Swimming in Uncertainty: One Parent’s Musings

By Michelle Brafman

When my husband heard that the Montgomery County Public Schools planned to cancel the upcoming swim season, his eyes welled up. I’ve given up tears during the pandemic because it’s impossible to find enough privacy to indulge in a good cry. That doesn’t mean that the global Covid carnage and accretion of pandemic-related cancellations for my kids and their friends doesn’t break my heart.

My daughter hung up her suit after she graduated high school, and I’d assumed that my son, a rising senior, had another high school and summer season left. Best to assume nothing, I’ve learned during this coronacoaster ride. The pandemic stretches my capacity to camp out in the uncertainty, seek out silver linings, and find reasons to be grateful for the basics: shelter, food, and our health.

I’ve also become oddly nostalgic about, well, so many things (even if they haven’t occurred yet). When I think of my kids’ thirteen years of swimming, the details unspool like a home movie. And even if another swimming season or two are in our family’s future, I find myself lingering on the “no mores.”

No more waking up in the dark to drive our son to morning practice (the husband) or waking up in the dark to wait for the text that he arrived safely at the pool (me). No more sitting on a wet car seat. No more eating in shifts. No more goggle marks encircling the kids’ eye sockets or slightly mildewed towels draping their bathroom door. 

No more meets.

No more trips to the grocery store to shop for the fixings for good luck breakfast burritos.  No more psych up music on the way to University of Maryland. Just when I was starting to enjoy Genesis. No more trips to the farmer’s market for Honeycrisp apples during the autumn PVS meets at Fairland. No more wading around pool decks with soggy rolled up jeans and a stopwatch in hand (again, the husband). No more sitting in my soccer-parent turned swim-parent chair in the quiet room at Fairland trying to grade papers. No more catching up on hot books and podcasts with my friends in the bleachers, sometimes so lost in conversations that we missed our kids’ swims. No more waiting outside a bathroom stall, post my 32 ounces of morning tea, while a mom shoehorns her daughter into a tiny little Kneeskin. No more acquisition of team racing swag.

No more banquets.

No more paper plate awards and coaches’ speeches and senior gifts and slide shows and cash bars and swimmers unrecognizable in their party clothes and dry hair. 

There are aspects of swim parenthood that also challenge me, like the constant struggle to keep my intensity in check, to keep my swimming history in my own lane. I won’t miss the knocks that often escort the hard-won lessons swimming teaches: bad swims can teach more wisdom than good ones, you have to swim for yourself and not your teammates, parents, or coaches, and don’t let anyone get inside your head. Ever. Oh, heck, I will miss these parts of swimming too. Now I see my son flourishing in his new interests, and I realize that when one door closes, a dozen little ones open. In my heart I know this to be true. This doesn’t mean that I won’t mourn the chance to savor these last moments of this chapter of his childhood, or that I will remember to cherish what is here and now, before it too gets canceled.

Michelle Brafman (www.michellebrafman.com) is a novelist, teacher, and swim mom. She is the author of “Washing the Dead” and “Bertrand Court” and is hard at work on a third novel set in a fictitious local summer swim league.   

One thought on “Swimming in Uncertainty: One Parent’s Musings

  • Aug 11, 2020 at 9:24 am

    Such a beautiful piece…brings tears to my eyes. Wasn’t it just yesterday that we celebrated his briss at your pattens home?


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