Flashback: Intrasquad Swim Meet – June 2010
Mr. Andi and I reluctantly allowed Sarah Kate to sign up for swim team, believing it would be, at worst, good exercise and a little extra therapy for her cerebral palsy. Despite a rough start, she decided on the day of the intrasquad meet that she wanted to compete. We arrived at the meet, infant Nathan in tow, without a chair or snacks, and with zero cash (I had no clue how the whole swim meet thing worked and it showed).
More distressing than being completely clueless was the fact that Sarah Kate had a meltdown when she learned she was not going to be swimming in the lane next to the wall (you know, so she could grab it when she got tired). However, she overcame the meltdown (following a last-minute lane change – thank you, Coach Hudson!) and went on to swim the 25 backstroke and 25 freestyle, with times of 1:26.38 and 1:34.89, respectively. Last by, well, a LOT, but she finished on her own without having to be rescued, so we considered it a victory.
Fast Forward: Intrasquad Swim Meet – June 2011
I brought camp chairs and money to buy snacks. I procured a heat sheet, circled her events, and wrote the information in chart form on her hand. I reassured my dad and stepmom, who were attending their first meet, that Sarah Kate was, indeed, not in danger of drowning during the warm-up. I helped new swim moms get acclimated. I gave Sarah Kate a quick pep talk before her heat and reminded her of our motto: Finish Strong. I sent her around the pool to the clerk of course instead of holding her hand and personally dropping her off. I determined that I was now a pro at the swim meet gig.
Sarah Kate’s first event, as in 2010, was the 25 yard backstroke. With a seed time of 1:16.32, she was in lane 2, heat 3 of 4 (not because she is fast, obviously, but because over half the kids were new and didn’t have seed times). She looked relaxed and ready, and I was confident that she’d break a minute – possibly even beat 50 seconds – if she pushed. I prepped my camera for action shots for my 365 project.
As she swam, I yelled and screamed and snapped off numerous shots that mostly looked terrible when I viewed them later. I checked the clock at the midway point – 20 seconds – and thought to myself “there’s no way she can keep this up.” Her coach, who was also her P.E. teacher for two years and is the one who encouraged us to sign her up for swim team, was standing nearby watching the heat. As soon as Sarah Kate’s hand touched the wall, I checked the clock.
I was ecstatic! Coach Hudson was ecstatic! For a typical swimmer, 40 seconds is nothing to write home about, but for us it was HUGE! She was still last in her heat, but not overall – there were two girls in her age group who were slower, and three others who DQ’d. She was beaming pride, and as an added bonus, the girl giving out free coupons for snacks to the heat winners handed her one as she emerged from the pool (I’m assuming the coach had a hand in that).
As for me, I wasn’t just proud of her time, but happy to be Just Another Swim Mom instead of The Mom of That Kid That Can’t Walk Well. Unlike one year earlier, I didn’t feel panicky that she might not be able to make it to the end. I didn’t feel like she was so painfully slow that everyone in the building was gawking at us. I didn’t see people looking at her and feeling sorry for her. She was just a regular kid, and I was just a regular mom.
Except, of course, that we weren’t. To outsiders, we looked “regular,” but the joy and pride we felt was anything but ordinary. A year earlier, 40 seconds would have seemed like a pipe dream to us.