Tuesday, February 8, 2011

PostHeaderIcon Jenn: Growing Up is Hard to Do

When I was three-years-old, I took swimming lessons. I hated every minute of those lessons.  I remember the teacher like it was yesterday - he looked like Mark Spitz - teeny swimsuit and all.  He had a big bushy 70's mustache.  He was nice enough, I just didn't want to learn how to swim  I already knew how.  His job was to teach me how to swim properly - doing all the correct strokes, so my mother could rest assured that I was not going to drown while she was playing bridge.  So everyday we packed off to the Yacht Club - mom to her bridge or tennis game - me to swimming lessons.  I fought and fought and finally realizing I was going nowhere gave in and learned how to swim.  I was a good swimmer.  My brother and sister both swam competitively and so it was decided so should I. Except I didn't want to swim in races, I wanted to pretend I was a mermaid or play hairdo's or have tea parties under water.  Instead I practiced.  My first race, I was  4 years old. It was the 8 and under category and although I wasn't really much smaller than the 8 year olds, I was terrified.  I cried and cried and said I didn't want to do it.  My parents were not letting me off the hook so easily.  My dad promised me carvel if I swam the race. Carvel? That was an incentive.  We never went to carvel and I loved those chocolate bonnets. (That was back-in-the-day when McDonald's was something you did once a year - take out and eating out were unheard of.  Dinner always served when the lights came on.) So I swam in the race - and yep, I won.  Off to carvel we went - and that one race changed everything.  I had talent, I was a natural swimmer, I was good.  Except I didn't have the heart for it - it wasn't for me.  Didn't matter. I swam on teams year round.  I did like the camaraderie of all the other swimmers - we would see each other on the summer circuit or at races in the winter and try to best each others times.  We would cheer each other on even though we were on competing teams.   I went off to High School and then college as a "swimmer."  I quit swimming after my freshman year of College.  My parents were surprised.  They didn't understand.  It was never my dream.  My mother still tells me I could have been an Olympic swimmer. You can only live so much through someone before that person grows up and moves away. 

My kids show talents in lots of different ways.  The day they tell me they don't want to do it anymore, I say ok. When my son was old enough to realize that he was every bit as good as the coach's son at catching but didn't get played as much - he asked to quit. I told him he had to finish the season and then he didn't have to play next year.  We both knew he wasn't going to be a Yankee - but it was something he enjoyed doing.  He didn't enjoy the politics of it and neither did I.

Everyone should love the life they are living, even kids.  Everyone should be given a choice about how they spend their free time, even kids.  As long as they are involved in something - sports or academics or dance and not hanging out on the street corner, they are good in my book. They don't have to be the best - but they have to try their best.  They don't have to be on the swim team if they don't want to be or any team for that matter as long as they have a "something." Be it boy scouts or girls scouts, academic clubs or dance class - they each need something that they love - and so far I have been very lucky that my kids have found what makes them happy.

When Lu was five I signed her up for swimming lessons.  Some days she just didn't want to be there.  We stopped going.  She is a good enough swimmer to keep her safe and that is all I need.  I would love for her to play lacrosse - she doesn't want to.  She wants to dance and cheer - and as long as it makes her happy, it doesn't really matter what I want.  We can push our kids as much as we want.  They might grow up being a star athelete.  Then they will be grown and make their own choices. They may just choose to quit - don't be surprised.

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