Sunday, November 9, 2008

Be there

I forgot about swim meets. That's a convenient skill - forgetting about something that registers on the miserable-o-meter. Swim meets (those without Michael Phelps and his mother and their story) score mid-range on the miserable-o-meter because one invests 3 hours yet the action for any one participant is less than 3 minutes. 3 hours sitting around for 3 minutes of splashing. However, it's important to watch what's happening and who is with whom.I can rarely find my swimmer and it's disconcerting to watch teenagers walking around nearly naked in such close quarters. It's insanely loud too. But if I didn't go, I wouldn't really know what questions to ask. Watching and knowing what questions to ask are key.

We have had "swim meet" on our social schedule for a really long time, more than 15 years. We had reasonably fun Summer Club swim meets for a long time then high school swimming. PPP is swim CAPTAIN at her school this year, after four years of varsity swim. That looks lovely on college applications. We hope. CAPTAIN has such a ring of leadership doesn't it? So far, it means that she buys candy with which to reward those who come to swim practice and makes little swimmer name signs for the lockers on swim-meet day. She is also required to be overly cheerful and peppy. OVERLY. Also, she doesn't get home from practice until about 9 p.m., and she has more than 9 p.m.'s worth of homework. Way more.

Unlike the "short" and loud high school meets, a Country Club summer meet is like a gigantic progressive cocktail party, in which parents and their swimmer-children either visit or host another club each week. The children eat club-grill food and Slush Puppies and play cards and write "eat my bubbles" all over themselves all the hazy warm summer night. PPP always yearned for the PINK ribbon, 6th place out of 6.
The minions always loved night time swimming and writing on themselves with Sharpie. Not so much Sharpie in high school, though evidently not everyone got that text message. LOL.
Our Young Son also COULD be a swimmer at his boys' school, but it just doesn't squeeze in between football (June until it's over) and Lacrosse (when football is over until June).
Neighbor Bob and other friends swim though, so he makes use of swim meet time by socializing. He will tell me later who's who and what happened at the meet. Because I will ask. Our Young Son is not good at sitting in the stands. He lasts about 15 minutes, then just gets up and roams around. I can find him because he has clothes on.
We have High School meets in a 'bubble' many evenings, which is not an actual building. Is it natural to be swimming in the winter in a huge tent? It's warm and damp inside the bubble. When it's cold outside, it'll be cool and damp inside the bubble. It will also rain in here, because of some simple scientific principle involving water, temperature and condensation - water will fall from the bubble ceiling all winter long, while I grade papers.
The way I can usually find PPP is that she chews the goggle strap non-stop. The rest of the time she is basically just moving around in a Speedo with a bunch of friends in Speedos.
Boys' schools, girls' schools, coed schools all in the bubble together. Teenagers barely dressed mingling. Swim for a minute, socialize for a long time. While wet and wearing a Speedo. What's not to like about that?
Cross-over time is especially taxing on the parent-fan. Barnabas' mom conveniently wears that pink so I can find her. She's a talker, Dad is a fierce watcher. The play-off games are a little more ....exciting, I guess is a word that applies here. I mean the whole season has been thrilling, every last second of it. But this is ...more thrilling! Also more cold. We are still in football, yet basketball and wrestling are in the works; we need to be in indoor lax and swim meets have started. That's a lot of sitting on aluminum benches, indoors or out. That's lots of watching. The first post-season game has been played. Our team was less relaxed than last week. They looked fierce and jumpy from across the field. Our Young Son certainly enjoys a ring-side seat, and doesn't seem to mind that he would not play. He makes good use of his time socializing. I never have to ask whom he was talking with, I do nosily ask what they were talking about. The answer is always "Nothing."
Until the answer is not "nothing" but is all about the plays called, and who was actually injured, and what the Coach said and what's happening after the game. I'm always glad to know what to ask. Great excitement at the end.
That U - indeed, still stands for undefeated. Seriously, is there any of that I want to miss? Is there any part that we don't want to know about? We want to be there too when the first play-off game is won - not just hear it boiled down into a three sentence summary. I don't want the conversation to start with "I wish you'd seen...." but "Man, could you believe it when..." If we aren't there, we can't adequately commiserate over the fumbles and the missed tackles, or rejoice over the awesome play that saved the world - or the game, whatever. It's all about the talking afterward. The right questions are the ones that start the conversations about winning and losing, playing or not playing, being part of a team. I like to start with "What was up with..." and I can't do that if I'm not there. On the cold and hard aluminum bench. Many nights a week. Because we want to be.


Muddy Boot Dreams said...

They will always remember you as the Mom who made it to all the games, the Mom who really put a effort into attending as much as she could. It will stay with them for life. I really appreciate what my parents did for me when I was growing up.


Anonymous said...

Loved this post! If more parents would just "Be there" I honestly believe we wouldn't have as many problems to deal with. Children need to know they are valued and "being there" does just that. Mine are still young and we spend our evenings at the ice skating rink and the soccer field and I wouldn't have it any other way.

kikibibi said...

This is the best advice ever! And your second post on the exact topic of "being there." Very important advice, and although my sports attendance was quite high to begin with, now I'm at almost 100% (that one away football game in the rain? couldn't do it, but Dad was there!).

You're a great mom!