Anyone who knows me or has read my blog for awhile knows I am a fan of Disney. Of all the Pixar movies that have been made to date, “Finding Nemo” is my favorite. I love the fact that they made a movie that centered around a kid with a disability, even if that kid was a fish. I love, also, how they gave many of the characters some sort of impairment – short term memory loss, allergies, addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder, etc., but that the film isn’t inherently about disabilities. I don’t have near enough time or space to delve into all the many reasons why I love the film, so I’ll just say this: one of the overarching themes of the movie is “just keep swimming”
Sometimes it’s good to have a kid who knows no limits. Sometimes it’s tough, though, to be the mom of that kid – the person that knows the reality of the limits. It’s tough to think in my head “I know she can’t do that. Should I let her try it anyway?” My typical instinct is to let her go for it, but just to be ready to pick up the pieces at the end. When it comes to physical challenges with Sarah Kate, I’ve taught her one thing – to finish strong. It is the motto she lives by when she attempts a foot race and when she goes to a swim meet. I’ve told her time and again that it doesn’t matter where you place, because as long as you finish strong, you will continue to best yourself.
Sarah Kate missed three weeks of swim practice in June, due to being in Birmingham for intensive physical therapy. We returned home on a Friday and there was a meet on Saturday – the GCAAL Junior Championships. Swimmers from all area teams were to compete, but there were maximum qualifying times in order to push the awards down to the swimmers who don’t usually get to shine (yes, that’s a fancy way of saying that it’s a meet for the slower kids). I wasn’t too sure how well she would do, but my friend Crystal and her kids had plans to come over (a 90-minute drive) to see her, so we were committed.
It was brutally hot. I now knew the swim mom drill, but we hadn’t yet invested in a tent to protect us from the sun. We arrived early enough to grab a table under an awning, and Sarah Kate headed to her warm-up. Coach Meredith worked with her on jumping into the pool (a new skill that her fabulous PT, Carrie, had helped her with during the three weeks of therapy) – already an improvement over the intrasquad meet where she started in the water.
The 25 yard backstroke event rolled around and we had a little pep talk. The heat wasn’t full, so she was starting in one of the middle lanes. No meltdown this time (progress!) Mr. Andi, Crystal and the kids, and I cheered and screamed, along with Coach Meredith who had run from the start block all the way around to provide encouragement. For a short time, I thought she might actually beat another girl in her heat, but she faded a little at the end and wasn’t able to pull it out. Coach Meredith shouted excitedly after seeing her time, however, that she had bested her previous time by 10 seconds, finishing in 1:16.32. I couldn’t contain my joy! A short time later she swam the 25 yard freestyle, and while she didn’t improve her time at all (actually lost a second), she did so much better than she had done previously because she swam the crawl the whole length (as opposed to interpreting freestyle as “free to get to the other end in any way you can, even if it is backstroke”).
Although she was still last in both of her events, Sarah Kate showed me at that second meet that she was capable of so much more in swimming than I had previously thought possible. She continued to “just keep swimming”, despite the obstacles, and shattered my low expectations. But the best was yet to come…