Tuesdays are a black mark in the weekly calendar as far as I’m concerned. Tuesday is Swimming Day.
I always thought that teaching children to swim would be a bit like a montage in a film. I pictured scenes of laughter and splashing, gentle encouragement when the child falters, and finally, with the Chariots of Fire theme tune playing stirringly in the background, huge celebrations and air-punching when she finally manages her first width. Job done.
The reality is somewhat different. I realised that of course I can’t teach my kids to swim. For a start I can only do breast stroke. I have also carefully cultivated my own unique style involving my head and face remaining out of the water at all times. Works for me, but apparently they teach them differently these days.
We therefore signed them up for group lessons at the local pool. The companies that run these lessons actually have two main areas of expertise. 1. Teaching kids to swim. 2. Making the process last until the child is 35 years old or your bank account is empty, whichever comes first.
So every Tuesday we all troop into the changing rooms with the usual sense of dread. I have become proficient in the art of hopelessly digging around for the locker change I carefully took out of my purse earlier, whilst calling out ‘What are you DOING in there?’, ‘Unless you’re actually throwing up, you’re getting in that pool’ and my personal favourite ‘Yes I will make you go in naked. Look for it again’.
Then it’s lesson time and I get to sit and relax in my jeans and jumper in the subtropical climate of the spectator area. During the lesson my time can be broken down as follows: 3% watching actual swimming, 7% entertaining my older daughter whose lesson doesn’t start for another half an hour, 10% waving and nodding encouragingly at my younger daughter in the pool, and 80% trying to find a suitable mime for ‘For God’s sake pay attention to the bloody teacher will you?’
When the lessons are over, it’s time for them to get dry and dressed. Or rather, wave a towel about in the air in front of their body, then pull a dry school dress up a wet body inch by painful inch, until they are bright red in the face and don’t even have the strength to tell me I’m the worst mother in the world because I won’t let them have anything from the vending machine.
Finally, with or without knickers, we all make our way back to the car. But I have to remember that one day it will all be worth it. One day they will be accomplished swimmers. One day, I will be able to take them ‘fun swimming’ and actually get to sit in the café with the other grown-ups, while they spend 90 minutes pushing each other in. Which of course is the whole point.