Swim meets are best summed up as sitting on a hard concrete bench for 4.5 hours for a total of two-ish minutes of excitement watching your child. The only other time to reap any rewards as a parent at a swim meet is during “warmups” – which last a lot longer than any of the individual events. Maybe as long as 20 minutes. (I’ve been too focused on watching my son to bother timing it.)
If you’ve never been to a swim meet, you can’t quite understand the assault on the senses that occurs. The walls are all tile and concrete, leading to an overwhelming roar that forces your hearing to shut off as you focus on your child swimming in the warmup lane. (Pro-tip, noise canceling headphones are a wise investment.)
The warmup lane is its own form of chaos as 40 gangly 10, 11, and 12 year olds cram into 3 yards of water wide and 25 yards long. Swimmers jockey for position as their natural talent carries them faster than people in front of them. There is an elegant sportsmanship as slower swimmers make way for speedsters motoring through. And kids who jumped off fifth from the block, might be 12th in the blink of an eye, and then eighth in another blink.
Making things worse for me (as a parent) is that everyone on my son’s team wears the same red cap and same black and red swimsuit. The girls have a suit that covers more of them, but picking that out in a literal sea of swimmers takes time and a lifetime of eating carrots.
With warm ups being the longest time to watch my son at a meet, I hate it when I lose him in the lane (because it’s so crowded, because there’s jockeying for position, because they all look the same). I tend to rely on my instinct as a parent — the instinct all parents have — to instantly pick out the form of my child from a distance. We spend so much time with them, watching their gait and outline — we know which one is “ours” at a quick glance, in a crowd, and from more than a football field away.
Today, though, I keep losing him. And it takes me a lot of time to pick him back up. And I realize why I can’t find him in the water — his form and shape are longer and bigger than my heart tells me I should be looking for.
At 11, and in 5th grade (which is to say “on the cusp of middle school and pre-teen-ville”), he’s no longer my boy, nor really even “mine”. I’ve had him belted into my sidecar as we have hurtled down life and he’s now got to start to steer his own way. It’s something that he’s started to demand as the person he is has become revealed like a sculpture from a block of marble. And I’m encouraged by what I see.
It’s time. I can still provide the guardrails to make sure he doesn’t steer directly into oncoming traffic. But, he’s got to take the wheel and learn the controls. Because sooner than I’d like, even the guardrails disappear.
For today, I’m going to make sure I don’t lose him in the water.
Posted by Victor Medina
Medina Law Group, LLC