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Monday, 26 January 2009


It felt good when we finally got round to booking swimming lessons for the kids. It had only been on my 'To do' list for, ooh, about three months. Actually, it was Paul who actually rang up and did the booking, in a burst of enthusiasm for Organising Stuff That Sara Has Finally Admitted She Can't Manage All On Her Own And Has Decided to Delegate (this is a novel idea that has only just occurred to me because, whilst effective delegation is a primary skill of mine in the workplace, I only just seem to have got to grips with it at home).
The idea of 9am swimming classes on a Sunday was starting to feel slightly less appealing as we staggered up to bed a little drunkenly at 1.30am after a dinner party with neighbours, and was proving an even less attractive prospect as we peered out of the window into the rainy darkness at 7am the following morning when the alarm went off. On a Sunday. Did I already mention that?
However, I was still feeling smug because, for once, it was not my fault that we were Doing Something Slightly Insane and I could therefore not be grumped at with any shred of credibility by my husband. Instead, Paul was behaving in an unusually chirrupy manner for someone who professes to detest the hours before 10am and who is equally unkeen about jumping willingly into cold water, even at the best of times.
The children, of course, were even more chirrupy and in fact positively leaping with joy and into their swimming costumes, all the time treating us as if we were heaven-sent Parental Beings for taking them swimming, which really made us feel rather good about the whole enterprise.
We should have known something wasn't quite right when we turned up at the poolside to find that Nathan and Ava weren't on the register for the 9am Aquatots class, but the teacher hurriedly explained that it was probably an administrative error and encouraged us all to jump in regardless. Meanwhile, Eden sat on the side giggling at Ava as she screeched in terror at the idea of a Swimming Lesson and peered sideways at the teacher with that Damionesque look she assumes when incredibly suspicious of someone. According to the booking form, Eden's 'Beginners 2' class started at 9.30am, so she was sitting this session out, drawing quietly in her notebook and waiting her turn. I looked up at her from the pool where I was singing 'The Wheels on the Bus' and pedalling Ava's arms up and down in the water, and thought how proud I was of her ability to sit patiently and quietly without fuss while the others had fun in the water.
The end of the class came round and we dragged Ava and Nath out of the pool and into their towels, simultaneously propelling Eden towards the lady with the clipboard who looked like she was in charge so that she could register for her lesson.
Half distracted by trying to contain Ava in her towel I suddenly became aware that Paul was walking towards me with a John-Cleese-in-Fawlty-Towers-When-He-Loses-It face on. There had been an Adminstrative Error (technical term for Total Cock-Up) and the long and the short of it was that Eden wasn't going to get a swimming lesson that day. Her class had begun at 9am and was now over. It was not at 9.30 as we had been informed. Eden was looking at the teacher, across to Paul and then at me, her eyes wide and teary with disbelief and repeating over and over again, "Am I really not going to get a swim?"
And I felt so very sorry for her in that moment that of course the words just came out: "Don't worry, darling. Mummy will make sure you get a swim today, whatever happens."
So it was that about an hour or so later I found myself at another swimming pool across town, climbing back into my already wet swimming costume to take Eden into the pool for a hastily convened Mother And Daughter Swimming Session. As we walked towards the pool we bumped straight into two of the neighbours who had been at our dinner party the night before.
"What happened?" they asked, wondering why I was at another pool with Eden, an hour and a half after our scheduled class at the local leisure centre.
As I briefly downloaded the events of the morning, they both shook their heads. "So this is the second time you've gone swimming this morning? And you've just put your cold, wet swimming costume back on again? And you've got a hangover? That's Hardcore. You're a Hardcore Mum!" they marvelled. And Eden laughed and said, "Isn't my Mum great?"
No. Not really. Not even slightly. But I didn't mind them saying it. Not one bit.

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