The 500 freestyle.
It is a dreaded event for many swimmers.
A right of passage for every swimmer, some say.
As a former swimmer myself, I remember well the dread of an event.
The one your coach entered you in and is convinced you can do, but you? Think you will die!
My 10 year old son was entered into the 500 freestyle for the first time a few weeks ago.
From the moment we found out his events for the upcoming meet until the event 4 days later, he was filled with worry.
20 laps of the pool! In a race!
I reassured, "Your coach would not have put you in this event if she didn't think you could do it."
I downplayed, "Just think of it like practice. You've swum that far in practices before. Just go nice and easy and you'll be fine."
I encouraged, "Since you've never done this event before, all you have to do is finish and you'll get a personal best time!"
But really there was nothing I could do to make it better. This one he needed to live through. We prayed together about it several times for God to give him peace and strength.
Come meet day, there were several kids his age from his team in the same boat, swimming the 500 free for the first time.
And they all hated it, looked white as sheets, and nervous as turkeys at Thanksgiving, BEFORE the 500.
But after? They were all smiles! They did it! And they were so proud of being able to do something hard, something they'd never done before!
My son even said he'd swim it again, someday.
My view from behind the starting blocks watching my son swim. The counter that would be stuck down in the water to show him he'd done 11 laps so far!
I told my husband later, "I don't know who had the harder task, him swimming or me watching. Man I was exhausted when it was over!"
I am so proud of my son for tackling this feat! For doing hard things. Not because of a swimming event, but because to do life well, you have to do the hard things sometimes.
Then today I picked him up from school and he was pale, distant, and clearly rattled. "What's wrong?" I asked. No clear answer. "Did something happen?" "Are you sick?!!" Nothing. So I let him be for a few minutes. Then a bit later I prodded some more because that's what we moms do. "Did something bad happen at school?" "Not really," he replied slowly, forcing me to go through a long list of possibilities that at least got him laughing.
"It's something you will think is good," he then told me, confusing me all the more. Finally he told me he was among 3 boys nominated for Safety Patrol Captain and he has to give a speech in front of a few teachers and his 30 fellow safety patrols (other 5th graders) at school tomorrow and then the kids will vote to decide the winner.
"That's great!" I said, "It's an honor to be chosen. Since the kids vote to pick the nominees, that means you are well respected among your peers! Congratulations!"
"But the speech, Mom. I'm worried," he said with dread in his voice. "I've done speeches in my class at school but this is bigger."
"The speech," I said, "Is just like the 500 freestyle. Everybody is afraid to do it. But once you finish, you'll feel great to have tackled that challenge. And the more speeches you give the more comfortable you'll get with them, so this is a great opportunity!"
He's only mildly convinced of my logic, but he has a notecard with some notes he jotted down. Now if I could just be a fly on the wall in that cafeteria tomorrow!