Morning Practice

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By zero-dark-thirty, she was already in the pool.

This was the day I was warned about. Nine years ago, when my six-year-old performed the perfect stroke, her coach yelled across the pool deck. “Get ready to get up early, mom. This kid’s gonna be a swimmer.” Everyone likes to hear great things about their kids. Most of us are thrilled when they exhibit athletic prowess, especially at six. I was beyond proud.

What I didn’t understand was the get up early part.

In swimming, hierarchy is built into the schedule. The better you swim, the earlier you have to show up for practice. Today, Cherry graduated from late nights to early mornings. It’s dark at 6:15 a.m. That was the time on the mini van’s dashboard clock when I delivered her to the front door of the natatorium. She got out of the car without saying a word. The sound of silence, if you’ve ever had to wake a teenager from a cozy cocoon so she can dunk her sleep-deprived body in chilled water, is a gift from Heaven. Will she hate it? Will practice be too hard? Cherry has never been a morning person. Will she settle for being average, so she won’t have to get up so early?

An hour and half later, she got back into the car.

“Can I just go to sleep, now?” Then she smiled. “Coach talked for thirty minutes. Thirty minutes that I didn’t have to swim at all.”

“What did he say?”

“Focus on what you’re doing and don’t waste time.”

“For thirty minutes, he said that? Thirty minutes you could’ve been swimming?”

“I know. Right?”

IMG_2502I blew a sigh of relief. She survived the early morning plunge and lived to joke about it. Now, on to biology class. I drove through rush-hour traffic while she put on her makeup and shook out her wet hair.

Today’s milestone is next week’s routine.

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