The swimming lesson

24 Jan

Parenting, I have discovered, sometimes feels like a series of gruesome trials that one must self-effacingly go through for the good of one’s child/ren (see previous posts on soft play hell and survival guide for parents of children entering their first year at school as examples).

Trials often involving complex logistics and vast amounts of stuff you are obliged to lug along with you. And every time your child gets one year older, behold, a new, more ominous trial looms on the horizon.

(Parents of older children often give you advance warning by recounting the horrors to come but as a defence mechanism, you generally block your ears shouting out repeatedly “I’m not listening I’m not listening I’m not listening” until they change the subject.)

So now to the latest trial to assault my sensibilities: The swimming lesson for big boy (aged 5).

The first Sunday morning arrives. Armed with bags of stuff, we (that is, me, plus three little ones, aged 5, 3 and 1, thanks to dear OH conveniently working on Sundays) leave at a respectable hour, I think.

Heart sinking #1:

We arrive at the school where the swimming lessons take place and my spirits immediately plummet.

It seems just to get into the car park and find a spot will require nerves of steel and the need to behave in an entirely uncivil manner.

The entire parenting populace of NW London has apparently all signed up for the same swimming lessons at the same hour. It is mayhem. Drivers of brash SUVs squeeze in and out aggressively and there is zero good will to behold.

Grimacing, I wait my turn and eventually a tight spot becomes available.

We still have a few minutes until the class starts. Breathe, I say to myself.

Not seeing anything actually resembling a swimming pool nearby, I ask another parent innocently, where actually is the swimming pool?

Heart sinking #2:

She points to a corner of the car park and says ‘down the steps there’. Armed with a little one in a buggy, the word “steps” are a discordant, jarring noise to my ears. I drag my three children over “there” and my dread and horror become palpable. In the era of accessibility, the swimming pool building is apparently at the bottom of a steep hill and the only way down is via an apparently endless, steep flight of steps.

Grunting and muttering expletives, I start bumping buggy down the steps, cautioning the two bigger ones to hold on carefully. A kind parent comes to the rescue as I’m halfway down and helps me bring the buggy down the remaining 423 steps.

Heart sinking #3:

Into the swimming pool building and everything goes pear-shaped again as we squeeze our way into the changing rooms.  Firstly, we have to remove outdoor footwear. So convenient, especially as I have omitted to bring with any flipflop/Croc-type footwear. (Great, so now we will all come home with verrucas too.)

I use the word “squeeze” for good reason. Apparently the entire parenting populace of NW London must also battle it out for a spot in a changing room designed for about 2% of the quantity of human beings currently inhabiting the space.

The buggy is clearly not a desired object in this space, neither by me, nor by the glaring individuals around me.

By this point, the start of the lesson, 10 o’ clock, has come and gone, and I bark at big boy to get changed quickly.

We turn the corner and finally enter the swimming pool area.

Heart sinking #4 (this is the very worst instance of sinking, I can guarantee)

I am immediately assaulted by a tremendous wave of heat and noise. It is, according to a friendly, more experienced, parent, who confirmed this for me later on, akin to Dante’s Inferno.  There are swarms and swarms of squealing children in the pool with an army of blue-T-shirt clad swimming instructors. There is a crowd of disgruntled parents hovering by the side of the pool. There are absolutely no pleasant or remotely roomy places to park myself and my two little ones who have to wait while big boy does his stuff.

And the heat, did I mention the heat.

There is nothing tolerable about this, I mutter to myself, carrying my fabulously heavy one-year-old whose cheeks are already turning bright red. We are all wearing winter clothing, apart from being barefoot.

In the veritable sea of little people splashing about in the pool, I eventually identify big boy’s swimming class, and drop him off.

We are ten minutes late for a thirty minute class.

I collapse on a narrow bench with the other two, and feel sweat prickling from every pore in my body. Baby is in danger of becoming dehydrated. I rip layers of clothing off all of us, and play Teletubbies and The Wheels on the Bus go Round and Round on an endless loop on my mobile phone in a vain attempt to prevent her from wriggling off me and toddling straight into the swimming pool.

The hothouse nightmare finally ends 20 minutes later.

We stagger back to the tightly packed changing room. I dump baby back into the buggy. I attempt to shower big boy and become half drenched in the process.

We finally step outside into the cool wintry day again. I breathe in deep breaths of fresh Mill Hill oxygen and feel an all-enveloping sense of gratitude for fresh air, the universe and all things good.

I then remember the 748 steps we have to climb to get back to the car.

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: