We have been less than stellar parents. Mistakes a-plenty we have made. Most of the mistakes we’ve made were easy to correct, to sweep away. But every so often there comes a mistake that stings a little more than the others.
I shared a few posts back about our oldest and his first day of high school. How he came home and announced that he had signed up for the fall swim conditioning class. The class that the high school swimmers take before tryouts. The class for kids who are swimmers. Seriously swimmers. Real swimmers. Our son was neither.
And instead of praising him for taking matters into his own hands, challenging himself and trying something new, we freaked. We panicked. We doubted and questioned and doubted some more. We watched as the defeat began to swallow him up, tears starting to appear. We sucked at parenting more at that moment than we ever had in his 14 years. Our eyes met and we both knew we need to shut the hell up and let him go for it.
After a few weeks, he decided he didn’t just want to be in the fall swim conditioning class for P.E. credit. He wanted to try out. Try out for the swim team. We had low expectations but a shit ton of hope. We saw how badly he wanted this, wanted to be a part of a team. We found ourselves separately praying for God to give him a break. To just let this one little thing happen for him.
Our son was driving the bus on this whole swimming thing. He had been since day one. But during the fall, I continuously asked, “Shouldn’t you go practice? How’s practice going? How’s your time? Is it improving?” I didn’t want to come across anxious or bossy, but I also wanted to do whatever I could to help. And since I couldn’t get in the pool and actually swim the laps for him, all that left me with was nagging. That’s all a 14-year-old boy needs. His mother nagging at him.
The day of tryouts I woke up with a nervous stomach. He would have three opportunities to try out during the week. If he didn’t make his time, 200 meters in 3 minutes, the first day, then he would get another opportunity the next day, and the next. I told my friends that morning, “He’s gotta make it the first day. My stomach won’t make it all the way to day three.”
I knew the time of the tryouts. I tried not to hyper-focus on what was happening on the other side of town at the city’s aquatic center. Derek was just as nervous as I was, but I was close-to-tears nervous, so when it came time to pick him up for tryouts I sent my husband.
I waited. No phone call. I knew Derek had picked him up, but no phone call. No text. Nothing. My heart sank. He’s probably disappointed and doesn’t want to text.
Then the garage door went up. He was smiling ear to ear when he walked in the door.
“YOU MADE THE TEAM!!!” I yelled over the lump in my throat. I hugged him and avoided making eye contact with Derek knowing it would make us both start to cry. He told me he had killed it. Beat his best time by 12 seconds. First try. Done and done. He told us that the other kids that were there trying out were all yelling his name during his last lap, cheering him on. I thanked God I wasn’t there. As much as I would have loved to witness that in person, I would have been bawling like a baby, totally embarrassing my son that had just made the swim team.
When the order form came home to order his swim gear, I told him he could have whatever he wanted. I didn’t care what it cost. He had earned it. Except for the $135 parka. We discussed it and he agreed that he really didn’t need that expensive parka.
Because I had another plan. I was ordering it in secret to surprise him on Christmas morning. A few days before Christmas, the swim shop called to say they finally got the parka. When I arrived at the store and saw his name monogrammed on the front, I got choked up all over again.
I’m going to be a total mess at his first meet.