“I want to make varsity by my junior year,” she says, “and I want to build my endurance and look my best by the end of the summer!”
“Sounds like a plan,” I respond absently, knowing in my heart that these are just words.
I am pessimistic of the plan coming to fruition, and certainly not because I don’t think she can achieve anything she puts her mind to, but because I know what it takes to make big things happen. It takes big effort. It takes consistent dedication, something that I, myself, struggle with at age 40. She is only 15. I want to run another half marathon this year. Hell, I just want to finish the 5k I’ve already signed up for next month, but so far, I’ve done nothing to work towards that goal except belly ache and feel sorry for myself that I couldn’t just bask in last year’s achievements. (Or worse, last night I drank wine and ate spoonfuls of Nutella right out of the jar because I was bitter about not hitting the treadmill like planned.)
It’s painful to see yourself in your children, in fact, it grieves me each time my daughter loses hope that her stated desires seem intangible because it is a pain I can relate, no matter how self-inflicted. There was a moment this week that I was reminded though that my job is to raise an adult, not a child, an adult equipped with the tools necessary to be who she wants to be. So I dropped her in the deep end.
“What were you thinking!” she gasped, realizing I had signed her up for a small, advanced swim team rather than her usual spring recreational team.
She has enjoyed the social time poolside, but hasn’t made much advancement in her strokes or endurance. I knew that pushing her out of her comfort zone, placing her in a focused group of kids all striving to be better high school swimmers, would force her to step-up her game. And I had no doubt that she could do the work.
“I was thinking that what you have been doing now will not get you to where you said you want to be tomorrow,” I responded.
Red-faced and tight-lipped, my daughter threw herself into the car. I couldn’t stop talking the whole way to the pool, yet she sat silent, arms crossed. In fact, at one point I think I saw a tear escape.
“I know this is scary,” I said, “but I also know you can do this. I believe in you.”
“Whatever,” she said, slamming the door behind her, leaving me alone.
There was about 15-minutes left of practice when I slipped into the spectator stands. Before taking a seat, I had a chance to speak to one of the coaches, who assured me that even though this was considerably more work than my daughter was used to, she was indeed keeping up. A little sore, but still moving. I was hopeful that I made the right decision. I watched my daughter glide through the water, stopping at the end of the lane to stretch her sore shoulders. The babble of gossiping girls and rowdy boys was missing, replaced by the hum of the generator and the rhythm of churning water. As soon as the team disappeared into the locker rooms, I headed back to the car.
My daughter slid into the seat next to me, hair wet, smelling of chlorine. The tenseness from two-hours earlier had subsided. Now she just seemed tired and relieved.
“It was really quiet in there,” I said driving off.
“Yeah,” she said, “It was kinda weird.”
We drove in silence for a few minutes.
“It was better than I thought,” she muttered, “I’m sure tomorrow will be even easier.”