(Editor's note: I fear this post might become Michener-esque in its length, yet, like Michener, I am compelled to begin at the beginning of swim meet history.) And so:
Wednesday nights are meet nights. Meets begin at 4:45 and last well into the night, sometimes bringing us home at 11:00 or later and can include lengthy drives into neighboring counties. We wait out the storms in our cars, huddle under umbrellas during torrents of rain, sweat it out in the stifling heat and humidity, and contend with every gnat and mosquito in the nearby vicinity, week after week. We schlep coolers stuffed with food and snacks, camping chairs and blankets, towels and dry clothes, and bags stockpiled with toys and books for entertainment between events.
We volunteer to work as timers, runners, table workers, and volunteer coordinators.
Yet despite these formidable challenges and exhausting time commitments, swim team is arguably the highlight of our summer. Evening practice becomes social hour for all the parents, affording both moms and dads the chance to catch up, to linger after practice has ended, to make plans for impromptu cookouts the next day. The "village" comes alive at swim meets, where everyone knows everyone else's kid, and cheers his victories, big and small. The village parents understand the teary joy of watching your kid cross the pool for the first time in his first meet, and offer a look of understanding and appreciation for the relief and pride so clearly evident on your face.
Other parents pitch in to help with your kids when they see you've got your hands full.
|Coach Carly with Leo after his 1st place finish in his heat at Champs|
11-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte set a record?
I hold just two benchmarks for a successful swim meet: Did anyone drown? No. Did you have fun? Yes. But this time, before such a massive audience, I was so proud of my kids for just showing up. I don't know that I could have done the same at their age, or perhaps even now.
|Looking especially tiny on deck at the UVA pool|
After packing up the last of the camping chairs and clearing out the trash from the cooler, I guided a weary Aidan back to our car and reflected on this rite of passage - not for him, but for me. (My parents, who are forevermore saints in my book, rescued Leo and Pax halfway through the meet so they were spared the long hot wait for Aidan to finish). Although we are well past some of the hallmarks of the earliest years of parenting (diapers and baby gates are becoming a distant memory) and are practiced enough in some enduring passages (middle of the night puking and perfecting the Stink Eye), a new badge was earned at Champs. It was a rite of passage to make it through to the end of the season. The countless hours spent waiting through practices and meets, wrangling tired children, weathering the storms, and wringing out sweat-soaked shirts faded into distant memory. None of that mattered anymore, because the 30-second to minute-long intervals of watching my kids make their own personal best times in front of hundreds of people in an enormous pool seared itself into the long-term storage bin of my heart and my mind.
Some favorite moments:
|First place finish for Leo!|
|My little ducky - his coach, dubbed Mama Duck (Maria), gave each of them a duck hat to wear|
|Aidan preparing for his freestyle swim - looking so confident and focused!|
|Pleased with his 7 second time improvement on 50 Freestyle - such a strong swim!|
|Second place in his heat on backstroke - yeah!|