I’ve kind of dreaded writing this post. Especially because just three days ago, I posted the feature picture on this blog post. I wrote positive words and it had a go get it attitude. But today I have to let go of some of what I said and even retract a couple words. No one ever likes to be wrong and when it comes to my kids, I wish I got it right more. The truth is, my daughter is just not a girl who loves participating in sports.
My daughter has been swimming with teams for about three years now. When we discovered group organized sports weren’t her bag, we gave swimming a try. She’s always been an excellent swimmer. Since swim is more of an individual sport and encourages you to compete against yourself, it seemed like the perfect fit for her.
During her first team experience, we encountered some great coaches and some wonderful parents. But it was run by a person who was insulting to my kid and not at all accepting of differences. She progressed there and moved up in the groups, but the organization was lacking the inclusion and acceptance she deserved. She proved herself time and again, working hard every day, but they didn’t have the faith in her to allow her to grow in the sport.
Fast forward to her current swim team and it has been such a welcoming and encouraging place. She usually swims about four days a week. From the beginning, they have all been encouraging and supportive, from the owner down to her individual coach. She has grown so much in her technique and is now working on her speed. It all seemed to be going so well and I’ve been so proud of all the progress she has made.
I probably should have started by saying how excited about swimming our daughter became after watching the Olympics. It inspired her! She was determined to make it to the Olympics one day and was thrilled she had found something that fit within her interests. We were in full support of her dream and if you know her, you know there’s nothing she can’t do that she sets her mind to. Plus our kids are island babies, so they live to be in the water. Swimming seemed like her sport!
If you know anything about autism, you know change can be hard for our kiddos. They usually do well with structure and routine. That, coupled with exhaustion, hunger, and multiple emotions, can be a recipe for disaster for my girl. It must have been that perfect storm because three days ago at practice, all those things were at play. Her coach was absent, which had happened the day before too. But then there was a shortage of coaches and she was lumped into a higher group. Almost daily, she swims for an hour and a half straight, without any real break. Now that was happening along with a lot of additional laps, a coach’s style she wasn’t use to, and just plain fatigue. We eat early around here, so she finishes practice and is ravenous. I should have seen it was the beginning of the end.
She made it through the whole practice without complaining, to her credit. I actually didn’t even see it coming, but she finished and walked right over to me and started balling. In an instant, I knew what was happening. My child was a little broken. Her dreams of being a swimmer were over. I could tell she was beyond done. She realized that although she likes swimming a lot and is actually really great at it, it’s not for her.
Why didn’t I see it sooner? I was wrong to have her in something with such intense practices every single day. It’s not for her. I was wrong to think she had to be in a sport to be active. We can do fun things and be active together. I was wrong not to listen that she was tired. I should have paid more attention to what she really loves doing, not just what she likes. Many times I saw kids of our friends competing in sports and thought she needed to too. She was missing out. The truth is she detests competing unless it’s beating the pants off of you in a game of chess. Just because she’s good at something, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for her in the long run. She’s just not a sports girl and that’s totally fine by me.
I think I got a little caught up in what always seems like the glorification of busy that our society is so wrapped up in. I forgot about trying to enjoy a more simple life. It’s always been so frustrating to me that my kids could never just hang out and play with their friends because the kids are always so scheduled. Now, in my worry of what other people might think about our less than busy schedule, I was doing the same thing. I was in activities and busy as a kid. But I had down time. I had the freedom to play and discover my talents and interests. My parents never pushed me to do anything I didn’t truly love. I led the way as far as what I wanted to participate in and our daughter is just as much if not more the leader that I was.
My daughter’s childhood is too precious to spend hours of it pushing her to do something that’s not for her. She has everything she needs and what she doesn’t need is more pressure. In a world where she doesn’t feel like she has control of much, free time gives her a sense of control that will help foster her interests more than an activity that is slowly taking the wind out of her sails. Activities are great and they have wonderful benefits. But I don’t want busyness and over scheduling to become something we are proud of. I don’t want it to be more of a priority than spending time with each other or just having the chance to just be a kid.
Time is already going by so fast as we raise our children. I won’t have anymore of it filled with things that aren’t things we love. So my kid doesn’t do sports. Big deal. She’s so amazing in so many other ways that are way more important. Though I cheered her on daily from the bleachers and enjoyed watching her swim, I won’t miss the sometimes ten hours a week we spent in and by the pool. That time will be filled with being a kid, pursuing our interests, and going after all those other big dreams.
I know that whatever she will do and be one day has already been laid out for her. It’s what she was created for. She was always going be that thing and this amazing person, no matter what I do or what I try to involve her in. I just need to give her the time and space to enjoy the things she loves and support her in her interests. The rest will fall into place. So thanks for the lessons swimming. After this month, we’re moving on to pursue our passions. No sports for this girl. She loves watching them and she is an avid baseball fan that will blow your mind with statistics. But she will be sharing her talents in other areas and changing the world in lots of other ways. You’ll just have to watch and see what’s next.