Sunday, 23 November 2008

Sink or swim

Signing Littleboy 1 up for swimming lessons recently, I believed I had found the perfect solution to the darkening winter afternoons, when going out to the playground is no longer an option and restless Littleboys maraud around my house hell-bent on destruction. Little did I know that this would turn out to be my most fraught half hour of the week.

The problem is not so much Littleboy 1 - who loves swimming - but his brother, who has to come with us - or, rather, the combination of the two.

Timing our arrival at the changing room is the first hurdle. Get there too early, say more than 10 minutes before the lesson starts, and the Littleboys get bored and start disrupting the previous lesson. But get there too late, and there will be no changing room in which to store our stuff.

The first week, I totally misjudged changing room etiquette. We got there early and changed, but it seemed selfish to leave our bags in the changing rooms, knowing that during the lesson the next lot of people would be turning up. I therefore removed all our stuff and took it with us to the poolside. When the lesson was finished, we arrived back at the changing rooms to find that all our fellow pupils – who had arrived later than us - had taken them over with piles of stuff and I ended up changing two wriggling, shivering children in the corridor, with our people tripping over our bags on the way in and out. Now, my strategy is to get there early enough to nab a booth, and leave our bags piled neatly in the corner so as to stake our claim without preventing anyone else from using it after us.

Although Littleboy 2 is not having a lesson, I have realised that to all intents and purposes, he needs to change into a swimsuit too – otherwise, as I discovered the first week, his clothes end up soaked and stinking of chlorine from the wet poolside.

Once by the pool, he refuses any form of entertainment that I might provide during the half hour lesson– I’ve tried numerous books and toys. Instead, he prefers to grab whatever he can find on the side of the pool and chuck it into the water. This can range from the semi-legitimate – little plastic toys provided by the swim school – to the not so legitimate (the swimming floats and teacher’s towel).

I spend the entire half hour chasing him up and down the poolside, trying to ensure that he avoids either falling in the pool or majorly pissing off the instructors by distracting both his brother and the other pupils. Not like the other Nappy Valley mummies, of which there seem to be two types. One type sits there serenely reading Grazia and not taking any notice of their offspring in the pool. (On reflection, I think some of these are nannies). The other kind act as if their kids are Mark Phelps competing for Olympic Gold – roaring “Well done, Harry” every time the child so much as splashes. Only one other person brings a small sibling, and they are incredibly well-behaved. Nevertheless, I try to give Littleboy 1 as much encouragement as I can muster, given that half the time I am hauling his brother away from the edge.

Once the lesson’s over, it’s back to the crowded changing room to dress, a point at which, for some reason, the Littleboys become incredibly manic – running off around the room half dressed, shouting loudly and bumping into other people’s mummies while soaking wet. It's like trying to control a pair of small, wet, wriggly, overexcited seal pups. Most of the fellow pupils in contrast are good little girls (whose mummies, I can tell, are looking at me in horror and thinking ‘thank God I don’t have boys’).

By the time we reach the car again, I am haggard, exhausted, red-faced from the overheated poolside, stinking of chlorine and usually screeching at my children. I know that only real answer to my woes would be to leave Littleboy 2 behind – and indeed, I have a kind friend who has offered to take him when she can, but I can’t impose on her every week. Or alternatively, start taking Valium.....


Potty Mummy said...

And this is why I haven't resumed the swimming lessons this term... (well, that and the fact I can leave it to Boy #1's school to deal with for the moment, in any case!)

Nota Bene said...

Phew I'm exhausted just reading this! Time for the doctor to take a day off and rush to the rescue like the Cavalry methinks... said...

oh completely wonderful. not your predicament. but your description of same. are you fully clothed as you spectate and run up and down after wee one. Or do you don a costume. might be wise. i still have a very vivid memory of my small brother piling into the deep end after me (languishing in a tube) and only remembering then, as his head went under, that he could not swim. I, being 5, was not about to share tube with him. When he clutched at it from beneath the depths with life and death desperation as he began to sink with weight of half of pool's water in his lung, i shoved him off (''gerrof, this is MINE''). my mother, 7 months pregnant and fully dressed had to pile in to rescue him. she dragged us both out. him for consolation and warm towels, me for a smack!

Anonymous said...

Phew. Exhausting.

I was taught to swim by being dropped into a pool aged 6 months by a 'swimming teacher' in South Africa.

Luckily babies have an automatic reflex that enables them to swim at that age, even if they can't lift their heads out of water.

Short lesson though!

A Confused Take That Fan said...

Ha ha. Sorry, I shouldn't laugh but I can't help it. You have described it so well. I am the mother with the well behaved little girls giving you the, 'thank god I didn't have boys' look. (Although, secretly I yearn for a naughty little boy and is one of the reasons I would consider going for number 3).

Dumdad said...

And swimming's meant to be good for you!

Seriously, why don't you swim with the younger boy? Then he can splash about all he likes and you can be there to make sure he's safe.

Word veri: sinkorswim

Ladybird World Mother said...

Oh you poor girl. Have done this and know just how b. awful it is.
Can you do swap-the-children with nice friend? Wish you well, my friend... its hell being a mother in a heated public pool with small boy and deep water. X

nappy valley girl said...

PM - I look forward to the day when he can do it with school. But, like a masochist, I have just signed him up to one more I completely mad?

NB - I would love for The Doctor to experience this particular bundle of delights....

RM - I don't wear a costume - I think getting myself changed on top of everything else might just send me over the edge. But I'm normally barefoot, in jeans and vest- given the tropical heat....and I am sure that one day, I will be forced to strip off and leap in after him.

Mud - yes, I knew several people in Hong Kong who were taught to swim that way. Probably helps a lot, I think.

CTTF - Aha, so you're one of those smug mothers with girls.....but if you want a naughty boy and I want a good girl, perhaps we should organise a swap?

Dumdad - Getting in the pool oneself doesn't really seem to be on at this particular venue, as it is a very small pool at a school and completely taken over the by the lesson. But I might have to ask for special dispensation, as this would indeed keep Littleboy 2 entertained.

LWM - thanks - glad to know I'm not the only one. We'll get through it. At least it makes good blogging material....

Mom/Mum said...

Oh VG - what a wonderfully descriptive post of a harrowing situation. You know I know exactly how you feel considering I too have 2 naughty monkeys, who would act just the same at swimming classes.
Hence why my eldest is signed up to do saturday classes with daddy, while I have PJ time at home with youngest monkey.
I honestly don't think I'd know what to do with a 'good girl' am so used to chasing round after wayward, destructive boys!
Ohhh for a little pink in our lives, but not from heat induced swimming classes eh?
p.s. I'd deffo take up your friends offer. reliable childcare offers come few and far between, and if you felt too imposing for her to have Littleboy 2 every week, why not do it on alternate weeks, that way at least you don't quite as much stress quite as often!

Bush Mummy said...

OMG I could be reading about my life! Just to reassure you that I undergo the exact same experience every Monday at 5pm in West London so am with you sister.

I have fine tuned the sibling thing now and top tips would be a) packet of crisps (the healthy organic kiddie ones) always keeps them quiet. b) make friends with another mummy who can then watch your older child for you while you take little one off for a play c) ask your husband to get made redundant so he can stay at home with little one (just kidding altho' this has just happened to me rather fortuitously) d) go in with little one but risk shrivelling up from all that chlorine and warm pee.

Stick with it though - when my eldest daughter finally swam by herself I cried.

Courage mon brave.

BM x

PS Dare I ask could you join a pool/gym with lockers and nice changing rooms???? Virgin Active is not that expensive.

an ordinary Saffa girl said...

haha As a childminder (also in SW London) I can understand!!! Gosh what a predicament.