Friday, June 19, 2009

Things are going swimmingly!

Wow, it's like the ghost of athletics past has come to visit me. I used to be the one racing. I used to be the one with dry, green hair. I used to be the one slipping into a cold pool every morning. I've gone back in time to watch it all again, only it's from the outside. I'm the mother of the swimmer now. And it's not a little weird.

It's taken John a long time to reach the point where we've come to believe he can emotionally handle the rigors of participating in a sport with his peers. I still wince when it is time to wake him up for the pool after a particularly hard day.

But each morning, he gets up without complaint and dons his cute, little snug speedos. (The long ones are in, nowadays. They're called jammers, I believe). He leaves the van before I've turned off the engine and is in the pool before Hannah and I slowly approach the deck.

His first day in practice went pretty much as I expected. He cried. Hard. Sobbed. Twice. And said he was never coming back. Since then, he's only had two more crying spells and they were very, very minor and somewhat age appropriate.

On Wednesday, John participated in his first swim meet ever. He was lined up behind the blocks. The heat right in front of him had just taken their marks, when the meet was halted due to thunder.

We spent the next two hours holed up in the van trying to wait out the intense lightning storm and hail. Don't let me forget to note that this pool was an hour away from our house. Hannah had a great time freely roaming the van and pushing all the buttons she could find. When I turned on the van Thursday morning, I was a little unsure of how to turn off the rear windshield wiper and I was tired of listening to rap music.

The meet was scheduled to be completed on Thursday but there was a 40% chance of rain. I hoped that he'd at least get to swim long enough to complete one roughly, 30-second journey down the pool this time. They were going to pick up right where they left off.

I asked if he was nervous. (I certainly was.) No. Though he'll cry at the drop of a hat and suffers from intense anxiety in most other areas of his life, apparently he has nerves of steel when it comes to racing. Go figure.

He stepped on the blocks. (He usually does his somewhat awkward bird legged leap from the wall.) He kept his arms in perfect stream line position over his head before the starter even told the swimmers to take their marks. The field was off. Three other boys, aged 9-10, shot into the water in sleek, shallow dives then erupted, all splashes and arms, several yards down the pool. John performed a gut-wrenching belly-flop/walk-on-the-water maneuver and had to start swimming from a near stop. He buried his head and stroked half the pool with no breath.

I knew it was coming. Eventually his need for oxygen would supersede his athletic ambition. He suddenly rolled to his side and breathed for what seemed like five minutes in the middle of the pool while his three competitors duked it out for first place at the wall. He put his face back in and swam with all the vigor he could muster. He never slowed, other than to breathe twice more and came in strong at the finish, long after the others has exited the pool.

I was proud of his courage, his dedication and his lack of upset at being last. I cried. It was the silent, swelling cry I always have when I watch the Olympics. Here is a swimmer with heart. And he was cheered for accordingly, by more people than his mother and his coach. He was nonchalant about the experience and ready for his other two events.

He also swam the 25 yard backstroke and the 25 yard breaststroke, even though he's never been instructed on the highly technical requirements of the latter. He came in last each time, undaunted. After the breaststroke, when he was disqualified due to flutter kicking and touching the wall with only one hand, he was thrilled. "Hey, Mom, that wasn't bad for my first time!" I LOVE that boy! So unselfconscious, so happy, so tough. I'm glad I'm finally getting to know him, even if it means schlepping him to meets across East Tennessee.

He lounged, ate, and frolicked with other kids for the remainder of the meet. There was plenty of good, healthy mud from the previous night's storm. He was the only one from our team that I saw approach the other team's camp and look for playmates. I also saw him shake hands with a swimmer from the other team and say, "Good Meet."

He is learning discipline and perseverance and about having fun. He knows this sport is about improving your personal best. He challenges and inspires me. I can't wait until Tuesday when I will bask my sweaty, pregnant body in the sun once again and scream "Go, John, Go!" till I am hoarse. And then I will drag our exhausted bodies back to the pool the following morning where we all will learn a little bit more about dedication and hard work.


Anonymous said...

Good job, John! Way to make your mama (and yourself) proud. Don't ever forget that the glory is in enjoying what you do, not how you place.

Angela (HsvScrapGirl) said...

Way to go John! I know you were really proud of him Holly. I can't wait to see you all again. Fortunately it won't be long!

Carissa said...

That's awesome!