I have been meaning to write a blog post about swimming with a toddler for a while. However, after going swimming a few days ago to Sandcastle Water Park I thought that I would write a generic and hopefully humorous post on coping as a single dad with the trauma of swimming!!
I found swimming one of my biggest challenges as a single dad. This is mainly as I lacked confidence to do it. So if by reading this, it inspires someone to go and give it a go with their child, then it has worked! Also, if you laugh/smile, it has worked as well!
My main issue was the changing room, making sure that I had packed everything, unpacked everything etc etc! Dry space is your friend on this…who cares if things are not folded like a piece of origami – so long as it is dry!
I used to get us both ready in out swimming costumes before setting off to the baths as it is one less thing to forget. I tended to put Heidi’s swimming nappy on just before going into the pool. Don’t make my mistake of putting it on too early as they are not as easy to change and clean when they have been used!!!
So, getting into the pool is the easy bit, apart from playing the ‘how can I put all our clothes in the locker while entertaining a child?’ game?! Lockers are not designed for adult shoes, coats, bags or even baby items. It seems as though they only accept towels and money so you won’t be the first or the last to shoulder barge your bags, shoes etc in while holding your child in the other arm. Not glamorous, but just get the job done!
Swimming with a Toddler
The swimming bit is actually the fun part, except you have probably got a dead arm at this point. Remember though, a child in water weighs less so you can reminisce about how light your child was back when they were born as your arm recovers and you worry about if you put everything in the locker!!
You are also petrified about not being in contact with your child for the fear of drowning in an instant. You also start to mentally design about some kind of swimming harness to make sure it never happens…
There is a serious note on swim safety here and there are many better resources than me to advise on that. However, always listen to the lifeguards, they are there for a reason!
However, you quite like this swimming with a toddler lark.
So after going round the same bit of pool for a what feels like an eternity, you get feeling back in your arm and decide to get out of the pool. Then you wonder how you are going to get everything out of the locker that rammed full of all your worldly possessions whilst looking after a child…
Some places have pens to put children in, so ask where it is before you go into the water in the first place. It is optional to have to take them out! However, you are probably going to try and have to use your newly recovered arm to yank the mis-shaped items out of the locker.
I probably should have said beforehand to make sure all the zips of your bags are closed before you put it in the locker. As if not, the contents will fly their way into someone else’s changing cubicle!! You then suddenly turn into Michael Caine and think that the only solution is to blow the bloody door off…
The Changing Rooms
However, changing rooms are magical places and then you evolve from Michael Caine to a hybrid of superheroes.
You have 8 arms because you are carrying a tired child and your worldly possessions. Most importantly is the £1 coin from the locker as you promised the child something from the vending machine if they stayed in the water for more than 5 minutes.
You also turn into a hawk trying to look for a suitable changing room. For this, size means nothing. Just make sure it is dry!
You also turn into Usain Bolt realising you have to leave some things in the changing room to get everything else out of the locker. As such, you rush to make sure no-one will steal your underwear and worn down trainers (hint, they won’t!)
You also curse the hawk for not spotting a free changing room right next to the locker…
So you are tired, wet, cold and your superhuman powers have disappeared. Your Everest is in front of you – your child needs changing into normal clothes again! You forget everything you have ever learnt about dressing a child as you fear that hypothermia is just around the corner. (Hint, it isn’t. Although you need to get them dry as soon as possible)
This is has a difficulty level 9 and so it is ok for shortcuts to be made.
Clothes inside out? Not a problem. Shoes on with no socks? Not a problem.
Vest back to front? Be proud that you have got the vest on in the first place.
But they you realise that you can do it, and you have done it. You have got your child dressed and not managed to break them! You’re in a changing room so no one else can see your joy. However, no one else can see your celebration dance, so go for it!
However, there is a problem. You are still in your swimming outfit, freezing cold and wondering how to get out in one piece. If your child is a baby, you are on easy street. Just give them a toy and you have bought 5 minutes. Trust me, they won’t mind!
With a toddler, this is much more difficult. They want to get out of the changing rooms. They also know how to open the door. You panic about showing the whole world everything as your toddler escapes and you having to run and catch them wearing only a smile. But then you remember one of the keys to parenting – bribery. You offer the lure of the vending machine to keep them sweet for 5 minutes as you get dressed. You also wonder why you wore skinny jeans as opposed to baggy shorts.
And then you’re ready to leave, having spent more time out of the pool than in the pool. But you know that you have completed an important mission with SAS style efficiency and you have a happy child.
Until you realise you have forgotten to pick up the coin from the locker and the vending machine will have to wait until next time!