Mama Madison: I was a synchronized swimming dropout

But my daughteris a different story

A few summers back, my daughter, maybe 8 or 9 at the time, decided to take part in our swimming pool's annual water ballet show. I'm not really sure what initially piqued her interest in the somewhat under-the-radar, very much under-the-water sport of synchronized swimming. No one in our family was particularly well known for their grace, athleticism or their ability to hold their breath for extended periods of time. And I'm pretty sure she'd never seen an Esther Williams movie.

It didn't take long, though, for me to realize the revue's requirment of wearing a bedazzled bathing suit, matching headpiece and the parent-approved chance to wear garish eye shadow in public probably had a whole lot to do with it.

But she adored her twice-weekly practices and the camaraderie of the girls in her routine. So when a fellow pool mom asked if I'd like to take part in the parent act she was organizing for the show, I decided it might be nice to show my daughter a little "synchro" solidarity. It would be a great excuse, I figured, to spring for a new tube of waterproof mascara. And maybe I'd even get to sport one of those cute, 40s-style swimsuits I'd been coveting. Sure, I'd need to commit to a couple of rehearsals. But really, how hard could water ballet possibly be?

As it turns out, it's very hard. What Esther had always managed to make look so effortless in those post-World War II movies, actually takes a tremendous amount of strength and coordination. Not to mention the willingness to endure gallons of water up your nose. There were distinct moves I struggled to learn like the Clamshell, the Eiffel Tower and the Back Dolphin. And said moves needed to be performed at the exact same time as the mom to both my left and to my right. Suffice it to say, the "synchronized" part did not come naturally. And neither, frankly, did the swimming part, as the toughest thing for me was attempting to master the "pretty swim" -- a kind of artistic doggie paddle. It's the backbone of the sport, but I could never keep my head far enough above water while doing it. Nope, nothing I did in any of our practices even vaguely resembled "pretty."

So while I'd certainly given my kids the "finish what you start" and "quitters never win" lecture dozens of times before, this hydraulically-challenged hypocrite threw in, or should I say on, the towel after only two physically demanding practices. Yes, I am a water ballet dropout. And it's not something I'm proud of.

But for those of you who don't want to see your child suffer the same fate, or better yet, are in search of some of the best exercise your daughter can get either in or out of the water, you're in luck. This Saturday, September 28th, Mad City Aqua Stars ( , Dane County's only competitive synchronized swim team is holding an Open House from 9:30 to noon at the Middleton High School pool. And all mermaid wannabes, ages 8 to a18, are invited to try their hand (and leg, and back and neck -- trust me it's a full body workout) at executing both the technical and artistic moves. If your daughter takes to it like, you know, a fish to water, she's welcome to join the no-cut team. And for those who might enjoy the sport, but may not want the commitment of competing, this year the club is offering a first-time-ever recreational program.

Parents are encouraged to learn more about the sport at the noon informational session that will be held poolside. I am pretty sure neither the need to wear a flashy swimsuit or the ability to hold your breath is required.

But if the Aqua Stars ever consider opening a senior division, they should definitely let me know. I'd love a chance to redeem myself. And to have an excuse to wear one of those adorable, retro flowered bathing caps.
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