Monday, August 16, 2010

Not Your Mother's Swim Meet

For anyone who did not grow up on the Main Line, I need to point out a discovery I made this summer: swim meets on the Main Line are different. This summer was my older son's first summer swimming for our Country Club's team, and my first experience with this particular league. I did not grow up on the Main Line, so to say the least, its a little different from what I remember as a kid swimming.

My husband and I both swam for summer swim teams and although we did not swim for the same swim club, we swam against each other and have very similar memories of those summers. For me, summer swim meets were a giant mass of kids running around a large field in the dark waiting for their heat to be called. It was parents lined up poolside in folding chairs from home, thermoses of iced-tea or lemonade at their flip-flop clad feet. It was Ellios pizza and Swedish fish from the snack bar, and a rice crispy treat or brownie for a quarter at the parent run bake sale table. There were soggy hot dogs and orange drink; and somewhere in that mass of kids there were always Pixy Sticks, Fun Dip, or packets of Jello for sugar highs. It was casual and there was no dress code. And it was fun, but I think more fun for me than for my mother sitting there waiting for my events.

So, last year when I took my son to watch a home meet against our rival club and we were told in advance that the dress code for that meet was "Madras Plaid", I had an inkling that this kind of summer swimming might be different. But I also assumed that the sea of people in resort attire and the big dinner buffet was because it was a special rivalry meet. I never expected the meet to look like this, and I never expected as a parent to have so much fun. My son found his friends and I found a neighbor to enjoy a glass of wine with while we cheered on her kids. My husband joined us for dinner and we stayed much later than I ever would have expected since I didn't even have a swimmer on the team then. I had no idea then that this is what every meet would be like.

At my son's first home meet this year, when a well dressed staffed member politely asked me to move my bag so they could set up the bar, I knew that my son's swim meets were never going to be like his mother's. I'm not complaining, but I am marveling at the difference. I like that we are now greeted by a table of complimentary iced-tea, lemonade, and Arnold Palmers at every meet. Chairs have been set up along the deck of the pool for parents and spectators. And, I will gladly move my bag to another chair so they can set up a poolside bar. I've yet to see any kids with Jello packets, but my son is excited to get a ticket for a soggy hot dog and an ice cream after he swims. While I am glad the hot dogs still make an appearance, I'm equally glad that the full course outdoor dinner buffet shows up for every home meet. For an outsider looking in seeing nicely dressed adults milling around linen covered tables, our swim meets don't look much different than a poolside dinner or cocktail party. And for anyone inside, it pretty much is a party. But why shouldn't it be a party? It is a summer evening and we are standing around a pool after all. My kids look forward to the swim meets, and to be honest, so do I. Who knew swim meets could be so much fun?

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