Tuesday, June 11, 2013


When Liam's homeschool swim club announced they would be having a swim meet for anyone who wanted to participate, I thought for sure Liam would opt out. He's mentioned on more than one occasion that he's "the slowest swimmer in class" and has rarely, if ever, jumped at the chance to compete. Competing in a race he knows he won't win? No chance.

Since I assumed he wouldn't have any interest, I almost didn't even bother telling him about it. Imagine my surprise when I happened to mention it one day and he ran to put it on his calendar.

Leading up to the meet, I must have reminded him a dozen times that it was voluntary. "You don't have to compete at the swim meet if you don't want to, you know."

"I know, Mama. I WANT to."

"Do you think it will bother you if you come in last?"

"I don't care about that. I always do my best and have fun. That's all that matters."

Still. On the day of the meet I was a little nervous for him. I know it's hard to be the slowest - it's not like his lack of athleticism came out of nowhere - and I didn't want his first semi-competitive moment to be a bust. I thought we had all made peace with him not being an athlete years ago. Why was he forcing himself out of his our comfort zone?

As soon as the first heat started, all of my fears and misgivings went away. This is such a great group of kids (and parents). If the kids weren't in the pool, they were running along side it cheering on their friends. Even if the "race" went on and on and on people kept cheering until the end.

Nobody cared if we weren't a bunch of junior Olympians. Not the kids, not the parents, not the coach. In fact, the only time I heard anyone even mention winning was when Liam came in first in the 25 meter breast stroke.

As soon as his pruney little fingers touched the wall, he popped his head out of the water, pulled his huge mask off of his face and looked around, gasping, "Wait. I'm first? Seriously?!"

"Well," I said, high-fiving him. "You did finish first but you accidentally did the wrong stroke. You were supposed to do breast stroke but you did freestyle. It was still awesome though!"

"Ohhhh," he said, watching the other swimmer finish. "That's why everyone was yelling my name. I thought they were just cheering me on."

Bless his heart.

They were cheering for him though. We all were. But especially me. Because he really did swim a great race. Seriously! All this time I had believed him that he was just doing his best and having fun but he's also been getting really good. He swam like a real swimmer. In a swim meet! I couldn't have been more proud if I tried.

The next morning he had karate, the other sport he's been doing his best at and having fun with for quite some time. Unlike some of the other kids who show up early and practice in the hall and look like they could seriously kick some butt, I half suspect Liam's favorite part of karate is getting to stand in front of the big mirror. Which I totally get (hello, dance class). Since he's seven and will probably never have to defend himself against any ninjas, I really don't care how good he gets. As long as he's having fun and wants to keep going, I will keep taking him.

I usually have Finn with me when we go so I don't get to watch much of his class. But on this particular Saturday, it was just me and Liam so I was able to really see him. I couldn't believe it. My kid was actually kind of good! He's always known all of the moves (he has a black belt in memory) but now they were starting to look...strong. Like he was doing more than just going through the motions. I was very impressed.

I also felt like a jerk. Why, of all people, was I surprised that my child was improving at something he's been working on for two years? Had I really not realized he was capable of change?

Of course he's different than he used to be - we ALL are! If I was able to miss it in a child who is obviously growing (I've got the basement full of too-small clothes to prove it), chances are I was missing it in other people as well.

It's so easy to believe the stories we keep telling ourselves - that we're shy or our child is bad at math or our husband's always late - but how much of it is really true? If we were to step back and take a fresh look at our children, our friends, our families, our selves, what would we really see? I think we might be completely blown away.

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