Swimming with the Sharks
When you think of summer, naturally one would conjure up thoughts of endless summer days, mild temperatures, the sounds of cicadas, mosquito bites and most importantly, ways to cool off. Summer goes hand in hand with swimming and if you are inland like me, where it’s too far for a day trip to the beach, you join a pool. As I mentioned previously in a post called Pool Cues, http://lspostyn.wordpress.com/2013/06/19/pool-cues/ we joined a pool to meet more people in our neighborhood and become part of this community.
A suggestion made to us when we first joined, was for our son to join the swim team so he could meet kids at the club. This summer, that’s what we did to become part of the movement. I use that term because it really is a movement, a religion, a way of life, a cult if you will. Now, we may feel this way because we didn’t grow up being lifetime members of a pool, we just went to the beach. Or, we didn’t know that if you were not indoctrinated at the ripe age of 6, you were not going to ease into the team with warm welcoming breast and back stroking arms. I am all for the team camaraderie and spirit, it was just the level of intensity, was more than what I, or my son bargained for. It was as if we were swimming with the sharks.
Right from the start, we felt like fish out of water in a world of organized chaos. From practices where hundreds of kids filled the 4 swim lanes, with 4 kids across each lane; a recipe for head collisions. Swallowed water, kicks to a variety of body parts and a lot of soaked egos were rampant. The lingo that was spoken was ‘swim-team-isms’ and phrases that one could only understand if you were born with a Speedo and swim cap on. My son couldn’t ask anyone else what the coaches meant as the rest of the team was too busy swimming to catch their breath. Waterlogged, exhausted and dizzy from the amount of swimming that ensued was all that he could take to hold it together and me not telling someone off (that ol’ New Yorker in me was rearing its ugly head).
The meets were organized hysteria. From the forced “volunteer” participation, to the over-inflated sense of importance of the head volunteer parents (the ones carrying the clipboards around), to the lack of personal space on the pool deck because parents, grandparents, cousins and 7 generations of families who came to see their young ones swim, put my heightened senses on overload. The over-zealous parents screaming at their submerged children in a heat, main event or trial could be measured on the Richter scale. Heat, main event, trial? I am still uncertain what those terms are but I know that my son participated in at least one of them.
Now to the level of stress that my son felt swimming in one of those races – he was clearly panicky. That was something I was not equipped to deal with when I was too busy doing my volunteer stuff like handing out ribbons to every single child who got out of the pool after they raced. He, just like his parents, has a tendency to stress over some of the smaller things in life, like swimming a lap, as fast as possible with hundreds of observers watching and screaming like lunatics. I found it surprising that he was freaked out as he had no problems performing in plays, acting on TV or going out on an audition – in fact, I thought he was fearless. Sure lights were dimmed in a theater but this was out in the open. I guess when faced with something that he wasn’t all that comfortable with from the get-go, it became bigger than what it really was, swimming a “50”. In layman’s terms, its two laps.
My friend and neighbor personally coached my son, convincing him to participate, right up to the point where she led him to the thing to dive off of, (a starting block – I am told). Although he was terrified, standing there moments before they blew the whistle and yelled through the megaphone “On your Mark”, I was beyond proud of him.
As I watched my son swim towards the finish line, I did not think, nor see the transformation of me into the one that screamed at the top of her lungs or the one that rooted for her child to swim faster, or the one who said to try harder and then to the one who ultimately glowed with pure joy for a swim well done.
After the meet was over, my son said “Can I do it again next year Mom?”