Thursday, July 26, 2012
Kid Stuff: Olympic Fever
We just HAD to get the Speedo swim cap with the "12" logo on it, along with the matching goggles. The cap, technically, belongs to the 12 year-old Big Kid, but he lets the Little Kid wear it occasionally. And then complains because the Little Kid wears it INCORRECTLY (with the design on the front and the seam running from ear to ear).
I predict that many hours of swimming and diving competition coverage will be consumed in our household. It will fill a void nicely: Big Kid finished his dive season on Tuesday, Little Kid finished swim season last night and Big Kid swims in the 9-and-Over championships this evening. What WILL we do without AM practices to make and PM meets to attend? Oh - we'll watch other people practice and compete. From the comfort of our air-conditioned home. (Mom considers this last part a major plus.)
What a difference a couple of years (for the Big Kid) and a few months (for the Little Kid) have made. Big Kid is beginning to take competition a little more seriously. His diving technique has improved LOADS, and fear is no longer his enemy - now, we fight the absence of fear. Compare and contrast: two years ago, we steadfastly refused to attempt a back flip, because the first time we attempted it, we entered a bit awkwardly (who doesn't, on their first try?), and slapped the water with our back a bit too hard. Now we're flipping all over the place - and adding a twist. (Sounds impressive, doesn't it? Here's the secret that dive moms know: "flip with a twist" translates into "we're over-rotating our flip, and the twist camouflages our lack of ability to control our spin." Hey, at least it keeps him from entering back-first, which almost hurts Mom to see as much as it hurts Son to endure.) Sometimes we don't know our own power, which largely explains the open wounds above his eyebrow and across his cheekbone, sustained at a friend's pool after he misjudged the depth and went off the board without pulling back on his dive.
Two years ago, we did amaze-balls in practice, but poorly in competition, due to a chronic case of the yips. This year, on two separate occasions, the child actually forgot that he was at a dive meet and executed a dive exactly like he was at a pool party, leisurely springing off of the springboard while people around him sipped umbrella drinks and grooved to Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up". (Okay, full disclosure: when I see guys showing off on a diving board, I totally think of the pool party scene in "Boogie Nights" - hence the imagined Marvin Gaye musical accompaniment.) Zero technique. Imaginary pennies between the butt cheeks and knees distinctly unpinched.
The look on his face when he emerged from the water said it all: "I TOTALLY forgot I was in competition and phoned that one in." Kid, I'd call that progress.
Likewise, we have achieved major strides in swimming. He still isn't top of the podium, but he isn't last, either, and if he gets third instead of second, he's kicking himself a little bit. Disclaimer: I am not one of "those" moms. I don't hold my child up to an impossible standard, and I don't expect him to do so, either. But it's nice to see that he actually cares, SOMEWHAT, and it's nice to see him actually try, A LITTLE BIT, because as a first-born (who was the first grandchild on either side, and pretty much the first child born into our circle of friends), competition with other kids isn't an innate thing with him. On the one hand: it's great to hear your child say, "I don't really care if I win - I just want to give soccer a try." On the other hand: it's not so great to see the frustration on his friends' faces when the team loses because of the ball that Big Kid let sail by while he was picking dandelions in the outfield. So we've had some discussions about the need to show up for your teammates, and about stick-to-it-ive-ness as a character-building exercise. See, that was Easy-Going First Born's other problem until this year: "Oh, that kid next to me clearly is going to win, so I'll just coast to the wall." This season, we have actually moved up a position or two mid-swim by kicking it into gear and overcoming a few of the guys in the middle of the pack. Believe me when I tell you that this is a major development.
As for Little Kid: six weeks ago, he was still on the fence about swimming. Reason: he is NOT a first-born, and therefore is ALL ABOUT comparing himself to his bigger brother. Didn't take me long to figure out that "I just don't want to swim" translated into "I just don't know what I'll do if I lose" (a thought that he finally verbalized on our way to his first meet). So we pulled a sort-of-cruel parenting move and told him, "You're joining the swim team: no excuses. If you can convince the coaches that you don't belong on the team, then we'll drop the subject. Or you'll discover that you can swim, and that you kind of love it. Either way, we're out of the equation."
BEST SORT-OF-CRUEL PARENTING MOVE EVER PULLED.
Week one: He insisted on grabbing the rope every three or four strokes (and, more often than not, would look up at us with baleful eyes - well, he had goggles on, but I imagine that his eyes were baleful). Bear in mind: this kid had never had swim lesson one. Wouldn't even consider it. Total trial by fire. I prayed that we had made the right decision - and that the other parents wouldn't kill me, because there were a couple of occasions where their kids were champing at the bit to begin their heat, and the admonition, "swimmer in the pool" referred to my child, whose lap from the last heat was STILL in progress.
Week two: Still last in every heat, but the rope remained untouched.
Week three: He began exhibiting a natural grasp of the butterfly. Given that most kids NEVER get the butterfly, this resulted in a not-insignificant boost to his street cred.
Week four: He started passing people, mid-swim, in two events (fly and free). Breast was still a struggle, and back could only be described as a semi-controlled drowning. MUCH flailing about. (Mom was at a loss over this, because back comes easily to Mom and is Big Kid's best stroke.)
Off week: We attended a pool party, and Mom caught him showing off his entry dives. Then he started front-diving off of the diving board. And then he started doing front flips. "Oh, Mom - I forgot to tell you. Next year, I've decided to be on the dive team as well as on the swim team."
Week five: He started passing people in breast, which shocked the heck out of him, but confirmed Mom's suspicions that he is built to be a short-axis specialist - which both explained and excused the backstroke thing.
Week six: Championship meet. Up first: our nemesis, the backstroke.
Mom to Dad: Um, I thought that PJ was in Lane 5?
Dad to Mom: He is in Lane 5.
Mom to Dad: No, the kid in Lane 5 can actually do the backstroke. Fluidly.
Dad to Mom: Uh, yeah. That's your kid.
Mom to no one in particular: Holy schnikes.
With apologies to the Music Man: We've got progress, right here in Panther City. With a capital P, which rhymes with - um, P again - which stands for POOL . . . . The kind with water in it.
Bring it on, Phelps and company.