Monthly Archives: August 2011

Can I get out now?

Laura Slinn

Where do all those 20p's go, I wonder?

I have booked E into a series of swimming lessons. It has been a while since we have ventured into a leisure centre to submerge oursleves in a heady cocktail of warm water, chlorine and baby piss. My attempts at getting E to feel at home and confident in the water seem to have backfired somewhat to date, and the sound of his damp screams from the last set of lessons still ring in my ears.

But ever the optimist, I have booked us in to the new leisure centre for what the swimming co-ordinator calls ‘an amazing, fun time in the water’. Which I fear should be more accurately described as ‘half hour of barely disguised torture with the added ignomy of being seen in public in your swimming costume’.  As we enter the changing rooms, I begin to feel a smidgen more positive. There is no sight of a soggy plaster on the floor, it doesn’t smell of body crevices and I am not paddling through puddles of cold liquid that look like pool water but quite frankly, are more likely to have originated somewhere a lot more sinister.

Soon bedecked in an insufficent quantity of  lycra (now there is a phrase that makes me blush just writing it) I put my bag in a locker, insert my 20p and shut the door. It springs open, minus the 20p. Buggar. I scrabble around in my purse and prise out another 20 pence piece. Okay, don’t fuck this up again. Slowly, I push the  coin into the slot and gently close the door. Hmmm. Perhaps I should have adopted the ‘slam and kick’ strategy, as again, the door swings open, coinless. Shit. I begin to twitch slightly as I contemplate with horror a trip out to reception in my swimming costume to get some more change. I’m not saying I look grim, but I could be hired as a useful evacuation aid should a fire break out. I am getting a bit tetchy now, mainly at the thought of how much this is going to end up costing. Where are all these bloody 20 pences disappearing to? Have I just stumbled onto The Great Locker Scam?

However, a friendly member of staff wielding a mop delicately points out that is is my own ineptitude that is to blame and slowly, with the manner of a special needs teacher, explains the finer operational points of inserting a coin, twisting the key and locking the door. Suitably humbled, I search my purse, the bottom of my bag and the surrounding floor area for one last coin, throwing a quick prayer out to the God of Fat Thighs to avert the impending horror of going out to reception. Bless her, she duly obliges and I find a coin languishing at the bottom of the bag.

Finally, we venture to the pool and sit on the bench. E watches the swimmers in the main pool with interest and I chat about the exciting lesson we are about to embark on with as much enthusiasm as I can muster whilst simultaneously sucking in my stomach, holding the towel over my unshaven legs and making sure E doesn’t stray too close to the edge. The swimming coach arrives. To be fair, I only know this due to it being written on his tee shirt. Without the subtitles, I would have assumed he was going to be joined by his mother and take part in our lesson, he looked so bloody young. I invite E to come into the water, but he refuses. I go in myself and try and cajole him in with a broad smile (no mean feat when your teeth are gritted) but he stands on the side and slowly shakes his head. After several minutes of this, the coach joins in this marvellous game of ‘get that bloody child into the water so we can start the lesson’ and I pick E up and carry him into the water, where all the other kids are happily spashing about with anticipation.

“Can I get out now, mummy?” E implores, after precisely thirty seconds in the water. My sodding sentiments precisely.

We start the lesson, which involves me dragging E up and down the pool whilst he flawlessy executes the ‘flail and wail’ maneouvre, ensuring it takes all my strength just to hold onto his wriggling, thrashing body whilst getting drenched with spray. Luckily, the splashes on my face disguise the sweat that is beginning to appear with the exertion of dragging the dead weight of my son through the water whilst slightly bent over and trying to subdue the ever-increasing feeling of stress of putting myself and E through this voluntarily.

“Can I get out now?” asks E. Several more times.

At one point in the lesson woggles are introduced. In my day, a woggle was something to do with the attire of scouts, but crikey, look what the technological revolution has done for us: now they are six foot long tubes of polystyrene that the kids are supposed to hook their arms over and use as a buoyancy aid. In my hands though, the woggle acts as a giant weapon that slaps me round the face several times whilst I attempt to wrap it around E’s torso. Obviously, he hates it instantly and struggles against the best efforts of both me and the coach to get him properly installed on it.  As the rest of the class reach the other side of the pool, I dredge the woggle and my son through the water. He is protesting loudly at an ever-increasing volume and looks like he might cry. Which would make two of us. I focus on the other side of the pool, determined not to give up. Should it really be this hard? I glance down and realise that for at least the last ten foot I have actually been dragging E through the water with the woggle clamped round his neck, which has at least quietened him down for a bit. Are we having fucking fun yet?

Eventually, whilst floating around on a giant foam frog, E seems to enjoy himself. This lasts approximately forty seconds as we are instructed to lift the child from his perch and dunk him in the pool. Predictably enough, E isn’t overly keen on having his frog-floating moment rudely interupted by being thrown into the water and he enquires again about the possibility of being able to go home. I myself am seriously considering bailing at this point, but a combination of sheer bloodymindedness and the not-inconsiderate cost of the lesson makes me stay to inflict further water-based stress on my son.

However, revenge, as always, is his. I plonk him on the side of the pool and along with the other mothers, encourage him to jump into the water in front of me. All I can hear around me is the splash of toddler-sized bodies and the cooing of proud mothers as every other child duly obliges and throws themselves happily into the pool. E looks around, seemingly plotting an escape. He spies a watering can left from an earlier exercise and bending down to the water, fills it up.

“No,” I say sternly and shake my head, with a look on my face that I hope clearly communicates the seriousness of the situation. E duly pours the contents of the can over my head, drenching me. Now he thinks swimming lessons are fun.

Can I get out now?

Welcome to Mothering Frights

Ahh, the tantrum. A daily staple in the life of a mother of a two year old, much like dried Rice Krispies in your hair and a smear of bogey on your shoulder. Mind you, I find tantrums slightly less easy to deal with than crusty cereal or mucus.

But perhaps I should start at the beginning. Well, not quite at the beginning – not the beginning that begins with an egg, a sperm and an epic swim of Olympic proportions. Actually, not even the beginning that begins with thirteen and a half hours of labour and a delivery via the sun roof. This beginning is the beginning of the Age of Two. My son turned two, and I am turning greyer by the day. They are often refered to as the Terrible Twos, which to me seems a little like calling Hitler a bit of a meanie. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad. There are some jolly nice bits, like when he is asleep, or when he is laughing his socks off at some unknown joke that only he is privy to (but often ends up being because I am unwittingly sporting one of his large bogeys on my cheek). But other bits of it are teeth-grittingly, I-want-to-poke-someone’s-eyes-out, what-did-I-do-to-deserve-this hard. And that’s not in any bloody manual I’ve ever read.

If you are a natural mum, who takes the behaviour of a two-year-old with patience, compassion and calm and never has the overwhelming urge to dangle them by the ankles into the dustbin, then read no further. For the rest of us, perhaps there is some solace knowing that there are other mothers who are experiencing a similar thing. Though don’t think that this thought will console you at three in the bloody morning when your little one decides it is a perfect time for an off-key rendition of The Wheels on the Bus.

Blog disclaimer: there is no advice contained herewith regarding being a mother, bringing up a two-year old or other familial-related matters. None whatsoever. If you come across anything resembling advice, you are mistaken. Avert your eyes and pretend you never saw it. A bit like when you see your darling off-spring shove their finger up their left nostril for the eighth time that morning and you just really can’t be arsed to tell them to take it out. Again. If it is advice you are after, I suggest Googling ‘how to avoid the terrible twos’ (answer: leave the sodding country).

And one last word in this introductory missive about the real talent here: the illustrations that pepper these words like a rousing sing-along of ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’ at a funeral are done by the uber-talented Laura Slinn. Penned with generousity and a slightly smug feeling that comes with not having to deal with a two-year old yourself.