So much of what makes my son special was captured so perfectly by a very kind swim mom. 

  
And I love seeing photographs of him and my daughter that display-for anyone who cares to look-the eloquence and the sheer determination they have in the water. 

  
I loved seeing how engaged and invested their coaches were. 

  
I loved the friendship I saw and the commraderie that this little all-star team displayed. They cheered for one another. They encouraged each other in and out of the pool. There were lots of laughs and conversations and memories made this summer and I am thankful for each and every one. 

But there is something else that I love even more…I love that she captured the most amazing part of my son as an athlete…his sportsmanship. My fella credits his long-time coach for teaching him respect. I’ll always be grateful to him for that. Seeing my son, win or lose, congratulate his competitor race after race gives me a glimpse of a man that I am extremely proud of. 

  
It does truly take a village to raise a child. I am grateful to have such an amazing tribe to love and raise these amazing little ones in my life. 

The reward at the end of the race

  
“No pics on the medal stand this year,” my fella proclaimed. I was appalled and told him so. “Please mom. Not this year,” he looked so forlorn yet so grown standing before me. 

“It’s a 7th and 8th place AT STATE! State. You are 15 swimming against 17 and 18 year olds. You made the podium dude. Don’t you dare be be ashamed.”

I knew he was disappointed. After pre-lims he and his coaches developed a strategy….he was ranked 8th in the IM. In lane 4 was an 18 year old that had broken the state record and swam the IM in 54 seconds. Fifty-four seconds for 4 strokes. David Murphy was his name. He was built like Adonis. I digress. 

My point was that my little dudes best time ever was 1:01:99. Even on his best day he wasn’t breaking into the top. Besides His eyes were set on another prize-under 27 seconds in the back. The 2 races were 5 races (less than 10 minutes) apart. He couldn’t go all out in both. So he and his coaches devised a plan–be technically perfect in the IM but save himself for the back. 

I hated that idea. It’s like walking a batter to avoid a big hit. It’s like throwing a fight. It’s like taking a dive. But I am no coach. Rarely does my guy get angry with me. But my opinion perturbed him a bit. He was quick to point out..”you aren’t a coach mom. I trust them. I want the back. I can’t do both. I know what I am doing and what I have to do. I got this.” And because he is 15, because he’s the athlete and because I want him to trust his coaches I simply nodded. After reminding him that I wasn’t his coach but I was his momma. 

He was nervous at the warm-ups. More nervous than I have ever seen him. He had been disappointed in his race during pre-Lims and was mentally trying to re-adjust—including stressing about which suit to race in. I uncharacteristically kept my mouth shut. This was his race-his fight. He had to do it his way. 

Race time. His coach was with him behind the blocks spraying him down with ice water and coaching him through every stroke of the race. I loved how invested his coach was. His investment made Colton trust him all the more. I don’t know what they were talking about but Colton looked intense and had a serious race face on. 

They announced his name for the IM. (I love that part!). The race started and they were off…Colton fought through the fly. He was beautiful in his bucket turn. His back was strong and he held his own in the Breast. The free was last. The race winners were already nearing the wall when Colton made the turn. I held my breath. At the end he touched in 7th. 

I don’t know if he laid off. I won’t ever ask. 

I barely had time to shift lanes before they were announcing his name again. Lane 8. The slowest lane. He had visions of surprising everyone by coming from behind out of lane 8. It was going to be an under-dog victory. This was it. This was the one. Swimmers take your mark. He pulled himself up to the ready position. Buzzzzz-and they were off. Colton excels at his back stroke start. He stays under water almost 1/2 the pool and comes up strong. 

Immediately I knew something was wrong. Colton popped right up. He’d barely made it off the wall! 

And just like that I knew the dream was done. He touched the wall 8th with a 29:28. His worst time of the season. I was crushed for him. 

He slipped. At the start. The touchpads were slick and he his foot slipped. He knew his race was done even as it started. He sacrificed a race to better the outcome of this one and he slipped. 

“No pictures on the podium this year mom.”  And though I am proud of him, though I am awed by his accomplishments and though I am humbled by his fighting spirit I also respect him. As an athlete he didn’t do what he wanted to do. 

I clapped and whooped when they called his name. I watched him break away from his posse with a wry smile to accept his medal. He got on that podium and smiled. He was a good sport. He handled himself like a man. So I honored his wishes and didn’t take any pictures.

  
But later that night he wasn’t a man-was my little fella. He showered away the day but put his state shirt right back on. He was proud to have made it here and I was proud of him for the same reason. Freshly scrubbed and tired he no longer looked like an imposing athlete or a man. He was my little guy. He climbed into my bed and snuggled up close while we gorged on take out pizza and HBO movies. 

 

me and my fella

 
That’s my medal. At the end of the summer swim season-after the hours of cheering and driving and packing snacks and towels, I am rewarded with a trip to Tifton, ga. Not a luxurious destination by any means. But I get to spend 2 nights with my big babies. One night encouraging them and one night congratulating or consoling them. Either way I win.

  
This year didn’t go as they had hoped. Big girl didn’t qualify for finals. She wa 10th. Top 8 swim for medals. I was proud of her and she was proud of herself but disappointed all the same. Big boy medaled lower than he’d hoped to and had made some tough choices that may be haunting him. 

But for me the weekend was a success. They had loads of fun. Both made some really good new friends–and I did too. They had great coaches who literally stood behind them all the way. I got to treat my daughter to a trip to atlanta. They both thanked me 100 times for the trip, the room, the costumes and even for being a part of the day. I also got to cuddle with both big babies. We made memories. 

They come to state for the chance to win gold. I come for the chance to snuggle with my bigs. I make the trip so that one day when they look back they will remember me-either in their greatest triumphs or with a hug when the race didn’t go their way. 

  
State swim meet. I wasn’t in my normal mode. I made up for it by volunteering to time the prelims. It was nice to have a job to do. 

I was assigned lane 2. If you read LANE 4 you know that the outside lanes are not the fastest. At state the discrepancy between lane 4 and Lane 2 can be minuscule or it can be gargantuan. In a sport measured by hundredths of seconds it’s amazing how narrow the margin between minuscule and gargantuan can be. 

Some of my swimmers were terrified. You could see there little knees knocking as they stepped up to the blocks. The nervous ones would adjust their goggles, fix their caps, ask for their seed time or bounce from leg to leg in an attempt to quell their nerves. My heart pounded for each of them. 

The truth, and they knew it, was that they weren’t the fastest. They had to swim their tails off to even make the finals. Most in my lane wouldn’t make finals. 

Not a single one of the didn’t swim their hearts out. The gasps for breaths as they waited for the dive overs told me so. Their anxious voices asking, “what was my time?” told me so. Their times, seconds lower then the seed times told me so. I was moved time and time again at the fighting spirits I saw. 

Not everyone can be first. In every race someone wins and someone touches the wall last. The glory and the praise goes to those that are fastest and strongest-that’s the nature of the world. But standing in lane 2 today I praise and glorify those athletes that don’t touch the wall first. I have a new found admiration for those that step up to blocks knowing thay they aren’t the fastest. Those athletes that have to work a little harder and settle for little less. The resolve, the grit and gumption, the pure will it takes to get up there and give it your all in a race that is already virtually decided is inspiring. 

One tiny little fella chatted me up behind the block. He was teeny. He wore an itty-bitty bright pink speedo brief blazened with block letter that read EMBRACE THE BRIEF. He made me smile. “I gotta drop 5 seconds to make the cut!” 5 seconds in swimming is unheard of but he didn’t seem to know that. “Think you can do it?” I asked. “I can try,” he answered. I loved this kid. “Would someone cheering help? I am good at cheering,” he didn’t say anything for the longest time. I thought I’d crossed the line from enthusiastic to creepy swim mom. 

The offical blue his whistle and the swimmers stepped up to the block. Before my cutie stepped up he looked at me earnestly and said,”I’d like that. I’d like you to cheer for me,” I nodded. I felt like I’d been entrusted with something important. Two short whistles blew and the swimmers took their mark. 

Tiny dude didn’t drop 5 seconds. But it wasn’t for lack of trying. He about swam his brief off. He gave it all had. And, as promised, so did I. I cheered for all I was worth. I was proud to do it. I kept cheering even after the faster swimmers touched the wall. I cheered until he touched the wall. The race was over and he reached up to throw off his goggles and cap. “Did I do it?” He asked. How I wished I could tell him yes. “Not 5 but you did drop time. It was a great race!!!” He nodded made a victory fist before jumping out of the pool. He wouldn’t be swimming for medal in the afternoon but I hope he felt proud as he made his way back to his camp. He was in the race. He swam his race. 

Not every winner gets a gold. I learned that today. Some winners just win by being in the race with the big boys. 

Lane 4

  
This is happy. 

For non-swimmers I’ll explain. Lane 4 is the pinnacle. It’s the lane where the fastest swimmer swims. A perfect race will vee out like a flock of geese with lane 4 leading the way. 

This is my girl stepping up to the blocks IN LANE 4. And that smile says it all. 

She’s a summer swimmer-not a year rounder. As intimidating as it’s been she’s put in the work and has earned a spot on the all-star team. And tonight she’s finishing the summer swim season getting to swim out of lane 4. Friday her name will be on the back of the state team shirt. Saturday she’ll swim for a medal. Success. 

This summer she’s learned that hard work pays off. She’s had some amazing coaches who have literally coached her every step of the way. They’ve been attentive and hard and have literally whipped my girl into shape. She’s overcome nerves and outright fear. As hard as it was she has asked, and gotten, help from her brother. 

Tonight she even said to her over zealous brother,”I just got my first win in the IM. Could we just celebrate that because anything else will just feel like criticism and I don’t really want any of that tonight. Tomorrow you can tell me what I did wrong.” Pretty mature if you ask me. The conversation deteriorated rapidly so my being impressed didn’t last long. But for a moment there was mature conversation amongst my girl and boy. A moment….however brief…

Her races are hard fought. When re-telling her IM she admitted that she couldn’t feel her arms by the breast stroke. Her brother tried to tell her she’s propellong herself too far out of the water on her fly. After her mature plea to not be criticized she didn’t respond so well when he told her this, again, in the car. Her vehement denial that he was wrong lost a little ground when she admitted to praying to God that she still had arms when swimming the Breast because at that point she couldn’t be sure they were still there. Sassy pants made me laugh when she said she caught the girl in her right closing the gap in the free and said ‘uh-uh-not tonight girl-this ones mine!’ 

Tonight I heard her…she wanted…no she needed to celebrate being in lane 4. And she deserves to be proud. 

My job

I have several jobs. One pays my bills. One feeds my soul and fills my heart. They are both stressful-both are demanding. Both push me to my breaking point-and beyond. Both give me satisfaction. Both make me who I am. 

If you know me you know that I take my job as a mom very seriously. Very. Seriously. I was lost most of my life until I became a mom. But I have 3 purposes in my life. 3 incredible, unique people that I am responsible for. They give me strength. They push me to try harder and go do more. They teach me, everyday, about what love is. I give 100% of myself to them and am rewarded 1000 times over. They are the reason I work so hard at my other job. 

 I don’t know if I am “good” at it, these jobs of mine, but I do know that I give every ounce of who I into trying to be good at them. Especially my job as Mom. I do know that this is the hardest job I’ll ever do but it’s also the best job. Being a mom is who I am.

Which is why today is so hard. 

If anyone had said I would have a child off someplace that I couldn’t name with someone I didn’t know I would have said, with 100% certainty, that there was no way in hell. 

I’ve been wrong about so many things. Add that certainty to the list. 

Because today my little bug isn’t with me. She’s with her dad. But she’s also with someone I don’t know. Someone I don’t know anything about. And it leaves me as empty as I’ve ever felt. 

Do I think she’s being mistreated? Certainly not. Do I think she’s unsafe? No. She’ll be fed. She’ll have fun. She’ll be talked to. 

But she is confused. She’s a little afraid. She sucks her thumb more. Her stutter is back. She’s whiny and, if I am being 100% honest, a total brat. 

On the flip side she’s telling me 100 times a day that she loves me. While it’s sweet it’s also a little heartbreaking. I leave for work like I’ve done her entire life yet now I leave and she panics. I get home and she hugs me and touches my face and says over and over “I missed you”.  

When we talk about blue days-the days she goes to her daddies-she is so excited but she begins the I love you’s and I gonna miss you’s more vehemently. She cries a little more. She sits in my lap and tells me stories that I can’t quite understand about people I don’t know. It confuses her that I don’t know who she is talking about. It confuses her if I ask her a question that she’s doesn’t know the answer to like where does your new friend live?

At 5 she doesn’t have the words to explain what she feels. At 5 she doesn’t even know what she feels. She certainly doesn’t know what to do with what she feels. I am 45 and don’t know what to do with how this feels. 

She when she talks of new friends I don’t say anything. They aren’t anyone I know. She still ask questions that I can’t answer. I’ve quit asking her questions. I am her mom. At 5 she still thinks I know everything. When I don’t it confuses her. It confuses me. At 5 I should still have all the answers. I should still know everyone she knows. It’s still my job to surround her with people that I know, and trust, are loving her the way I do. Teaching her the way I do. 

Yet I don’t know the people she’s spending her weekend with. 

I don’t take failure lightly. And today I feel like a failure. I feel like I’ve failed this little bug of mine. I feel like I’ve not done my job-my very important job-of being her mother.  

 

Under 2 minutes

If I had to measure my success in seconds how would I rank? I thought about this all last night as I celebrated with my big boy and girl over their wins at the district swim meet. Their successes measured in less then 2 minutes. 

We got home last night after 11pm yet here we are, at 7:30am, back at the pool. They’ve started their day with an easy stretch-a 400. Before it’s over they will swim close to a mile. And they  do it morning after morning after morning. Now they have been given kickboards for a 400 kick session. Again-to warm up. The workout hasn’t even started yet. 

Hours and hours they work. And their hard work is measured in less then 2 minutes. It boggles my mind. 

1:01:99. That’s how my son measured his success. 1 minute. 1 second and 99 one hundredths. It was a personal best for him. 1:03 has been his plateau for so long. He’s trained and trained and trained some more and, until last night, he couldn’t break that 1:03 barrier. But he kept training. Kept working. Kept pushing. And it paid off. Last night he swam the 100 IM in his own record time. His success measured in less then 1:02:00. 

This morning on the way to swimming he announced,”…under a minute…that’s my goal for state…” So today it begins again. Hours and hours and laps and laps to measure his success in under a minute. 4 laps, 4 strokes in less then 60 seconds. What could I do in under 1 minute that I could equate to being successful? 

My girl isn’t a year round swimmer. She is a summer swimmer but here she is-matching my dude lap for lap. Her arms are so tired she can barely lift her arms to put her thick hair in a pony tail she’s so exhausted. But she’s doing it. Swimming is the only sport where breathing is frowned upon. Her morning was spent trying to shorten her lap count while NOT breathing. Lofty goal. Here she is on her 50th lap being asked to NOT breathe. And she’s trying. Her success–1:23:00. She started the season at 1:26:29 so touching the wall at 1:23 equaled success for her. 1:23 and and exhibition swimmer means she gets her name on the state shirt. Also a measurement of success for a 12year old :)

Sports for us aren’t about trophies or medals or ribbons. It’s about meeting those role models who jump out of their chairs to be there when you get out of the pool after touching the wall in 6th place. Not to admonish you for not placing in state team contention but to congratulate you on taking a second off your time. That’s what happened to my daughter last night. She didn’t make the cut in one of her races. But her coach helped her find success in her loss. 

Sports, for us, are about my boy not dropping time for a year only to meet his goal last night and immediately make a new one this morning. He’s measuring his own success. Not by a medal-though he will earn one-but by a clock. He’s pushing himself to do more-to do better-to keep trying. And he will measure his success in under a minute. 

We are an hour into practice and the coaches just announced that practice was about to get hard. Admidst moans from the swimmers I heard “…dropping intervals….”and “….50’s….” Admittedly I don’t understand what the drill is but I know enough to know that the groans coming from the pool mean it’s very, very hard. Looks like practice will exceed 100 laps today. 90 minutes and 100+ laps for an event that will last less then 1:01:99 and 1:23:00. 

There is nothing I do in less then 1 and a 1/2 minutes that equates to success. How I admire these hardworking athletes of mine who spend so much time and energy making sure that they can measure success in under 1:00 and 1:24. 

   
   

Comfort food

Tomorrow is a BIG race day for my kiddos. County meet. Swimmimg for cred, swimming for a place in the all-star team and swimming for pride-it’s all there.

As swim mom it’s my job to physc them up and to try and calm their angst. Pre-race meal seemed a good place to start. I asked Middle child girl what she wanted.  She’s a bit anxious about what she was picked to swim-2 A relay teams, backstroke and breaststroke-her least favorite.  The boy would want pasta. That’s all the boy-child ever wants. What fun is that? Hard to be supportive-swim-mom making noodles. Our dish of choice at least 2 nights a week. So I didn’t waste time in him. Luckily I picked the more seasoned eater. Middle child delivered. She did want a pre-race meal that was different from the norm. She had a request,”Chicken Olivia-please, please make chicken Olivia!”

That request made me happy. 

Chicken Olivia is my grandmother’s recipe. To me It’s her legacy-that and gooshey rolls. Unfortunately I never learned to make her gooshey rolls. Fortunately her recipe for chicken Olivia was written down. I’ve been making it for a long time. It’s never as good as hers but making it makes me happy. 

Even thinking about it brings me comfort. As casseroles goes it’s nothing special. Rice, chicken, celery…the usual ingredients. It’s comfort food. It’s filling and delicious and homey and simple-sort of like my grandmother. While it cooks it the house fills with tempting smells of butter and goodness. The smell envelopes the room and embraces you like a grandmothers hug.  

My grandmother never met my spirited, sassy, secretly sweet daughter. But yet my girl, seeking comfort, wants the very thing that makes me remember my grandmother the most. She has  found     comfort  in what I find comfort in. And that too makes me happy. 

  
Even the making of the dish brought my girl and I together. Softball kept me out until 9:30 last night. Swim practice had me up and back out at 6:45am. I didn’t prep like I thought I would. As I rushed around getting ready for work and thought about my day I knew getting home in time to make the casserole in Time for dinner would be unlikely. I almost decided to put off making her request but, thankfully, I pulled myself together and made a plan. 3 minutes to set up the rice cooker. 2 minutes to prep the crock-pot. A minute to leave her instructions on what to turn and when to turn it and viola! a plan was made. 

She did her part. I came home to a messy house and a sleeping daughter but the chicken was cooked and the rice was made. So I did my job. I promptly dumped and diced and mixed and melted. Mid-stir I fed  my chunka-munka an apple to sate her gregarious appetite and kept moving. 30 minutes after walking the door the warm scents of bubbling goodness filled our little home. 

My grandmother has been gone a long time. Alzheimer’s took her long before she was actually left us. It’s been ages since I’ve had the gooey-goodness of my grandmothers chicken Olivia. But today, symbolically on a Friday-the day I usually need comforting-my girl asked me to make the very thing that brings me the most comfort. And even more comforting is that something that comforts me  brings comfort to my girl too. 

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