Last night, I took my fifteen year old daughter, Zoe, to a swim meeting, not to be confused with a swim meet.
In a swim meeting, the parents and kids sit in comfy chairs in an air conditioned conference room while the coaches explain how next year’s season is going to play out. It’s over in about twenty minutes.
In a swim meet, the parents sit on rock hard metal or wooden bleachers in a ginormous sauna where the humidity levels hover between JUST KILL ME NOW and JUST KILL ME FASTER while their kids swim or wait on deck to swim. It’s over in about three years, depending on how many heats your kid is swimming and whether or not someone throws you a lifesaver before you drown in your own personal ocean of sweat.
I remember when Zoe first started swimming competitively. It’s not as if she was born with fins or gills. Far from it. Swimming was simply a sport that Zoe wasn’t allergic to and considering she had already tried soccer, volleyball, gymnastics, dance, tennis, biking, skiing, snowboarding and running, and wound up hating them all, the proverbial well of sports from which to drink was quickly running dry. So swimming it was and lucky for us, the registration deadline had not yet expired since I remembered it on the morning of, and I had gas in my car.
Little did I know all that was involved with competitive swimming, like:
- Kids need five pairs of goggles immediately available at all times: #1 for swimming, #2 as a backup for when #1 breaks; #3 as a backup for when #2 is left in the locker room two counties over because when your kid is asked if she’s positive she has everything she came with, she translates that into DO YOU WANT PIZZA FOR DINNER and nods affirmatively; #4 as a backup for when #3 breaks because it was used as a slingshot while the kids were on deck and no one heard you scream STOP IT from across the aquatic center because the acoustics there suck; #5 as a backup for when your youngest child secretly absconds with #4 because her American Doll is swimming the 100 fly at the Olympics in the bathtub that weekend.
- Your kid only needs one team suit for meets, but there is no such thing as owning only one practice suit. She’ll need at least three of them: the original suit which is so frayed, worn and faded as to be nearly transparent; the second suit which is worn over the original lest the opposing team think she is creating a distraction by mooning or flashing them; and finally, an emergency third suit for when the first two spontaneously grow mold because someone left them in a big, wet, heaping pile under the laundry room sink the weekend before.
- Swim caps sprout feet and run away away when no one is looking.
- You must purchase a swim program at the start of a meet because otherwise you will not know which of the 952 heats your kid is swimming. Looking over the shoulder of the woman sitting in front of you is frowned upon and can get you a big, fat, dirty look which can either make you sob hysterically or yank out her pituitary gland, depending on how happy or sedated your hormones are at the moment. The program costs one arm and half a leg but it’s printed on glossy paper so you’re not allowed to complain.
- Of the 952 heats in the swim meet, your kid will swim two. This means you will sit in the bleachers for an average of five hours so that you can see your kid swim for approximately three minutes.
- Those five hours are just for the preliminaries. If your kid swims well, she will qualify for the finals which means you will sit on the bleachers for at least another three hours to see your kid swim for an additional 45 seconds.
- The official USA Swimming Board of Directors doesn’t give a rat’s ass how long your ass has been sitting on bleachers, or that your ass now violently hates your guts and is transmitting laser beams of white hot pain to those guts via your spinal cord. They simply don’t care. Hence, they have deemed it to be a violation of their rules and regulations to sprint down twenty rows of bleachers while shrieking HAVE YOU LOST YOUR FRIGGING MIND? KISS MY EVER LOVIN’ NUMB BUTT, YOU INCOMPETENT BLOODY MORON and body slam the official who, after an eight hour swim meet, just disqualified your daughter in the finals.
- It’s also against their rules and regulations to rip the whistle from around an official’s neck and perform a colonoscopy on him with it. I know, it doesn’t seem fair, does it? But I double checked this one, just to be sure.
- The amount of non-refundable money you spend on dues, fees, equipment and the like, which can approximate the gross national product of a small third world country, is directly proportionate to the amount of swim time she will miss due to injuries sustained by (1) slamming her hand into the lane line resulting in a loss of two weeks due to a broken knuckle; (2) slamming her elbow on the car door while flinging her swim bag in the back seat, resulting in a loss of four weeks due to a bruised elbow; (3) slamming her head into the opposite wall while swimming with her eyes shut because her goggles slipped off her face, resulting in a loss of two days due to a whopper of a headache; (4) slamming her right ankle against the edge of the pool because she slipped while trying to get out, resulting in a loss of two weeks due to a bruised ankle bone; (5) slamming her foot against the gymnasium floor while playing frisbee golf, resulting in a loss of three months due to a badly sprained left ankle; (6) slamming her ass against the cafeteria floor because she and her friend spontaneously morphed into idiots and pulled the chairs out from under one another, resulting in a loss of eight months (and counting) due to a broken tailbone and herniated disc.
I have no idea whether Zoe will have sufficiently recovered from her tailbone and disc fiasco to actually swim come August. She literally hasn’t been able to bend over since last October and since it’s a little difficult to dive off the block or execute a flip turn without bending her torso a little, I’m not exactly brimming with expectation.
If Zoe can’t swim, my heart will break a little for her because I know that she’ll be disappointed not to be part of something and to miss out on ribbons and medals and the general fun and camaraderie that is a swim team.
My ass, on the other hand? It will be busy draping itself in a silver lining and celebrating until the cows come home.