Two days ago I wrote this post about kids and anxiety.
In that post, I used my little anxious buddy (with permission) as an example of how anxiety can really be misinterpreted as a behavior problem or a parenting problem.
I didn’t really intend for the post to be only about my buddy, but rather used him as an example of how debilitating it can be to a child and how misconstrued it can be by everyone else.
But boy did everyone fall in love with my little swimmer!
They said things like:
Cheering him on!
Keep us posted on how he does at the meet!
Let us know how he does!
I’m cheering for this boy!
Our meet was last night.
All the kids did great.
They were so well behaved — even on the bus — and the meet ran so smoothly and everybody cheered for their teammates the entire meet.
And we won.
But the biggest victory for me was for my little anxious guy.
He was VERY nervous walking on the deck.
What am I doing?
Where do I go?
When do I go?
How do I know when to go?
Do I have to dive?
Wait, what stroke am I swimming?
Warming up at a swim meet is a little crazy. We had our team crammed into two lanes which makes it super crowded and the water is pretty turbulent and it can be a lot for new swimmers.
He was a ball of nerves.
But he made it through warm up.
I had him entered in two events.
He was swimming 50 freestyle (2 lengths of the pool) in an individual event, and then he was swimming 50 freestyle in a relay.
The 50 free was the second event.
I stood right by my guy until it was time for him to go.
When your event is up, the official blows a whistle which is the indication for swimmers to step up onto the blocks.
He heard the whistle and got ready to jump in the pool.
NOT YET!!!!! I yelled, and I grabbed his arm.
I might have panicked a little bit.
He for sure would not be the first person to ever dive in the water at the wrong time, but I did not want that to be his first experience at a meet.
Everyone climbed onto the blocks. My guy stayed on the side since we haven’t gotten to the diving-off-the-blocks part with him yet in practice.
The starter announced,
Take your mark...
My guy got ready…
I might have peed in my pants a little from yelling a bit too enthusiastically.
He jumped in, and off he went.
He kicked some serious ass!
And out of six kids, he got fifth! He didn’t come in last and he didn’t choke on water and he didn’t die and
HE DID GREAT!!!!!
And you know what he said after he finished and climbed out of the pool?
He looked right at me and matter-of-factly said,
“That wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.”
AND THEN HE SMILED!!!!
That is anxiety right there!!! Your brain fucking with you and convincing you of your imminent death.
Or at least total humiliation.
After that, my guy was a different guy!
He was still nervous, sure.
But he was not panicking before his relay.
I had him lead off, and he did great.
You really would not have known he’s only been to three swim practices in his life!
Oh, I was so proud of him.
On the bus on the ride back home, the nervous and anxious kid who drove to the meet was not there anymore.
He was laughing and singing Christmas carols with the rest of the kids and having a great time.
It looked like he felt like he belonged.
This is as big of a deal as a team record or even an Olympic medal.
Because I know that’s not a feeling he’s ever truly had.
And it looked like his brain might have taken a little break from the constant worry.
I know it’s not gone. I know he’s still full of worry and panic and what ifs.
But I think yesterday his brain got a little rest.
This is why I love swimming so much. It’s not about the competition. It’s not about winning.
Sure, those parts are awesome.
But for me, swimming is a vehicle through which a person learns to navigate life. It’s a tool. It’s an education. It’s an honors course. It’s a therapist. It’s a personal trainer. It’s a motivational speaker. It’s a life coach.
And it’s a family.
Yesterday my swimming family got a little bit bigger.
It was a really, really good day.
Not just for my anxious buddy.
It was a little relief and lot of personal victory for him.
But really, when I think about it, it was a bunch of the same for me, too.