“Maybe we should go swimming,” I venture. I watch as my husband’s face falls. He looks for a moment like he might cry but he quickly pulls himself together and reluctantly agrees that this painful plan may be the best option open to us. Besides, last time we left it so long between swims that the baby had forgotten all about pools and spent the first half hour clinging to me in terror. So, we decide to take the plunge and go for it.
As usual, I take charge of gathering all swimming things for the five of us, split into two bags (I always get the short straw and have to have Baby T with me). I’m slightly hungover so the bag packing is a tiny bit more challenging for my brain than usual but I manage to get it done, get the kids dressed, shave my neglected legs (badly) and we are ready to go.
T appears to have a bit of a shoe thing going on at the moment, in that he doesn’t want to put them on when you need him to. So, he lies on the floor screaming while I get the other two into jumpers and shoes. I take the older two out to the car while the husband tries his luck with the shoes. T is now in the doorway screaming because he wants to come outside with us, yet still refusing to put his shoes on. Eventually he relents, is shod and is out the door. At which point he scarpers down the road as fast as his little legs will carry him saying “no car, no car”. I leg it after him, grab him and carry him under my arm as he screams blue murder. I bundle T into his car seat and we are finally ready to go.
We’ve discovered a nicer pool than our local one in a neighbouring town which is about a 20 minute drive from our place. We take a back route and the kids spend the entire 20 minutes asking if we are lost and how much longer it will take.
The car park is rammed with other poor souls doing a wet weekend swim so we do a couple of circuits before grabbing a space that has just been vacated. Perhaps the Gods are smiling on us after all? Hmmm.
So, everybody out of the car, dash through the rain and into the shiny sports centre, full of the promise of ‘family fun’. We’re in the queue to pay and my husband remembers he hasn’t bought his glasses case and, rather than risk his specs being crushed in the bag, decides he’d better run back to the car to leave them there.
“You just stay here in the queue with the kids and pay and I’ll be back in a minute”. Longest minute of the day, hands down.
T likes the look of this big airy place and discovers that he can make an excellent echoy sound if he yells very loud. Plus we are surrounded by goggles and floats for sale, all at T height. He runs screaming across the spacious reception area, tripping people up and pulling things off shelves as he goes. I yell after him, not wanting to dash out of the queue and lose our place. Both older kids decide to ‘help’ by screaming “Baby T!” at the top of their voices. They dart here and there trying to catch him, which he thinks is just bloody brilliant fun and he roars with laughter. Pretty much everyone is looking at us now and I think things may just possibly have got a teeny bit out of my control so I dump the bags in the line and run about with them all, variously shhhh-ing the kids and calling my renegade baby until I catch him trying to scale the stairs. So, under the arm again, more screaming.
The husband makes it back just in time: we are next to pay. I then remember that I failed to pack H’s goggles, having left them in his school swimming bag. H goes into a major meltdown as he can’t swim without them, apparently.
“Just grab some! I’ll buy him a pair. He can have them as spares” I tell my husband (H already has spares from last time we did this, but I decide not to remind him about that). The cheapest pair is £15. We have a long queue behind us, a seven year old in meltdown and a still screaming toddler under my arm. Screw it. Just buy the bloody things. Turns out we picked up adult goggles but we try them on H and they don’t fall off so they’ll have to do.
“You can have them. You don’t have any goggles any more do you?”, I say to my husband, who gives me a withering look. Rightly so, to be honest. Trying to spin spending £15 on a pair of too-big goggles as a positive when we have two perfectly good H-sized pairs sitting at home was probably going a step too far.
Still, at least we’ve paid to swim now and we are within inches of the pool, away from the queue of judgey people with older kids who have clearly forgotten what it is like to have a terrible toddler.
T sees the pool and gets very excited. He is desperate to get in and doesn’t give an arse that I want him to get undressed first. Pool now! We split into two ‘family changing’ cubicles, littered with the usual array of used plasters and swim nappies. T screams constantly and points at the door. I get the picture T, but we kinda need to get changed first. Finally, we are in our swimming gear. I attempt to ram our too-big bag into the locker with one hand (why are those things so bloody thin?) while attempting to hold T back from running at full pelt into the pool.
Finally, we make it into the pool. And the kids absolutely bloody love it. I relax a bit (as much as you can while attempting to keep your eye on three kids who could be about to drown themselves at any minute). We do a lot of dividing and conquering when swimming with the kids. We usually have just one or two each to monitor at a time, handing over as they switch pools. This tactic works well here as there are three pools and a lot of potential to lose a kid, especially my water-baby H who spends most of his time under the water, surfacing every now and then for air and to empty the water out of his enormous, leaking goggles.
H and M have gone to the middle pool with the husband and I am sat in the baby pool with T. He is playing with the waterfall while I ponder how I managed to totally fail to shave one knee. OK, so it is a bit hectic in the pool but all three kids are having a riot. Maybe it is worth all the stress, I think. But I don’t really kid myself because I know the worst is yet to come.
And, all too soon, it does indeed come: shower and getting dressed time. T hates the shower but there is no way we are going through all this and still having to do baths later so he is doing it whether he likes it or not. Quick hair wash, much screaming and out. I take my moaning T back to the changing rooms via another one-handed bag and locker battle. I leave the husband with the older two and hear the ear-splitting screams from M as her hair is washed.
As the screams rebound around the pool hall, I attempt to get a kicking, wet toddler into a nappy and some clothes, giving him just about anything I can lay my hands on that will keep him distracted. I strip off to stop my wet costume from dripping all over his dry clothes, so we are both naked, stressed out and we’ve really fallen out with each other now. He will not stay still, he won’t remotely help me dress him and he whinges constantly. I tell him to “shut up and stop being a little bugger”, before remembering I am probably being overheard by perfect families on either side.
T is finally dressed and sitting on the wet floor, sucking on the pound coin from the locker and soaking up pool water with his trousers, while I attempt to get my wet legs into leggings. Poor choice of clothes for swimming. I look like Nora Batty, my hair is just crazy and the skin on my face is drying like clay because I forgot to bring any moisturiser.
M sobs all the way back to the car, I’m not even sure why but I am guessing it is shower related. T is doing his “I’m hungry” lip smacking thing and moaning (just for a change). H is charged with keeping an exhausted T awake on the drive home so he can have lunch and we can put him down for a hopefully long nap while the kids watch TV. This is pretty bloody crucial, after a swim. If we don’t get at least an hour of downtime out of this, I may cry.
Five minutes away from home, some muppet drives into the back of our car and buckles the boot. Excellent end to a perfect family morning out.
Whose stupid idea was it to go for a swim, anyway?