Tuesday, 14 June 2011


Baby Swim Class. Three words that strike terror in my heart. Baby Swim Class. Shiver. Every Wednesday from 1:30pm til 2:pm. Sevenoaks Leisure Centre. Be there, or be.....well, just about anywhere else on the planet please?

I started it. I only have myself to blame, but the big question I wrestle with each week is – should I stay or should I go? The indecision’s bugging me. I bet Jones/Mellor never foresaw their iconic track as the soundtrack to a young(ish) mum’s weekly swim nightmare, but their song sticks in my head like an earworm, gnawing away; ‘You’re happy when I’m on my knees....’

We spend a lot of the half hour class on our knees singing nursery rhymes. I’m not too bad at the nursery rhyme bit – it’s taken me a term but I know the words now to ‘if you’re happy and you know it splash your hands’ and I’ve mastered ‘Humpty Dumptey’, but my knees kill me. I leave the leisure centre hobbling like an arthritic octogenarian.

It’s not just the kneeling that’s a problem; it’s actually getting to the class on time. I’m not the kind of person who likes routine. I hate appointments and meetings – by their very nature they stipulate that you be somewhere on time, and I’m not good at that. Don’t get me wrong, I can get places, but I tend to like to go under my own steam and at my own pace. I drive N mad – I give him ETL (estimated time of leaving) as we get ready;
‘I’ll be five minutes’
‘Yes, yes’ he sighs unbelieving. ‘and the rest’ he usually adds.
‘I promise – just five more minutes.’

So, getting myself and Nipper washed, fed, dressed, packed and ready for swimming every Wednesday lunch is a big deal for me. The planning starts when we get up at 7am – I start to plan the plan and plan on putting the plan into action when it’s time to action the plan. Usually this takes all morning, and before I know it, it’s ten to one and we’re still in our PJ’s and lunch is still cooling and my legs remain unshaved. Gah!
The darned fish fingers took forever to cool this week and finger food was stuffed into Nipper’s mouth with just minutes to go before departure time. I piled our bags and the bug in the car. Towels? Yes we had loads. Dressing gowns? Yes, we had two. Food for after? Yes we had enough to weather a nuclear winter.
My plan this morning had been to wear my swim suit under my clothes, thus speeding up the changing procedure on arrival at the pool. I quickly popped my swimsuit on and threw some jeans and a hoodie over the top. Nipper’s pj’s looked quite sporty so I didn’t bother to dress her – a ‘track suit’ would be fine for a visit to the leisure centre!
A fifteen minute drive later and we were in Sevenoaks wrestling with the ticket machine in the car park. No change again. It never gives change. I karate kicked it before unpacking our bags from the boot and hanging them from my neck and both shoulders whilst simultaneously hoisting Nipper out of her car seat.

We sprinted to the changing rooms. We had five minutes before the lesson began. Just enough time to throw a swim nappy and costume on Nipper and peel off my layers to reveal my nifty two piece. The changing scenario is a lot quicker now that Nipper can stand and walk. She actually stands still while I undress. When we first started swimming she’d refuse to stay on the changing table and would repeatedly attempt to touch the void, hurling herself at the rock-hard tiles below as I wrestled with my jeans. In those days an extra arm would have been a bonus.

Bang on one and we congratulated ourselves as we paddled down the steps of the pool.
Good Lord! It was cold this week.
Splish splash splosh. Rubber ducks, balls, floats, nursery rhymes. Our 30 mins passed quickly, and before Nipper knew it we were out, her swimsuit and nappy were off and she was bundled into a warm towel. I on the other hand shivered and shook in my two piece. It’s impossible to simultaneously dry yourself and your little one. One of you has to stay wet and cold while the other’s dried and dressed, and it wouldn’t be fair for a one year old to ‘take turns’ each week! So it’s always Mum who freezes her two piece off.

Nipper was good this week and I managed to dry and dress her in double-quick time. I popped her shoes on and let her play with the drain in the middle of the changing room while I rooted around in the bag for my pants.
I knew there was something I’d forgotten.
In my rush to leave the house I’d left my knickers on the radiator in the hall. I had a choice. Wear the wet bottoms of my suit under my jeans and display my wet bottom or go Commando.............
‘Going commando" is reputed to have begun with commando and special forces military units who, worried about chafing, decided to forgo their pants during combat.
Being a working mum is a little like belonging to the special forces; we’re sleep deprived, we’re resourceful; we can multi task and we can negotiate in combat (I watched a mum the other day separate her warring children with four short sharp words. Impressive!) So perhaps ‘going commando’ is something all mum’s are born to do. Whatever, it was the choice I made that afternoon.

With our wet suits stowed in the bag and our towels folded and packed, Nipper and I left the pool for another week. I felt like I was walking on air. No hobbling this week. I’d discovered a new found freedom – I was the opposite of the Tena-lady – I was a woman without. And it felt wonderful. Nipper slept all the way home in the car while I marvelled at the new found freedom of wearing no pants...........and thanked god several times that I’d chosen my jeans over a mini before we left the house this morning.

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