Ahem. Let it be known that I am declaring this 15th day of December in the year of our Lord 2013 as the date on which I am officially, unequivocally and quite proudly a "Swim Mom."
Sure, I've been half of the duo that's shuttled Kyle back and forth to swim (first lessons, then practices) since he was 3 years old. But it's only been very recently that I've actually felt like I am starting to get a handle on this whole water world. Well, sort of, anyway.
I initially enrolled Kyle in swim lessons because I did not want him to inherit his mother's fear of water. That's what I said this Swim Mum don't swim. It's a long story. But what began with "No, Mommy, I don't wanna!" has morphed into "I think I want to try to make it to Zones, Mom." Whoa! For those who may be unfamiliar, "Zones" refers to regional, age-level championships divided by geographic zone.
So, here are the "Top 10 Things I Wish I'd Have Known about Swimming - about 11 years ago":
10. You can relax about trying to find the subtle nuances distinguishing the "front crawl" from the "freestyle" stroke. It only took me about a year to figure out that they both mean the same thing.
9. "Short course" usually refers, in the competitive swimming world, to racing in a 25-meter pool, typically between September and March or April. Conversely, long course commonly refers to racing in a 50-meter pool, predominantly between April and August. See how that works?
8. Summer swimming is traditionally a less competitive animal, though it doesn't stop crazy swim parents from screaming their heads off like complete, blithering idiots. This I say from personal experience. And speaking of which
7. Swimmers cannot hear the screams of their parents, their friends, or even a sonic boom when they're in the thick of race. In fact, the only sound their ears hone in on during a heat is the unique, shrill and / or hideous noise their coach has individualized and trained them as the one to which to react. BTW, it will be an offensive, repulsive shriek, pop, snap, whistle or screech - you will be driven insane by it for the first season or so. After that, you find yourself a master at disseminating one coach from another based on their bark.
6. At some point, every kid misses a heat. Period. It usually happens when they're under the age of 11 (or so) and likely not more than once. I remember the meet at which it happened to Kyle. We'd have hammered him mercilessly except that it was clear from the look on his face nothing we said would have made him feel worse than he already did. Don't blow a gasket; it's a teaching moment.
5. Your child should be his own fiercest rival in the water. Help him / her not to get discouraged by someone else's record. As with running, swimming has the rarity of being a sport in which it's more about beating your own personal best than that of another. That being said, you always silently want him / her to swim the trunks off the competition.
4. Circling in is a big deal. Before your child is old and / or responsible enough to handle this task alone, accompany him / her. Missing an event because you failed to circle in is an avoidable tragedy. Don't let this happen to you.
3. Anchoring a relay in swimming is sort of like tending the goal in soccer. Whether or not it's fair or accurate, the team is pretty much looking at you once the event is over.
2. Swim may be one of the only circumstances under which you not only permit your child to write on him / herself with permanent marker, you will encourage it so as to ensure your kid knows what event, heat, lane and stroke he / she is competing in. Mastering this temporary tattooing of oneself helps lessen the likelihood of missing a heat (see No. 6). Some of us crazy moms even take the Sharpie to our own skin.
1. Swimming is the most fabulous sport in the world to watch because that's your baby out there in the pool. Few things in life will make you happier, more excited or more proud.
There you have it. Swim fast, Kyle!
Kimerer is a Tribune Chronicle columnist and the proudest swim mom this side of the Mississippi - better make that both sides. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.