Every bloody Saturday morning I take my kids to their swimming lessons.
This means getting up at half past bloody six so we can get to the pool on time for the first child’s lesson at half past bloody eight.
Have I mentioned this happens every Saturday morning?
Aren’t weekends meant to be for sleeping in and lazy mornings?
We arrive at the pool with ten minutes to spare for the first child to get changed and into the pool.
Battle of the Changing Room
The men’s changing room looks like a scene from a wildlife TV show at that time in the morning.
There are various species of dads rushing around in a panic trying to fathom out how to put swimming hats on without their children screaming out in pain.
Some of the dads blatantly give up, and send their child to the pool with a swimming hat perched perilously on their head, like a beret.
I once witnessed a dad try to dress his daughter in her complicated one-piece swimming costume. In the end, it was on his daughter inside out, back to front and upside down.
Sir, I applaud you.
(His daughter was less than impressed, and walked solemnly to the pool, quietly sobbing.)
Parent and Toddler Classes
My first child’s lesson starts just as the parent and toddler class ends, so the changing room is full of wet and cold dads emerging from the pool, clutching sodden, crying toddlers to their chests.
I remember those days (thankfully behind me now) when I had to endure parent and toddler swimming lessons. Singing silly songs in the pool, bouncing my child up and down, and then the shivering walk back to the changing room afterwards.
Oh, and the joy of swimming nappies (or diapers, for my Transatlantic friends). They always make a sodden, satisfying thump when thrown in the bin.
The Observation Deck
After my first child is safely in the pool, I go to the lounge to find my second child, who is by now engrossed in playing a Nintendo game. I stand at the windows, watching the first child take part in his lesson.
Well, when I say “stand at the windows” what I actually mean is that I try to catch a glimpse of him through the window, while other parents stand crowded in my way, idly chatting, drinking coffee and pointedly not watching their children.
Battle of the Changing Room: Round Two
Second child’s lesson starts immediately as the first child’s lesson ends, so I escort him into the changing room to get ready.
By now, the benches are covered in coats and bags and piles of clothes, so it is open season to find a spare space.
He quickly gets changed, just as the fist child emerges from the pool. I shove first child into the shower (it has to be done immediately, before the other three shower heads are claimed by selfish children) and retrieve his towel from our locker.
It now feels like there are a hundred pairs of dads and kids in that small changing room, all jostling for space and the single hair dryer.
Voices around me are screaming:
“Get in the shower!”
“Wash your hair!”
“Get out of the shower!”
“Get yourself dry!’
“Oh for goodness sake!”
“We’ll ask mummy to do the buttons.”
“Stop crying and put your pants on.”
The changing room is a shoe-free zone (shoes are to be removed and left outside) but there’s always someone who breaks this rule.
Sometimes, a stray runner comes in, wearing dirty trainers.
Such rule breakers are punished by the silent stare.
Last week was a classic case, after a runner tarnished the floor with a trail of mud.
Every dad in the room looked at him, silently condemning him for daring to bring such filth into the changing room.
The runner looked down at the mess of mud on the floor, saw the error of his ways, and cleaned it all up using his socks as a cloth.
What a man. I know he will never make such a mistake again.
See you back at the pool next week, for more excitement.
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