The local swimming pool. Where every parent’s sense of peace and tranquility goes to die. Yes, I know. Children need to learn to swim. Health, fitness, survival if they fell into a raging river, yadda yadda yadda. But still. The place is not far off Hades if you ask me.
If truth be known, getting there is a battle in itself. It’s like some cruel version of Krypton Factor where you have to suss out unrealistic logic and then execute your plan against the sabotage of (in my case) three small humans.
Saboteur #1: The Tween. Of all the saboteurs, this one provides the least threat of poolside maternal breakdown. She has way more leverage in other scenarios to break me but on the whole is relatively independent and will generally remember to put all clothes on in the correct order. She can even be super helpful with pacifying saboteur #3. But it’s always a game of Russian Roulette, and if I’m not winning then she will wage war with Saboteur #2 at the worst possible moment. Her timing is impeccable.
Soboteur #2: The Middle Child. Without a doubt the biggest threat to my sanity on a Monday afternoon. It doesn’t matter how many times I repeat ‘the pep talk’ about needing to hurry. It just aint’ happening. I foolishly thought that I might have hammered the lecture in hard enough over the weekend. I thought the penny might have dropped. I asked her to repeat what I’d just droned on about for the past ten minutes. “We don’t have long to get ready mummy. I’ve got to be quick mummy. I’ll not make you late mummy. Can I go on Youtube now mummy?”
Saboteur #3: The Hangry baby. TJ is generally better now and at three months old will mostly go three hours between feeds. But sometimes, when I really need him not to, he’ll throw that right out the window. I’m pretty sure he does it to see how much I can sweat in public before cracking under the pressure of a squawking infant. There’s a glint in his eye, honestly. The round trip to Hades, including the swimming lessons, is just short of three hours so the options are to feed him just before I leave and risk his wrath towards the end of this joyous adventure as I try to get home before the next feed, or to feed him once we’re there and juggle even more once we enter the clammy pit of doom that works under the guise of ‘The Leisure Centre’.
Last week’s trip to the baths (does everyone call them that or is that something weird from the North East?) was pretty intense, I’m not going to lie. The next day, I was taken to hospital with Kidney Stones – can I blame swimming lessons? Go on, please let me. I was determined that this week would run smoother. I tweaked the organisation of Mission-Swim and shifted TJ’s feeding times so it would all flow better.
Well. That didn’t work.
Saboteur #3 laughed in the face of my attempts to shift his feeding times. Instead, he turned the tables and intentionally – yes intentionally – summoned a growth spurt. And wanted to be fed every two hours through the day. But come 3pm – nah, he didn’t fancy it then. Saboteur #1 wasn’t in the happiest mood but I was confident I could work my magic on her. I was determined to make this work. Peacefully. Sounding like some deranged sports coach, I pepped Saboteur #2 with everything I had and she started to get changed. Could be better but could be a lot worse. Positive thinking.
We had about seven minutes to get out the house. I gave up trying to convince Saboteur #3 to feed and this is when I made the game changing mistake. I took him upstairs to change his nappy and left Saboteur #2 unattended.
With about two minutes before we needed to be in the car I scooped up Saboteur #3 to take him back downstairs, turned around and in walks saboteur #2. Half naked. Asking me to look at her toe.
Breathe H, Breathe. Don’t lose your cool. This can still work.
Through gritted teeth I slowly instructed Saboteur #2 to get her clothes and shoes on straight away. I swear, asking her to speed up actually slows her down. In some kind of break-dancing move, with her back on the floor and limbs flaying everywhere, she wrestled with her trousers and hummed a little song to herself.
Sweat started to drip down my back as I searched for my cool. Nope. Couldn’t find it anywhere. Cue mama-ranting. Cue tears from Saboteur #2. This slowed her down even more. In walks Saboteur #1 saying she had no shoes to wear. Saboteur #3 starts squealing and I’ve not even tried to get him into his car seat yet.
Running five minutes late and praying we don’t get stuck on the country roads, I try pitifully to usher everyone out the house. I looked at saboteur #2’s tear stained face. For a fleeting moment I felt guilty. Had I pushed too hard? Had I expected too much? And then her expression changed. And I just knew.
“You didn’t go to the toilet before you got your swimming costume on did you?”
She slowly shook her head.
“You need the toilet now don’t you?”
I didn’t feel guilty anymore. More ranting from me and she heads to the loo to entirely strip off again. More crying from Saboteur #2 from behind the bathroom door. More shrieking from Saboteur #3 as I put him in his car seat. And Saboteur #1 looks back and forth at us all with a mixture of intrigue and disdain.
And of course, of course, this happens on the way.
Gotta love the cows.
We made it to
Hades the leisure center ten minutes late, rushing through the foyer full pelt towards the changing rooms. Saboteur #1 runs ahead and straight in with her stuff. Saboteur #2 stops outside the entrance and decides to strip off right there. She thought it would save time, bless her soul. What it did do was cause a queue of people behind us trying to get through, who then had to squeeze past us and step over the growing pile of clothes on the floor.
With two children safely in their swimming lessons I collapse onto one of the sofas in the foyer, with Saboteur #3 in his pushchair beside me. There is a short while to regroup, destress and mop off the sweat. A few minutes of peace would be all I needed. I sat back and let my breathing slow down.
Just as Saboteur #3 does the loudest poo known to mankind, starting to protest before he’s even finished.
And the saving grace that stopped me canceling the rest of their swimming lessons and giving up altogether on being a grown up? Remembering that I wasn’t the only one. Back in the sweltering changing rooms as I frantically searched for vacant cubicles and sushed a now-hungry baby, another mum looked near to tears as her two soggy children ran in opposite directions. I gave her that knowing, empathetic smile that us parents share as she looked at me and asked – “why do I feel like I’ve just run a marathon?”.
I would have answered her but Saboteur #3 was shouting too loudly, I was trying to dry Saboteur #1’s hair before her entire Tshirt was drenched and I appeared to have lost Saboteur #2.