Sunday, April 6, 2014

I am a Swim Mom?

As parents, we all remember those strong emotions associated with moments in our children’s lives. The feeling of panic during that first trip to the emergency room. The relief when the piano recital comes to an end. The embarrassment felt when it was your child picking his nose on stage.

Most swim parents can add another distinct memory to this list. The feeling of alarm when you realized your child chose a sport in which he or she swims for mere minutes during a swim meet that lasts for hours!
For me, the stark realization of what it means to be a swim mom came early in my son’s swim career. In fact, it was the very first meet after joining a summer league team.

Like most unsuspecting parents, I was lured in by the idea of a fun, summer activity. The advantages of joining a summer team seemed so obvious! These include:
  • it is an activity they can do when it is hot outside
  • daily access to a swimming pool
  • cost of equipment (a suit, goggles, and towel) is reasonable
  • and last but not least, swimming everyday wears them out so they will take an afternoon nap!
Naively I basked in my brilliance for choosing a sport that allowed me to linger poolside while my son was under the supervision of enthusiastic teen coaches. What parent wouldn’t take advantage of belonging to a summer swim league? But two short weeks later, reality set in. It was time for the first meet of the season.

As we approached the neighborhood pool where the meet was being held, it was an exciting and festive atmosphere! Children were happily running around and there was a delicious aroma of burgers on the grill drifting from the snack bar.  Although I had no idea what I was doing, I volunteered to work as a timer for the first half of the meet. After receiving brief instructions on how to work a stopwatch, it was time to begin!

The first hour of the meet passed quickly. My lane partner and I were like a well oiled machine as I called out times and she recorded them on the clipboard. Even though the temperature was 80+ degrees, I stayed cool sipping on the frozen bottles of water I had prepared in anticipation of the heat. And eight-year-old Jackson was swimming personal best times in all his events! (Of course, this was his first meet so anytime was a best time.)

However, by the second hour, my enthusiasm dampened. Perspiration was rolling down my back. The water bottles were empty (which meant it was way past time for a bathroom break). Jackson and several of his team mates had lost all interest in the meet and had moved on to the playground area. And then the final blow. My relief timer was a no show!

It was in that moment that I realized that there is much more to swimming than kids splashing their way from one end of the pool to the other. This sport, I quickly realized, was not for the faint of heart or weak in spirit. It requires patience, dedication, and the ability to muster enthusiasm for hours on end while standing in the hot sun. (Oh, and a strong bladder.) I admired the parents who knew what they were signing up for when they joined the summer swim team and did it anyway. Silently I reassured myself that summer would come to an end and this would all soon be over…or so I thought. 

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