Since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to have a family of my own. Despite growing up in a house that was also the home of a daycare, you would think that would deter me from spending a bulk of my life surrounded by children but not even that experience could change my mind. Growing up as basically an only child and longing for a sibling to share experiences with, I knew that I wanted to have a big family–I wanted my children to grow up having a support system. I knew this endeavor would be difficult but never did I imagine to what magnitude. Parenting is hard and not for the stereotypical reasons–the nonstop crying as babies and the sleepless nights. There is an unbelievably important responsibility to shape young minds into smart, good, confident individuals that will contribute to society in a beneficial way. That right there is the hard part of parenting. There are a tremendous number of shortcuts made available to make parenting easy but I didn’t become a parent to put all of this on autopilot. My life would be a thousand times easier if I granted you full access to the pantry and left cartoons on all day but apparently I’m a masochist because I tend to avoid these things. Why would I rather listen to you two whine about being bored and hungry all the live long day? Because parenting is a form of torture. It’s my job to push you two to the limits in hopes that you rise out of childhood stronger and smarter. If all this doesn’t go to plan, I’m going to really be pissed.
I warn you now, think long and hard when you contemplate whether to have a family of your own. It’s not a decision to be taken lightly nor should it be something that you feel you should do because having a family is part of the “normal” process. Despite the difficulty thus far and the sheer exhaustion I feel on a daily basis, I still feel my decision was the right one. I couldn’t imagine my life without you two. Even though your brother is the ultimate handful, I can’t imagine our lives without that little migraine. I bring this up now because with parenting, I’m always looking for that sweet spot–the time when things are easy-breezy with you and your brother but I’m discovering that there may not be such a thing. Problems are simply exchanged for other problems. You have had your fair share of problems but we have since moved on from those and now we’re dealing with some anxious and bossy behavior. Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly grateful that neither you or Miles have had health problems and most of the problems we’ve dealt with so far have been somewhat manageable and hopefully typical for children your age. I like to think that we’re only dealt the things in life we can handle. I’m pretty sure I would have an emotional breakdown if I had to deal with much more.
We’re in the thick of summer and I’m sure a great deal of this less than desirable behavior is due in large part to the unruly and wild days that encompass this cherished time of the year. Your routine is basically wake up, swim, eat, torment your brother, sometimes swim again, eat and torment your brother some more. These are your days and perhaps my attempt to allow you to have a relaxed summer is causing you some anxiety. Perhaps you are the child that needs to be stimulated a bit more but I’m not a clown nor is my job to entertain you every waking moment of the day. I never really understood the full unadulterated joy of the first day of school but I have a feeling I will come next month.
As I mentioned earlier, every day is spent at the pool. I was worried when I signed you up for swim team that the schedule might be too intense for you given that you have never spent so much time in the water but you are enjoying yourself quite a bit. You have really embraced the culture and the demands placed on you and I’m thrilled to see you engaging in an activity and finally having the confidence to engage with the other children. You’re certainly not the fastest swimmer and a lot of the time, you come in last during your races but you are having so much fun. Word has gotten out about you because I have had parents come up to me to say that they had to watch you race because they heard how adorable you looked while swimming. When you race and you see us at the sidelines jumping up and down and making weird kicking motions with our hands and screaming your name, you smile at the sight of us. Every time your face comes up for air, we see the huge smile on your face. You could be dying from attempting to complete a full lap of butterfly but there you are, strokes from the end with barely a breath left in you and there you are with the best and biggest smile. That right there means everything to me. I would love for you to be the fastest and best swimmer there is but if you’re not and you’re at least having fun and loving what you’re doing, that’s all that matters to me.
You’re not incredibly aggressive nor competitive with the exception of when you’re with Miles so this entire swimming experience thus far has been very foreign for you. You swim at one speed which is mosey and as much as we talk to you about racing and even show you the other swimmers during their races, you simply can’t quite grasp the notion of competition. Six weeks in and we’re starting to see a light bulb go off. You’re now aware that the other swimmers are trying to beat you but now that you’re aware, you spend most of the race looking at the other swimmers to see where they are in relation to you. Unfortunately, the trend of over rewarding children is still in full effect and a ribbon is given for every race you participate in but we have made the decision to withhold these ribbons unless you place in the top three. How else are we supposed to teach you about rewards when you’re rewarded for basically not drowning in the pool?
You would think that since you spend every morning in the water that you would be sick of swimming but there have been many afternoons where you will ask me if we can go swimming together. I adore swimming and will never turn down an opportunity to do so, so of course I oblige and away we go. Miles is still very much comfortable on land and prefers to stay as far away from water as humanly possible so usually these outings are just the two of us. I try to use this time to help you improve on your strokes but I understand that you would rather eat rice pilaf than receive advice from me so I try to be mindful of that. I really enjoy sharing this activity with you and I’m incredibly delighted that you love it as much as I do. Whether you continue to compete in swimming in years to come is completely up to you but I definitely want you to participate in some kind of physical activity. There are too many things these days that make it far too easy to keep you sedentary and I refuse to let you live life from the couch.
One of the difficult things we’ve been dealing with is your anxious behavior. You’ve always been somewhat hesitant when it comes to meeting new people and I’ve noticed it becoming almost downright crippling for you. I have watched you so desperately want to be a part of a group of kids and I have watched you try to muster up the confidence to approach them only to see you succumb to your fears and run back to your seat. At one particular swim meet, you watched from afar, your teammates running around and laughing. You asked me if you could go and say hello. Of course! I watched you walk very slowly towards them as you nervously stroked the hair that fell in to your face. The girls, aware that they’re being intensely watched by a girl stroking her hair frantically, stood and engaged in what seemed to be some kind of stare-off. When it was apparent that the group of girls were not going to break off their stare, you ran back to me and claimed you would talk to them later. I refused to watch you agonize over this so I physically removed you from our spot and pushed you in to their sitting area and voila, you now have six brand new friends. I understand it can be incredibly scary to meet new people. I’m a self proclaimed introvert so believe me when I tell you that I understand completely but what you don’t understand is it becomes a thousand times harder as you get older. You must do it now before you really feel the sting of rejection.
Thankfully, your swim team introduced a buddy system that pairs up the younger swimmers with the older and more established swimmers. Your buddy is a twelve year old girl named Alyssa and you absolutely adore her. She always comes by to say hello and to offer you encouraging words before you race. She always makes an effort to be at the end of the lane so that you can hear her cheering for you. I actually think you stay above water a little bit longer than necessary so that you can look for her and make sure she’s there. It’s incredibly sweet how much you adore her and it makes me a little sad that you don’t have an older sister because I really think that would have been a seriously special relationship for you.
With the introduction of competition and all the new people you are meeting, there has definitely been a wave of anxiety that has attacked you. I can definitely tell when you’re experiencing anxiety because you act very strange. In fact, there have been times that you acted so bizarre that I’m sure people think you may have a disability of some kind. When you’re anxious, you typically blurt out random phrases or strange sounds. Before one particular race, we were sitting with a couple other swimmers and their parents and you decided to blurt out in a strange British accent, I’M ON THE SWIM TEAM–GAH, GAH, GAH!!! I would like to say this was an isolated incident but sadly, that is not true. Your outbursts continued for the duration of our visit and I’m very certain you made everyone more uncomfortable than swamp ass. I can tell you’re becoming anxious much the same way you can tell when an animal is anxious as they begin to pace in the back of the car as they realize they’re turning in to the veterinarian’s parking lot. I actually found myself asking you not to be weird. Not my finest parenting moment and I have since realized that this is probably the least effective thing for me to say. This is when that tricky parenting business comes in to play because I have to somehow teach you that the emotions you are feeling are perfectly normal while teaching you how to work through your anxiety. I’m supposed to be some kind of expert because I’m Momma but really, I haven’t got a clue. I remember experiencing anxiety in school and instead of blurting out random noises, I would just cry. Apparently the crazy genes are strong in this area.
Next month you will be in Kindergarten and unfortunately due to very boring and not fun at all adult problems, where you will go to school is still to be decided. If I can add just a few words of advice here, stay young for as long as you can because aside from staying up as late as you want, driving and being allowed to consume alcohol, being an adult stinks. Responsibilities stink and the pressure is even more intense when children are added to the equation. I had children because I wanted to bring children in to the world that will hopefully make a difference one day. I want to give you and Miles the best opportunities I can and sometimes the decisions dad and I have to make are really really hard. We’ll sort out the school situation soon and know what ever decision we make, we didn’t make it lightly. Enjoy the rest of your summer. Swim until you grow gills, eat as many Popsicles as you can stomach, feel the flutter in your stomach when you receive a kiss from someone special (hint: new neighbor). Parenting is hard but it’s also incredibly rewarding. The hardships we deal with are miniscule in comparison with the struggles other people go through. I’m sure a great deal of my words may fall on deaf ears because children have an innate ability to hear only what they want to hear but if you take away anything, just enjoy being a kid. Save the anxiety for later. Believe me, you will have plenty of time for that. I will do everything in my power to give you the childhood you deserve as long as you promise me that you’ll relish it. I predict that will be one of the best deals you will ever hear. Believe me.