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17yr old son wants to quit what I thought was his passion(43 Posts)
I’m new here. Firstly, I don’t understand all the abbreviations that are used on here yet, so I won’t be using them lol.
So where do I start? I have a 17yr old son who has been a competitive swimmer since he was 12. He trains for up to 16hrs a week in the pool, plus going to the gym. He is fractions of seconds off achieving National competition qualifying times and has work so hard over the year to get to where he is today. But last night he broke down in tears and said that he doesn’t enjoy it like he used to and wants to quit. Im heart broken. As selfish as it sounds, I’ve put in as many hours as him, early morning training, late nights, hours of driving to and from competitions. Supporting him when he didn’t do as well as he’d hoped and celebrating with him when he did. I feel like a huge part of my life is being pulled out from beneath me. Basically my entire social life is based around his swimming (my friends are other swim parents as I’m with them 20hrs a week).
I know it’s his life, and his decision. But I also know that it could be the biggest regret of his life. I competed at a high level in Judo when I was his age and I quit over something stupid and it’s the biggest regret of my life. Plus I’ve seen friends of his leave swimming due to fear of missing out with friends outside of the pool but they ended up coming back, only to find that a couple of months out of training and their fitness levels have disappeared and they can no longer compete at the level they were at before so they leave again. He says he knows this and doesn’t feel he’s missing out on anything, he just wants to stop.
I guess I’m asking how I handle my emotions here, or if anyone has been through anything similar and can offer some words of advice on how I can either help him see that he’s giving up something that gives him direction and focus (he’s not really academic, swimming is where he excels). I worry he will have no direction if he stops and will end up regretting it.
Sorry for the long post, pretty sure it’s just my insecurities but any advice is appreciated. Thanks.
He’s 17. It’s his life and his decision. Irsca shame you feel like you do but that’s the risk when you live your life through someone else. I would suggest you fill your life with things that do not revolve around your almost adult son.
Think of it as a time of change for you - you can now do what you want to do and follow your own dreams and interests
Let him jack it in, he’s not happy
I'd ask him how long he has been feeling like this.
Also is there is anything that he feels could be changed to help.
If it is more than 3 months then I think you need to accept it.
I think it's fairly normal around this age. They are growing up. Almost adult and finding this own feet.
It's hard for you but what's the alternative? Dont ruin your relationship with him by forcing it.
Use thus time to find yourself your own life too. What would your son be doing at 18? Off to uni maybe? So this is only 2 years off other big changes that may have occurred.Yoy couldn't be a swim mum for many mire years anyway.
I'm not being cruel, I trying to help you find perspective and a change in thought process.
It's very hard when our kids make their own choices that impact the lives we lead. I'm still ferrying my 2 from clubs and social events. Have a useful of their friends daily but come September both will be off to Uni. I'm dreading it and know I will miss the chaos that currently drives me up the wall but I'd never stop them.
Brutally, if he’a 17 and outside National competition times is it possible he’s reached his limit? Where do you see him going from here?
No experience of it but I don't expect he will have made the decision lightly. I think swimming is one of those things you probably have to be totally 100% obsessed by to be top level at it otherwise its fine to quit. I read an article by an ex swimmer who said that they quite suddenly wanted to not spend hours/ years of their life staring at a dark blue line superimposed on a pale blue background. They'd just had enough and they could not make themselves love it.
It's tough on you, having supported him so well through it all, and I understand the social life thing (mum spent over 10 years of her life carting my siblings and me to pony events and standing by the side of the ring; her social life revolved around it and nearly every weekend was consumed by it) but it wasn't wasted time.
Can he step back? Parent of another competitive swimmer here so I get it. But at 17 can he not take up swim teaching or help coaching in the club and focus on regionals rather than chasing nationals? Swimming is crazy intense and so few make it to national or international levels, clubs need to help the older teens with a plan for a more normal future.
I wonder if he's been feeling like this for a long time but has been too scared to tell you because he knows that HIS swimming is such an important part of YOUR life and he didn't want to upset you.
The fact that he broke down in tears shows how hard it was for him to talk about this.
I suspect if he has had to work that hard and still isn't achieving national comp times ( that's sounds harsh, it isn't meant to be, I can barely do two lengths) he's probably figured out that his future does not lie in full time swimming and is having a bit of a crisis about his identity and 'what do I do now?'. If swimming might help him go to the uni of his choice (or similar) then it might be worth carrying on but realistically what is he going to achieve by continuing to spend all that time doing something he has fallen out of love with and that doesn't contribute anything to future plans?
You can't make him do something if his heart's not in it any more. That way lies frustration and unhappiness. You've supported him in that, now's the time to step back.
From a daughter who was forced through years and years of dance when I no longer enjoyed it by my mother, let him quit.
I know you have his best interests at heart, but it's one thing I hold against my mother even now.
I have a cousin who used to row competitively in school. Went to all the summer training camps, etc etc His coaches thought he could potentially be Olympic standard and moving into his late teens he had to think about. Physically and technique wise he was brilliant but he decided that life was not for him.
That was over 15 years ago and he has never regretted it. He has lots of other interests, happily married with young baby. His mum quickly filled the "rowing mum" time with other stuff and her social life didn't suffer any long term harm!
Husband was a swimming kid. He quit not long after yours sons age, was a big competitor once upon a time.
He is actually very bitter towards his parents for pushing him so much, he says he never felt like he had much of a childhood because of the amount of hours spent at the pool per week.
You just have to let him make decisions and learn from them, like we all have.
I appreciate your social life is with the swim mums but perhaps now your son is going to do what he wants, you should find something for you?
Ok I'm going to be blunt here. So many parents push their children into sport and music etc but only the absolute elite of the elite and those who are also especially talented from birth, achieve the levels required, and even then, they need incredible luck to make it into the very very top where they can make a career out of it.
Be grateful that your son is so self assured that he recognises he is not going to be the one to get a gold medal in swimming and he now wants to move his effort to something else.
How you support him now will affect his self esteem for the coming years so please help him by helping him to find another area to put in his amazing energy into and help him succeed in this.
And also, you need to move on with something in your life too. Start a plan for something new for you in all this free time you have.
And a family member was where you are, spending years of her life as a swimming mum, but she had to let it go when they realised her son was not going to make it.
Is he thinking of the future? If he's doing A-levels next year, then training for 16 hours a week may not be sustainable.
As others have said, he may have come to the realisation that swimming isn't going to be a career for him, and therefore he's having to think about other things. If he's thinking about a different path, he may be feeling the need to get work experience or just have time to explore other interests and options.
It's great he's kept things up for so long, but this is going to be a time of change anyway. He's probably stressed about a lot of things right now, and taking the pressure off by leaving swimming may help.
You can't force him to keep it up just because it's your social life- if the people you know from swimming are really friends, then I'm sure you'll stay in touch. Otherwise, perhaps you could get involved with the club in some way in a volunteer role?
I strongly suspect he understands very well the time and effort you have invested in his swimming career and that he is very upset by the thought that he is ‘letting you down’ by giving up swimming.
The reality is that he will be an adult in a few months. It’s his life and his choice. The only thing you can do is accept his decision, don’t be a pushy parent and find your own interests & friends which don’t revolve around his swimming.
I think you need to separate out what’s best for him & how you’re feeling.
Is there anything on the horizon that he would be very excited to do well in? Say the chance to qualify for the Nationals in 2 months or something? If there was, I would say to him that I think he should put his ALL into that for the next few weeks, see how he does there then decide what he wants to do.
Sometimes quitting isn’t the answer, we just need a push and some success to get us in the groove again. Let him use you to rally against kind of thing. I’m probably not explaining it well, I just think all of us, even adults, sometimes just need someone to say ‘No, you’ll regret it. Try hard for x goal then reassess’
Then you need to think about your feelings and accept it is going to end in the next few years,so what then. It IS hard when your social life revolves around a child’s serious hobby, it’s natural if you support them because there are fuck all hours left over to do anything else!
I know everything you have all said makes sense. I’m a swim dad by the way
He’s never been pressured intentionally (I guess there is pressure he puts on himself, like not wanting to let me down) but he’s always known I support what decisions he makes and I’ve always said to him that it’s his choice to swim and I’d be supportive whatever he chooses to do. It’s just the shock that actually he doesn’t want to do it anymore I suppose.
Yes he’ll be off to uni in a year and a half (hopefully) so it might have ended there anyway - although I guess I hoped he’d continue at uni too as being in a sports team is a great way to make new friends etc.
I know I have to let him stop if that’s what he wants. I’m just sad for him that something he loved for so long, something that gave him goals and focus, is coming to an end. I’m the one with the problem, I need to let go.
No harm in taking a break as he isn't an international. He might go back to it, or decide to take it up less competitively at uni, or never get in a pool again. All valid options.
Enjoy having more time to yourself, less outgoings and find something to give yourself your own identity back.
I think at this age if it isn't something they are thinking about as a career they tend to stop. It's the same with Music, Dancing, and all the girl and boy associations.
Maybe he just wants to concentrate on his studies and he will always have swimming as a good activity.
I do sympathise, when you have put in all the hours too, but life is like that.
I don't agree with the pp suggesting you were living your life through him. You have supported and encouraged him well, I'm sure he'll always remember this.
It must be difficult OP, I sympathise. Maybe in a few weeks it would be good for you to think about what you are going to do with the me-time generated by him stopping swimming and you might feel more positive (and at least he's made the decision with the summer coming up so hopefully you will get time and weather to enjoy it!) once you've got your head round it being such a lifestyle change at short notice like that.
Even if he did it at uni, he probably wouldn't be training at this level. 16-20 hours a week is a huge commitment for a uni student and is impossible for those on more intense courses or who have to work. There will be loads of teams/clubs/societies he can join just for fun if he keeps a good general level of fitness.
I speak as the mother of a former international young athlete, and a coach.
You say that he is 'not quite' achieving National Standard times at the age of 17. Do you mean age group standards or open standards, because at 17, as a competition swimmer he needs to be well inside, not just meeting standards. As you know swimming is a young persons' sport and if he was showing the potential you feel he has he would have been picked up by now and part of a national training squad.
You cannot force him to do more than he wants to, and there comes a time when you have to be realistic about capability. It sounds as if he is ready to face reality and you are not.
Let him move on in his own direction.
It’s a shock In many ways...his growing up, no longer be8ng happy the way you thought. It gets easier as you take joy in how successfully they grow up. But it is the start of end of childhood. So sad, yes, but it’s part of being a parent
Time to talk as adults. He doesn’t need to excel at anything to have a happy, fulfilled life. He’s at the age where talking future directions is really hard ( ie terrifying for them often) , so if you can provide options that can help. But ask that he identify things he want to do, not negatives .
You need a plan...what is your life going to be now ? Judo for fun? As a teacher? Paintings? Travel?
Finally, If he’s used to doing lots of exercise, he may need to build exercise into his life some other way.
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