Swimsuits, goggles, towels and snacks are strewn all over my car.
There are empty water bottles, books and shoes, lots of shoes.
My cell phone alarm rings every weekday at 6:25 a.m., though typically, I’ve been up at least an hour.
But still tucked in their beds at that time are two very tired, yet very fulfilled, young children.
Welcome to summer swim and dive team.
This summer marks the fourth year of my family’s participation in Gilbert’s summer aquatics program. It started with my son, who at the age of 6, began swimming for the Mesquite Marlins.
Swimming isn’t a year-round event for us. It’s just something I thought would be good to introduce to my kids. When we began, I wasn’t even sure my son would be allowed to participate since he was so new to swimming.
The coaches worked with him and away he went in the pool. Last year, my oldest daughter, then 6, joined her brother.
This summer, she announced she wanted to join the diving team. Since she’s taken gymnastics for nearly three years, I thought that would be a good fit.
I found a Gilbert pool with both in the morning, signed them up, and waited for summer practices to start, wondering how on earth we were going to manage getting up that early.
Ends up, that was the — somewhat — easy part. After two weeks, we got into a groove. (OK, I confess. That second week I practically had to carry my kids into the car at 6:45 a.m.)
No, the tough part, at least for us, began with the meets. I had missed the fact that swim and dive meets are held at different pools.
It’s made for some interesting Thursday nights. At about 4:30 p.m., the kids get into suits. Then, we gather snacks and frozen water bottles, books to read, cards to play with, and something — anything — to entertain their 2-year-old sister.
We arrive at “Pool A” at 5:30 p.m. for dive warm-ups and a 6 p.m. meet. After we cheer on my oldest daughter — and collect much-praised upon ribbons — we hop back in the car and race — sometimes 12 miles — to “Pool B” by 7 p.m. for swim team warm-ups.
After two events, and lots more cheering, we arrive home sometime after 9 p.m. and collapse.
I’m not alone. There are several parents with kids who swim and dive who also make the weekly cross-town trek. There are families with kids in all three age groups, so they sit alongside us for hours each day at practices and meets.
We bond, share stories, pass along ideas (pack Subway in a cooler for dinner!) and celebrate each other’s children.
I’m not trying to raise Olympic stars. Heck, I don’t know that they’ll ever do anything beyond recreational teams.
But I’ve seen my kids try something new. I’ve seen their confidence lifted with each new dive or swim stroke learned. We’ve met new people, made new friends, and spent hours together as a family this summer.
And yes, there is a little proud momma that comes out when they come running to me at the end of the meet with that ribbon in hand, no matter what color it is.
Michelle Reese covers education for the Tribune and blogs about motherhood and family issues at http://blogs.evtrib.com/evmoms. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.