Swim Carnival and Angst

Yesterday was swim carnival for Andie's school (grades 1-5).    It is sort of like field day in the states except that it all takes place in the pool.   In the morning there were timed events and in the afternoon, there was fun races...like the noodle races and kick-board races.   I volunteered to be a timer for the races.  It was a lot of fun...lots of adrenaline and cheering crowds.  I was exhausted after being in the sun, on my feet, all day long...but it was worth it!  (It also reminded me of the days when I would help out at field day at Bethesda).   Instead of classes competing against each other, the school is divided into four houses.   Each house competes for the championship.  It's pretty cool because it doesn't let the teachers get crazy competitive with their own classes (seen plenty of that in the past) and it allows for comradery among grade levels.  The houses each develop their own cheers and dance a lot throughout the day.

It was interesting to be the time  keeper and see all of the parents interacting with their children who placed.   I saw lots and lots of encouragement, some hidden and not so hidden disappointment, and even a little anger.    It's funny how we get so invested in our children's success in sports.   I know that I want Andie to do well in swimming because I believe she is good at it and when she does well, it gives her a huge boost.   So, I think I want her to do well for her benefit...but I do need to keep myself in check and make sure it's not about me.

A side note.....   I have been a wreck this week, mostly because Andie has been a total wreck this week as well.   She is having some trouble at school with friends and is terribly home sick.   Every morning, afternoon, and night she asks me if we can move back to Atlanta.  Every night this makes me want to start crying.   Of course, I don't cry.  I just ask her to tell me what is going on at school and why she wants to go back so badly.  She has mentioned that she doesn't feel like she is being taken care of at her school and that a few girls have been less than kind to her.    There has been a bullying incident that has only strengthened her desire to go back to the states.     I have spoken with her teacher and have full faith that she will be taken care of, but when she hurts, I hurt.  I know I am in trouble when she gets older! Her teacher confirmed to me what I already believe about Andie.  She has such a kind heart and can be naive when it comes to friends.  If friends are being mean to her, she sometimes just doesn't get it or want to believe it.  She firmly believes in the good of everyone and really cannot believe that anyone would ever be mean on purpose.  This even comes into play when she glimpses the news and sees people who do terrible things.   (She kept giving excuses for the Boston Marathon bombers, saying they must have been taught wrong...or maybe someone was really mean to them and they didn't know better).    She is a young soul and always goes into interactions with others full-heartedly.   She will reach for a friend's hand in the first few minutes of meeting her.   She will talk to ANYONE, including teenagers loitering on a corner.   I am so afraid her ways make her a victim to those more wise and manipulative around her.    (I know I am her mother, so I am biased in my perspective, but also believe I know her better than anyone with the exception of Warren).

And then, there's my guilt.  We brought her here.  We tore her away from her close friends who treated her with so much love.   This is my guilty heart speaking...and not my rational mind that knows we made a good decision for her.  She will only be stronger as a result of this and she getting the experience of a life time...one that will mold her into becoming a better citizen in later life.   This is what my brain says...but my heart hurts...because her's does.   And mama bear only wants to protect her and make it better...  even though I know she can handle it...and needs to handle it.    I am trying really hard not to over-react to her angst, not to allow my anxiety about her happiness create a crazy circle of anxiety back and forth between us, and to just simply be, support her, and know that "This too shall pass."   I know I can do that too.

Having said all of that, I really wanted Andie to have some success in the swim carnival - hoping if she felt good about her accomplishment that all would be right in her world and she'd forget about wanting to go home and never mention it again!  (No, not really....but I did want her to feel good about her self given the circumstances.)   She swam the very first race for the girls.   She was visibly nervous and asked if there were different rules here. Right before the race started, I was distracted by her swim shirt.  I knew the swim shirt would slow her down.  At that exact same time, the dad I was timing with said, "Do you want her to wear that long sleeve swim shirt?"  He read my mind!  I said, "No," and he said, "Quick.  Run down to her (across the 50 meter pool) and get her to take it off before she starts."  I didn't hesitate.  I, like a crazy mom, ran all the way down to the starting blocks...looking like a fool.   The lady with the start flag got ready to wave it and I yelled, "Wait!"  Out of breath, I ran up to Andie and said, "Baby, let's take off the swim shirt.   It won't be comfortable and it will slow you down."   I was sort of trying to peel it off of her as I said it.   She looked at me like I was the crazy person that I was being in that moment and whined, "No Mommy.  I want to keep it on."   I realized how nuts I was, gave her a quick kiss, said, "Good luck" and sprinted back to my timer position at the other end of the pool so the race could start.   As I was heading back, a good friend of mine joked, "Annoying Mom alert!"   Oh my gosh! I was a crazy, annoying mom all because I wanted her to succeed.  I was the mom who couldn't just sit back and watch her daughter swim happily.

She swam the race.  She didn't do the best she's done before...actually far from it.   She got to the finish and poor baby turned around and swam back to the start.  Everyone was calling her name to stop her, but she just kept swimming.   My heart broke more for her, but ultimately it was of course no big deal.   She walked back around.  I gave her a huge hug and congratulated her on her third place ribbon.   She was happy with her ribbon, because to her...I think the ribbon was all that really mattered...not the place.   She sort of hung around me all morning and again mentioned she wanted to move back home.  In the afternoon, she got more into her groove and seemed to be having a lot of fun.  She swam a few more events and placed first and second.   She was thrilled.   Before she swam the events, she took off her swim shirt and asked me to hold it.  I felt so guilty that I put those thoughts in her head.  Who cares if she wears the swim shirt?  She's 6.  

In the end, it was a great day.   She came home with stories to tell and said she really liked swimming.   When Warren asked her what kind of prize she would like for working so hard, she said to go home to Atlanta....but hey, at least she had a smile on her face most of the day.  

The 50 meter pool before the races began

Dance Party between the houses

Happy after her final race!

Andie had trouble going to sleep last night.  She kept popping up and coming out to see us.   In the last pop-up, she came out crying asking if the swim shirt slowed her down.   Ugh.  I felt like such an a** hole.  I haven't really been able to shake that feeling all day.   She was so tired and fell asleep in minutes, but poor thing was worrying about the stupid swim shirt before she fell asleep.   Once she slept, I went in and kissed her head, holding back my tears....wanting to protect from all the mean girls in the world, from anxiety and remorse, and from any pain she encounters.    I know I cannot protect her from these things and because of these things, she will be a stronger Andie...a beautiful, independent, caring young girl.   The process is hard...but beautiful too.

My sweet baby girl


  1. It's been so long since I commented but just because I am lazy, when in fact I read this blog daily and each post reminds me, yet again, that you are not just a special mom but a special human who can put this adventure into perspective that is deep, insightful and evolving. Warren and the girls are so lucky to have you as the captain of their Fiji ship. And your humaneness, and the doubts that sometimes plague you, only make you more real and credible.

    So first of all: congrats, Andie! You got so many places in swimming! That's awesome. I am jealous of that pool and the races. I bet lots of kids in America would want a fun school day of swimming, dancing and palm trees :) I know my Brooklyn boys and their cement playground would trade.
    Also: there are mean girls everywhere in the world, of course. And we're all better because of the ones who stay nice against all odds.

    I have so many things I meant to write all this time about groceries and kilograms and hashers and glass-related injuries and Aussies and passports and puzzles and bolognese and running and well, everything. But probably it all would have sounded like: your life is so exciting and thank you for sharing a piece with us!

    (Also, pretend I just wrote this on Facebook ;))

    1. I am just seeing your comments Yael! Thank you for your encouragement and support! It helps me be better and to keep writing. You and your writing has been a HUGE encouragement for me!!!

  2. Kate, Seriously, when I see all the parents I see on a daily basis at a school of about 1,500 kids, I am in awe of what you and Warren have created. I don't give props often, because honestly, as someone with no kids, it's so easy to point and say what other people are doing wrong. Single privilege! But whenever you come up in conversation to people who do or don't know you, I always say I would raise my kids just like you're doing - you constantly impress me. Obviously, my opinion is just my opinion and it has no expert value, but you are seriously rocking it. If you ever doubt it, just look at those kids!!! Not that boys don't have their own challenges but the fact that you're raising such amazing young girls is really making the world a better place because when they become women they will have the potential to do so much more than the women who came before them! .... I totally get the guilt about the swim shirt - but it's just physics: weight=drag=decreased efficiency and you wanted your girl to be as fast and light as she could so she could be as happy as possible in the end. It's just simple Math. LOL. If she never wears another swim shirt in a race for the rest of her life, is that really the worst thing? And one more unsolicited opinion, maybe Andie's sensitivity is the thing that will inspire her to discover the cure for cancer or become a great legal mind on the Supreme Court or run the Red Cross or just better a million lives as a social worker/teacher/counselor one day. We all have things that are going to make us vulnerable, whether it's sexual orientation, skin color, poverty, body shape, intelligence, physical handicap, etc., and sometimes a combination of these traits and more. The thing is, she's got these great people at a place called HOME who are there to pick her up every time she's going to fall and support her as she finds her strengths. That's what matters.

    1. Tina!!!! I am just seeing this and wow...you made me cry...happy tears! Thank you so much for your support and encouragement. It's hard to remove myself from situations I am in....so it's so good to hear your feedback. Also, I am honored that you think of Warren and I as such good parents! I think maybe you haven't spent enough time with us to see us in all of those crazy, losing patience moments...but I am honored nonetheless! Thank you for reading and for your comments. They mean so much!


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