would call this or how you would judge me for it but if you want to, go for it.  It has me scratching my head.

 

 

The goals of an eight year old…

Sophie is home sick from school today. She actually came home yesterday and put herself to bed. I didn’t realize it and went to let her know she needed to get ready for swim practice and found her sound asleep. She is my post meet napper but she is always happy to go to swim. When I woke her up she said she was cold and her whole body hurt. Not a good sign. She missed her first swim practice ever for a reason other than a family obligation. She clearly needed her beauty rest.

I kept her home from school today. She came to me an hour ago with her swimming goals written out in a notebook. She had time goals for each event on one page, the next page was filled with details on which groups she was going to swim in, all the way until she went to the Olympics. Wisely, she also chose a Plan B should the Olympics not pan out, she was going to become a swim coach to a future Olympian. Her goals from age 8 to 12 on page one and two were interesting, without actually saying it she very clearly expressed that she wants to follow in her big sisters footsteps. She may not always like her big sister but there is no doubt she respects and admires her.

Page three she ripped out of her journal and for that I am grateful because now I can keep it. She wrote out her own swimming pledge:

I hope I reach it even if I don’t. I hope I tried. I may not be the best but all that matters is that I have fun. Thanks to swim my life has chance. I have swim by my side.

I am not exactly sure what it says but it says absolutely everything.

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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…