As much as I admire those committed little 5, 6 and 7 year olds in my daughter’s swimming class, who struggle and splash to keep their bodies horizontal in the deeper water, it’s their parents I truly respect. Week after week, they make the sacrifice of an evening at home, to ensure that the life-saving skill of basic swimming is accomplished.
I see it in their eyes, mostly as they stand by the poolside showers, bottles of no-tears shampoo at arms length, instructing their slippery-skinned offspring to remove swimming hats and goggles and stand fully under the shower, rather than just a tiny bit under. I see it in their florid cheeks and slightly huffy expressions, that they’d rather be sipping a nice Pinot Noir and watching Netflix.
But they’re doing it for their children.
And perhaps for that precious twenty-five minutes of quiet in the viewing gallery, while said-children are gainfully engaged with their swimming instructor. Of course, twenty-five minutes is a meagre amount of time to many, but to an in-demand working parent, its like manna from the gods. Twenty-five whole minutes to answer essential work emails, send texts to neglected friends, find a plumber for a leaking toilet, read the news, drink a coffee, play a few games of Candy Crush, or simply stare exhaustedly into space (I mostly do the latter).
Enjoy your twenty-five minutes, swimming folk, because, really, that little slice of me-time is the calm before the storm. When the swimming lesson is over, it is time to face The Changing Room. Ah, the changing room. Where do I start? A friend recently told me she’d witnessed a full-scale row between two mums. Smart, sweet, normal mums. The cause: one of them was allowing her son to take too long in the shower. Outrageous! Unbelievable! Well, of course it’s not, but that changing room environment does something to the nerves. It’s an annoyance amplifier.
There’s something about the combination of oppressive heat, harsh lighting, loud noise, repeated splashing from poolside showers, and frenzied negotiation of adequate shampoo lathering that pushes parental patience into the crunch zone.
Hence the phenomenon of post-swimming changing-room rage: an outward venting of the inner disgust at being trapped in that hot, noisy, splashy sweatbox. It’s not pretty. It’s not clever. But it’s not surprising either.
And all of this, before I’ve even mentioned the ‘intense’ behaviour of the young clientele. Over-excited children towel-whipping their siblings, shutting each other in lockers, dropping socks in puddles or making nerve-grinding screechy sounds. Then there are the tantrums – the tired, hungry ones rolling on the cubicle floor, screaming about how unfair their evil parents are for daring to ask them to put their shoes on.
And as for those horrid, blue, plastic shoe-covers…
Sigh. A medal for every parent. Although a large glass of something strong might do.