The Swimming Carnival

It’s that time of year, that time of year where children are required to put on their speed suits, cap and goggles and participate in the school’s swimming carnival.  This was Alfie’s first year of competing because you can’t go to the carnival unless you’re in Year 3.

There wasn’t much time to prepare.  School’s only been back for a couple of weeks, but we did manage to squeeze in two swimming lessons ahead of the carnival.

Impatiently waiting for the races to begin

Impatiently waiting for the races to begin

As the big day loomed the poor little guy developed a cold that progressed to a fever that moved on to asthma.  But still he wanted to compete.  Probably because I told him he stood a good chance of winning because all the races are held in age groups and the youngest age group is the Under 8’s.  With 95% of his Year being in the Under 9’s, I knew he would have little competition.  This was his year to shine!

And I wasn’t wrong.  There were so few in the Under 8 50mtr Freestyle event they didn’t have to hold a heat.  Alfie, along with three others, went straight through to the final.

But Alfie, in an effort to gain points for his House, also signed up for the breast stroke.  Why?  He can’t do breast stroke.  And there were so few entrants they decided to merge all the age groups so he was competing against people turning 10.  To be sure they had more strength, experience, knowledge and skill.  And they showed it.

Could someone please feed that child.

Could someone please feed that child.

Just before the race Alfie was sitting on a chair in front of Lane 7, the lane he would swim in.  ‘This is the breast stroke race, okay’, I yelled from up close and personal where no adults were supposed to be.

‘Is it?’ he asked all surprised, ‘Isn’t this my freestyle race?’

‘That’s later’, I screamed, there’s no heat, you’re just swimming a final and that’s not on until the end of the day’.  I was stressed.  Can you imagine my humiliation if he did an entire lap of freestyle in front of a packed grandstand only to reach the end and be told, ‘It was a breast stroke race’.  I would have died on the spot.

He's finished his first ever 50m Breast Stroke race

He’s finished his first ever 50m Breast Stroke race

Especially as there were competitive parents there who have had their children in squads since before they could walk and training three times a week at 4.45am is standard and nothing to complain about.  Those parents marched up and down the 50mtr pool with their personalised stop-watches timing every event their child went in to make sure it was a PB.  I grabbed a packet of chips and a can of lemonade and sat on the grass in the shade.

Perhaps that was my undoing.  Perhaps I just don’t take parenting seriously enough.  Because when Alfie lined up on the starting blocks, off went the buzzer and he just stood there.  ‘Dive in’, I screamed, fully aware there was no way he could hear me.  Finally aware his race had started he dived in (a sort of a dive but that’s probably a generous term) and started doing his breast stroke where he knows what to do with his arms but doesn’t have the frog-leg kick sorted.

‘Does he know he has to touch the wall with both hands?’ asked one mother as she watched Alfie slip further and further from the pack of swimmers.

‘I didn’t think to tell him’, I said as other parents paced up and down the pool’s edge timing their children, hoping for that PB.

But he's really good at climbing trees!

But he’s really good at climbing trees!

And as the race progressed, Alfie was in the outside lane and the further the distance, the further behind he came.  I walked along beside the edge of the pool (minus the stop watch) and yelled encouraging things to him and as he reached the wall I said, ‘Well done; you did so well, you swam such a long way and this was your first ever race, I’m really proud’.

‘Where did I come?’

I couldn’t believe it.  How could he not have noticed he’d come last.  ‘I’m not sure.  But I know it was very close’.

‘But where did  I come?’

‘It was too close to call but you should be very proud of yourself.  50mtrs is such a long way’.

‘Did I come last?’

My heart sank.  What was I to say.  The mother doing the official time-keeping heard this conversation and she said, ‘It’s all about points for your house and just for going in it, you scored points for Boronia’.  What a rescue.

There truly are moments when it’s just not necessary to be explicit about the truth.

And then came the 50mtr final.  But by now Alfie’s voice was hoarse and he seemed to have a fever and he was asking me if I had any ventolin.  I gave him a few good-luck puffs and off he went to the marshaling area.  The Under 8’s race was called and Alfie lined up with the three other finalists.  He was in Lane 4 – the best lane to be in if you’re at the Olympics.  I thought it was a good sign.

Kneeling on the starter's blocks (not sure why)

Kneeling on the starter’s blocks (not sure why)

The buzzer went and the boys dived in.  This time Alfie entered the water a little more promptly.  But it didn’t matter; he still came last.  But not by much, it was an extremely close finish between all four boys.  And Alfie was struggling for breath and I had to find the ventolin in my hand bag and give him some immediately.  But as he was clambering out of the pool the other three boys all said, ‘Ha, ha, Alfie, you came last.  Ha, ha’.

He's not losing by much, is he.

He’s not losing by much, is he.

And so the tears formed and he said, ‘Can we go?  I just want to go home.  I want to go now’.  And so we left then and there.  He’d come last in both his races and other boys had mocked him for doing so.  I took him to McDonalds.

Doing the Aussie Crawl

Doing the Aussie Crawl

But when we arrived home he had at temperature of 38.5C (101.3F) and was breathless beyond belief.  He spent the next day and the weekend lying in bed and watching DVDs.

'Where did I come?'

‘Where did I come?’

He said to me, ‘I don’t want to go in the swimming carnival next year’, and I said, ‘But you will go in it because the only place you can go is up.  I pity the children who have peaked too soon’.

And Alfie agreed.





  1. Poor Alfie!! How could he push himself to swim with asthma flare up like that? He’s amazingly brave.

    and terribly cute 🙂

  2. Poor guy indeed. Doing his best when in such miserable shape due to his cold and fever and then when you’re at your most vulnerable, having your buddies make fun of you. He fought through it all and deserves a lot of credit.

  3. Bless his heart, as we say in the South. Reminds me of my own efforts. He is such an adorable child in every way–just so likable. And vulnerable. Kudos to Alfie for having such a great attitude. And to you!

  4. Great Alfie, Blessing and Happiness, love, nia

  5. I think you take parenting very seriously and are an absolutely AWESOME mother! Poor Alfie, and what a tropper to compete with a fever and asthma and obviously feeling rotten. Those other boys who teased him are brats and their mothers haven’t taught them a thing. That’s when you need a friend like me to come along to Alfie’s swim carnivals. I could have just very nonchalantly…pushed those boys into the pool when they were mean to Alfie. 😉

  6. What an incredible attitude he had to swim when he must have been feeling so terribly bad. I think you are doing something very right as a mother to have a son like him!

  7. Alfie’s a winner in my book. What a trooper!

  8. What an aadorable little kid! And very very brave 😀

  9. Wow I would have wanted to deck those little meanies right there (ok so you I know you can’t but you did in your head right?). Go Alfie and good for him wanting to support his house even though he was so sick. I can’t believe there were mothers there with stop watches. If I were there I’d have been right next to you on the grass with chips and drink Charlie.

  10. You had me at the edge of my seat, Charlie. Sorry that Alfie had to listen to the others but I think you could not have handled it better. He will do much better next year. He who laughs last, you know. I hope he’s feeling better.

  11. Kids are so mean!!!
    I am the type of mum that would have had to say something to that kid… something that would scar him equally as bad :/ Grr
    I don’t push my kids either, I want my kids to do what they enjoy, and not have a domineering controlling mother that takes all the fun out of being a kid!

    Hope Alfie is a little better now after his fever 🙂

  12. Aww Alfie! As someone that was always last picked for sports, let me tell you it doesn’t really matter about where you come. Also, there are loads of other interesting things in the world than sports 😀

  13. Awww poor Alfie 🙁 he tried so hard and he had a fever! I think he’ll do great next year and gosh little boys can be so mean teasing him because he came last…oh wells don’t worry too much about them! It’s not worth it!

    I hope Alfie is feeling better today 😀

  14. Good for you mum – but oh don’t you feel so helpless when the tears well up. Trust boys to be so mean.

  15. Ohhh your story today made me so sad! I can almost feel the stress in that environment just by reading this. I hope he feels better, I am sure you did a great job at that though 🙂

  16. What horrible team mates in that freestyle race! Poor Alfie, especially being so unwell. I think you were the best parent there hands down, with second place going to that mother who said Alfie got points just for swimming. The other parents with stop watches and rude laughing children would be best excluded from the whole affair!

  17. Aww poor Alfie – he is so cute in those photos. Sorry to hear about the things those other children said, kids can be so nasty sometimes! Hope he is feeling better, poor chook! After a day like that after the carnival I think its (almost) good he got a day at home with a couple of DVDs!

  18. Aw, Alfie is such a good sport! He’s not a quitter! And had to giggle at the feed me photo…LOL. My youngest has asthma, too…how scary to have it flare up during a race. Glad he’s OK.

  19. Alfie is such a winner…and you are an amazing mom Charlie…he kind of reminds me of my little niece, I always ask my sister if she feeds her at all 🙂
    Have a wonderful wee my dear!

  20. Aw! I’m sure the finishes were affected by his fever. Good mum for buying McDonald’s! I loved that it was a treat. =D

  21. Bless his heart! He is such a doll! I love the vision of you sitting on the sidelines with your lemonade while other parents are pacing. I have sure been there! I think it’s pretty amazing he did so well with limited lung function! The most important part of the whole event is those smiles. I smiled the whole time I read this, Charlie. oxo

  22. I remember those pushy mothers, success is never enough. Poor Alfie, he must have been feeling rotten and to have put in all that effort when he was ill is amazing. You’re right the only way is up so Go Alfie!! GG xx

  23. At least Alfie gave it a shot, that’s all I can say =)

  24. Good for Alfie, he gave it his best! Nasty little buggers teasing him like that! You know that line on excursion notes after the whole medical information section that reads: Is there any other condition the school needs to be aware of regarding your childs health.. well I always wrote: ‘ Littlej’s enthusiasm often exceeds her abilities’. She sounds like Alfie, always ready to have a go and no matter what the result, it’s always their personal best because it’s always the best they can do at the time. Get well soon Alfie xox

  25. Such a little sweetie. And such a well-written post! Poor, brave guy! Thank you for sharing with me…and making me smile. I can’t wait till my little one is as big as Alfie. He’s just adorable.

  26. What a brave little guy. He’s a real hero, he’s got spunk. I reckon he won, hands down, on spunk and courage.

  27. So sweet!

  28. Your comment at the end was the best. I hated swimming sports at school, so I understand where he’s coming from. Those other kids are just mean, and I would have poked my tongue out at them.

  29. Aww Alfie, you did a great job! It’s all about giving the best. My son is not good at ball sports and we’ve been practicing together so he’s better (like you said, you can only become better). He can swim and run fast, but he doesn’t have the ball sport skills in him… Reading your posts always reflect my own children, Charlie. Hope he’s better now. Hugs!

  30. Oh, the poor thing! Though as a kid, I always maintained that I’d rather come last than the middle. There’s something epic about coming last. You can own it with a certain degree of chutzpah 😉

  31. Eek, I hated the swimming events in school. I was a terrible swimmer, the water was always beyond cold and they seemed to always want us to go swimming in winter… never summer! Add to that my slightly… er… “portly” physique and I was always a real winner :p

  32. Well done, Charlie!
    (and how cute is that boy?!!!)

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