When she was 12, E was Michael Phelps for Halloween...she used a bunch of her own medals.
E is away for a week a Junior Nationals in Orlando. It's US Swimming's national championship meet for kids under 18. She made it last year at age 14 and was 17th out of 175 swimmers in 100 butterfly. She had a phenomenal meet. I went down for 2 days, along with S's husband, and her grandfather (her dad's dad). She had a great time.
This year she went down by herself although I think her grandfather may go for a bit since he lives down there during the winter.
She has not had a good year swimming. Her times haven't just plateaued, they have gotten worse...in some events by a lot. She is still a great swimmer in the grand scheme of things, but it is not on the same trajectory that she and her parents thought she was on in the picture above.
Natural events have taken place. She's added weight (weight needed to become a women) and unfortunately she is in a sport in which added weight makes a difference (buoyancy and all that). She works harder than ever, but the results are just not there. We've tried to work with her and with her coach to find the right balance of training, food and sleep/rest and I definitely don't think we've achieved it. She also carries a tons of emotional strain and stress. The main problem is that she isn't going to get taller and there aren't many Olympic swimmers at 5 foot 4 inches.
The bigger issue is that this is a little girl since age of 9 has been told that she is the best swimmer ever and, as a result, it defines her as a person (that and straight A's). Her parents (particularly her father) did not do a very good job at giving her any perspective. They were planning for her college scholarships at the age of 11. In her mind, she has to be the best in every race at every meet.
As I've mentioned before, K and I were both Division 1 college athletes. We have both achieved a lot before, during and after college in sports. One thing, however, that we have worked hard at, is not letting sports (or achievement in sports) define who are kids are. You lose a game, okay, let's get a slurpee and it's all over. We have never wanted to put any sort of pressure on our kids. I think we've done a pretty good job of setting the right perspective and, in turn, our kids enjoy playing and developmentally have progressed exactly where they need to be. This runs counter to many, many parents in our area (and on our kids' teams) and definitely counter to Jeanne and Mike's philosophy. I actually don't think they really meant to do it, but they got swept up in E's achievements early on and reliving past glory or lack of glory in their own childhood sports. I regularly rolled my eyes and shook my head at how they put such a high priority on E's swimming.
Now we have inherited that attitude with E and M. It is really hard to deal with. M particularly feels the pressure, thinking she needs to be as good as E, and at the same time not being able to deal with a loss. It gets so old listening to excuses from her about the terrible referees and mean players on the other team. I try to explain that sometimes your team just loses and that's okay, but she'll hear nothing of it.
Swimming is also a sport that is so different from my experiences in team sports. It is so black and white. On the soccer field, I have multiple times throughout the game to fail and succeed. Have a bad pass? Do it better next time. Your team loses? Well, maybe you played well or can think of good plays you had. You play terrible? Well, at least maybe your team wins. In swimming, it's all on you, winning or losing. She puts so many hours in the water practicing, for sometimes less than a minute of success or failure. There is not gray area and the clock doesn't lie. I did run track in high school, but it was more about keeping fit for soccer and having fun with my friends. I was good at it, but I had lots of other eggs in the basket with soccer and basketball. E has one basket and one egg. I'm sure there are lots of other psychological factors at play too in trying to honor her dead parents, etc. With her swimming, I never know if I'm making the right decisions or saying the right things. I depend on her coach and basically let her figure things out on her own. By downplaying her swimming a bit, we hope that she'll gain the perspective she desperately needs. We support her, but not with the same single minded purpose that she had with her parents. In practical terms, we just can't do it with all of the other kids' needs.
So it's nice having a break from E and her swimming. I miss her jokes and funny stories, but multiple texts a day from her have filled that void. M has been more relaxed. Honestly, we've all been more relaxed. It is easier with one less kid, but it's her intensity that I don't miss. Our whole house is palpably less tense.