Monday, July 19, 2010

‘Look at me, I’m on the swim team!’

In the spirit of all things summer, Erin has joined the swim team. It’s a rite of passage at the Great Kills Swim Club actually – once you turn three you’re eligible for all of the camaraderie, uniform bathing suits, pizza parties and trophies that go along with belonging to “the team.” And for the past four weeks, I have been enjoying the exercise, 6:30 p.m. bedtimes and ravenous, gobble-up-every-part-of-dinner that goes with her membership. But above all, I have mostly been enjoying the practices.

“Hey Mom! Look at me! I’m swimming! On the swim team!”

In case the neighbors who live across the street from the Swim Club didn’t know that Erin Gorman was on the swim team, they do now.

“Moooommmmmmm!” A series of waves, hip-shaking and ballerina spins. “Isn’t this cool?”

It wouldn’t be so bad if all the other kids were shouting at their moms too. But in a straight-as-an-arrow line of serious three- to eight-year-old swimmers, my little backstroker is the only one jumping for joy.

In her defense, I was the only mother at the pool with a camera. Guess you’re not supposed to snap pictures of practice, even if it is their very first year. But I can’t help but laugh at my little Esther Williams whose bathing suit is way too big in the butt.

“Erin, you can’t talk and swim at the same time,” Coach Kelli warned last week, laughing as she tried desperately to prevent Erin from waving and greeting each cousin and friend who happened to swim by.

“Hi Bri-Bri!” swim, swim, swim. “Hi Liam!” swim, swim, swim. “Hi Juuuliaaaa!” swim. “Look at me, I’m on the swim team too!”

You see, the problem is, there’s nine other cousins on the team and every time she passes one in the swim lane, she takes one hand off of her kickboard to wave and nearly drowns in the process. It’s all very polite, but I never knew I was raising such a socialite. And I didn’t think I was raising such a team player until we had our first meet.

“Really, we have to bring her to the swim meets?” I asked Pat when the first one cropped up on the calendar. I guess when she joined I just thought she’d go to some practices, get some swim lessons and a T-shirt, end of story.

“Of course,” Pat countered, himself a former swim team member. “They have special races just for the kickboarders.”

Races? Really? Ok. So I pack up baby and really excited swimmer at 8:30 a.m. on one of those 100 degree days to go sit poolside and see how this all pans out. The adorableness was beyond words.

“Kick! C’mon Erin, you got this!” Dozens of tweens and teenagers, all of whom had just swam in some serious heats themselves, were peeling off bathing caps and goggles stepping up to poolside to see GKSC’s lineup of three-, four- and five-year-old kickboarders lap it up in the Village Greens pool.

How did all of these kids know my daughter’s name? How are they taking the time to cheer for her and all of the other little tykes out here? Don’t they have to get in the zone for their own swim? Do they really care about all of these little pipsqueaks in the pool? Aren’t they just there to pass some time in between the really important races?

“These are the best years you’ll ever have, Mrs. Gorman,” Coach Jim, the team’s raspy-voiced, oh-so-serious leader said to me as what seemed like the whole pool club cheered on my little girl as she made her way down the length of the pool, legs furiously kicking, head held high in the air, an un-erasable grin splashed across her face.

“Don’t forget your video camera next time,” he said in between big belly laughs, slapping me on the back, probably noticing the tears under my sunglasses. “You’re gonna want to watch this when she’s 19.”

I hugged Jeremiah tighter. 19? No, that’s never going to happen. My kids will never be 19.

And as I jetted to the end of the pool to scoop Erin out of the water and give a million kisses and high-fives, a group of 19-year-olds beat me to it.

“Go Erin! Nice swim!”

I literally could not believe how all of these kids were rallying around my little bathing beauty, making her feel as if she had just qualified for gold. It got me thinking. Does swimming offer that much sportsmanship? Or is it Coach Kelli and Coach Jim (a father/daughter duo) that are turning these kids into such fine athletes and competitors?

Perhaps it’s a little of both.

Even at three-years-old, with her tiny little swimsuit and bright orange kickboard, she is part of this team. And after a whole month of early morning practice, she has the cutest little swim muscles to prove it. I only hope she picks up more than the breaststroke from this upstanding group of team players. Maybe then I can allow her to turn 19.