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Next Stop, Richmond, Virginia

Number 3 and 4 first joined the swim team six years ago.

They swam on the town team which only swims in the summer and practices in the lake at the town beach. It’s a rinky dink little team, but it was the perfect introduction to swim team for them. They both loved it.

Of course, growing up a swimmer and swimming all the way through my senior year in college, I was  pretty psyched when they asked to join the swim team.

It’s hard not to live vicariously through them. Too much.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t doing that at all.

It’s also hard to balance their desire to do well and win and be the best with the knowledge that the burnout factor in swimming is very, very high.

There aren’t too many kids who are ranked among the top swimmers in the state as ten-year-olds who are still swimming when they are in high school.

So it’s a fine line.

Pull the trigger too soon and you risk them falling out of love with the sport before they really get to the good part. The part where they learn all the important life lessons that have both gotten me through some of the darkest times of my life and also given me the closest friends of my life.

Anyway, here they are after a meet that very first season.

Number 3 had just turned seven, and Number 4 was five years old (two months away from six).

They both exhibited natural talent and ability early on.

And now, six years later, here they are.

(Number 7 is the age now that Number 4 was six years ago when they first started swimming 🙂 )

Both Number 3 and 4 had great seasons this summer.  And they both qualified for a big meet in Richmond, Virginia this week called Eastern Zones Long Course Championships. It’s a four day meet where the top swimmers from states up and down the East Coast will be swimming.

They both set goals to make it to this meet this summer, and they both did it. I am so proud of them!!!

So, with the knowledge that they are swimming in some relatively elite circles at a fairly young age (which increases the pressure they may put on themselves), we are headed off to Richmond, Virginia tomorrow where I get to watch the two of them swim not as their coach, but simply as their mom (which I am very much looking forward to).

I drop Number 3 off with the other swimmers from CT who are 11 years old and older at 6:45 a.m. tomorrow morning (they all ride together on a coach bus and stay in a hotel together as a team) and then I’m making the 413 mile trip from Connecticut to Virginia with Number 4, 5, 6, and 7 (because the swimmers who are ten and under have to stay with their parents).

It’s gonna be interesting, no doubt, and if I survive the drive and the next six days with those four in a hotel room, I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

Wish me luck!

 

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Crazier Than Necessary

We are on our second week of summer.

But it feels like the second month of summer. At least.

My work schedule combined with the kids’ swim team and baseball schedules is out of control.

Yesterday I was sure it was Friday.

When I realized it was only Wednesday, I found myself wondering not just how I was going to make it to the weekend, but how I was managing to function when I literally had no idea what the hell day it was.

With five kids, even if they are all involved in the same activity, things are going to be challenging.

But we are going at a ridiculous pace.

I have recognized this, and once this swim season ends in August, I am going to make some changes which will simplify life a little bit.

But until then, for the next six weeks, life is going to be crazy. Crazier than normal. Crazier than necessary.

I am stressed out and burning the candle at both ends. And then I started getting more stressed. Because there is a second swim team we swim haven’t even started yet, and I was breaking my back trying to figure out how I was going to make it happen.

For the past five years, every summer, my kids have swum on not only the Y swim team, but also the town swim team.

The town swim team swims at the lake in the summer and it’s the first team my kids ever swam on and they love the team and I love it too. It’s a great starter program, and it’s where all my kids began swimming.

And even though it’s fairly low key, it’s a big time commitment, and getting to the practices and the meets is much more difficult this year than it has been in years past.

So yesterday as I was losing my shit trying to figure out how I was going to get everyone to their practices, I remembered this picture I saw recently:

And the light bulb went off.

The kids don’t have to swim on town swim team.

Then the devil on my other shoulder chimed in.

But we owe it to the program.

They’ve always done it!

This is a tradition!

It’s not fair to Number 7!

There were plenty more thoughts that ran through my head. More reasons why we couldn’t just simply not swim on two swim teams this summer.

And then I came to my senses.

What the fuck is wrong with you? Don’t do the second goddamn swim team, you dumbass!

Once I had that revelation, once I took that responsibility, that added burden off of my shoulders, everything immediately became lighter.

More bearable.

And the feeling of not having to worry about another thing was much more gratifying than the feeling of squeezing more shit into my day and checking more items off my to-do list.

I thought the kids would be bummed. I thought they’d be really disappointed.

But you know what?

When I told them the town swim team wasn’t happening this year, you know what they said?

The said…

“YAY!”

Why did it take me so long to come to my senses? Why didn’t I realize that doing this second swim team in the summer was not compulsory?

Where had I convinced myself that there was no choice? That the kids wanted and needed to be a part of it?

I have no idea.

Sometimes I guess you mindlessly do what you’ve always done. No matter what.

So we will not do two swim teams this summer.

It’s just too much.

While all of us will miss parts of it, all of us are relieved to have one less thing to worry about. One less thing to drive to. One less thing to pack bags for.

And this is one area where I really want to improve as a parent.

I think it is natural for us to want to give our kids opportunities. Especially opportunities we never had ourselves.

And we want them to be good at everything.

But you know what?

You can’t be good at everything, and you can’t do everything.

You just can’t.

And this is a lesson I want my kids to learn. A lesson I need my kids to learn.

In life you have to make choices. You have to figure out what is most important to you, and then accept that the other things you want to do that are further down on the list just can’t happen right now.

Not if you don’t want to lose your goddamn mind.

Slowly but surely I’m figuring this out.

And if I can help my kids learn to make choices and to avoid completely overloading themselves before they reach their forties, well, then I’ll consider that to be one of my biggest accomplishments.

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5:00 On A Friday Night

Yesterday I had a significant freakout about the arrival of summer. I was panicking. And I wasn’t at all physically or emotionally prepared for the transition.

I was so exhausted that as soon as I got Number 6 and 7 into bed, I crashed on my own bed before 9 pm.

My husband was working down in the basement.

Number 4 was  at a carnival with a friend. I texted her mom and told her I was sorry, but I was too tired to stay awake until Number 4 got home, I couldn’t stay up another minute, and that she could just let Number 4 run inside when she dropped her off.

I  like to go out to the car to say thank you whenever someone drops the kids off, but last night I just couldn’t do it.

I left Number 3 and 5 out on the couch watching television, and I passed out.

Number 5 woke me up at 3 a.m. because she was thirsty, so I got her a water bottle and got back into bed.

At 3:30, I was still wide awake.

I had gotten six hours of sleep already, and my alarm usually goes off at 4:30 a.m. I knew sleep would not return anytime soon.

So I got up.

I made some coffee, did some laundry, got a little bit of work done, worked out on the elliptical for 40 minutes while I watched another episode of Scandal (holy shnikes I love that show), and then took a shower.

I took Number 3 and 4 to swim practice, coached this morning, and taught a bunch of swim lessons this afternoon. By 3:30, I was done for the day.

The kids were pretty good today. There were one or two episodes where a couple of them tried to beat the crap out of each other, but for the most part, they were great.

And today is the first Friday in a very long time where I don’t have swim practice at night.

That hasn’t happened in a long, long time. Like since last September.

It’s the first Friday night, in nine months, where I am home, all the kids are home, and we just have a regular, non-scheduled, semi-relaxed night.

I was so overwhelmed and freaked out yesterday I didn’t even realize that while my daytime schedule might become a little more challenging, my nighttime schedule has become much more manageable. Especially tonight! And not just tonight.

Every Friday night for the rest of the summer!

YES!!!

So once I was done with my lessons, I told the kids I was going to take a shower.

I was interrupted twice. Once because someone broke a bowl and once because someone clogged a toilet, but other than that, I was able to shower in relative peace.

By 4:30 I was clean and dressed in my pajamas, and able to get dinner started without having to throw all the kids in the car and rush off anywhere.

It was foreign. It was weird.

And it was awesome.

Two of the kids were outside playing badminton. Three of the kids were swimming in the pool. One kid was up in bed reading.

It was, as far as I’m concerned, the perfect summer night.

Everyone was having fun doing what they wanted to do.

And so, at 5:00 on a Friday night, in my pajamas and after having enough time to just pause and exhale, I noticed how gross the floor was.

I took out the vacuum, feeling oddly grateful to have this opportunity to leisurely clean my floor. And as I was vacuuming in my pajamas during happy hour time on a Friday night, I thought about what I might have been doing fifteen years ago at this time on a Friday night.

I certainly wouldn’t have been doing housework. In my pajamas.

I definitely would have been celebrating happy hour in the traditional manner with my (childless) coworkers.

And immediately after that thought, as if the Universe felt the need to slap me in the face, I very vividly recalled a conversation I had with one of my fellow teachers about sixteen years ago.

I remember  exactly where I was, sitting at one of the student’s desks in her empty classroom after all the kids had gone home, telling her how I looked forward to the day that I had kids and a family. And how I hoped I’d be able to stop teaching so I could stay home with them.

And for a couple hours this afternoon and tonight, my life was exactly how I envisioned it back then.

I couldn’t see that this past week. Because it was a shit show.

In fact the past couple of weeks have been kind of a disaster. I fucked up multiple times. Among other things, I completely missed a class party, a dentist appointment, a baseball practice, and a swim practice.

I almost forgot Number 3’s birthday. And if it weren’t for my parents, he wouldn’t have had any birthday presents or a cake.

I’ve been feeling like a failure. Like I’ve let my kids down.

And then, tonight happened.

We did nothing spectacular, but my kids had a great day.

I kind of did, too.

I’m not doing things perfectly.

But I’m not doing them all that badly, either.

So I’m not nearly as freaked out as I was yesterday. And I’m easing into summer.

It’s funny how when you calm down, relax and stop putting unreasonable expectations and demands on  yourself that things just kind of fall into place, isn’t it?

Nothing ever really goes exactly the way we hope it will and the Shitshow episodes air more often than we’d all like sometimes.

But there are also lots of  awesome moments (some spectacular and some more mundane) sprinkled in between.

Tonight as I vacuumed my dirty floor in my pajamas at 5:00 on a Friday night, I was given a gift. A reminder. A gentle slap in the face.

Not all parts of my life are as I pictured them years ago.

But a lot of them are.

And life really isn’t all that bad.

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I Hope Dreams Really Do Come True

As many of you know, Number 4 is a pretty good swimmer.

She’s got lots of natural talent, plus a body that was made for the sport.

That’s part of the reason she’s a good swimmer. But the bigger part is that she also loves it.

Last night as we were driving home from practice, she said to me, “Mom, I go to school because I have to. But I go to swim practice because I want to. I live for swimming.”

For a year, Number 4 has had the goal of  qualifying for a really big swim meet called the Eastern Zones Championship, or Zones as it’s called in the swimming community.

It’s a meet for the best of the best on the East Coast, and there are some amazing swimmers there.

To give you and idea of the caliber of swimmers who swim in this meet, Michael Phelps swam in it when he was ten. And he still holds a bunch of meet records.

Number 4 isn’t on the same level that Michael Phelps was when he was ten, but she’s one of the best in the state.

Plus it’s a pretty big honor to make it, and it’s a great opportunity.

As many of you also know, I coach swimming.

And I’m Number 4’s coach.

When she first told me last April that her goal was to make it to Zones, as her coach I told her what she’d need to do.

I told her she’d need to work harder than everyone else. I told her she’d really need to focus when she was in the pool. I told her she’d need to attend more than four practices a week which is the minimum number of practices the kids in her group are supposed to attend. And I told her she’d need to do extra work outside the pool.

As her mom, I put no pressure on her. I didn’t push her to do anything above and beyond the minimum requirements.

Sure, I want her to succeed and I want her to achieve the goals she’s set for herself.

And as her coach I do everything I can to help her when she’s in the pool.

But as her mom, I’m trying really hard to maintain perspective, to be supportive and not to push her.

I’m not gonna lie.

It’s hard. It’s a fine line to walk. It’s hard to transition from mom to coach and back to mom on a daily basis.

So we are at the end of the season.  Number 4 has her last big meet this weekend called Age Groups. It’s a four day meet that runs from Thursday through Sunday, and it’s her last chance to qualify for Zones.  She’s swimming 6 events, and she has a shot at qualifying in just about all of them.

As her coach and her mom, I’m so proud of her.

She has worked her ass off since September.

She’s gone to six practices a week.  Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday she came to the pool early with me, and while I coached another group, she ran on the track, and did circuits of strength training on her own.

I gave her ideas of what she could do and helped her come up with a plan, but I never forced her or guilted her into anything.  She did it all on her own, always pushing herself, and always with her eye on the prize: Qualifying for Zones.

I don’t think there is really anything more she could have done.

So now we just have to wait and see.

She is so excited to swim this weekend she is nearly bursting out of her own skin.

She’s nervous. But she’s also confident.

She says to me, Mom, I just keep envisioning myself going to Zones. I’m not doubting myself. I just know I’m going to do it.

Me?

I’m totally freaking out.

As her mom, I want to see her succeed so badly, because nobody has worked harder than she has. And because of course no parent wants to see their kid work so hard to achieve something and ultimately fail.

As her coach, I feel the same way. Nobody has worked harder than her in or out of the pool, and it was all internally motivated.

I’m so inspired by her.

But as her coach, I am also so nervous.

Because although I know I’ve done everything I can to help her, if she doesn’t qualify for this meet, I will have failed her.

And then I will have failed her as a mom, too.

I know.

I haven’t really failed her.

And I know I shouldn’t even be thinking this way.

But I am.

One of the perks of parenthood.

I waiver from being completely confident that I’ve done exactly what she needs in order to achieve her goals to being scared shitless that I’ve fucked something up.

And I know that’s silly. I know I shouldn’t even put those crazy nervous thoughts out there into the universe.

But they are for sure running through my head pretty much 24/7. I am in complete freak out mode.

Any other parent in this position, although I would hope they wouldn’t, could point the finger at the coach if their kid fails.

But I have to point it at myself.

There isn’t a whole lot to be done now.

The piper has been paid. The money is in the bank. It’s up to her now.

As her mom I really want to see her happy. But I’m trying to keep my wits about me and keep things in perspective.

She’s only ten. It’s not like it’s Olympic Trials or anything.

But it’s a really big deal for Number 4. It’s the first big dream she’s really had.

And as her coach?

Well, no coach wants their athletes to fail.

And as her coach, I really, really, REALLY want to be the one to help her make her dreams come true.

 

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