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.

Record breaking deal

Grace would like to break two pool records this summer.  They belong to a swimmer from another team who is a year older than Grace.  She is really close on both of them and is hoping Saturday is her day.

One tiny problem.  In the process of breaking the pool record, she will also break the team record.  Which belongs to a very good friend of hers, also a year older.

Is this a game changer?  No.

There is no guarantee that Grace will break either record.  She wants to.   She hopes to.  She is going to give it her all.

We aren’t talking about it too much.  We can cross the what happens next bridge if/when we come to it.  But I can also see it is weighing heavily on her mind.  It is an interesting position to be in at 12.  At 42 if I were to beat a friends record we would high-five, laugh and go have nachos and margaritas.  At 42 the only competition that I am in with my friends is who can read 50 Shades of Grey fastest!  I once almost had it out with a friend over a pair of red shiny shoes but it turned out that they had two pairs in our size.  As an adult, it is hard to put these situations into perspective.

She either will or won’t.  No use in worrying about it.  Can we pretend there isn’t an elephant in the pool?

The last time that happened…

No never.

All three girls are swimming in the A meet this Saturday for our summer swim team.  This will be the first time ever that all three girls swam at the same time and place.  With the girls being two years apart they are never in the same age group.  Rarely do I have two in the same session.  From time to time we even have simultaneous meets in different locations.  All three girls at once – never.

I am pretty excited about it. I did have to warn the coach Sophie was prone to crying after races that didn’t go her away.  Fingers crossed for no 8-year-old shit fits this weekend.

I am of course running concessions.  I got some of those massive pixie sticks.  We may have a Toddlers and Tiara’s moment here and there.  Saturday won’t get here soon enough, I can’t wait!

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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.

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Nothing says “put down the ice cream” quite like

filling out the summer pool pass applications.

I have said all along that swim moms have it the worst but no one wants to believe me.

Most swim families spend their entire summer at the pool  We show up around 2:00 each day and leave around 8:30 in evening – we close the joint down.

The upside to this is that my kids eat dinner at the pool every night, thus my kitchen stays spotless.  We shower at the pool – guess whose bathrooms stay sparkling?  The kids will eat anything I put in front of them during the 15 minute breaks so I don’t have to listen to endless complaints about what I cooked and how much they hate it.  Sleeping in late in the morning is not a problem.

What is the downside you ask?  Bathing suit season for kids also means bathing suit season for mom.  Every day.  I would love to see Lacrosse Mom go sit at a tournament all day in a bikini.  Time to get busy and lose those extra few lbs.  Don’t ask me to go to lunch.  I am on a “mission”.

 

Chosing a Team

There are many swim team options out there. They all cost way too much and each of them is better than the next – just ask them. We have opted to try them all. We have swim team confusion and are equal opportunity swimmers, sharing the Elliott love with everyone. Plus you never know when Consumer Reports will call and I feel like I could do one hell of a pros and cons piece on swim teams.

When you chose your first team, you really need to base your decision on the suits they wear. Bottom line, they need to be cute. After a year you will realize that while your child is arguably the cutest child to grace a pool deck, that they are a terrible swimmer.

There may not be a compulsory score in swimming but a good luck dance never hurts!

This is where your really journey begins. In the heat sheet at the next meet, you should highlight the names of the teams with kids with beautiful strokes. A pattern will emerge and the technique based team will be clear to you (what you will not see is that the kids on this team can’t win a race any longer than a 50). You will immediately move your children to this team. Undoubtedly, it will cost more and you will pass no less than five pools that host swim teams on your way to this team’s practice site but it will be well worth it because you now realize that swimming, much like dancing is an art and should be performed with elegance, grace and precision. You will spend your next two years here. No more no less.

Year one is tear down. Your little dumpling no longer has the 5th fastest backstroke in the county…..nope, it is now the worst. Fast no longer counts, it is all making it look good. They don’t rotate their shoulders properly, not enough kick and head is the absolute wrong position. You will spend the entire year praising the coaches for saving your child from potentially drowning in the middle of a race because their right hand will inevitably end up in their left ear and they legs will get tangled in the lane ropes. Their technique is just that bad.

Year two, your future Wheaties endorser will start to put that technique to good use and may actually start swimming a little faster. Once they have a few meets under their suit in this season, they will suddenly be swimming well again. BUT, and this is where things start to go south, their technique will start to suffer. And every practice will be 100% devoted to fixing all of the flaws. Future Ms. Wheaties will start looking like Ms. Dunkin Donuts as they start chubbing up from the complete and total lack of exercise they are getting at practice. Half laps will become quarter laps and then practice will actually become a lecture series taught at a desk with a dry erase board, detailing the exact moment and angle the right thumb should first enter the water. You slowly realize your kid can’t even complete a 100 anymore.

AND THEN. They can’t swim at all. They suffer from a medical condition that I call “swimmers block”. (I have an advanced medical degree from Web MD and Google). In other words, paralysis of the stroke sets in and so much thought goes into every movement in the water that the swimmer no longer can move with any acceleration. All strokes literally look like treading water. Year two involves a lot of tears, both child and mother. This is the point where the coaches begin to hate said mother because she is a neurotic lunatic. Unlike when she was pregnant, this is a fact mom will not protest.

Mom then spends the entire summer not sleeping, instead staring at the ceiling weighing the strengths and weaknesses of the FIVE area swim teams. She will develop bags under her eyes and carpal tunnel from spending so much time researching her “options”. Research should be done on all pools within a 1000 mile radius. A move is not out of the question. The nice thing about a move is it gives you a great reason to break up with your old team. Less messy.

September finally rolls around and the family piles in the minivan (aka swim taxi) and does the evaluation for the new team. Mom chews her nails down to the quick and the kids swim their butts off in order to impress the new judges. I forgot to mention that right before you “audition” for a new team it makes sense to feed the kids pixie sticks and Red Bull. When all is said and done, kids come running up screaming I LOVE IT and coaches say they have great stroke and they can fix their endurance. Check book comes out and it is official, team three now owns your child.

This is where we are now. My kids may look like a lawn mower in a pool but guess what, they are kicking some ass now. It took a while but I realized that there only one of two things can happen in a race, you either go slower than your best or faster. No one gives a shit what you look like. There is no compulsory score in swimming! How awesome is that?