Elsa and I are touring the swimming pools of the North in order to find the perfect venue for one of our favourite Saturday morning activities (obviously sleeping in would be my number one Saturday morning activity, but it doesn’t seem high on a two-and-a-half-year-old’s priority list). I’ve noticed that whether we’re in Skipton or Scunthorpe, Harrogate or Hull, there are six things that always happen when you take a toddler swimming. Here they are:
1) Embarrassing Chat
You might be able to shut yourselves into one of those formica cubicles at the local municipal pool so that the general public can’t see you in your saggy smalls, but everyone in a ten metre radius can hear EXACTLY what you’re saying thanks to the uniformly open topped design. Those changing rooms echo too, so all the bizarre conversations you find yourself having with a small child reverberate off the tiled walls.
“Don’t put your knickers on your head, darling” is a regular refrain overheard by our fellow changers, as are my panicked hushes when she starts to remark on the physical appearance of the old aged pensioner that we saw entering the cubicle next door. However, the most cringeworthy comment came from Elsa when we were preparing to test out the council facilities in Guiseley in Leeds. At least twenty swimmers that day heard her loudly declare that “DADDY’S GOT CRABS ON HIS PANTS!”
For the record, they were space invaders.
2) Constant Apologies
Saturday morning is prime toddler swimming time and the learning pools are generally filled with parents and offspring enjoying exploring the water together. If you are the sort of person that expects to attend these sessions and remain un-splashed then you are a joyless individual with a blackened soul. (Too far?)
Then why is it that we find ourselves constantly apologising to other mums and dads for the slightest over exuberance displayed by our cherubs? The chances are that they also sought forgiveness from you just two minutes previously when their child attempted some bizarre kind of eskimo roll off the side of the pool, attempting to land on a battered pink float.
It’s a swimming pool full of children, it’s going to get splashy. That’s why you take your kids to these places – to get them used to being splashed and allow them to give as good as they get. Forgive us our splashes as we forgive those who splash against us.
3) Poo Fear
Splashing is forgivable. Being the parent whose kid soiled the pool and made everyone curtail their fun and evacuate the water whilst the ‘evidence’ was fished out is not. It’s never happened to me, I’ve never seen it happen to everyone else, but every swimming trip is plagued by the fear that today could be the day.
On a lesser note, that old tale about the special water that changes colour when someone does a wee always niggles at the back of my mind too. Elsa’s really good at telling me when she needs to go so we can get out in time and I’m not even totally sure that technology has ever really existed either, but I’m always mindful nonetheless. I’m so concerned about it, I’ve even started getting out of the pool when I need the toilet as well.
4) Pool Indecision
When we visit a new leisure centre, I’m always a little disappointed if there is a learning pool as well as a main pool. You might think that strange, considering how highly we value breadth of choice in this consumer-driven capitalist society. However, to me it means that I will spend the session climbing out of one pool, walking to the other, spending forty seconds in that pool and then leaving to return to the former. Repeat ad infinitum.
Goodness knows how Elsa will ever exercise her democratic right to vote, because decision making is not her forte at the moment.
Bonus points go to The Pods in Scunthorpe, run by North Lincolnshire Council, who helpfully prevented this charade by clearing the main pool to hold a water aerobics class. My solution for the other pools might be to show her Jaws in advance of our next visit and tell her that one pool has a shark in it. That should work satisfactorily with practically no negative effects, I’m sure.
5) The Inflatable Struggle
There’s always one dad in the men’s changing rooms struggling to inflate those orange armbands and that dad is usually me. I know you have to squeeze the blue nozzle, but there’s a sweet spot that makes the job easier and that is the sweet spot that I can never ever find.
In the same way that they made Tetra Pak milk cartons easier to open for the less dextrous amongst us, can’t someone design a pair of water wings that don’t push me to the edge of passing out in order to effectively inflate them?
6) Hungry Like the Hulk
Toddlers can be picky eaters. That is unless they have been swimming, in which case they will eat literally (and I mean ‘literally’ literally, not figuratively) ANYTHING. The embarrassing changing room chat is not usually an issue AFTER our swim because Elsa is generally shovelling a conveyer belt of snacks into her gob.
It’s not just the volume of food that is consumed that is surprising, it’s the urgency with which it is wolfed. It’s not just my daughter; every small child I see is left so ravenous by a few lengths in some chlorinated water that they morph into the Hulk.
“Hulk swim, Hulk eat!”
Perhaps those bizarre folk who take part in competitive eating competitions can use this as their Olympian-style ‘marginal gain’. Take a dip before shovelling as many hotdogs down your throat as you can in fifteen minutes and leave the competition for dust simply by harnessing your inner toddler. This could be the doping of the competitive eating world.
Have you noticed any of these? Have you spotted any more? Leave a comment!