Saturday, June 30, 2012

Eating my Words

June 30?  How did that happen??  SO much catching up to do:

We've enjoyed lots of adventures these past two weeks.  I'm glad, though, because July is going to be a big month, full of off-kilter routines and big changes amongst the grown-ups.  More on that to come.  

If there's one thing in parenting I've learned, it is this:  any statement you make, where you swear up and down that it will "never" happen, that you'll never LET it happen - be prepared to eat those words.  After several summers of witnessing overtired parents gather in the bug-infested lawn in the blazing hot sun outside the crowded pool deck counting down the the minutes until the swim meet was finally over, I swore up and down that I'd never let my children join swim team, and that those parents were downright crazy.

And then they joined - Aidan and Leo joined the swim team.  Go Sharks!

And I discovered that I love it.  I actually love it, like Mikey and his bowl of Life cereal.  I love the evening practices that wear the kids out to exhaustion, giving them a half-bath in the salt water pool and sufficiently preparing them for deep slumber each night.  I love the attention that Pax enjoys when older brothers are occupied, giving him Mom's undivided attention.  I love the social aspect of the practices and the swim meets - for both my kids and for us Moms and Dads, too.  I love knowing that a bad day will likely end well, with swim practice.  I love the swim meets, the village we've built, where moms and dads haul unfathomable amounts of stuff to a central location where we feast on salads and sandwiches and s'more bars and keep an eye on the village children who race from one end of the lawn to another, drawing on each other with Sharpies and squirting each other with spray bottles full of chilly water.

Is Aidan or Leo destined to be the next Michael Phelps?  Hell no.  And I'm fine with that.  (In fact, I'm quite relieved.  Just yesterday, I swore to myself, up and down, that my kids would NEVER do year-round swimming.....)

But what I really admire is how hard they both work, how excited they are and how committed they are to swimming.  Aidan is a quick learner, diving off the blocks at his very first swim meet and practicing his strokes even on days we go to the pool "for fun only."  Each meet, his times improve, and swimming has provided an excellent way for him to cultivate his competitive streak in a healthy way.  The focus is on your own personal best time, beating yourself each race, not worrying so much about what other kids are doing or how fast they are going.  I love this about swimming: being your personal best.

And Leo - Leo experienced a truly epic moment during his first backstroke in his first meet.  We refer to it as Leo's First Backstroke: Or The Little Engine That Could.  At the start of the race, all was fine in the lap lanes.

But quite quickly, the other under-6 racers backstroked themselves far beyond my Leo.  Determined as ever, he kept going.  Coaches from the other team encouraged him, demonstrating how to use both arms to reach behind him.  His own coaches yelled encouraging words from the sidelines.  The other racers finished, and Leo was just 1/3 of the way down the lane.  Patiently, we all urged him on.  He stopped frequently, holding on to the lap lanes but never turning his front toward the finish, always maintaining a half backstroke pose.

Halfway down the lane, the entire crowd around the pool began to cheer for him.  "GO LEO GO!"  we shouted.  "GO LEO GO!!"  I crouched at the pool side, cupping my hands around my mouth in the hopes he would hear my singular voice.  I fought back tears: wanting to help him; knowing how hard he was trying; deeply moved by the encouragement and the enthusiasm of bystanders.

At times, it was very scary. There were moments when panic overtook his face, and I was just seconds from plunging into the water to save my baby.  Nervously, I said to one of my favorite dad friends, "Seth, that lifeguard is really hovering near the edge."  He replied in a voice that would calm passengers on the Titanic, "It's her job to do that.  She's supposed to be there."  We cheered louder and louder, and as Leo made his eventual approach, the coaches urged him to keep going, to touch the wall, to stay on his back!

And he did.  He swam the whole damn thing, on his back.  All 3 minutes and 26 seconds of it - he did it.  He emerged, exhausted and cold and yet with a look of sheer determination still clearly evident on his face, that determination that I adore about him.

Leo Gabe:  The Little Engine That Could.

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