Tag Archives: swimming

Swimmy fishies

My children have turned into fish.


Every summer they’ve progressed pretty well in the pool, what with going almost every day, and then the next summer it takes them a long time to get back to where they were the last time. This summer, it only took two weeks for Mabel and about two days for Dash to get there and swiftly surpass it. Today they were both swimming underwater in the deep(ish) end and doing cannonballs.


These are not the sort of children who never cared if they were on top of the water or the water was on top of them. I see some three year olds happily splashing around under the surface, but mine always hated putting their faces in the water, even with goggles. I can relate – I was much the same. Except that, thanks to Irish summers, I didn’t start doing cannonballs till I was about 12. And even then I held my nose, just to be sure.


So I respected my kids’ wishes not to be pushed (literally, metaphorically, whichever). They’ve both had some lessons, but we’d never be the sort of parents to just toss a kid into the water and know they’d be laughing about it a minute later. To them, and to us, it would feel like a betrayal from the very person you expect to keep you safe. They’d more likely be traumatised and refuse to go to the pool for the rest of the summer.


So we held them in the water when they needed us to. We put up with the summers of having one child or another barnacled onto us. And now, finally, I get my payback. I can sit on the edge, or even a little back from the edge, and talk to a friend – because the great thing about our pool in the summer is that there’s always someone there to talk to – and watch them be porpoises and dolphins and beluga whales all by themselves.


Leisure Day

I sat behind the loudly splashing veil of water that tumbles off the “mushroom” in the outdoor pool and squinted through the droplets at my family laughing and shrieking in the blue. The late-afternoon sunshine and the water in my myopic eyes made lens flares JJ Abrams would have envied, and it was one of those perfect moments that I have to write to remember because my camera is not waterproof.

Swimming pool

The weather is contractually obliged to be hot as Hades for the long weekend of Labor Day, and I will be very miffed if it’s still this hot tomorrow, though it might be. We’ve had three days of carnival, volunteer obligations, and parade participation, and summer has been closed with a flourish, whatever atmospheric conditions may prevail from now on.

Children eating cotton candy at funfair

I have great plans for tomorrow, when both children will be back at school. I could sort my paperwork. I could throw out all the broken toys that can’t be touched when they’re here. I could take a bag to the thrift store or mop the kitchen floor unmolested. I could make pastry. I will probably go to Target and ceremonially wander around aimlessly enjoying the solitude and the absence of short people pestering me for toys.

Labor Day Parade

Points of things

Sky, sea, land

Tomorrow is the first day of the last week of the summer holidays. Mabel doesn’t go back to school till after Labor Day, but Dash starts second grade on August 19th. The second-grade thing isn’t phasing me, but the fact that the summer is almost gone is a bit stunning. This year seems to be going faster than any one before. If this keeps up, by the time I’m in my eighties, I imagine days will fly by like seconds. No wonder my mother is confused.

I partly feel like I’m just getting back into the groove of our nice laid-back summer (after the disruptions of going away, two weeks of camp, and then BlogHer) but on the other hand I’m looking forward to a bit more peace and the opportunity to throw away some of all the crap that’s been piling up around here. Because apparently I can’t do that when the kids are in the house.

I went to Target on my own for an hour yesterday and realised why I like shopping: it gives me a chance to center myself and plan things, whether it’s figuring out what might help for organizing the house a little more (I bought an in-tray!) or deciding what I want to, um, invest in this autumn. (Found a dress I want as a shirt, decided to e-Bay a bag I never use and buy one I fell in love with in Marshall’s; also tried on boots, but that’s not relevant ahem as I was saying…)

I thought I’d missed my Dad’s birthday and blamed it on the fact that apparently now I only know it’s someone’s birthday when Facebook tells me about it, and my Dad (needless to say) is not on Facebook. But then I realised I just had no idea what the heck date it was in August, and I hadn’t missed it at all. So that’s good.

I might have a freelance editing job lined up for when the kids go back to school. You might not get so much blathering from over here if I find I’m actually working instead.

In the last week both kids have started swimming underwater, Mabel for the first time ever and Dash for the first time since a little last summer. My kids have never been those ones who don’t seem to notice whether they’re on top of the water or the water’s on top of them – they would always crane their necks to keep their faces out of the water, even with goggles on for extra protection. So to see them whooshing around underneath all of a sudden is pretty cool. I told Mabel I didn’t do that till I was twelve, and she was well chuffed.

Technically, I finished the 30-day shred yesterday. That is, it was the tenth day I’ve done the level-3 workout. However, I did take off about ten days in July when I was sick and then away, and almost another two weeks from BlogHer until yesterday, and I spent a few intervening days working back up to it by doing levels one and two a couple of times. I don’t feel any different, though it’s not as hard as it was at the start, so I must be at least a tiny bit fitter and stronger. Dash says I look taller, which has to be a good sign. The scales still say I’m a few pounds lighter even though at no point did I stop eating all the muffins I usually eat. I will try to keep going until I get totally bored or something else happens or they go back to school and I try running again.

Since we didn’t do anything today, here are some photos from last weekend, when we took in some history by going to Fort McHenry in Baltimore. A decisive battle of the War of 1812 took place in Baltimore Harbor, and as the poet Francis Scott Key watched to see which flag would be flying over the fort as dawn broke the following morning, he wrote what would become the lyrics of The Star Spangled Banner.

Stars and stripes over Fort McHenry
Teeny little flag up high; huge enormous flag down low
Three people walking the battlements
Walking the battlements

Summer: QED

Reasons to hate the pool:

  • My swimsuit
  • My swimsuit with me in it
  • My thighs
  • The sun
  • Sunscreen
  • Splashes on my glasses
  • Cold water
  • Wet towels
  • Bad hair

Reasons to love the pool:

  • Happy children
  • Hungry children
  • Tired children

The pool wins.

Swimming pool


When Dash was a baby – or, at least, a toddler, we did some swimming classes. I had always meant to take my children swimming from an early age, but the first time I discovered how slippery a wet wriggly baby is and how many hard surfaces glared at me in the changing room, I decided to wait until he could at least stand up on his own before going again. So he was perhaps 17 months when we took our first Aqua Tots class at the local pool.

It was quite fun, and he liked the splashy wheels on the bus, but when it came to going under, he just didn’t want to. We’d sing Ring Around the Roses (or Ring a Ring o’ Rosies, as I would rather call it), and the instructor would instruct us to blow on the babies’ faces at the last line, to make them close their mouths when we dipped them under for All Fall Down.

“Why does that make them close their mouths?” I asked her.
She had no idea. “It’s just what we’re told to do,” she said a tad sheepishly.

Well, whatever, but it wasn’t working on Dash. So I didn’t dip him under, I just swooped him gently down a little way. I didn’t see why he should be submerged if he didn’t like it, and he didn’t.

The next summer we took some more classes, but by then Dash’s stubborn streak was showing, and it turned out he didn’t really want to put on his swim diaper and his swim shorts, because he knew that if he did that, next thing he’d know he’d be in the pool and we’d be trying to make him put his face in the water again, blowing bubbles or looking for rings, and generally getting water in his eyes just like he hated. So I’d cajole and threaten and ambush and he’d whine and cry and kick and we’d finally get into the pool in time for the last ten minutes of class. By the second-last day I decided to give us both a break and not bother even trying.

When he was four, he was finally old enough for a class I didn’t have to get into the water and partake in, so I happily signed him up. He got into the pool willingly enough, but spent most of the time glued to the rail, or sometimes just sitting on the side. I decided enough was enough, and we didn’t do any more lessons after that.

When we moved house that year we joined the local pool for the summer, and Dash slowly went from clinging limpet to confident mover-about-in-water-wearing-a-flotation-device. Last summer, aged 5, he started to doggy paddle, all self-supporting. And today, he put on a pair of goggles and put his head underwater.

He’ll get there. He’ll get to the moon and back, that boy, if we just give him some time and some space.

Giant steps

Mabel did not sleep this afternoon. At least, after 20 minutes of blessed peace, the monitor chirped “Mummy?” and that was that. This, added to her bad night last night, meant that at the nursery-school picnic this evening, her dark shadows were such that people were asking me if Mabel had done something to her eyes. Just kept them open too long, that’s all.

We effected a departure ASAP, once Monkey had eaten his sandwich (brought from home) and some cake and a brownie and drunk a lot of pink lemonade, and Mabel had ostentatiously rolled down the hill several times, pausing ever longer at the bottom both for dramatic effect and because she was far too tired to get up. (I also had time to queue up twice for food, because by the time the first lot is eaten another batch of people have arrived bearing culinary goodies that must be investigated. And I believe B ate something too.)

Now they are both asleep and I have a nice glass of pinot grigio in front of me, to bolster me for who knows what sort of night ahead. I’d like to say that she’s bound to sleep long and hard and deep, but that’s what I said at naptime and look what happened.


In my youth, lo these many years ago, there was one public swimming pool in the vicinity of my house. And not particularly the close vicinity: about a 15-minute drive, sort of three suburbs over, if you like. It was romantically known as Blue Pool. Which was nicer than greenish-from-pee-and-dead-skin-cells-and-floating-band-aids-mitigated-by-large-quantities-of-chlorine-pool. But to be honest, I imagine that’s how most public pools were then, and probably still are. Especially if other kids were as clueless as I was: having grown up mostly swimming (that is, wading for a long time and eventually ducking down to shoulder level just before I got out) in the Irish Sea, where if you needed to go, you just went, it was a while before it dawned on me that this wasn’t actually appropriate in an enclosed swimming pool. (I blame my parents. They should have mentioned it.)

In fact, a quick Google shows that the pool is still locally known as Blue Pool, though its official name has long changed. I’m sure it’s lovely now. And as far as I was concerned, it was lovely then. Swimming in an indoor pool was always a huge treat – for one thing, it was warm, far warmer than the sea – and … well, maybe that was it, but because I hardly ever went, I loved it when I did. Even the mortification of changing in front of other people (that is, huddling under a towel trying to pull up twisted knickers while I assumed everyone was watching me, critical of my every move) wasn’t enough to put me off.

So I didn’t get much swimming practice as a kid, is what I’m trying to say. It was lovely growing up so near the sea, and I miss being able to go down to the rocks and breathe deeply to drink in the ever-changing, ever-same blue-green expanse, and I would love nothing better than to be able to take my kids paddling and poking in rock pools and collecting seaweed and periwinkles and tiny white crabs;  but it’s not the sort of sea you really spend much time swimming in, especially if you can’t actually swim yet but could do with some time in water to get confident.

When I was seven, we took one of our rare trips abroad for holidays. Usually we went to a farmhouse B&B down the country somewhere, but every five years or so (it turned out, though I don’t think it was planned that way) we went properly abroad (not just to England, which doesn’t count). When I was almost two, we went to Menorca, a tiny island in the middle of the Mediterranean. Sadly, I don’t really remember any of that. When I was seven, we went to Corfu, a Greek island off the coast of Albania. It was wonderful. It was my first experience with proper hot weather and warm blue translucent seas (not to mention mosquitoes and lizards and Greek dancing and scampi), and I’ve pretty much wanted to go back ever since.

So one day in Corfu in the warm water, I took myself over to the shallows and started swimming. And that was that. I had no form to speak of, and have never learned to do the crawl, but I think I have a passable breast stroke, which is what I use if I swim laps, like an old lady.

Anyway. Our hot weather has broken now, but we went to the pool every afternoon for most of the week. Last summer, Monkey went from clinging limpet-like to a parent to happily swimming about alone wearing his flotation vest – a huge step. This year, in three days, he abandoned the floatie and I looked down on Wednesday to see his arms and legs gyrating wildly and not touching the bottom at all. In essence, he’s swimming. Just not actually forwards.

As with the bike, there’s some backwardsing before he’ll progress again – for now, he won’t cycle anywhere but on our road, because apparently all other surfaces have intimidating slopes or bumps – and he was back in a brand-new, better-fitting floatie yesterday. (Mabel has inherited the other one. Which, though I’d love to see her swimming like a dolphin, is probably safer because I can’t be in all places at once. She does show a little more caution than last year, though, when she would have just kept on walking into the deep end if I hadn’t scooped her up before the water covered her and her little pink hat floated away merrily.) He doesn’t want to take lessons, so we just keep doing what we can, telling him to kick behind him and move his arms, and he’ll get there, some day.