Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This…

Posted by   admin on    April 27, 2016

New! TIDE mom Sara Beth Roberts is our guest blogger with one of her "Lessons from the Pool Deck" Enjoy!

Right before Christmas, Addy and I headed to the 12 and Under Christmas Championship Meet on Ft Eustis, Virginia. Because this meet had qualifying times and a prelim/finals format, we had gotten a hotel room with the team in Newport News. In between sessions, swimmers REST. They take this part very seriously--you could hear a pin drop in the hotel. Swimmers, in general, are a serious group of people. I do not fit in well. I was bored and looking for someone--anyone--to talk to, but again they REST.

At this particular meet, Addy had some amazing races. She even made her first Age Group Cut in the 50 freestyle, which was so fun to watch as her Mama. Addy never smiles as big as she does when she is swimming--this is why we keep chipping away at it. Not only that, we had fun getting to know her teammates better and we enjoyed being together in the hotel--it felt like a mini-vacation for us. During the finals for the 50 free, they even announced everyone's name and club team before the race, and to a dreamy-eyed 10-year-old girl, that has to be amazing, right?

Part of me wishes the meet had ended at that point, but there was one final relay. Addy was set to swim the lead leg of a 50 backstroke in a 200 medley relay.

It was a terrible swim. She added time, she looked so tired, she disappointed her teammates and herself. 

She talked to her coach, changed out of her suit, and met me in the lobby. I could see the disappointment and frustration dripping from every inch of her.  If there is one thing I have learned over her few short years of swimming, it's that it's best to just say nothing and let her think. We walked quietly to the car and drove away.

She started to cry, and my heart was overcome. Part of me wanted to fuss at her: Addy, we spend a lot of time and money doing this, and if you can't keep it together, if you fall apart after one bad swim, we aren't going to do it anymore. Part of me was just angry in general--her amazing weekend, all of her improved, fast times, her Age Group cut, the fun time we had together--completely forgotten over one swim. Part of me wanted to say, Addy, it's too much. Swimming is hard. Let's do something else--like Chess or Garden Club.

Sometimes though, the best thing to say is nothing at all. 

I turned the music up loud, I held my tongue, I let her have her moment. I prayed over and over again that God would give me the perfect words to say to her. I didn't care about the swim. I didn't care about the added time. What I did care about was her heart and her ability to bounce--I knew she loved swimming, but I also knew it was a long road. If she was going to be successful, she had to get better at brushing off a bad race.

For over 30 minutes we drove, music up, her crying and me stewing--I needed the perfect words to say to her.

"Addy, what did your coach say?" 

"She asked me what happened in my race."

"What did you say?" I asked.

"I said I was tired. I told her I had a bad start."

Quiet...music...tears...stewing.

Finally, I turned down the music--I had the perfect words:

"You should have just said, 'I don't know, I really just sucked during that race.'"

Laughter--from her--for the first time since we got in the car. "MOM!" she said between giggles. I laughed too--it felt so good to laugh after all that stewing.

Of course, I needed to explain myself. While I would never want her to say the word "suck" in any of its past, present, or future perfect forms, I did want to get a point across. I also wanted to make her smile--I wanted to lighten the mood. I wanted to remind her of how we laughed in the hotel room while watching America's Funniest Home videos and eating popcorn IN the bed (because that's what you do in a hotel room, right?) I would never in a million years want her to speak to an adult or coach (especially one we love and admire) in a disrespectful way, but I desperately wanted my message to reach her ears (and hopefully her heart) in a very clear way.

Sometimes you just suck.

Please tell me I'm not alone. You wake up with the very best of intentions--to be kind to your husband, to actually walk the dog, to work with your child on her letters and numbers, to make it through at least breakfast without loosing your patience and YELLING.

But you don't, you fall short.

You really plan to exercise, to go to the grocery store, to clean out the car. You desire to sit and listen, really listen, to your 4th grader ramble about her day. You really have the best of intention to read stories at night--all the pages--and not skip some to make the book shorter (am I the only one who does this?) When you tuck in your 8 year old, and you lean down to pray, you really plan to say something more than: deargodthankyouforthisdaypleaseletsawyersleepwellamen.

I mean, you really want to--but you don't. 

The burden of perfectionism is so heavy, but when you remove it from yourself and even your children, life becomes more enjoyable. Maybe you have never expected perfectionism from your children (I doubt many of us do) but do you expect it from yourself? They are watching. They are trying to see if you offer yourself and those around you grace. They are trying to understand what's expected of them, and sometimes they just need to know--it's OK to mess up, to fail, to set a goal and not reach it.

By the time we pulled into the driveway, the mood was lighter. I looked at Addy--so unlike me yet exactly the same--and I said: I never expect you to be perfect. Of course, I expect you to work at things with your whole heart. I expect you to be kind to your teammates and friends and respect your coaches. I expect you to study and complete your work and go to practice and give it everything you have, but I also expect you to have bad swims, and bad days, and maybe even bad weeks. I expect you to take those things and use them to make yourself better. No matter what, no one will ever love you more than I do.

She smiled. The weight was lifted. Had I unintentionally placed it on her shoulders, even if I did not mean to? 

At the next championship meet, Age Groups, she had some great swims, and one not so great swim. I held my breath. She looked at me and I saw the tears well up in her eyes. Coach Kristian came over and said, "Did someone in your family die?" "No," she said.

"Then shake it off, Addy--it's just a swim."

It's just a swim, friends. It's just a ______.  Fill in the blank for yourself, but let it be a reminder that tomorrow is a new day, a new morning, a fresh start.

 

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