There are many duties as parents that fall under the heading of ‘If we weren’t blood relations, there is not a chance in hell I would be doing this’. You know the sort of thing. Wiping shitty bottoms. Going to soft play centres. Hanging around in soulless community buildings whilst your offspring bounces on a trampoline / fails to kick a large ball into an even larger net / indulges in ‘messy play’ which actually involves them wiping crap all over you . And top of my list, so far ahead of everything else I have dedicated an entirely new list to it, entitled ‘I am doing this with clenched teeth and a barely contained sense of fury’ is swimming.
I loathe swimming. I detest it. Quite frankly, I am really not that keen on it. And in my abject hatred of it, I feel compelled to list the reasons.
1. In order not to be jostling, bare-skin-on-bare-skin, next to another parent of dubious hygiene whilst I bob in the water, you have to get to the pool bloody early. This Sunday, we were in the foyer at 8.20am. I will repeat the crucial facts of that sentence: 8.20am. On a Sunday. That is utter madness.
2. Getting undressed. No matter how big the cubicle, a family of four getting changed for swimming puts me in mind of a world record attempt of how many people you can get into a Mini. If one of us does not sustain serious injury from an over-enthusiastic elbow in the face, or squashed toes as half the party still have their bloody shoes on whilst the other half stand there butt naked, it is a bloody miracle.
3. The lockers. We go to a family pool. Unfortunately, the idiots who specified the fixtures and fittings thought it would be hilarious to install lockers the size of a child’s shoe box. Out of the cubicle we come, with shoes, coats, four changes of clothes, a sports bag, towels and various other essential paraphernalia as befits a family of four whose idea of travelling light is to only bring three trailers-worth of crap with them. All of which we then have to shoe-horn into the lockers, paying 20p per locker for the privilege. Not a fortune, granted, but with the amount of stuff we have, the locker bill can run to £52.60.
4. The walk to the pool. Your nice, dry, warm, clean feet walking on the bobbly, rough, cold, wet floor. No. Just no.
5. Being in the pool with a toddler. We have tried B in a floatation vest, but not only did we have to break three ribs to zip it up, it made him float at a strange angle that terrified him. So one of us has to hold him, all the time. There is nothing quite like the sensation of toe nails scraping through three layers of epidermis on your thigh, seemingly hell-bent on reaching the bone. And that delightful muscle burn in your upper arms as you bounce your nearly-two year old up and down in the water for the eighty-seventh time, wishing you had one of those skinny kids with chicken legs rather than one built like a brick shit house.
6. Being in the pool with other people. As soon as I win the lottery, I am going to hire out the whole pool for my family and tell everyone else to piss off, with their splashy kids and excessively large inflatable accessories.
7. The learner pool crouch. So there you are, in 0.6 metres of water, holding a toddler. You cannot stand, otherwise said toddler would be out of the water. So you do the learner pool crouch, a ridiculously uncomfortable position somewhere between the birthing squat and an impression of a sumo wrestler. Not ideal for someone whose pelvic floor has been condemned by the local council as unsafe, and a hard hat area only.
8. Inadvertent breast exposure. Holding B in front of me is a high risk strategy. Not because he is likely to lean forward and wipe his runny nose on my mouth, that is simply par for the course. But because he loves to hang on to the front of my costume, pulling it toward him and giving some poor unfortunate dad an eyeful of something that no one needs to see right after breakfast. I am under no illusion that the breast-flashing of a middle aged women who has (reluctantly) breastfed two boys and is demonstrating super-gravity in action is nothing other than QUITE UNNECESSARY.
9. Getting dressed again. See point 2 (getting undressed) and multiple it by a factor of cold, damp towels, a slippery floor and trying to get your trousers pulled on with wet legs. Beyond hideous.
So there you have it. Nine good reasons to hate swimming. I thought nine was enough, until last Sunday. But then, last Sunday, there was a bit of an incident:
10. Almost drowning your offspring. B loves to copy his big brother. So when E repeatedly jumps in from the side of the pool, B decides he wants a bit of the action. So with the help of my breasts as a handy stepping stone, he hauls himself onto the side. He shuffles side to side, causing me to crab-walk back and forth in the water with my arms outstretched to try and stay in front of him, in case he suddenly jumps. I am already sweating a bit with the responsibility of being the only thing currently in between my son and the bottom of the pool. He jumps. I catch him. He laughs. “More!” he cries. Oh yes, let’s do this again. I am having SO much fun.
Again and again he jumps. Again and again I catch him. And then, one time, I don’t. I see him hurtle downwards but I am not even sure I get a fingertip to him. I just see the shape of his body, under the water, in front of my shins. I grab at his arm, which was being held aloft in joyful triumph but is now simply the only means by which I can catch him, and pull him from the bottom of the pool. He emerges and his mouth opens in a watery ‘o’ and he emits an ear-drum perforating scream of: “DADDY!” Which is simply an abbreviation of: ‘get me out of the arms of this incompetent mad woman, she is trying to drown me’. Which is a fair point, well made.
I thought I hated swimming before this happened. But now, I have the image of my son stage diving off the side of the pool whilst I flap my arms uselessly in front of my like a demented seal every time I go in the water. The worst part is, there will be another trip to the pool. My parental duties to not cease even though I am blatantly not cut out for this swimming malarkey. But next time, my son will be sporting a buoyancy jacket, two pairs of armbands, a rubber ring round his head, a woggle tied round each ankle and I am investigating the possibility of pumping helium in through his poo hole.