When sitting down to write my column, I sometimes ask my kids for ideas. It’s only fair — after all, I frequently write about them in this space.
So, when I recently asked if the kids could think of anything humorous that had happened recently, my daughter Grace, who turns 12 on Tuesday, immediately chimed in.
Actually, I should say that she immediately threw down, because this was her response: “You can write about how I’m faster than you in the pool.”
“Is that funny?” I asked.
“No — but it’s true,” she said with a giggle that told me she thought it was hysterical.
No, I’m glad my daughter has developed self-confidence and strong self-esteem, but those are fighting words. The young may cut their teeth on the bones of their parents, but I’m not ready to be anybody’s chew toy just yet.
Truth be told, my daughter is a very good swimmer. She’s been swimming with the local club team for a couple of years, and this is the first season she’s decided to focus on the sport. She’s been in the pool three or four times a week over the past couple of months, and she’s brought home ribbons from the past couple of meets where she’s competed. She can talk the talk, and she can back it up.
For my part, I would describe myself as a slightly above average swimmer. I never swam competitively, but I at one time was a certified life guard and taught swim lessons. Sure, it was a long, long time ago, but it counts. I can do all four competitive strokes — some better than others — and I’ve been in the pool once a week with the local masters swim group over the past couple of years. No one is going to mistake me for Michael Phelps. Then again, I can make it from one end of the pool to the other in a respectable amount of time — certainly fast enough to compete with my 11-year-old daughter, right?
Clearly, the challenge had been issued. And of course, me being a guy and all, the challenge was accepted.
I even let Grace pick the stroke and distance — 50 yards of butterfly — though she was adamant that someone watch to disqualify me right away if I did something illegal. I don’t think she thought I would cheat, but rather that I didn’t have the skill to do the stroke in the technically correct fashion. And the stakes were high — loser was to buy at Dairy Queen.
I have to admit, I was a little bit worried. She is pretty fast, and butterfly is a difficult stroke. I have to give Grace credit, she for the most part has the right attitude about tackling challenges head on (except for cleaning her room, but that’s another story). She’s not afraid to jump right in and never seems intimidated.
Come race day, which was over Christmas break at the Nikiski pool, I was starting to come up with excuses. For example, I pointed out that I was wearing board shorts, which have a lot of drag, as opposed to a racing suit. Grace quashed that right away, pointing out that she wasn’t wearing a swim cap, so the drag from her long hair made it even.
But I must’ve gotten into her head a little when I commented that she looked tired over the last few yards of her 50 butterfly at her last meet, because when we got to the pool, she changed the distance to 25 yards.
That played right into my hands, because when it comes to butterfly, my forward momentum pretty much comes to a halt at about the 35-yard mark, and let’s just say that after our shorter than expected race, somebody owes me a Blizzard. (I didn’t beat her by much, though, only a foot or two — she really should’ve stuck with the 50.)
She called for a rematch with a 50-yard freestyle, and while I finished first, she suggested that she should get the win because I did an open turn while she did a flip turn. As I said, I’m no Michael Phelps. And she actually beat me in a 50-yard breaststroke, though I’m going to claim that because I was swimming in the lane closest to the waterslide, the current messed up my momentum on my turn. So I guess we’re even there, too.
In any case, both of my kids are now to the point where I no longer need to “let” them win anymore. Clearly, they are confident enough to tackle just about anything — including me — and they have the grit and determination to try again if they don’t at first succeed. As a parent, I couldn’t be prouder.
But as someone who is still has a little bit of that competitive drive, I’m thinking I’d better start training for the 50-butterfly.
Reach Clarion editor Will Morrow at email@example.com.