Uh, oh. It just got serious.
Let's get the bragging out of the way first. The kid qualified for state Junior Olympics in one of her individual events in swimming. For a kid who has been up to this point (and when she ages up next year, will be again) a very middle-of-the-road swimmer who works hard but is not a supernaturally gifted athlete, this has been a very big deal and a very big surprise. Proof that hard work and pure, unadulterated love of a sport can yield at least modest success even among those who were not born superstars. Rudy! Rudy! Rudy! (And all of that.)
When, in a parent meeting at the beginning of the season, her coach told us that his goal was to get each swimmer at least one JO cut, I exchanged a look with Jason. A look that said, "Riiiiiiight." But something magical happened to not only our kid, but most of the girls in that age group on the team--they blossomed. In both obvious physical ways and more subtle ways. They want to win. They want to make finals and time cuts and kick other teams' asses. They went from being adorable little creatures who danced around singing Katy Perry songs on deck waiting for their turn in the water to being ferocious competitors who stretch, jump, slap their muscles, and "get in the zone" while in the line for their heat. There is nothing cute about these girls anymore; the kittens have become tigers.
Tigers who wear "fast suits."
What is a fast suit, you ask? It's a $170 swim suit the cool kids wear this time in the season, a suit that all but guarantees Phelpsian record-setting, but that loses its magic after a mere 30 hours in the water.
So some parents are forking over serious cash to buy a ten-year-old girl a swim suit she will be able to wear for 2-3 swim meets at the end of the season in the hopes she shaves a few hundredths of a second off her best time. And our kid is pretty much the only kid whose parents are abusing her by making her stick with the team suit. Clearly, we don't want our daughter to win. Because we can't afford good beer AND a fast suit. Or we're not willing to spend roughly a week's worth of grocery money on a swim suit, even if it makes the wearer practically poop out 1st-place medals. One of the two.
Her coach told all of the parents that he does not find these suits necessary to young age-group swimmers and that their purchase isn't all that helpful at this stage. But the suits have still spread like the Norwalk virus, infecting swimmer after swimmer.
It started last meet with just a handful of the elite swimmers in that age group, swimmers who regularly make finals and have close finishes for the top 5 spots in any individual event. I could sort of get that. But by the end of that meet, a few more of Ainsley's team mates wore the fast suits after making finals. And by the meet we just wrapped up last night, a "last chance" meet for kids to get time cuts before championship season, everyone was sporting Speedo's best marketing ploy ever.
Everyone save one.
We've had some explaining to do. As team mates zoomed past her and into finals this weekend wearing Fast Skins, we've been asked why we're not bending to the pressure and buying the suit. Because to her, we are the worst swim parents on the planet for not giving her what all the cool kids have.
And I have multiple answers for this:
1. You don't need it. Your coach said so.
2. We are not, and never will be, supportive of your wanting something just because everybody else has it.
3. Swimming is already an expensive sport. Be glad you're even doing it.
4. You have posted some really great times (faster than some of the fast-suit kids) the past two meets with just a normal suit.
5. You have also posted a couple of really not-great times the past two swim meets, and we both know those had nothing to do with what kind of suit you had on.
6. It gives your misfit, independent, stubborn parents a source of pride to see you following your coach's recommendations and actually wearing your team suit in a sea of fast suits and being the little paradoxical non-conformist rule-follower we know your genes want you to be.
I've held strong. But what Ainsley does not know is that I visited the swim shop at the meet this weekend and stood longingly in front of a rack of swim suits that each cost more money than a small Coach handbag. If I'm not willing to buy myself a nice purse, or pair of shoes, or a special-occasion dress that looks like it was designed in this century, why did I pick up the size 28 Fast Skin and consider it for the briefest of seconds? Why would the thought of buying a child a freakishly expensive suit that will outlive its usefulness by the second weekend in March have such a pull over a woman who buys her casual clothes from Target and, when she really feels like splurging, Old Navy? I do not believe in status symbols; if you've ever seen my house, or my car, or even my wedding ring, you know this. So why was I standing there holding a swim suit that would basically be bought for no other purpose than to make my child fit in with the upper echelon, holding it the way Samwise Gamgee once briefly held The Ring, contemplating how one can go from ordinary to extraordinary?
Because my daughter is my "precious". And that kind of devotion makes people do some crazy shit.
I eventually came to my senses and put the suit down and walked away. An hour later I might have gone online and found the same suit at the bargain basement price of $120, and I might even have added that suit to my cart, but I did not buy it. I will not buy it. I am almost completely sure of this.
Just in case, though, I have hidden my credit card and check book. (Not really! Yet.)
I know, deep down, that how Ainsley does at the end of this season is not going to come down to what kind of swim suit she's wearing. It's going to come down to her technique, her focus, her nerves, her drive. How many more cuts she makes or whether or not she makes finals will not, in all likelihood, be decided by mere hundredths of a second. She's just not at that level this year. As badly as this one cut has made me want to see her get more, I have to be realistic that she's a good swimmer, but not Olympics-bound. This needs to be something she does to stay active, have fun, and learn the value of hard work. And she can do all of that wearing her perfectly-fine and well-maintained team suit at meets.
But, um, if any of you find a great deal on a fast suit (and by "great deal" I mean "almost free"), do let me know.