Never say Never. This is my parenting mantra, my words to live be, my motto so to speak. When the kids were young it applied to things like cutting other children’s hair, saying bad words, kicking other children, and any little thing children do that you are appalled by. I noticed there was a brand of mothers who were very contrite, sure of themselves, and very “holier than though” when it came to other children’s short comings. Often pronouncing indignantly and loudly, “Oh my little Tommy, Susie and so on would NEVER do that.” I quickly realized that their kid would do that, that my kid would do that, and that all kids WILL do that on any given day.
Sometimes, very rarely, I forget my mantra and it comes back to bite me in the ass.
This was the case with swim team. I have four children. The first two children are really good swimmers. From the get go it was easy. At age two we took starter lessons (NO Mommy and Me, I am highly against Mommy and Me Classes of any kind, but that is a story for another day) and at age three we took actual lessons and at four they swam.
The fact that they were good swimmers caught me off guard. In fact, my children are very good at most athletics and this also catches me off guard. They are requested by coaches for basketball, they win medals at swimming, they win talent show competitions at school and I won’t bore you, but the list does go on. This takes me off guard, or more to the point, is completely shocking to me because I had NO such talent of any kind. I tried out for the drill team three years in a row (didn’t make it), I was “Rover” (I’m not even sure it is a real position) on my little league team, there was loud groaning when people had to choose me for there sporting teams (back in the day when it was alright for teachers to subject children to “picking their own teams”), and the list goes on. Don’t feel sorry for me…I went on to be a perfectly fabulous adult despite my shortcomings as a child, but still it catches me off guard when my children have these talents.
I assumed the ease with which my first two children learned to swim would continue right onto the second two children. It did not. It came to a grinding halt with child number three. We started with the same starter lessons and then moved on to actual lessons. Basically between ages three and six we took every kind of lesson known to man for swimming. One year involved a whole summer of lessons in which she never let go of the teacher and swam with one side of her body flailing in the water and the other side wrapped tightly around the teacher’s neck. If the teacher let go there would be a loud scream heard throughout the poolside area in which one would assume murder was being committed. All while I sat casually reading a magazine and pretending the screamer did not belong to me.
All lessons were taught for two summers by a wonderful college girl “Miss Sierra.” This poor girl earned her money and I am quite certain went back to college after the first year determined to major in business or agriculture.
She finally swam. It was a less than fabulous stroke that caused people great alarm when she first hit the pool solo. There were concerned looks and glances at life vests. A good friend went to the pool with me one day and sat as we watched my daughter swim. She said casually, “You should get her some lessons.” I said, “I did. This is the result of thousands of dollars of lessons.” She replied, “You should ask for your money back.”
She was almost six, she hated swimming, but she could swim. At the end of the summer I announced that next summer she would be on the swim team with her sisters. She announced that next year she would NOT be on the swim team with her sisters. We both had a look of steely determination. In January I started announcing daily that she would be on the swim team. She replied daily, she would not be on the swim team. I won. June first we headed to the pool with three children registered for swim team.
We had done swim team with my first two children for a few years. And remember my first two children were children who swam with ease. And while I admit their talent caught me off guard, I also have to admit I jumped on board with it enthusiastically. A small amount of “proud parent” cheering (or crazy “stage mom” pushing) was involved. It was during those early swimming meets with my first two children that I forgot my “Never Say Never” mantra.
If you have ever been to a swim meet you know that there is a six and under category. In this category you have some children that can actually swim (like my first two) and get across the pool in a timely manner, and you have some children that cannot swim across the pool in a timely manner and those children flail across while being timed and usually clock in with a time of 8 minutes 25 seconds, all while parents stand by the edge of the pool yelling and screaming encouragement. I found it a COMPLETE waste of time. I complained bitterly about it. I said to probably anyone that would listen, “I would NEVER do that with my child.”
At the first swim meet that year I walked my third daughter over to the starting block and watched as she jumped in the pool when the whistle blew. I then walked to the side of the pool and cheered loudly while she flailed to the end of the pool, pausing for breaths, and occasionally just flat out rolling over onto her back in a floating position to rest, eventually clocking in at some time well over the 8 minutes and 25 seconds I had previously complained about in others. People were rolling their eyes, mothers were whispering in groups and I knew what they were saying, “I would NEVER do that with my child.”
It is a few years later and while there is probably not an Olympic Gold medal in the future for this particular child I can report that there has been improvement. There have even been, on poorly attended swim meets when people are out of town for the Fourth of July, a few winning ribbons. Recently, across a crowded store, I saw Miss Sierra. I yelled, “Miss Sierra, Miss Sierra.” She spotted me and while I am certain, since I was standing there with child number four who was about starter swim lesson age, she wanted to run; she did not. She sucked it up and smiled politely and came over. I said, “Miss Sierra, I just have to tell you that my daughter has been on the swim team for a couple of years now and recently she won a second place ribbon.” She cried. Right there in the crowded store Miss Sierra cried and said (as nicely as possible while in complete disbelief), “Really? That is so wonderful and, well, amazing really. I guess you should never say never”