Mama Mayhem

When it’s sink or swim time, who wants a job?

By Riverine Herald

PARENTING is hard. Bloody hard. And it tests you in ways you never imagined.

Pushes you to boundaries you never knew existed.

People often think newborns are the hardest to deal with, it’s what you always hear about.

But let me tell you, constant crying and nappy changes are a cinch compared to what’s coming.

Case in point.

Last week my daughter Ayla (miss 12) and I headed to Sydney for her biggest swim meet to date.

The CIS Secondary Swimming Championships where she competed against some of the state’s best teenagers and in the Sydney Olympic Aquatic Centre.

The same pool where Ian Thorpe, Grant Hackett and Susie O’Neill swam into Olympic legend.

But on Wednesday and Thursday last week it was Ayla’s turn – she had been nervous in the lead up, but I put that down to first-time jitters plus to make matters worse she badly jarred her finger playing netball the day before.

So after a seven-hour marathon (bus to the airport, plane, three trains and a 500m walk) we arrived at our hotel.

But no sooner we had put down our luggage than we were racing out the door for the warm up before her first race.

Oh, how naive I was.

As soon as we entered the Olympic venue Ayla’s nerves went through the roof.

“I can’t do it,” my wide-eyed child exclaimed.

“Of course you can,” I reassured her.

“No you don’t understand. I am not doing it.”

My heart sank and I could feel the anger build up inside me.

Did she not realise the time, effort and money her dad, stepmum, grandparents and I had put in to get her to this point?

But I held it together because we know as parents anger gets you nowhere.

I explained to her we didn’t come all this way because we thought she’d win (dead last was a safer bet considering who she was up against).

No, this was about giving her that once in a lifetime experience and giving it a go no matter what.

I gave her all the love, support and encouragement I could muster.

The answer was still no.

Next was gentle persuasion, followed by bribery (she can choose dinner and ice cream for dessert).

When that didn’t work, I knew I was in trouble.

A phone call to her dad and stepmum made no difference.

She wasn’t budging.

The clock was ticking and I was starting to panic.

Finally threats started erupting from my mouth like Kilauea – “we will leave and go home this instant”.

Before I said something I would really regret, I left her with her much calmer teacher and teammate and withdrew to the women’s facilities to try and regain my faculties.

Clearly my screams of frustration weren’t as muffled as I thought judging by the speed with which I cleared the room.

It took me 10 minutes to rein it all in but a much calmer me (well I was no longer quivering with rage) walked out ready to put this debacle down to a massive learning experience and quietly retreat without a scene.

But as I entered the hallway there was Ayla walking to marshalling with her teammate. I raced to the spectator seats before she had the chance to see me and perched high above pleaded nervously she not run back to me at any moment.

But she stood on the blocks and speared into the water.

Thirty-six seconds later she was finished.

She had come last, but not by much – and I have never been more proud of her.

She overcame fear (and pain from what has now been upgraded to a potentially broken finger), fatigue and pressure to swim her little heart out.

The next day she did even better and set two PBs.

Yes, parenting is tough.

But it’s also pretty damn amazing.