Her Life Reminds Me : Guest Post by Julia Roberts

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Julia Roberts

Julia Roberts married into the name. In case you didn’t know, (the famous) Julia Roberts will not call your establishment to make her own tire rotation appointment or to argue about her cell phone charges. A geneticist’s dream, she helped produce two cute kids with a rare syndrome that includes a vision disorder and a kidney disease; resulting in weirdly moving eyes and kidney transplants for both at the age of eight. Julia speaks to groups on topics about navigating life as a special needs family. She blogs at Kidneys and Eyes and created a social networking site for special needs families, Support for Special Needs. She writes for sites like Aiming Low and Hopeful Parents. You can find her on twitter as @juliaroberts1 or @supportSN.

Her Life Reminds Me

It’s a typical summer day. Our neighborhood pool is gearing up for a swim meet. I’m volunteering and dragging along a small cooler, chair and my patience. My daughter, Quinnlin, has been on the swim team for five years. Well, this is her fifth, which is an important year because she’ll be awarded the 5-year blue towel with her name stitched in gold. Owning a coveted team towel is a rite of passage with the kids on this team. Serious stuff.

There are over 100 families doing exactly the same thing this summer at our pool. The same parents who’ve driven their kids countless times to practice and bought new swim suits and tried to figure out schedules for afternoon practices and weekly swim meets.  Our season is only five meets plus two county meets long so it’s nearly over as quickly as it starts.

It’s amazing to me that five years ago when Quinnlin started this team she’d just learned to jump on two feet. She’d only been really walking without a walker for two years. She would still not be able to skip for another three years or so. She was front toothless from having fallen so much without the reflexes in her little arms to protect her face. She was, much to my delight, joyously happy with her wobbly, toothless, swimming self.


She was also in kidney failure due to the recessive form of Polycystic Kidney Disease or ARPKD.  Quinnlin ended her second swimming season, in 2009; with a date for a kidney transplant and on her eighth birthday she received one from a (really, really good) family friend, like her brother who had a transplant two years prior.

As I watch my daughter swim in the heat of the Georgia sun, it occurs to me that there are many people who take this summer league very seriously. It’s annoying enough for me to witness bad parent behavior and take note of it more than a few times and I started thinking about my daughter and her vulnerable little life.

Quinnlin is not a fast swimmer. She’s usually in the last heat, meaning her times are around the slowest on the team. She gets all different kinds of colored ribbons for her efforts and at least once a season she’s received a blue ribbon for her heat. She is most undoubtedly a team player and loves being social and connected to this community of kids. She is just like the other swimmers in that she is nervous before meets, wants to do her best, and enjoys the morning-after-meet donut and ribbon party.

In the past I’ve witnessed Quinnlin’s endless suffering, her tireless efforts to keep up with her peers developmentally and physically and her buoyancy in living life after being ill for so long and it strikes me that that my annoyance with other parents’ bad behavior isn’t about them at all.

It’s about me (not) letting their behavior bother me. It’s a reminder about what is truly important to me, to my family. It’s about being grateful your child can get in a pool without catheters because of dialysis, sit among friends and hold crayons to color, or walk around the concrete of a pool deck that is too hot for her feet. It’s about celebrating the girl who now walks unassisted after years of practice, who tries her very best and is so proud to know that we’ve watched her swim. “Did you see me?” she’ll say. It’s about raising a good sport and a happy, healthy-as-she-can-be kid who is engaged in life.

The memories of pushy swim parents wash away when I think of Quinnlin walking up to the starting blocks and looking through the crowd to find me to make sure I’m watching. Then she waves. Smiles.

Nothing else matters.


Please read these other notable posts Julia’s written: 

A Significant Friendship

The Anatomy of Swinging

On This Day of Suicide Prevention I Remember

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  • http://janasthinkingplace.com/ jana

    Oh, Julia. What a beautiful post. And now tears are streaming down my face. What a beautiful girl, with a beautiful spirit, and a beautiful mother. Love to you. 

    • Julia Roberts

      Thank you so much Jana, you are too sweet. It was a hard post for me to write because I had to admit that I’d forgotten what was really important and as YOU know all too well, it’s not something as silly as the fastest swim time. 

  • http://www.vidyasury.com/ Vidya Sury

    Hugs to Quinnlin (what a pretty name!) and you. If I were granted one wish,it would be this: Children shall be born healthy. I’d give a year of my life to be granted that wish. It breaks my heart to see how they must keep up with their peers.

    My son went through all sorts of health issues during his first eight years – the worst being the respiratory issues, wheezing and the constant cough. It was very hard to pretend to be cheerful when he would cough non-stop for twenty minutes and then gasp for breath and bear it silently without complaining.  Classmates at school would mimic his cough and tease all the time.  He is much better now but we have to be very careful about avoiding even the common cold. As if. And we’ve learned to be grateful for the little things. Music training seems to have done him a lot of good.

    Sigh. You’re a wonderful parent, Julia Roberts. (I rushed over when I saw the name). Very touching post. Thank you.

    • Julia Roberts

      Thank you so much for your kinds words…and always your wishes of health for all children. 

  • Jilljoyner

    Excellent, but I think you meant Sharpies and not crayons to express their true “Eat My Bubbles” team spirit.  Go Quinn, it has been amazing watching you develop as a swimmer over the years.

    • Julia Roberts

      Ah yes…Sharpies! They are banned at our pool though because they stain the furniture! NO fun!

  • http://twitter.com/punkymama Jo-Ann Rogan

    Since i am living this swimming thing 9months a year I relate more than you can ever know.  One of the super competitive Dad’s last winter asked me what I was going to do when my food allergic but not developmentally disabled kid younger kid swam faster than my 8yo with a pile of issues. I replied who cares.  In my book if my 8yo shows up and swim I am mega proud. 
    I have been cheering Quinn on via Facebook swim team pics. Great post.

    • Julia Roberts

      Oh Jo-Ann, I know you know…and I’m am but I’m not stunned at the behavior of adults. A lot of times I think if we’d just get out of the kids’ way they’d be better off! Rock on to your swimming boys.

  • http://angelaamman.com/ Angela Amman

    This is so beautifully written and so timely for me. I’ve been struggling with some competitive mom friends a little, and this is truly a reminder that their smiles and their hearts are what matter the most.

    • Julia Roberts

      Oh Angela, I know these feelings well…I’m committed to remembering it and reminding myself when my kids smile. 

  • http://twitter.com/TalkIsPrimary Stephanie Ross

    She has your heart and soul Mama, you’ll never stray too far off course with that in mind.

    • Julia Roberts

      Well Stephanie that is sweet to say..

  • Tara_pohlkottepress

    she is just beautiful… looks like she gets that from her mama!

    • Julia Roberts

      Oh thank you for saying that…(my mom says she looks like like me when I was young!)

  • http://www.misselaineouslife.com Elaine A.

    I smiled through this entire post.  Even about the pushy parents.  It just means they care (albeit a bit TOO much sometimes…).  But what matters most is that your daughter is out there doing her best.  And that you are there to see it. xo