I've long been skeptical of youth sports with their long Saturdays, evening practices, expensive entry fees, and my children's extreme aversion to competition of all kinds. A brief history of our experience in this area includes everything from dramatic tantrums to having to ask the refs to not use whistles to LOTS AND BUNCHES of picking flowers in the outfield, the midfield, and along the sidelines. But Charley is nearly twelve and has had such a good year, I thought it might be time to give it just one more shot. So I signed the three boys up for summer swim team and then proceeded to lose sleep over the decision for the next two months.
The first month of practices went surprisingly well, as did the first couple of meets. I couldn't believe how much I was enjoying sitting in a tentful of nine year old boys for entire Saturdays, arriving before dawn and staying until the heat index reached a hundred and five. The kids have been cheerful and eager participants in meets and practices and Charley once wore a whistle on a lanyard around all day "like my coach." MY COACH. From the kid who spends his free time drawing incredibly subtle and biting political cartoons.
I am incredibly proud of their hard work and good sportsmanship, not to mention flexibility and patience with themselves.
It has gone SO WELL in a way I was not expecting and I give a lot of credit to their coach, who they ADORE.
And all the assistant coaches, who are super heroes who gently tell kids "Hey buddy, why don't you go potty before you get up on the blocks next time so you don't have another accident (*ahem* for instance *ahem*).
My expectations were not that high, considering they learned about all of this like a month ago and I still keep accidentally calling practice "rehearsal", but COLOR ME SURPRISED when last week they got SIX time improvement ribbons. And then this week, Charley was named Swimmer of the Week! He got a special red swim cap to wear all week and a kicky sign for the front yard. YOUTH SPORTS 4LYFE!
And during our meet on Saturday, during which I continued my habit of internally eye-rolling at every goofy thing the parents yell on the sidelines to their kids, whose heads are underwater most of the time, Charley was midway through the pack for his twenty five free, which I thought was amazing. Until the last five yards when he pulled away AND WON THE FREAKING HEAT. I know that Ryan and I both realized what was happening at the same moment because both of us dropped our self-conscious "Come on buddy! Doing great!" and went straight for the indecipherable grunting, screaming, and loud swearing.
My nose instantly started running as I strained not to cry and my hands were shaking uncontrollably. Charley could barely speak when he got out of the pool, partly because he had just swam his fastest and also because I was squeezing him like a boa constrictor.
For the record, he played it totally cool like "OMG guys, let's act like this is a regular thing, OK??"
Ryan said he wanted to group text everyone on his contacts list and say "My kid is good at a SPORT."
But the thing is, for us, this is SO NOT A REGULAR THING. As absolutely smart and capable as my kids are (brilliant in my biased opinion), we as a family have always struggled with being successful at the regular kid stuff, like soccer and academics and leaving a Wendy's without a floor-kicking meltdown. As I always like to say, usually tongue-in-cheek, but it is a good personal motto all the same, "We are good at other things," like drawing political cartoons, family sing-a-longs, well-placed but kind of inappropriate sarcasm, the way Wes wears two entire outfits to church (one casual, one nice) so he can rip off his button down and khakis the moment the organ plays the last note of the benediction, Hamilton references, and dealing with big feelings in public while not giving a shit what everyone else thinks.
This has been a good place for us to be for many years and we have some great friends who love all of us in spite of our lack of pop culture awareness, random bouts of singing, occasional comically out of control tantrums, and that one time when Wes fell asleep on the kitchen floor in the middle of eating a hot dog.
I know from all our years of kid therapy that this word is a no-no, but IT FEELS REALLY GOOD TO DO SOMETHING NORMAL.
It's like in college, when my parents gave me a gorgeous and on-trend (at the time) black pea coat for Christmas. I wore it all winter, usually with my boot cut jeans, and RELISHED the feeling of looking like everyone else as I walked around campus. It was like my super hero disguise. On the outside I look like ALL OF YOU! But on the inside I'm a coffee-swilling, MATLAB loving, hymn-singing in the shower, SUPER NERD (I am still this person, only now my disguise is black skinny jeans, OH HOW I LOVE THEE BLACK SKINNY JEANS).
Charley is still the lovable, slightly offbeat goofball he's always been, which is wonderful. But as he said "Lots of kids talk about playing sports at school, it would be cool to have something to talk about. Maybe this is my sport?" I just love him.