My little girl is growing up.

Last night I took my daughter to a swim meet, driving her there because she does not actually attend the school where she swims.  We got a smaller school which does not have the opportunity, however, a neighboring district, much larger obviously, does offer swimming.  Our circumstances are such that this year is an excellent year to test the waters (pun intended) and see if this is for her.

Two things happened last night that just made me sit back in awe.  First, as we are driving there, she’s talking about how in junior high, she made the decision to run cross country, an “unpopular sport” (if it’s not one of the big four: volleyball, basketball, track, or softball, why play?), and how she really enjoyed it.  I commented on what people think of her swimming and she replied back, “They don’t even know. I went from an unpopular sport, to an even more unpopular sport, even in the eyes of the cross country runners!”  The kicker: “I love swimming and I’m ok with that.”  Wow.  That made me sit up a little straighter.  I know cross country was hard for her as many of the girls in her class look down on those not playing volleyball.  My daughter is a big of a free spirit (I blame my wife) and doesn’t follow the pack that way, but yet, she was happy to run, and even more happy to swim.  She loves the “swim family” she’s found, some place very positive in her life, and I’m so grateful for that right now.

However, the lightning bolt was later to come.  We are at the meet, and she’s just gotten done swimming a 100 m breast stroke (4 times down and back), and in a time that’s a personal best for her.  Now, she’s no speed demon by any means, but swimming two hours a day for the last three weeks, she’s made huge strides all ready!  She’s tired, and goes directly into the final race of the night, the 400 m free style relay.  Each person on the team, four girls, swims a 100 m free style (crawl stroke).  She’s second in her group, so they line up and off the first girl goes.  Well, as that first girl is coming back for her half way turn, up my daughter climbs on the block, and I’m thinking “no, she’s not going to dive in at half way!” Yup. Sure enough, she goes right in, disqualifying her team.  The old daughter would have been crushed, crawled out the pool in tears and never recovered.  Last night, she popped out smiling, got back up on the block, and in her first 50 m, swam it as fast as she ever has.  Of course, her second 50 was considerably slower, but when she got out, a teammate was there with a big hug and a smile, and my daughter was smiling right back.

Watching that take place and the ensuing drive home where I expressed just how proud of her I was made me think about myself and my students.  We all grow up at some point, some slower than others, but the process happens over time.  To watch this, to help with this process is a job, and honor in many ways, and one that I take seriously.  I do wonder though, how many of us take the time to look our students in the eyes express how proud of them we are?  When I did that to my daughter last night, she teared up, partly because she was very tired, but also because she knows how much we care.  Do our students?  I read a post by Matt Ray (@MrMatthewRay) about being more than a teacher, and that is so incredibly true.  We are so much more to these students: teacher, party planner, banker, librarian, and so much more!  Take that time to look your students in the eyes telling them that they’ve done amazing things and that they’ll do it again!  Let them know they matter to you and to the world!

If they are like my daughter, they’ll swell with pride, and be ready to take on the world, or in my daughter’s case, they’ll be ready, but later. “Just let me sleep a little more, Dad!” 🙂