The start of swim season

Just as school is winding down, swim season is ramping up.

The swim team is exhausting and all-consuming, but I honestly love it. Three years ago I submitted to the rigorous swim team schedule, and after one season we were a bonafide swim family. I love the social aspect for the kids AND for me, I love spending the bulk of every single day outside (and screen free!), I love how swim has made my already-strong swimmers into very very strong swimmers, and man oh man do I love that snack bar. Plus, have you seen a bunch of elementary school kids in swim caps and goggles? It is SO CUTE.

This year, for some reason, I really wanted all four of my kids to be on the team. What’s the only thing better than three swim practice times? FOUR swim practice times!

If Anna joined swim team, she’d be our family’s youngest swimmer (Thomas started at age 7). We got excited about the idea because she’s just such a great swimmer, and she loves swimming. It seemed like a no-brainer.

Before Anna can join swim team she has to pass an evaluation. For her age, all she has to do is swim the length of a 25 yard pool without touching the bottom.

Anna can swim easily 25 yards with her arms tied behind her back while singing the Bluey theme song in Greek. But swimming 25 yards while the swim coach looks on? Different story.

She bailed her first attempt, then several weeks later we tried again. Even after assuring me that “swim team looks fun!” and “I wish I was on swim team” and “all I have to do is swim once?” when we got to the pool she changed her mind.

After a lot of talking and preparing, Anna finally got in the water and took off. She started so strong that I ALMOST texted Tom that we were home free, but suddenly something shifted in her vision and she decided she couldn’t make it.

Not even with encouragement from Mom that she could do it, or the coach telling her she could slow down and take her time, not even with Mary swimming beside her shouting affirmations — Anna just wasn’t having it. She swam to the side, tears streaming down her face, and told me she was done swimming forever.

We stayed at the pool for a while because I had to get the other kids measured for their team suits, and I rolled the situation around in my head. This isn’t a matter of me being upset with her performance or forcing her to do something she just couldn’t do. Anna CAN swim across the pool. I’ve seen her do it! She had some sort of block; some sort of stage fright or performance anxiety.

I decided she just needed a little incentive. So I started rolling out the goods. Do you want ice cream? Something from the snack bar? A Ring Pop? A toy? She didn’t want any of it.

I leaned down and looked Anna in the eye and, ignoring everything I know about parenting, I said, “Anna, what do you want?”

“What do you mean?” she replied.

“I mean, I’ll give you anything you want if you will swim across that pool.”

Anna still didn’t quite understand, but my other kids did immediately.

Thomas got in her face, “ANNA! ANNA! Say you want McDonald’s! For all of us!”

“Chick-fil-A Anna! Tell Mom you want Chick-fil-A AND ice cream!” Mary suggested.

Anna, still a little confused, cocks her head to the side and looks at me, “How about a Ring Pop?” she asks.

“Yes, I tell her. I will get you a Ring Pop if you swim across the pool.

Thomas looked at me, wide-eyed, incredulous that Anna threw away this opportunity. A RING POP!??!?! Anna! This was your chance! Ask for that stuffie mom said no to! A pony! Score us another trip to Universal! TAYLOR SWIFT IS LITERALLY ON TOUR RIGHT NOW!!!!!

A few hours later, when the hullabahoo calmed down a little, Anna got in the pool and swam across all on her own.

When she finished, she looked at me and said “Mom, I’m so proud of myself.”

And then, even before I could scoop her into a hug and tell her that I was also just so so so proud of her, she asked, “Now can I have my Ring Pop?”

But she couldn’t. The snack bar was closed, and there was nothing I could do about it.

I carried my disappointed little swimmer out to the van and promised her that tomorrow, first thing, I would get her a Ring Pop.

The next day at 6 a.m. Anna’s head popped over my mattress and she whispered “Mom. Now can we go get my Ring Pop?”

I held her off just long enough for her to go to preschool. Then, as promised, I went to three (that’s right! Count ’em! Three! One, two, three!) different stores before I could find one with Ring Pops.

And after all that, we’ve decided we’re going to wait a year. Anna doesn’t want to be on the swim team, so this year she’ll cheer for her siblings and friends from the side of the pool, exactly where she wants to be.

We’ll probably try again next year. She’ll be older and even more confident in the pool.

And me? I’ll have my cache of Ring Pops ready.

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