My dad was not the best of role models. He worked too much. He thought he’d gone to enough church before he had kids. He had little patience. He was a bit of a bully. And he thought his charm would get him through everything.
And he put way too much emphasis on our athletics. Especially swimming.
Now, I’m not a bully, and I really (usually) enjoy church. I work a bit too much, but I work from home, so I can put my stuff down easily and interact with my kids, and pick it back up with minimal (usually) effort. I do sometimes rely on my charm too much, and my smile, but I try to use that for good, not evil.
But I have trouble with the swimming thing. I know to tamp it down, and I don’t let it get the best of me very often, but it happened a bit this weekend.
Now, it hasn’t been a problem up to this point because my eldest daughter hasn’t been a great swimmer. She’s been okay, but couldn’t quite make time cuts for the bigger meets. And that was okay. Because she loves the sport, and works really hard at it.
Suddenly, though, this year she’s qualified in one event and is close in a bunch more. And I found myself bribing and promising and cajoling. And, a couple of days ago, when she didn’t swim like we all thought she would, I got a little mad and a lot disappointed. At her.
And I took a deep breath, looked at her disappointed 11 year-old face, and I got mad and disappointed at myself.
After she talked to her coach she came over to me, tears in her eyes. I hugged her and sat down with her. She told me she was afraid she let me down, and that I put too much pressure on her. Even though I tried not to let her see my hope and my disappointment, she found it.
I sighed and talked to her, a little bit like an adult. I told her those were my problems, not hers, and I would love her no matter what. She was my daughter, and she worked hard and loves the sport, and she should be having fun, not worrying about what I thought. Because, no matter what she did in life, I would love her.
And I said yes, I was disappointed. For her, not for me. I want the moon for her, I want all her wishes to come true, I want her to shine. But I want her to know that I will be there for her, no matter what. I will hug and love her, and try my hardest to cheer her up.
I will work my hardest to keep my inner demons quiet. All my swim parent friends know my issues, and know to tell me to cool it, or to slap me, or even look at me in ‘that way’ (I did get one of those, and I really appreciated it. It brought me back to my senses) if I start to channel my dad.
I am not my dad, my daughter was not put on this earth to fulfill some leftover dreams of mine. I’m here to lift her up, to make her a better person, to help her find out who she is and what she wants from life. And that’s what swimming is supposed to do for her, also. I’ve got to stand back and let it, and her coaches, do their jobs. And this is YMCA age group swimming; not elite level, college scholarship, make it to the Olympics swimming. It’s supposed to be fun.
My job is to cheer for her, to celebrate when her dreams come true, and to pick up the pieces when she falls. And to love her with all my might.
Now, onto a real disappointment: The Room by Jonas Karlsson.
I’m not sure what I was expecting out of The Room, but it sure wasn’t this. The blurb I read said it was funny, surreal, and thought provoking, but mostly it was just confusing.
Karlsson is a Swedish writer/actor/artist. Maybe this one seems a little more Kafkaesque in its original form. Again, to me it never makes it to that level.
The main character, Bjorn, is a sufferable know-it-all, a superior oddball in a large bureaucracy of some sort. He seems to be somewhat anxiety riddled, and he finds his own way to deal with that: The Room. Bjorn discovers the room and uses it as a place to regroup, have some privacy, and to get some work done. As the book progresses, the origins of the room, not to mention its entire existence, come into question.
Throughout the book I wasn’t sure if Bjorn was delusional, brilliant, or just plain weird. I really didn’t care, because he was such a self-centered ass. None of the other characters were developed at all; I know this was to highlight the egotistical nature of Bjorn, but I may have cared more if I knew what the other characters actually thought.
Toward the end I wasn’t sure if Bjorn was actually getting what he wanted or if he had just gone crazy. And I didn’t care. This book tries really hard to be existential, but ends up just being a labyrinth of crazy.