Thursday, June 25, 2015

Helping Kids Not to Quit


This summer, my daughter asked to join the local swim team. My husband and I were so excited, and we didn't push her to sign up. We were none too happy when she asked, and excited to support her and cheer her on. 

However, for all of us, we had no idea what joining the swim team really entailed. 

It wasn't until my husband and I sat down with our calendars after we signed up, paid and committed that we realized that swim practice included "intense" Monday through Friday afternoon practices starting in early June when school was still in session for nearly two months, with "A" and "B" meets (home and away) all in one week. 

Daniel and I looked at each other and wondered, "what did we sign up for..swim boot camp?"

Now, don't get me wrong. I love to swim and Sarah has been in the water since she was an infant and loves it. We knew that Sarah's idea of swimming was frolicking in the water, learning some strokes, playing games, and doing somersaults. Nowhere in her head did she envision laps, after laps, after laps.

We don't think she, nor we, planned for what would happen on the first day of practice, and moving forward. The coach was, and is, tough, and despite getting glowing reviews from so many member parents, we struggled through Sarah's first practice, grinning and baring it as she swam 25 meters, and then 50, then 100 and more. All we could think of was that Sarah's little arms must be so tired and that this was a lot for a kid her age.  

After that, you will not be surprised to hear that Sarah wanted to quit on the first day.

In my head I thought, "what am I doing pushing her to stay involved?"  I thought, "this was nuts to encourage her to do this when she just was so unhappy, and tired."

I felt terrible. I felt like an inadequate parent.

There were moments where I wanted to grab Sarah, and let her cry, which she did anyway that first day and a few more after that, and tell her that she can quit.

I was really stuck between a rock and a hard place. I wanted so much to be part of the swim mom "club" and to cheer on my daughter as much as everyone else. However, after that first swim practice, Sarah always asked, "is practice cancelled" and I wondered if we should proceed. She would get upset when we said it didn't get cancelled, even on days when the weather may have been questionable. 

Once Sarah learned the backstroke, we thought maybe there might be a change in her disposition, as it was a stroke she had not really done before, and was nailing it and seemed happy, as were we.

As parents, we want to encourage our children to strive for more...and for them not to quit and see things through. Despite many conversations that swimming on the team is not about winning but instead growing as a swimmer, she didn't seem to change her thinking. What is also so very hard is that sometimes after practice she is glowing and smiling because she did so incredibly well. The same was true for her first big swim meet.  

Oh, it's so confusing. We want to encourage our child to strive and excel. But, at what cost? We don't want her to hate us for pushing her into something that maybe we were not fully prepared for, and to give up too easily in the future when things in life are hard.

We can't all be Tchaikovsky when we first sit at the piano or van Gogh when we want to paint a masterpiece, or the 2012 Olympian for backstroke Missy Franklin, without training, passion, enthusiasm, and a little pushing. 

Sarah knows that she is continuing with swim this season and we hope that by the end she sees the lesson we have been trying to teach her, and for her to be proud of the already accomplished swimmer she has become. She has come leaps and bounds in the pool and we are so incredibly amazed at what she has accomplished in such a short time.


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