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Monday, August 11, 2008

This moment, like so many others, brought to you by parenthood.

Emily and I took Erin down to the community pool on Sunday afternoon. Erin's confidence in the water is really astounding, and now that she has her sea legs she can wander around the wading pool on her own, occasionally submerging herself to blow bubbles (or because she has fallen over for a moment) and then popping straight out of the water.

She reached a milestone in her swimming class on Friday: she pulled herself out of the pool from a hanging position on the wall in the deep water. Well kid, it only took you thirteen months, but it seems that our twice weekly swimming lessons from the time you were 10 weeks old have finally paid off. You now know how to avoid swimming.

I alternate between pride and anxiety: she can do things on her own, and I can cheer for her, but I also know that some of the challenges she faces in life could overwhelm her, because life is hard and it's easy to give up, some times. And sometimes it is harder to give up than to keep going, just like sometimes it is harder to get out of the pool than it is to sink into it and keep swimming.

I stayed up too late watching the Olympics last night. I saw the Men's 4x100m Freestyle Relay, in which five teams wrecked the previous World Record time and the U.S. team performed an adrenaline-pumping feat to overtake their French rivals in the last 25 meters and edge them out for the gold medal and smash the record. Swimming is not my favourite Olympic sport (a tie between hockey and fencing), but I was, along with everyone else watching that race, suddenly a huge fan of swimming. It was inspiring to watch. I saw Michael Phelps do his best to not scream "Fuck Yeah!!!" as his captain and anchor completed their fantastic comeback.

As Emily and I watched the race she turned profound: "That is thousands of swim meets and trips to the pool. For their parents."

After the race NBC aired a short segment, or commercial, that had one member of the relay team, Cullen Jones, speaking about his screamingest fan: his mother. Always the loudest at any swim meet, and always the proudest.

And Emily turned profound again: "How must his mother be feeling right now?" And she teared up, and I teared up too, because she was absolutely right.

Watching the Olympics will never be the same for us. It used to be about seeing people do incredible things. Now it's about knowing that people have done incredible things. Like drive someone to the pool thousands of times.

Even if it was only to watch a child climb out.


Holly at Tropic of Mom said...

The Olympics are inspiring in so many ways.

cog said...

I spent many years in those wet lanes, and the thing I carry with me more than the miles and miles I swam is the memory of my mother driving me to practice and to meets, through rain and snow and dark of early morn. She was the one who kept me going.

Nancy said...

Phelps has been the BMOC here at U of M since he followed his coach in 2004. Good guy, indeed.

Watching these competitions, are always different once we begin to watch them through the eyes of us as a parent.

Xbox4NappyRash said...

Imagine how uninspiring life is for people from countries that never win anything... like er, me...

Semi related and inspiring, Phelps was chronically picked on as a kid over his big sticky out ears. There's one in the eye for you bullies out there!

Melizzard said...

So true just one more way that being a parent changes everything.

Moxy Jane said...

I think I've been biting my nails more for exactly this reason. And I so feel for all the people who do not win (some may call them "losers" but I just can't...they're at the freakin' OLYMPICS and I am on my couch). There's just so much attention and focus and pressure and anxiety and aaaaaaggggghhhhh...this is my ONE chance!!! And they're what, 17 years old???

It's been a much different experience watching this time with my three daughters. I really dislike competitive sports on what seems to be a cellular level but I am a sucker for spectacle and human struggle and heroic efforts. Here's to all those moms and dads who have made it possible.

(And then there's the 33 year old gymnast from Germany. Now there's a story!)

Moxy Jane
Austin, TX

(I found you courtesy of Mom-o-Matic's BlogHer review...just so you can blame her properly, ha!)

Mr Lady said...

Dude, brilliant. Not just as a mother, but as the wife of a competitive swimmer, an Olympic contender in his own day. Every medal in the box after box after box of them that sits in our basement has the story of mom at the pool, every day, by 4am, of sisters spending their entire weekends in the bleachers of a pool.

You have no idea how dead on you are.

PS: The "avoid swimming" bit? I about peed my pants. I read it to the Donor; he about peed his pants, too.

for a different kind of girl said...

I've been carting my 11 year old to his basketball games every Saturday and Sunday in the fall since he was in kindergarten. Every time, I have to turn to my husband and ask, "That's good, right? What they just did, that's good?". I have to hold back my desire to jump off the bleachers and hug my son when he sinks a basket and turns to find us in the crowd, his fist pumping in victory. I see this dream he has, and I want nothing more than to give him whatever I can to help him achieve it. It SO isn't just some lessons and pick up games here and there.

There's truly a lot of celebrating behind even the smallest victories.

Forever In School said...

I was thinking the exact same thing when I was watching the Olympics swimming yesterday. That how hard their parents have worked and how much they have sacrificed for these boys and girls and how proud they must be right now.

Mary Beth said...

Cannot believe I was stuck in traffic during that meet - have to try and find it on youtube tonight. And congratulations to Erin - one of the first things you need to lear is where the escape route is.

Mary Beth said...

sorry, that should be learn, not lear (as in King)

FishyGirl said...

I've been a big ol' blubbering emotional mess ever since the opening drum sequence of the opening ceremonies Friday night. My husband went to bed early last night and I am so glad I stayed up to watch. Amazing performance.

And now, it's quite another thing altogether to watch with my 8 year old daughter and almost 7 year old son and see that they GET it this year, they are inspired and get that they have the potential to do it themselves, if they want. It's a wonderful gift.

And go Erin! Knowing how to save yourself is the most important step.

Anonymous said...

I'm not even a parent and I couldn't help tearing up at that commercial. What a great relay!

Anonymous said...

Being a parent changes your outlook on so many things, it is absolutely amazing.
I cry weekly (and have seriously considered medication!) because my son will do or say something, so totally mundane, that any one else in the world could have said or done, but because it was my own child it gave me an epiphany of sorts. My kid could make a difference. My kid could be that swimmer or that scientist.
Either way, even if he isn't, it still is profound at the sense of pride and emotion that fills you as a parent over things that you've seen and done a thousand times before.
Thanks, that was a great post!

Ali said...

the olympics turn me into a blubbery mess, too.

i know how i feel while watching miss emily master her hip hop routine or how i feel when Josh kicks the soccer ball or how i feel when they both master their swim levels.

anna said...

When we watched that commercial, I elbowed my 11 year old son who hates it when I cheer for him during games and said, "See, even Olympic swimmers have to put up with their mother's cheering them on".

flybunny said...

My husband made a similar comment last night about how many miles his Mom must have driven him to the pool and the soccer field (the later becoming his profession) and how much he appreciated it.

All I was thinking about was how those guys must perpetually smell like chlorine - tell me who the woman is in our relationship?

greg said...

i had a similar talk with my 8-year-old last night when we were watching shawn johnson and the women's gymnastics and about how many times her parents have probably gone above and beyond the call of duty to get here where she is today.

Anonymous said...

I love LIFE moments like that. Great revelations.

kittenpie said...

Olympics always make me choke up - the drive, the passion, the pushing through the times of pain or lassitude. And yeah, that's for both the kid and the parent. It starts so early and never stops.

Robin said...

I watched it as well already knowing the outcome (friggin radio/internet home page!) but it still was a nail-biter and the best relay I've ever seen.

The emotion, feeling such pride of being an American, how I get goosebumps whenever I watch them accept gold then listen to the Nat'l Anthem..that's why I love the Olympics.

And yes, the look on the french swimmers' faces was so classic. They got what the deserved for being such pompous a-holes..

Anissa Mayhew said...

I was right there with you, sitting slack-jawed in tension and then trying not to yell "HELL YEAH!" so loud that I woke my sleeping kids. It was so exciting and I saw that same promo for the screamingest mom. I don't know that it makes me want to push my kids into being the BEST at everything, although I want them to try their best, but more that no matter how they did, I want them to know I was crazy proud, screaming in their corner.

Headless Mom said...

Awesome post, Shawn.

I'd give you an award, but I have none to give. Figures.

I guess you'll just have to settle for "Well Done!"

Undomestic Diva said...

Makes me want to take my kids for swimming lessons.

Sort of.

I saw the 1st Michael Phelps race also. Mesmerizing.

reneedesigns said...

It is amazing how much being a parent changes your view. I would have watched Michael Phelps any way. Its just amazing what he has done. But to hear him talk about his mom and what she has meant to him made me want to wake up my daughter for a hug.

KT said...

parenthood will definitely change your view on anything, when you least expect it. Your wife is a wise one!

Overflowing Brain said...

Very beautifully written.

I love the Olympics, but they have a tendency to make me think that I'm secretly also an excellent athlete. I want to try all these new sports now. Like I think maybe I'm actually really good with a saber. Probably.

caramama said...

It's been amazing for us also, how our perspective on everything has changed since having a child. It's amazing to think of these Olympic atheletes as someone's child.

Great post.

anymommy said...

I had to delurk made me cry with that ending. Very well written. It is weird to think about the athletes from their parent's perspectives.

Loralee Choate said...

Is there any dedication like that of a dedicated parent?

Nothing quite like it.

just beth said...

aw, good one. I stayed up too late, too, and drove my son to swim lessons AGAIN. And wept when they won.


(that was for micheal phelps)



Corina said...

The Olympics always make me cry. The shear determination, the overcoming of obstacles, the hard work, the pride, the realization of dreams. It is inspiring. It is gritty.

They remind me to take great pride in all of the little accomplishments that we make. It is through those little accomplishments that we have the potential to reach greatness.

Auds at Barking Mad said...

"I alternate between pride and anxiety: she can do things on her own, and I can cheer for her, but I also know that some of the challenges she faces in life could overwhelm her, because life is hard and it's easy to give up, some times. And sometimes it is harder to give up than to keep going, just like sometimes it is harder to get out of the pool than it is to sink into it and keep swimming."


That above quotes part of your post, hits home particularly hard for me right now as my eighteen year old daughter (wait, what happened, I'M NOT OLD ENOUGH to have a daughter that old!!) leaves for college in two weeks time.

College, a small private liberal arts college at that, will be such a culture shock for her and she's ready to jump into the deep end with both feet. And it's going to be hard, and sometimes she's going to feel like she's going under. I hope I've given her the tools to keep treading water and swim further than she ever has before.

Wow, this has caused such a swell of emotions to bubble up inside me...

Great post Shawn.

It was ALMOST even enough to get me watching the Summer Olympics...*lol*

Burgh Baby said...

Great post.

I think because I took figure skating lessons for a few years as a kid (feel free to laugh at that image), I have always been focused on how much work has gone into getting Olympians to where they are. Not just by the athletes, but also by the families. And I can't help but think of all the people who might have had even more potential to achieve, but didn't have an adequate support system or the financial ability to hang with it so many years. It's amazing.

For the record, it certainly doesn't hurt that Phelps has dreamy abs.

Momo Fali said...

Aw crap! Now I'M crying too.l

Redneck Mommy said...

I spent many hours at the local pool with Bug. Not to try and teach him to swim, but to help him overcome his sensory defensiveness.

It was a huge hurdle, an Olympic moment really, the first time I brought him into the pool and he didn't cling to me like a burr and scream blue murder.

I felt like my son had just won the gold medal for his country. I can only just imagine how proud and thrilled the parents of the athletes must feel.

Whether their child wins a medal or not.

Nice post, Mr. Sensitive.

Mel, A Dramatic Mommy said...

I watched that race and I couldn't stop smiling. Phelps' reaction was just like Brandi Chastain's when she whipped of her shirt on the soccer field: genuine, heart felt, adrenaline fueled and so full of pride.

Anonymous said...

I see things through those glasses now too.

DeuceMom said...

That was beautifully put. To the point that I teared up a little bit. (I'm a sad case when it comes to baby-achievement). I always loved swimming and could have been competitive, but was discouraged by my parents. I know people persevere in spite of that, but I didn't. I hope to be the mom that can be happy for their kid learning to get out of the pool. Thanks for sharing.

Backpacking Dad said...

holly at tropic of mom: truly

cog: word to your mother.

nancy: what does BMOC mean?

xbox4nappyrash: and apparently he couldn't sit still either.

melizzard: and how a parent is a being who changes everything.

moxy jane: and the 14 year old high diver kids? yikes.

mr lady: "the donor" cracked me the hell up.

FADKOG: what's basketball? get him playing hockey.

forever in school: I wonder if they get a nap now.

mary beth: seriously :}

fishygirl: now if only I could get her to float on her back instead of spazzing out.

meg: I know, and I've seen a few others like that too. There's a lot of parental love going on thanks to Johnson & Johnson this year.

me myself and jonna: thank you :}

ali: whoa. who said anything about "blubbery mess"? I just had something in my eye.

anna: and was he all "mom, if all the Olympic swimmers jumped off a bridge should I do it too?" :}

flybunny: tell that dude to man up and bake you a pie.

greg: word.

candlesintx: they sneak up on you like that.

kittenpie: the pride I see stretched out in front of me really keeps me going sometimes.

robin: well, in their defense they also broke the World Record :} But yeah, way to karma yourself right out of gold medal dude.

anissa mayhew: I totally screamed when they won. It was freaking amazing.

headless mom: I'll take it :}

undomestic diva: lessons? who needs lessons? throw them in the pool and they'll figure out how to do something. :}

reneedesigns: I have to physically restrain my wife sometimes to keep her from waking Erin up just to play.

kt: totally and completely wise.

overflowing brain: sabre is easy. just run at the other person and chop. It works about half the time.

caramama: and what am I doing? sitting around on my ass. Phelps has 11 Golds and he's like 7 or 8 years younger than I am.

anymommy: aw.

loralee: there also ain't no party like a Scranton party.

just beth: awesome :}

corina: I totally made it through breakfast without checking my Blackberry once. I'm waiting for my medal from my wife.

auds at barking mad: Give 'em a try :} And congratulations on the college-bound kid. I think I will be a wreck when that happens here.

burgh baby: the only abs we talk about around these parts are mine and Ryan Reynolds'. Which are exactly the same. :}

momo fali: lol. sorry. I didn't think it was quite that sappy a post :}

redneck mommy: thank you :}

mel, a dramatic mommy: yeah, that's exactly what it was.

that girl: I'm never taking mine off.

deucemom: thank you.

Whit said...

Very true. I've been thinking about similar stuff, like how I'd have to start my kids in something NOW to make the Olympics. That's crazy.