My girls are trying out the neighborhood swim team this summer. They are only two of nearly 100 kids on the team. As newcomers and young swimmers among a dozen coaches, they haven’t exactly made a name for themselves.
They are working hard and having a great time with their friends. Mae and Kate enjoy the water, their strokes and endurance are improving and all in all, we have learned much about the world of competitive swimming. We just aren’t earning any ribbons; after all in our home, winning isn’t everything and we aren’t raising professional athletes.
The meets, although well run and organized are still crazy-full of lots of little kids running around in identical swimsuits, wet hair, and goggles. In order for coaches and shepherds to keep kids straight and make sure swimmers are always in the right events, heats, and lanes, it is common practice for swimmers to have their name, age, and team written in Sharpie on their backs.
I think it has been easy for the coaches to rely on these markings for identifying swimmers at meets and therefore some haven’t learned my girls’ names during morning practices. I can’t say that I blame these coaches; most of them are college or high school students, and most of them switch age groups and swimmers often. I know I couldn’t keep up with that many kids’ names either.
One of my daughters was upset a few weeks ago after her practice. When I asked her what was wrong she said, “We are here every day swimming and working hard and every day a coach asks me my name again.”
And I immediately knew what she was getting at. For all of her efforts and attempts, she wants to feel known. She wants to be recognized. She wants to feel that she counts enough to be remembered each day.
I assured her that it was nothing personal, that many of these coaches are just trying their best to keep the practices moving along and the swimmers safe and in the right places. I reminded her that the coach asking her name (even repeatedly) was more polite that saying “hey you!”
In my daughter’s young little heart, I knew the exact longing she was trying to explain. She is at an age and stage where her identity is budding and her confidence in herself and who she is becoming is developing. She is taking personal risks and needs to feel the rewards of those risks in order to continue taking them.
I know the feeling because it is a longing inside us all. We all long to be known.
I don’t mean that we all want to be famous or well-known, but we all desire for the people in our lives to see us, hear us, and know who we are. Not just by name, but we long for others to truly know us.
I fear that as military children who move around often, that I am somehow responsible for robbing my children of that experience of being really known among teachers, classmates, friends, coaches, church leaders, and neighbors. As her mother, I worry that if we were only more permanently planted that my daughter’s swim coach would know her name already.
This little incident was a great reminder and opportunity for a talk with my girls. We were able to continue the dialogue about what it means to be known.
We shared about the importance of being known and loved by our families and dearest friends and how it’s okay if people outside of that circle have to ask our names over and over again. We discussed how it is much more important to be known by a loving God above all. God knew us even before He formed us (Jeremiah 1:5). His love for us is abundant and personal. He always has our best interests in mind!
I pray that as I mother these three blessings, that God would continue giving me opportunities to share His truth and speak to the hearts of my kids.