In our family we believe that every child should have some sort of physical outlet. We encourage (some might say insist) our kids to try different sports and activities until they find one that they really enjoy. My oldest daughter went through basketball, soccer, and cheerleading before she decided to stick with the first sport she tried: softball. She ended up playing softball all the way into her college years. My baby girl has tried several sports and at this point is doing competitive gymnastics and some softball.
This is my middle daughter, K, a few years ago when she was on the swim team. She had already done two years of softball, some cheerleading and a couple of seasons of Upward soccer and hadn’t found anything she wanted to continue. Because she loved the water and she had/has some powerful upper legs, we thought swimming might be a good fit for her.
This picture was taken at her very first swim meet, a low key event where the swimmers on the team basically competed against each other. She’s in between events and she was cold, hence the towel around her shoulders. What you don’t see in this picture is the wrestling match it took to get that swim cap on her head.
You see, this is my exceptional child, as in “the exception to the rule”. She’s an extremely picky eater and has been since she was a newborn, which resulted in many months of worry from yours truly and many visits to the pediatrician to find out why she wasn’t growing properly. She has never been what you’d consider a “good sleeper”. Her senses are very acute and can detect odors/sounds/tastes/sensations that most people can’t, and they bother her. A lot. Too much sensory input can literally drive her to distraction, which I am sad to say resulted in her being labeled ADD at one point. (We know better now)
See the edge of that swimsuit peeking out? See how loose it is? That’s because she couldn’t stand the feel of a skin-tight swimsuit, even though that’s better for swimming. And the cap? They were new, and they smelled of kerosene or some other petroleum based chemical. The other kids all put their caps on with maybe a wrinkled up nose to indicate the bad smell, but not my kid. It took a looooong time to convince her to wear it, because she wasn’t going to be allowed to compete without it, and you can see from the picture that she still has a distracted look on her face. That’s because she can still smell the cap, even after swimming 2-3 events. And it’s not only the smell that bugs her, it’s the skin tight fit. As soon as she swam her last event, she ran over to me so I could pull the cap off.
I love this child as I love all my children, but this one seems to need a little more protection from the world. In many ways, the world is a harsh place for her, with bright lights, loud noises, foul smells, gross tastes/textures, and uncomfortable clothing. It wasn’t until last year that she would wear jeans – until then she wore sweatpants or yoga pants. Brushing her hair takes an act of Congress. As she’s getting older and nearing the teen years (!!) she is better able to handle things on her own but it can still take her a long time to get used to different sensations.
Had she been born to a different kind of person, life might have been even more harsh for this child. However, I understand what she goes through because I have some of the same issues. I am a very picky eater, for instance. I’ve gotten better as I’ve gotten older but there are some things I frankly will never eat, like seafood. The smell is too nasty for me, and even if you say there’s not much of a smell, I’ll notice it. There’s more but you get the idea.
The end of the story: she finished up in the top half of all but one event that day but she didn’t continue with swimming after that season. (She is now fencing and loving it.) I showed her this picture and asked her what she remembered about that day and the first thing she mentioned was the cap!