Parenting Looks Easy On The Outside

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I was that parent with the aching back, sitting on stiff bleachers Saturday morning. We do what we have to do for our kids from the time they are born. Spending a weekend at a swim meet cheering my daughter on seemed easy compared to some of the other responsibilities required of me. The thing about parenting is this…we may look like we have it all together but on the inside we are falling apart. As the words of the National Anthem echoed in the natatoriun, that sick feeling I get in response to nerves started to take hold of my stomach. This would be the last regional meet to decide if she went onto states. Friday’s meet resulted in some slow times and I was dying inside to get this session of finals over with once and for all. I saw her step on the blocks and my heart sank. I held my breath as I watched her fly across the pool. I waited for that ball to drop. So many other times she had been out ahead but this time, something was different. This time I watched her fight through the pain. I saw the pure desire and will to win carry her across the water at a speed I had never seen before. For years she had swam in someone else’s shadow but that would not be the case today. Today was her time to shine. The amount of time it took me to focus on the scoreboard seemed like hours. There was her name with a big 1st place glowing like a blazing fire next to it. I could barely choke back the tears. I was so proud of her because I have watched her work endless hours over a span of 12 years. This was her moment, the payoff and just thinking back on it brings a smile to my face. Those bleachers weren’t so bad after all. It was an amazing day. 

What Competition Taught Me About Living

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I had one of those profound moments that moved me to tears yesterday. I mentioned that my daughter had swim states this weekend. It is a tradition here that the first race always leads off with the special olympics. Right before it was time to begin, a woman asked the people in front of us if she could just sit there for a moment because her daughter was in the first race. The music started playing and the kids started to parade out. The boy leading the group was so excited he was jumping up and down. Everyone in the crowd had a smile on their face. The pride and the excitement these kids emitted was energizing for everyone in the room. As the race started, the woman in front of us started cheering for her daughter. The crowd went crazy encouraging them all to finish the race. I watched the excitement and pride on this woman’s face as she watched her own daughter get that first place medal. The tears started to well up in my eyes. Sometimes we forget to count our blessings. Sometimes as parents, we put expectations on our kids that rob us of the joy and pride we should be feeling in a given moment. I realized right then and there that no matter what the result, I would be grateful for the blessings that swimming has brought into Kayleigh’s life. Did I want her to win? You bet I did. But the fact that she was there putting every ounce of effort into the one day she has worked toward all year was enough reason to celebrate. I promised myself I would have no expectations and to just enjoy this moment in time. 

My heart began to race as I watched her march out. I watched the smile and the bounce in her step as she made her way behind the blocks. My body was dripping with sweat and I reminded myself, whatever happened was okay. She was seeded 5th but the most important thing of all was breaking one minute. That was her goal and I wanted her to be able to achieve it. She dove in and was neck and neck with the girls on each side of her. Both girls had beat her in the past and I was tickled pink that she was keeping up. As she approached the third wall, something amazing happened. It was like she received an electric charge that helped her surge forward and separate herself from the rest of the pack. She ended up finishing third. which didn’t seem possible a few minutes earlier. The best part though? She finally broke that minute and ended with a time of 59.76. She did it! Third in the state and achieved her own personal goal. For a moment my mind flashed back to the look on that woman’s face. For that single moment in time, our faces were the same. My smile came from the inside out and my heart was fuller than its been in quite a long time. My emotions were spilling over as I watched them put that medal around my own child’s neck. It was an amazing day.

The lesson here is simple. Celebrate what is. Stop cheating yourself out of happiness because you get caught up in expectations and comparison. Swim your own race and forget about everyone else in the rest of the pool. Celebrate who you are and what you accomplish like you are the only person in your own little world. That is what winning is really about. Just like my earlier post, the only thing you should try and beat is yesterday so get moving!

Giving Someone Confidence To Be Who They Are

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I posted earlier on the importance of choosing your own path. Even though it’s hard, there comes a time when it is necessary to live for yourself. As a mom, I really feel it’s my obligation to support the decisions my kids make, even when I am silently dying inside because I want them to do something else. I do believe this may be one of the hardest challenges of parenting but also the most rewarding.

My daughter has been on a swim team since she’s been 5 years old. For 11 years, we sat on the sidelines cheering her on. I have always loved to watch her race. I looked so forward to the start of every season. I couldn’t even breathe when she came to me a few weeks ago and told me she wanted to play volleyball. She contacted the coach who kindly allowed her to try out recently, even though the official tryouts were held at the end of last school year. I felt instantaneous panic creeping inside of my chest. This is your junior year, what are you thinking? There are teammates who are counting on you, how could you do this? Oh my God! How could she not swim? She only has two years of high school left and this has been her sport for so many years.

Today I had lunch with her after I bought her $70 volleyball shoes. She looked me straight in the eyes and with a huge smile on her face, said, “it sure feels good to enjoy a sport again.”. My heart sank and it was in that single, defined moment that I realized for the last few years, swimming has been my sport and not hers. For the first time I was very proud that I stood behind her as she walked in a direction different than I had hoped. All that really matters is her happiness and I need to keep reminding myself of that. What makes me happy, what I think will make her happy and what actually does make her happy are entirely different things. I don’t have all the answers, at least not for her. We are so different, so the chance of living our lives the same way is probably more impossible than even I had ever imagined. You know what? It’s going to be okay. I’ve given her a great foundation and now I need to let her fly so she can gain confidence in making those decisions for herself without fearing or dreading any resistance or disappointment from me. That always has been her best stroke, AND fly she did, right out to her car and off to practice. She barely made it down the stairs her legs were hurting so bad from all the miles she’s had to run.  I watched her pop an ibuprofen to numb some of the pain from the 600 sit-ups and push-ups she’s had to do in the last 2 days to make up for the practices she missed before she joined the team and STILL she left with a smile on her beautiful face. I haven’t seen a smile like that in such a long while. And even better, the swim coach is allowing her to come back to the team after volleyball season is over. She may not be as good of a swimmer as other years but she sure will be a happier one. 

Who Defines You?

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What is life about? Who decides? Who determines the path you will walk and sets the standards of how you should walk it? There is one very obvious thing that sets me apart from other parents. Often, I see parents pushing and pushing for their kids to do sports. Not one sport but several sports. Not one day of sports but everyday. Today my daughter went to summer swim practice for the first time since it started back in May. I imagine some of the swimmers may be mortified that she dare take some time off. The coach even had a talk with her about how many practices a week she should attend. The reality is that swimming in the summer is optional. Years ago, sports were not year long. Athletes had adequate time to allow their bodies and their minds enough time to recuperate and come back to have another strong season. I know this for sure, anytime I do something over and over every single day, I lose the enjoyment out of it. Many times I become resentful I have to do that one thing and eventually start to dread it. The passion dies and I put in less and less effort until it becomes almost robotic. I admit, there was a time I had the dream for her to be the fastest, at least in fly. But that was my dream and not hers. She wanted to swim, be pretty good and still have fun. Now our goals have finally meshed someplace in the middle. I want her to be happy. I want her to feel a sense of passion for everything she decides to do. I want her to define her own life and live by her own standards and expectations and not by someone elses who doesn’t really give a damn. I want her to know her own limits and set her own boundaries and I never want to see her get bullied into a lifestyle that doesn’t feel like a comfortable fit. I’ve asked this before, when will good be good enough? Can we not be happy with who we are even if we aren’t the prettiest, the smartest, the fastest, the most talented? When do we stop thinking we are only worthy when we are number one? Out of all the people in the world, really, what are the odds I or anyone else could truly be the best at anything? Should I spend my life trying? Should I die trying? I guess we have all have to make that decision for ourselves.

Competition, Is it Really Healthy?

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Friendly competition. I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase before but I can’t help but ask myself, is competition REALLY friendly? Does it always bring out the best in everyone and make for a great race, or is there more beneath the surface we pretend we do not see? We want to be the best. We want to win, the problem with that is there can only ever be one real winner. When you are part of a team sport that is also individual, and you are competing with the people you consider friends, the reality can be a little disturbing.

“Competition is the spice of sports; but if you make spice the whole meal you’ll get sick.” George Leonard

I believe it’s easy to feel constantly torn between being jealous of the people who are natural born winners and frustrated that your own time, effort, and hard work never seems to be enough to give you that edge to get ahead. What is a person supposed to do with that? Some might say try harder, practice more, give more effort, but sometimes you’re already giving it all you’ve got.

“Winners compare their achievements with their goals, while losers compare their achievements with those of other people” Nido Qubein

Perhaps this is the main difference. I know athletes who are constantly writing down goals. They come up with a plan on how to get from where they are to where they want to be. They are specific and focused and as soon as they cross one goal off the list, they add another one on. For others though, their goal is to always win or to beat a particular athlete that brings out their competitive spirit. There is a big difference in the thinking of both types of athletes.

“The competitor to be feared is the one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time” Henry Ford

I am on my way to my daughters state swim competition, I guess that is what made me thing about all of this in the first place. Of course I want her to do well. I guess if I could say anything to her today, it would be this;

“If you can’t win, make the guy ahead of you break the record” Evan Esar

In the end, if you can walk away knowing you gave it your very best with no regrets, then never look back, keep looking ahead. When it comes down to it, friendly competition is possible to a certain degree but the most important person you will ever compete against is yourself.

“Look in the mirror…that’s your competition” Evan Carmichael

Let your goal always be to better yourself. Beat your own times, reach your own goals and always do the best you can. That is what winning is all about.

“Winners build on mistakes. Losers dwell on them” Arnold Mori

Perhaps the previous quote is the most differential factor in which athletes succeed and which athletes don’t. Maybe when it comes down to it, attitude is the most important factor of all. A true winner knows that there will always be someone better, faster. To win big, one must strive to swim a perfect race from start to finish and not get caught up in what place they are in when the race is over. And then, in the morning, drag yourself out of bed and practice harder than you’ve ever practiced before. Then drink some chocolate milk and go back and do it all again.

You Read WHAT?

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I have learned that there are a large number of people who believe just about anything they read. How in the world will we ever know how to discern the truth from misinformation? Who can we trust? What can we believe? I had an example of this just this morning. My daughter is a swimmer and the big state meet is a couple of days away. I took a peek at the psyche sheet and I couldn’t believe what I saw. To be fair, the psyche sheet should be an accurate indicator of where she stands among the other swimmers. I really wanted to know how her time compared to everyone else’s. What I discovered though was not what I expected. The sheet did not list the swimmers best time they swam this year but rather the time from finals they swam a week ago. My question is why bother? Why go through the trouble and work to gather the information about every swimmer and misinform? The so called facts or seed times, aka best times are misleading if not completely wrong.

My point is this, just because you read something somewhere does not make it true. Check your sources and use your common sense. The only person you can believe is, well no-one and that’s the truth.

Will You Show Up?

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I’ve blogged about my daughter being a swimmer before. Now that she’s in high school, we don’t do a lot of meets outside of the school league. Today is an exception. As I climbed the stairs to the pool, I let out an exasperated sigh. The truth is I dread these meets. They are long and especially hard on the back. You can sit there for hours at a time and my daughter maybe swims for a total of 5 minutes.

You know how I love those lessons that sneak up on me when I’m not looking for them? Today was one of them. What if our lives were like a lifelong swim meet? What if we walked into the event of our life full of dread and a bad attitude? What if we were so focused on being uncomfortable that we forgot to look up when it was our time to swim? What if we missed the whole event while we were busy being mentally carried away by our own negativity? Is it possible to live a lifetime of years and never look up long enough to catch the moments that matter?

I am grateful for each and every lesson that comes. The timing is always just perfect and I smile to myself and think, okay I got this one. Time for another. Pay attention. The people and circumstances that pop up are there for you to learn. With each lesson you grasp, your life becomes a little more clearer and I promise you do start to live better. That is my wish for everyone reading this today, that each and every one of us starts to live better. That we show up when it is our time to swim and we swim like we’ve never moved before. That we find the stamina and the strength and the pure determination to be where we are and be there fully. Show up for your life before it’s too late.

A Surprise Lesson

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My blog is all about perspective. Some of my greatest moments are when I unexpectedly learn a new one that I haven’t yet discovered on my own. Today, I am sitting at the big end of the year meet for swimmers. This is the one that requires a special qualifying time. Years ago, I can honestly say this was one of the most important days of my year. I used to check stats and crunch numbers and try and figure out how to get Kayleigh to finish in the top 8. Today I chose to sit around parents I have never met. I hear them on the phone all excited reporting their kids are in the finals. Earlier I listened to a mom try and explain to her 12 year old daughter that even though she is not finishing in the top three of four, she is still dropping time and that’s all that matters. The truth is, when we make something more important than it actually is, it does matter. We want to push our kid to win and we do everything in our power to make it happen. We pay for private lessons and buy suits to make them swim faster that costs hundreds of dollars.

Today, as I sit here, I smile to myself. Somehow, I am grateful that I have found a way to escape the crazy and realize that to be happy, we must have balance. When we put all of our focus and attention and time and money into being better and doing better in the things that just don’t matter, we lose the opportunity to put those very efforts into the things that really do.

It was actually my very wise girl who taught me this lesson if I am being totally honest. When swim became her whole life she quit. I almost felt my life was over. All the time and years I. Stop right there. It was never really about me. And now she is joining leadership in school and being part of a time consuming fund raising committee for charity. She is my secret little hero. Sometimes, on a rare occasion our kids are wiser than we are ourselves. And we are still here swimming finals, maybe not always finishing in the top 8, but she is happy and that is all that really matters.

A New Perspective for an Old Swim Mom

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This past weekend was the big swim meet. It’s hard to believe that we haven’t done a meet in a whole year. I remember when Kayleigh first quit swimming. I was devastated. What would our life become without every other weekend belonging to a pool? I became obsessed with times and results and ways to improve, while my daughter was withdrawing from the rigorous practice schedule and the consuming time commitment.

I am here to report that life without swimming is just fine. I am grateful she has decided to go back, but am also grateful my eyes have been opened up to the real treasure that lies behind the sport…love for swimming. I couldn’t help but imagine these obsessed moms hanging on the edge of their seat hoping their child gets their best time or beats out their biggest rival. We chose to sit this one out and spent the day at our pool. Kayleigh had some friends over and I had to chuckle at the thought that the night on our pool deck would stand out in her head much longer than a silly swim meet. Perspective is wonderful and necessary and I am grateful it hit me right in the side of my tiny head. I have made a promise to myself to not become that mom again. To sit back and just enjoy the fact that my daughter is part of a team and loves to swim. After all, swimming is not her whole world, just a very small part of it. Isn’t that the way it should be?

The Hardest Lessons Hurt the Most

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I have learned, that putting painful situations into the words of my writings, can often help to dull the pain. It’s almost like having a toothache and reaching for that tiny tube of anbesol. It doesn’t completely take away the pain, but it numbs it enough so that we can carry on with the rest of the day, or in some situations, the rest of our lives.

I couldn’t help but watch that filibuster saga unfold on tv. I am not going to make this a political rant, but rather share a difficult and scarring memory of a time, I guess you could say, I declared my own personal filibuster.

I moved to Oklahoma almost 3 years ago. I had previously lived in 2 states that rank up there with the best swim teams in the United Staes. When I was choosing a swim club, I was very careful to find one that was consistent to the one we had unfortunately been forced to leave behind. There are certain levels that require certain standards to be met that are created and carried out by USA Swimming.

So, I joined this club that was at level 1 and moving in the right direction. At least that is what I thought. It could be assumed, that this club functioned and believed in the same philosophy as other clubs we had been part of, because they were advertising that right there on on their website by showing they participated in these USA Swimming standards. It didn’t take long to see that they were falsely advertising for something they had lost sight of. Most of the parents were unaware. I guess it’s fair to compare them to our low information voters. I just couldn’t turn my head the other way. These poor swimmers put the same time and dedication into the sport as kids in other states, but the lack of concern and follow through, would leave these kids far behind the rest. We even have a lower set of time standards here because the sport has fallen so far behind, and the kids are not nearly as fast here as they are in several of the other states. I’m sorry, but this is disturbing to me. Obviously, something has gone very wrong and these kids deserved someone that would do something about it. Unfortunately, I nominated myself for that unappreciated and difficult job.

I tried during several meetings to subtly educate parents about these standards. Some actually became very interested and started to ask a lot of questions. I directed many of them to the website so they could check it out for themselves. They started to rally behind me and knew it was necessary to make some changes in the club. I asked the coach a series of questions that often times he did not have the answers to. He SHOULD HAVE had the answers though, because the answers were what depended on whether the club was meeting the criteria to remain that level 1 status they had found important enough to apply for in the first place.The very criteria that landed them a level 1 club was not even being looked at. And, the saddest part of all, these parents didn’t even have a clue as to what this status implied in the first place.The coach would repeatedly motion to move on and meet with me privately to talk about my concerns. This was the way he used to take away my voice.

Finally, months later, after trying hard to have my moment to speak and sometimes even being berated by board members because of questions I’d ask, I was sitting in a meeting and I finally reached my boiling point. I was sick of being pushed aside and having to listen, month after month, about the aspects of the club that weren’t that important at all. So, after the 3rd month of the coach motioning to move on, I stood up and said why are we not talking about our kids and the quality of our swimming? Isn’t that the one common thing we should all be focused on and spend some time addressing? I was mad, and the tone of my voice, as well as the look on my face, explained it all. He is a very smooth talking lawyer and controls both our competitive youth club as well as both our high school teams. He has owned swimming in this town for several years. I guess you could say it was his own personal monopoly and he put me right in my place by calling me a bully in front of all the other parents sitting in that room. And we moved on. A bully? Can you imagine. I had to sit there while he launched a personal attack on my very character, and what did my supporters do? They cowered in their seats and did absolutely nothing. Why would they though right? They didn’t know of all the meetings on the side where I tried to go about things the right way. All they saw, was in that moment of angry passion, me, demanding we have the conversation I had been trying to have for the last several months. I am the bully because I raise my voice and insist that he stop motioning to move on and let me speak. He could of said, you are getting loud, or even that I was making everyone uncomfortable, but instead he gave me a hard personal blow right to my big mouth, and did so publicly to direct the attention I was starting to get right back away from me. Who would possibly want to support a bully? Even better, who would risk the repercussions of sitting with a bully that had attacked that 6 foot tall, grown man pussy cat lawyer that had just been bullied by my 5 foot tall powerful self. In that moment, he got me and the jury was finally swayed. Guilty as charged!

The repercussions were not pretty. Parents would glare at me and not speak, and my daughter started to be mistreated by her lane coach so bad that she often left in tears. We quit that club but I still had to come face to face with those same parents whenever there was a swim meet. And my poor daughter had to stay quiet while kids from the old team would look her in the face and flip her the middle finger. I have never understood it, even to this day. I was fighting for THEIR kids, yet somehow I became the enemy.

This was one of the most painful and difficult lessons of my adult life. One that still often haunts me. The hardest part of this lesson is knowing if my daughter wants to swim in high school, and she does, that we have to walk right back into the anxiety filled situation with the same coach and the same group of parents. I pity these parents. They are so wrapped up in today, that they can’t see how this will effect there kids in the future. Because, being okay in Oklahoma will definitely not be good enough to secure their kids a spot on a college swim team. I know not everyone will go on to swim in college, but those that want to will be very disappointed. Maybe then they will understand the reason I tried so hard to educate them while there was still something we could do to make a much needed and necessary change.

There is a sweatshirt I once saw and I plan on ordering it. I will wear it to Kayleighs first high school swim meet. It says, I Swim In Peace. Hopefully then, these parents will stop looking me in the face without speaking and just finally leave me the heck alone. I have served my sentence of ridicule, judgement, and isolation, and I really just want to finally move on.