There are few ideas I’ve had that are worse than deciding to take both kids swimming by myself. Choosing to neck a jar of pickled onions during a serious case of the midnight munchies and proceeding to puke them up all night comes in a close second, along with convincing two mates to do three tequila shots before our first spin class, but swimming with the kids is definitely, definitely, the worst.
The problem (as is so often the case in parenting), is that the fantasy of what a swimming trip with the kids looks like versus the soul-destroying, physically painful reality makes you question your sanity. Hell, it makes you question your ability to be in charge of small humans at all and, while you stand there with wet knickers on and skinny jeans wrapped around your legs like a helter-skelter while both children shiver and cry, you wonder what the fuck made you think this was a good idea.
It’s stressful before you even get out of the house. It takes almost 3 days, four tantrums, 2 packets of bribe-shaped Pom Bears, and a trip to the supermarket for swimming nappies to get the bag packed. Because it’s been 1 year, 3 months, and 16 days (apparently the exact amount of time it takes to forget how awful swimming with kids is) since I last took them swimming, their swimming costumes cover nothing and are permanently stuck up their arses. As they’re not currently auditioning for Love Island, I find myself spunking another £20 on two more swimsuits.
So, I’m already a mental breakdown and £25 down (including the swimming nappies) and I haven’t even left the house. Finding a swimsuit that still fits me is a daunting experience in itself, not to mention the fanny admin I have to undergo in a hurry, so I throw the kids another bag of pom bears and head upstairs. Within two minutes, I’m naked from the waist down with one leg on the bog, a razor clogged with old pubes in one hand and a flannel in the other ready to tackle the 70s pornstar jungle that I appear to have curated almost without any effort at all. If only everything was as easy as growing your bush, eh? I try on the swimsuit – it’s less Love Island and more Love Handles but THIS BODY GREW HUMANS DON’T YOU KNOW??? – and make sure it (more or less) hides the fruitful lady garden (blood love a euphemism). Decide to give less shits and anyway, the blood dribbling down my thigh from the cut I gave myself is probably going to be distracting enough.
And then, by some miracle of the swimming gods we are in the car. I already feel a bit like sobbing but the girls are high on pom bears and I decide to follow their lead. We listen to The Greatest Showman for the 238,431st time and finally make it to the pool.
We’re in. I’m another tenner down for armbands (I’ve realised these are like hair bands and dummies…no matter how many you buy, you’ll never be able to find them when you need them) and I’m trying to ignore the pervasive smell of shit and mildew and the above-ratio spattering of used plasters flapping around the sodden floor. I’m really, really still trying to get on board the happy bus that the kids are still riding. Like pissed teenagers, there is literally nothing that is going to bring them down and, worryingly, their enthusiasm is starting to edge towards that highly unpredictable state of excitability. (All parents know that excitable children don’t end well.)
Of course, there are no family cubicles, mainly because big hairy men have decided to take them for themselves. That’s ok though because there’s nothing I like more than being trapped in a tiny cubicle for one adult with two teeny tiny terrorists right at vagina level determined to do the exact opposite of everything I say. By the time we are in our swimming costumes, both children have been in tears, every pair of knickers is wet, the eldest has farted on her sister, I’ve had both their bums in my face and I’ve realised my rushed fanny admin job was woefully ineffective. I’ve bought size 2-3 swimming nappies because for some moronic reason I thought it referred to the age of the kid wearing them and not nappy sizes, so the youngest is wearing a nappy that’s cutting off the circulation to her legs and to top the whole shit show off, I don’t have a pound coin for the fucking locker.
I decide, as I’m sure most of you would, that I would rather risk my wallet, car keys, phone and collection of wet knickers than get dressed again and go and find a pound coin. I shove the bag in a locker and push the door to and remind the universe of all the good wholesome shit I’ve done – the charity fundraisers, the meals for our elderly neighbour? Surely that’s enough to safeguard me against a stolen bag at the swimming pool? At this point, I’m not sure I care. I think I’d happily hand it all over to someone just so that I can get the kids in the pool.
Finally, we are in the pool. And for 24 blissful minutes we are all happy. I’m submerged so West London is on a temporary reprieve from my shoddy bush management, and the kids are smiling! Laughing even! They may well be joyful. I silently pat myself on the back and award myself the congressional medal of honour for parenting. Of course, the youngest refused to wear the arm bands she insisted on having 10 minutes earlier so, like her personal sherpa, I bounce her around the whole time obediently following her stubbornly pointed finger. The eldest declares loudly that she just did ‘the longest wee ever in the history off stinky wees’ in the swimming pool and it turns out we only have 5 minutes left before the pool closes for classes. But, despite all that, these precious 24 minutes are a resounding success.
I really, really, try to remember that feeling of success and award-winning parenting 5 minutes later when I’m wrangling two screaming children from the pool. It’s hard enough physically making children do something when they are dry; trying to grab them and drag them when they are wet is not only tricky, but it’s physically demanding and it’s not something I’m 100% comfortable doing in a swimming costume. I leave the swimming pool carrying a feral (shivering) child under each arm and no arm bands (because why would I have to buy any next time if I actually remembered to take these ones home?)
Both kids refuse to shower.
Both kids complain loudly and repeatedly about being cold.
Both kids drop their towels on the floor.
Both kids are still crying.
I’m cold, my towel is wet, I’m pretty sure I can feel verrucas forming on my feet and I want to cry too.
Here’s the funny thing about changing rooms: you will never, ever, EVER, get dry. Getting clothes on damp kids is about as much fun as necking a cold cup of bin juice and getting damp clothes on damp kids is worse. I get through this s by, once again, throwing food at the problem. As long as they are eating, they are pliable, so while they shovel yet more pom bears down their gullets I fold them into clothes and leave them to eat while I try and do the same to myself. Also, while I’m here…if anyone can tell me whether I should get myself or the kids dressed first I’d be very grateful. Both scenarios thus far have resembled the Hunger Games.
By the time we are home they are fast asleep in the car. I already know the wet swimming clothes will end up staying in the bag in the boot of the car until we wonder what the smell is and, on hunting for what we can only assume is a dead animal, discover a mouldy bag of swimming stuff. I also know, because of the swim nap, neither of them will sleep tonight and I’m not looking forward to the shaving rash I’ll be dealing with for the next few days.
But, forget that. Let’s just focus on those blissful 24 minutes, eh?