Being the mother of a young competitive swimmer, I, of course, was enraptured by the Summer Olympics. There was young Missy Franklin, who made me cry, because she seems like such a playful and sweet young girl right up to the moment she gets in the water and kicks her competitors' collective asses. She is what so many of us want our daughters to be: good, but tough. Then there was Rebecca Soni, who excelled in my kid's favorite stroke and inspired her to work on her "pull outs", whatever that means. And let us not forget the whole Lochte/Phelps showdown, which in the end felt terribly anticlimactic. It took Mr. Phelps a while to get warmed up, as it does when you're "old." But in the final analysis, Michael didn't just yell at Ryan to get off his lawn. He chased him down and beat him up with his walker.
Every time the cameras flashed to Michael's mother, I saw the sheer joy on her face and thought of all the times she sat on hard bleachers in suffocating natatoriums watching little Michael swim. All the practices she drove him to, all the times she sat in her car after dark waiting for a little boy to walk out with his swim bag slung over his back, all the suits and pull buoys and fins and goggles she bought.
But the most burning question I have for Mrs. Phelps is how in the world she managed to feed him.
There have been news stories done about the freakish appetites and caloric needs of swimmers in the midst of serious training. Yet you don't really get it until you're the one sitting across from a young swimmer who just cleaned her plate and half of yours and is suddenly eyeing you in a way that makes you think of Hannibal Lecter.
My particular swimmer is whip-thin and colt-ish. She does not look at all like a chow hound. A trip to Chipotle after practice reveals her true nature. We have to remind her to chew and swallow and not just inhale.
Heaven help us when we have a growth spurt during a swim season. Weekend breakfast lasts an hour as the kid raids pantry and fridge in search of carbs like a Walking Dead zombie in search of flesh. An hour later, she asks for lunch. She is starting to outgrow the children's menu of most restaurants; I try not to let it make me sad that her meals are no longer happy.
It's a blessing that I like to cook and that she likes to eat what I cook, even when it includes vegetables. I can't imagine what the parents of picky-eating swimmers go through. There are only so many chicken nuggets and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches a person can stand.
In just a couple of weeks we begin a new season of training and competing. The kid got moved up to the next age-group level and practices are longer, the demands for her performance just a little higher. A dentist visit yesterday showed signs that she is poised for a pretty intense growth spurt; she has a group of permanent teeth ready to erupt at any moment, and this is apparently a sign of whole-body changes. It's a perfect storm and our local Kroger is in the path of the eye.
My only shelter is a bunker full of cereal.