Sometimes you have to choose
Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,
Tuesday morning was a learning experience for me. Mommy and I decided to let you go to a birthday party sleepover on Monday night, Izzy; the night before a swim meet. After all, you’re 9 and we’re committed to letting you be a kid.
That means enjoying childhood and doing “kid” things as often as possible.
In hindsight it wasn’t a great idea though. As kids do, you ate cake and ice cream before bed, ate donuts for breakfast, and didn’t sleep much. All of those are fine for a 9 year old, but it didn’t mix well with an early morning swim meet.
Half way through warm ups your goggles broke. You jumped from the pool and frantically asked me to fix them. It was going to take awhile, so I had you come around the barricade rather than staying in the water with your team with no goggles.
You get nervous before your swim meets. You fidget. Jump up and down and shake your arms. You’re a lot like your mom and dad.
“But dad…warm ups! I’m supposed to be…,” you said. The idea of not doing what you were supposed to be doing stressed you.
“Izzy, it’s fine. You’re warm enough. Come over here while I fix these,” I responded.
“But dad, coach wants us to …”.
“Izzy. It’s okay. Really. I’ll talk to you coach if I need to.”
“Izzy.” I said again, flatly.
You’re a rule follower. That’s a great thing, most of the time. Once again you finished the entire school year with straight A’s. You never got in trouble. Much of that is the result of following the rules – every time.
We sat under the tent while I fixed your goggles. You began to cry.
“My stomach hurts really bad,” you said. “I want to go home.”
We talked about it for awhile. I asked a 100 questions. I made you feel guilty about staying up too late. About letting the other girls on the team down if you left. About eating junk the night before a swim meet. About getting too stressed out over little things. I was a jerk.
I wasn’t sure how to respond.
Finally I hugged you. Your head pressed against my chest. I could feel your hot tears through my tee shirt.
“We’ll go home,” I said.
You’re 9. A great little athlete. It was teachable moment where I could have made you suffer the consequences of staying up too late and then trying to compete. But your tears reminded me that you’re still my baby and 9 years old is too young for tough love on the athletic front.
Mommy arrived with Max and Kate as warm ups ended. She sat and whispered to you quietly.
You decided to stay.
Mommies sometimes say things daddies don’t know how to express.
As the meet progressed you began to feel better. You swam well in all of your events. But the one we were waiting for was the 100 Individual Medley. It’s your favorite event. The one you’ve had the most success with; my little endurance athlete.
Once again you took the lead immediately during the butterfly. You lead by a quarter pool length after those first 25 yards. You maintained your lead during backstroke and breaststroke and then extended the lead during freestyle.
I’m a sucker for inspiration. So I cried when you won; behind my sunglasses luckily.
Just like last week, you jumped from the pool and ran to us to show us your heat winners ribbon.
I write to you a lot about riding life’s waves. Going where the road leads you. Taking things slow and easy. I still believe that’s how you enjoy life.
But sometimes you also have to choose one direction or another in life. Going home would have lead to a lazy day on the couch. I would have sulked about the decision much of the day. But thanks to Mommy you chose wisely. You stayed. You won. And we all walked out smiling, laughing, and hugging you.
Sometimes you have to choose.
I love you,
Training: Race week (Old Hickory Lake Triathlon)
Tues: Swam 1200
Wed: Ran 4 miles
Thurs: Biked 1 hour