interminable |inˈtərmənəbəl|
endless (often used hyperbolically): we got bogged down in interminable discussions.

The girls have begun their competitive swimming careers. Their first meet was last Thursday, they swam again Tuesday night, and we have another meet scheduled for tonight.

(Edit: Well, we were supposed to swim tonight. But just before warm ups were set to begin a huge line of storms rolled in and the meet was cancelled. It’s been three hours since they pulled the plug and it’s still pouring and lightning. Good choice by the coaches.)

If asked to provide a single-word description of a kids swimming meet, I’m pretty sure I would use the word defined above.

Because when you’ve been sitting in a crowded swim deck for six hours, with sweat covering your entire body, ants crawling all over the ground because of all the food the kids have dropped, listening to wiped out kids whine about being tired or hungry or watching them act bizarrely because they’ve consumed too many cookies, hearing the lifeguards yell at the kids to get out of the shallow end for the 50th time, hearing other parents complain about the timekeepers/organizers/coaches/accommodations, wondering why other parents are secretly drinking beer and cocktails while you were dumb enough to volunteer to time a lane, well it sure seems like time is stretching on forever and you will never, ever get out of there alive.

OK, as the definition states, perhaps that is a little hyperbolic. But these things do kind of suck.

At our first meet, the girls had to be ready for warmups at 3:30. We walked out of the pool at 8:30 while the bigger kids were still wrapping up their relays. It being our first meet, I didn’t bring nearly enough snacks or drinks and only an emergency Wendy’s run prevented a total meltdown. Despite that, one daughter had a mini-meltdown and refused to swim her final relay.

Tuesday they swam against a much larger team – it had nearly 120 kids to our 60 or so – and things seemed worse. We pulled into our garage at exactly 10:00, six hours after we had left.

At least the girls seem to be enjoying it.

Poor L. has it the worst, as the Under 6 kids swim first and are done within 30 minutes. Then they get to sit around while the older age groups swim for hours and hours. She doesn’t seem to mind it too much, although there is a lot of asking, “How much longer do they have to swim?”

Swim meet days are just a battle from start-to-finish. They still have practice in the morning, so we’re up and at the pool by 8:30. Once we get home, I have to keep the girls occupied but mellow at the same time, so that the hours pass but they’re not burning all their energy. And then I have to carefully schedule multiple daytime meals so that they start the meet with enough fuel in their tanks. Despite that, all three girls usually claim to be starving at 5:00, right when the meet begins.

We hung out with some friends last weekend and shared our first swim meet experience with them. They laughed and said, “We have a firm rule in our house: no sports where the competitions are referred to as meets.”

Now they tell us.

We’ve spent hours on the soccer fields before. I know many of you have done the same for baseball, basketball, softball, ice skating, gymnastics, and assorted camps or school events. They’re all kind of horrible in their own way. But there’s something especially hellish about sitting at the edge of the pool, hot and tired and annoyed but unable to jump in to cool yourself and relax.