I love swimming.
I LOVE IT.
I love it for so many reasons.
I love it for the friends it has given me and for the places it has taken me.
I love it for helping me discover what my strengths are — and also my weaknesses.
I love it for teaching me to just keep showing up.
I love it for making me stronger, both physically and mentally.
But mostly I love swimming because it has given me the most comprehensive education of my entire life.
Swimming has taught me how to work hard, how to push myself, how to set goals, how to handle disappointment, how to handle success, how to be a friend and a teammate and a leader.
It has also taught me how not to be a friend and a teammate and a leader.
Between the ages of ten and twenty-one I learned more about life than I did in thirteen years of public school education, four years of undergraduate education and two years of masters education.
And now as a parent, the lessons continue.
Holy cow is swimming making me a better parent.
I spent this past weekend at a three day swim meet in Long Island with Number 4, 5 and 7.
At the same time, my husband was in Boston watching Number 3 swim at a four-day meet at MIT.
And this was the first time since Number 3 started swimming six years ago that I wasn’t there to see him swim at all.
The meet he went to is a team trip for the kids on the team who are thirteen and older.
That means the team travels to the meet on a big double decker bus, they stay in a different hotel than the parents, they have chaperones and roommates and very limited contact with parents.
It’s a great experience for the kids.
It’s probably an even better — or more important — experience for the parents.
Number 3 doesn’t have a cell phone.
So while my husband at least saw Number 3 at the pool, I had zero contact with him.
I couldn’t watch him swim, I couldn’t give him any feedback, I couldn’t give him any last minute advice, I couldn’t tell him GOOD JOB!
As his mom and a swim coach, this was very hard for me.
The only “contact” I had was through an app called Meet Mobile.
Meet mobile shows you meet results in close to real time.
So I was obsessively checking Meet Mobile the whole time I was in Long Island with the girls.
Number 3 had set some big goals for himself and he was really excited to swim.
The way swimming works for most swimmers in the winter season is you train your a$$ off for September, October, and November and go to a big “championship” meet in December.
Then you get back on the grind for December, January, and February, and have your REALLY big season-end championship meet in March or April.
Before these big meets, you back off on the training a little bit and give your body a little rest.
That’s called a taper. The taper allows you to swim faster because your body isn’t totally beaten up and has had an opportunity to recover.
So Number 3 was slightly tapered for this meet, and he was really looking forward to swimming fast.
I knew how excited he was, and I also knew there would be some other really fast kid there in his age group, and there would be some great races.
This meet is a trials and finals meet.
That means you swim in the morning, and the fastest twenty swimmers come back again at night to swim again.
On Friday morning, Number 3 swam great. He swam best times in two of his events and just a couple tenths off his best time in another. He made finals in all of his events.
Typically kids come back to finals at night and swim a lot faster because the atmosphere is exciting and intense and awesome.
I checked Meet Mobile like a lunatic from Long Island to see how Number 3 was doing.
And he did awful.
He swam much slower than he had in the morning.
Like WAY slower.
Something had happened. I had an idea what it was.
I had to talk to him. I had to give him a pep talk. I had to slap some sense into him.
If I didn’t, the whole weekend would be ruined. He’d swim like garbage and be crushed.
I couldn’t let that happen.
Or could I?
Isn’t that how you learn?
Isn’t that how our kids learn?
Isn’t that what helps us grow?
It’s hard as hell to see it happen from afar and to feel completely powerless, but isn’t that what’s necessary?
Allowing them to have opportunities to figure shit out on their own?
I had started sending a text to one of his teammates whose cell number I had.
I deleted it.
But I didn’t totally stay out of it.
I texted his coaches (who I also work with).
Number 3 just moved up to a new practice group and a new coach in September, and they are still getting to know him as a swimmer and a human being.
I gave them my brief input.
They thanked me for my insights.
And that was it.
It was in Number 3’s hands.
But he had imploded so badly on Friday night I was not hopeful for Saturday or Sunday.
On Saturday morning I started checking Mobile like a psycho again.
Number 3 had his first event.
Awesome swim. Best time. Qualified for the top heat of finals.
Second event. Awesome swim. Best time. Qualified for the top heat of finals.
Third event. Awesome swim. Best time. Qualified for the top heat of finals.
He had shaken off the night before, he had rallied, and he kicked some ass.
He came back Saturday night and not only did he swim well, he achieved one of his goals which was to go under five minutes in the 500 Free.
This means nothing if you aren’t a swimmer.
Let’s just say it’s a BIG milestone.
And fairly impressive at 13 years old.
Number 3 had figured some stuff out.
And he did it all on his own.
He did pretty much the same thing on Sunday. Awesome swims, best times, and finals in all of his events.
With no help from his mom.
I mean, minus the text to his coaches.
Some serious life lessons were learned this weekend, not only by Number 3, but by me.
Number 3 learned about disappointment and perseverance and picking yourself back up and starting over.
I learned to leave Number 3 alone. To let him figure it out. To give him the benefit of the doubt. To let life take him where he needs to be taken.
I could have given him a whole bunch of reminders and tried to pound some stuff into his head.
But I didn’t.
And you know what Number 3 said in the car on the way home after the meet was all done?
“I need to work harder in practice. I want to work harder in practice. I’m going to work harder in practice.”
He figured it out.
All on his own.
Whatever happens next is going to come from him.
He’s ready to handle the rest of his swimming journey.
He just needed some reminders of that this weekend.
And I guess I did, too.