(Temporarily) Dechlorinated: The 11-Year-Old Retired Again

(Temporarily) Dechlorinated: The 11-Year-Old Retired Again

By Chase McFadden//Contributor  | Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Our youngest — Tax Credit #4 — officially brought his swim career to a close after winter state, which our LSC was fortunate enough to hold before The Rona climbed to the top of the high dive and virally belly flopped into our lives.

“I’m retiring,” our fourth born stated, toweling off after his final final. 

We weren’t surprised. This is the umpteenth time he’s made such an announcement.

Tax Credit #4 is the Brett Favre of age group retirees, swimming off into the sunset on multiple occasions only to flip turn at the horizon and come back for one more season.

So, we’ll see. If he truly is hanging up the goggles, he’s going out on top, John Elway style.

No. 4 is a strong swimmer. Because of that, his retirement puzzles some people. (BTW, 11-year-olds can’t actually retire from anything, right?)

“He’s really good at it! Why would he quit?” they’ll say.

It’s meant as a compliment, but those words can also be interpreted as, “Quitting would be more understandable if he wasn’t any good.”

I’m familiar with the mentality.

Me dropping #4 off at a practice he did not want to go to: “You’re really good at it! Why would you quit?”

Me voice-to-texting my wife after dropping #4 off at a practice he clearly did not want to go to: “his relee gd brad pit.!. y wud he kwit qwestun Mark”

Me picking #4 up after a practice he VERY, VERY CLEARLY did not want to go to: “But you’re really good at it. Why would you quit?”

Why? Because it isn’t fun for him, and sometimes that’s reason enough. 

Not to say that everything in life is or should be fun. (SEE: SOCIAL DISTANCING.) No one is entitled to that level of privilege, nor would want to be. After all, tough sledding is necessary to better appreciate periods of smooth gliding.

But if sledding is optional, and you have no passion for sledding, and there are a whole lot of other things out there to try besides sledding, then maybe your parents shouldn’t make you feel guilty for not wanting to sled.

Who knows, Tax Credit #4 might actually enjoy sledding. He does not enjoy swimming.

There’s a parental imperative to steer our children towards choices that are in their best interests for development and growth as individuals, and sometimes I can be a real jerk about it. Like everything else parenting related, there are absolutely no set protocols for successfully navigating that responsibility.

In general, parents pretty much wing it with best intentions and hope that we don’t mess up our kids too badly. This begins at birth. T-shirts reading NO CLUE on the front and HERE GOES NOTHING! on the back should be handed out in the maternity ward by winking nurses whispering, “Good luck.”

Personally, I believe that a diversification of interests is positive, seeing what all is out there.

However, when a person does explore multiple activities, he can’t possibly stick with all of them. You move on from some.

It’s sort of like trying on a new tech suit. You pull and wiggle and wrangle and contort and cry and swear maybe a little bit until you’re finally in. But you might find that the suit just doesn’t suit you — as your toes immediately turn numb and colorless and breathing becomes impossible — and if it doesn’t fit quite right, that’s okay. You simply resign yourself to the fact that you’re stuck in that suit forever because not even the Jaws of Life could extract you from that sucker.

Admittedly, a poor analogy.

My point is, exploring different pursuits is the important part. Tax Credit #4 had zero interest in even giving swimming a chance until we attended the 2016 Olympic Trials. There he experienced the magic of the sport — bright lights, fog machines, loud music, huge snow cones — and decided he’d give it a shot. Plus, he scored a sweet pair of red, white and blue jammers and a matching star spangled cap. Swimming became cool.

He gave it four years, which was probably two more than he desired.

At his core, Tax Credit #4 just doesn’t have that burning passion for the sport. That’s fine. His core has seriously burned while swimming, however, and that has helped him with his preferred passions.

No. 4 is a baller. Loves basketball. Lives it, breathes it, dribbles it. His room is a shrine dedicated to Golden State, particularly his favorite Warrior, Steph Curry. A couple years ago a basketball coach — who had been an age group swimmer himself — explained that Tax Credit can hold his shooting form from distance because of the strong core he’s developed from swimming. He told TC that he should keep working hard in the pool until he has to make a choice between the two sports. At the time, this observation and advice prolonged #4’s swimming career.

Beyond the tangible physical benefits, swimming has been great for Tax Credit #4 in other ways. He’s developed mental toughness, focus and humility. He’s learned important lessons from trusted adults and contributed to a team. Just the fact that he’s gained a general level of security in water is comforting to us as his parents. In all ways, he’s a better person for having swam.

Plus, #4 is now a total boss at the hotel pool. 

Really, that’s true of anything you try. There’s likely going to be a positive takeaway, even if that positive takeaway is only that you attempted something and found that it isn’t your cup of chocolate milk. You took a risk.

But who knows. When we return to Omaha for Trials in 2021, Tax Credit #4 may experience the thrill and excitement and 2-gallon blue raspberry snow cones of the sport once again and decide to pull another Favre. Or maybe not.

Either way, he was a swimmer — and sorta always will be — and that’s a good thing.



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