Here we are: The start of swim meet season - that time of year when many kids are perfecting their breaststrokes in weekday practices and prepping for weekly swim meets that seem to run about 102 hours each.
I signed up for this, I know. Rather, I signed my younger daughter up for this at her request. And I compare my decision to let her participate to childbirth. For some of us, me included, childbirth wasn't the most pleasant experience in the world, but it resulted in a beautiful thing: A baby. After a bit of cuddling and a year (or four, in my case), you forget all about the pain and the aftermath and get pregnant with another.
Maybe that's one reason why they don't have sign ups for swim team in August. Parents would still be in swim meet recovery mode, bleary eyed from never-ending meets and achy from lugging around massive pool bags, coolers, chairs and blankets to meets.
Instead, sign ups come in the spring when it seems like a great idea. It's just another part of summer like Popsicles and lightening bugs and long, hot days. Of course we'd sign up! Let's do this!
And then I started cleaning out our family's pool bag and uncover the evidence of past seasons - the random black Sharpie, the old swim caps, a smashed granola bar, the box of dried up raisins. And then I remembered ...
Here are five questions I'm asking myself at the start of swim season ...
What's the weather?
Every day that my daughter has swim practice, I'm checking the weather, but especially on swim meet days. Will it rain? Could it thunder? It's sunny now, but surely those clouds are rolling in? What color are the clouds? What's the radar? Even when it's blue skies above, I'm refreshing that forecast. Why do I care? A little rumble, for good reasons, shuts down a pool for a period of time. And that temporary shutdown can prolong a swim meet as pool officials decide whether to continue after the storm (leading to those 102-hour meets) or move it to another night (and make for two hot, late summer nights).
Before or after sunscreen?
Every kid swimming in a meet needs to have their swimmer number written vertically on both arms. It's written in black Sharpie (thus the random Sharpie in my pool bag). My problem: My daughter's numbers always are smudged from just moments after I write them. Why? I don't know. I do what I'm told: Write the numbers on her arm BEFORE applying sunscreen or getting in the pool. But, each time, I fail. Each time, those numbers are half way down her arm. Meanwhile, other kids have entire underwater scenes, worthy of framing, drawn in Sharpie, on their backs. I just don't understand ...
Can you exist on Airheads Xtremes Sour Belts?
I'm pretty sure the answer should be, "no," but my seven-year-old is making a great attempt. In past years, I'd pack up a cooler of healthy foods - veggies, fruit, homemade salads, cheese, crackers and more. My kids? They were drawn to the pool's grill, which, I'll admit, has some pretty tasty cheeseburgers; the snack bar with those Airheads Xtremes; and the bake sale, which appears at most pools on swim team nights for fundraising. I'm still packing some fruit and veggies in a cooler, but I'm pretty much the only one tucking into them these days.
Is there really another load of laundry?
The laundry pile is the bane of my existence all year. But, during pool and swim meet season, it seems to multiply on its own - and we don't even wash our pool towels every day. Now, my laundry room smells like we actually brought the pool into my house and there's a permanent pile of towels that needed to be either washed, moved to the dryer or folded (or, rather, stuck back in the pool bag).
Why did I do this?
It's a good question, but, the answer is easy: Because my daughter loves it. She loves working together with her team. She loves the team cheers and the competition. She loves beating her personal records. She loves living it up on bake sale brownies and cheeseburgers. And I love watching her have a great time.
So, for those of you who are parents of year-round swimmers, you already know the drill. My hats off to you. Please, bear with me. I'll get used to it - about six weeks from now when the season ends.
Sarah is the mom of two and editor of Go Ask Mom.