Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Branden's very last day of swimming school

Thursday July 28th was indeed Branden's very last day of swimming school ever. Branden has been in swimming school every single week since he was 4 years old (Noah since age 3), last September or October, before he hit age 9, he reached a level 1. And honestly about 95% of the kids (if not more) who reach a level 1, quit the swimming school after reaching that goal. At the time Branden did not want to stop, he actually loved swimming that much and he is good. So, though his friends had been quiting and dwindling each month (as they also reached their goals) this past year. Even his good friend Keita in January I think is when he finally reached a #1 and quit. What comes after a level 1? I asked myself that same very question too. Competitions. And there was something called an athletic course. The athletic course is like 15,000 or so yen a month. And you must commit yourself to that 110%, you will agree to swim 6 days a week. Monday through Saturday. And if you EVER miss a 1/3 of the month...any month you will be kicked out of the athletic course. You must also buy a pair of competition swim trunks and also a pair of special training swim trunks. And 2 of Branden's friends from yochien are actually in this athletic course. Good friends of ours actually, salt of the earth... nicest folks. Meanwhile we had spoken to the coach about the athletic course a few times since he reached the level 1. She knew we were hesitant. And to be honest the person that was the most hesitant about it was me. If we agreed, our whole life would indeed drastically change, 6 days a week I'd be at the swim club with Branden. And the chance of Noah ever getting to play or ride his bike with his future classmates next April and beyond would probably never ever happen. Any chance or hopes of a normal family life, like we have now.. would all but disappear. What to do? This is a question we struggled answering since last October. Meanwhile Branden swam weekly, racing through the waters making good qualifying times. Great! We are so proud. But...do we want our life to change? And at what cost, the entire family? If you only knew the struggles I had with this...sometimes I thought okay if he's good enough who am I to stop him. Then I started thinking about his travel schedule. Kids in the athletic course travel to different parts of Japan with the chaperone's etc. The financial cost for us parents is high, we must pay those travel costs, hotel costs etc. Like 50,000 yen each time they travel type amount (for food, transportation fees, etc etc). Also, Branden would be gone a couple times a year without us. Could I take that, could he? All Spring he swam in the regular lane with the few and dwindling #1's. While his 2 former yochien classmates swam in the athletic lane.... in the upstairs window many times I'd be thinking what to do....it was hard. In May Branden had been urged by the coaches that a competition was coming in August. Finally we knew we sort of had to make a decision either way, stay or go, swim or quit. In the end of May...Noboru and I finally sat down and talked very seriously about this.... though we have talked about it countless and I do mean countless times beforehand, but this time we knew we had to come to some conclusion...some end resolution.... go ahead or stop, we talked for over an hour at the kitchen table while the boys slept. What are our family goals. What kind of family life do we want ultimately? One run by the swimming club and competition dates. Or one of a quiet family life, free to travel at our leisure and the kids free to play with friends providing homework is done. Swimming 6 days a week? Really? And I think they swim from like 6-8 every night. Or 5:30-8 every night. Good bye family dinners. Again what did we want. The choice when it boiled down to it...we knew already. We finally said...no. We do not want that. And yes we also said...well then why didn't we just have him stop last October then. But again it was not an easy decision, by any means. From age 4 to age 9 though he's almost 10 right now. For 5 years and then some, he swam there. As it was Branden wasn't getting home from the D course until nearly 7pm every Monday and Thursday night. So after we made the decison we felt best for our family. A weight or cloud lifted. We..well I spoke to Branden about it at first. He was disappointed he wasn't going to go any further with his swimming. But when I asked him...in all honestly do you really want to swim 6 days a week for the next few years? If not longer? Because if your really want to..for you Branden, I will do it. And I let him think about it. He thought about it for a whole day and night deeply. Noboru and Branden spoke about this too in great lengths. So first week of June we knew we had to decide either way. And we finally all agreed. So, Noboru went to the swim school first week of June and turned in the "quitting" paperwork. He said they were surprised. So since he turned the paperwork in June, his last swim month was July, the end of July. I went the entire month of July to see my son swim. And finally the very last day. It was sort of emotional for me and bittersweet. Feelings of things coming to a close. Coming full circle. So for the last time....for Branden....I sat from the window upstairs and watched Branden take roll call for the very last time which is what this picture is of.
Branden and one of his very good friends. The coaches knew this was his very last day. Noah and I watched from the window.
I watched as he glided through the water. I am so completely proud of Branden and how much he gained from swim school, how much he learned at swim school, how many wonderful skills he learned there. They can never take that away. And we will always love that swim school and Noah still obviously swims for that swim school.
I brought the camcorder. In a way I was embarrassed bringing the camcorder I didn't want people thinking...wow she even video tapes her child at swim school? But then in a way I really didn't care...what anyone else thought, *I knew* this was the very last day he would ever swim at that school. So, what anyone else thought I didn't care. I video taped him for the last time.
It was raining so heavily that night. Branden, Noah and myself all ran into the car. I usually only let my kids get an icecream from the machine when they pass a new level (if Noah passes they'll both get one and if Branden passes they'd both get one, so they used to really look forward to their brother passing : ). So, as we were leaving the swim club, in the genkan of the school, I handed Branden some money for an ice cream. And Noah some for an icecream. They excitedly ran in the pouring rain to get their ice cream. I followed. And then the 3 of us ran to our car, we were drenched, literally drenched from the pouring rain. I said Branden let me take your picture....he said why? I said so I can remember forever what you looked like your very last day of swimming and what you wore. I just want to remember every little thing from this day. So, this is the pic. And now I will forever remember the rain and the fact, he got an icecream and the color of his shirt.... his navy blue and white striped shirt too. This way when the memory fades I'll have this photo as a reminder. : )

All August it was a much quieter schedule with Branden not swimming twice a week anymore. He's had more free time to ride his bike in the neighborhood with his friends now. I think ultimately we made the right decision for our family. If he'd had been in the athetic course, we wouldn't be as free to travel as we like we do now.

Also in July, we stopped Branden's Japanese/kokugo at Kumon. The reason being his Japanese is up to snuff. His Japanese in on level with his classmates. And after getting nothing but A's and B's in Japanese class at elementary school all these past years. And his sensei at elementary school said during the parent teacher conference, in July because we were considering dropping kokugo/Japanese at Kumon because he really doesn't need it anymore. We could have let him quit maybe in the 2nd grade but he kept him in for a few extra years just to make doubly sure. And we are finally really sure. But we did ask his sensei at elementary school and she said Branden is absolutely doing fine, his kanji is great. So we feel comfortable enough to not let him take Japanese at Kumon anymore either. So July meant for Branden, stopping swimming and stopping the Japanese study at Kumon as well. So although this is Noah's year of "lasts"...July was a month of "lasts" for Branden. : )

Now all of August has been a real breeze for Branden. The only thing he has now is regular elementary school (which has not started yet). And English Kumon. Other then that he is free to play with his friends and be a kid. And I think that's important for kids.

Noah on the other hand is going to swim school once a week and doing Japanese and English at Kumon. But he is preparing for next year when ichinensei starts. Noah is a level 9 in swimming. And he's good, real good at swimming. Anyway just wanted to write this post so Branden can come here and look at it when he's older. : ) We are so proud of you Branden.
Sorry, I know I shared this picture when he received his swimming trophy last year, but since it's all come to an end, you know... it seems right to share this pic again. Branden and his swimming trophy. : )