Thursday, July 17, 2008

But It's A Great Opportunity, Dammit!

Last summer, Andy and I joined a . . . I hate to say a "country club," because that sounds so snooty, and this club will basically take anybody, but that's pretty much what it is. We signed up for the tennis, but I really fell in love with the swim team program they offer for the kids. The coaching staff runs practice six times a week (I think they hope the kids will come two or three times a week, but of course they can come as often as the parents want to take them), where they teach swimmers as young as five or six the correct form of freestyle, backstroke, breast stroke and butterfly. There are meets every week, in which even the beginners get to participate, so all the kids get to feel like they're part of the team.

And did I mention that all this instruction and experience costs a grand total of $50 per kid, for the entire summer?

Amazing, right? Fantastic value, right?

So you can imagine how frustrated I am now that Erika has decided SHE DOESN'T WANT TO BE ON SWIM TEAM.

This was Erika's second summer on the team. And she is only seven. So of course, it's hard work. She doesn't have the technique or the endurance of the older swimmers - not yet. And I think even I would be exhausted by the number of laps of the Olympic-sized pool the kids complete every practice.

But it's just so good for her.

This is how I look at it: swimming is great exercise, one that strengthens virtually all the major muscle groups. Even if Erika chooses to spend her summers exploring more sedentary activities, such as drama, or zoo camp, or playing with farm animals, at least I know if she goes to swim practice several times a week she's staying active (which is a huge priority for all my kids, as so many relatives on both sides of their family have struggled with their weight, including both their parents). Plus, consider the fact that swimming is one of the few sports people can do their entire lives (how many outlets are there for adults to play field hockey, lacrosse or even soccer?) and that there's no substitute for early instruction when it comes to learning any skill. Factor in the discipline, sportsmanship, and yes, the price and convenience, and it seems like a no brainer that I should MAKE Erika be on the swim team.

I know, I know - I sound so autocratic. And I always thought I'd be the kind of parent that encourages my children in their unique abilities, and helps them pursue even their most idiosyncratic dreams. (As far as Keri claiming in an earlier post that I'm forcing Hilary to take the exact same activities as Erika, when she really wants to be a ballerina, I will just say that Hilary is somewhat of a dilettante at this point in her life, and decides from day to day that she wants to take ballet, to take soccer, to become a fairy, to live on an island with Barney, etc., but that I can say for certain that ballet is definitely not one of her unique abilities) But you know what? That unconditional enthusiasm has to be tempered with the fact that Andy and I are adults, and we do know what's better for Erika than she does right now.

But I'm all for compromise, and Erika and I already have a tentative deal on the table: she'll do swim team next summer, and I'll let her go to horseback riding camp (a sport I've always resisted, because it's relatively dangerous and, from what I can see, builds no skills that can be applied to anything other than horseback riding - furthermore, and most damning, should she excel at this sport it would eventually require us buying A HORSE). Hopefully, we can continue this kind of negotiation with all the kids, this balance between passion and practicality, so that we will all be happy.

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