I took the kids for their first swimming lesson of the term yesterday. I have a ‘no swimming lessons during the winter’ policy because frankly life’s too short to be heaving tights up small damp legs when it’s cold. Still, spring has sprung so the time to make the mad dash from school to Richmond Baths once a week, weighed down by changes of clothes, towels and enough snacks to feed a pack of Scouts, like a stressed pack horse, has come again. Children have to be able to swim, a mantra which I repeat through gritted teeth while trying to find enough loose change to feed into the exorbitant meters every week.
Anyway, of my two children, so far it’s seeming like Lily might be the one with the sport gene. She loves all sports, has never been scared of getting amongst the boys when playing football and thrives on a bit of competition. Her lesson was first and went without a hitch. After we left Freddie poolside while we went to get her showered and changed. When I say we left him poolside I do mean with a teacher obviously and with about eight floats on each arm, wearing goggles and generally looking like, give or take a bit of lard, he was ready for a channel crossing at the very least. Ten minutes later however, as Lily and I emerged from the changing rooms, all I could hear was ‘kick Freddie, you’ve got to kick. Kick, with your legs.’ They may as well have added ‘For the love of god child please kick.’ Alarmed Lily and I raced to get a better look and saw that the other ten or so kids were all thrashing across the pool, both their floats and their kicking limbs keeping them bouyant. Not our Fred though. He was just floating in the middle of the pool, like a turd with goggles on, seemingly oblivious to the yells around him. He may well even have been singing to himself. Until that is, he started to sink, very slowly, like a stone. At this point, the teacher (and I think this may be a first) ripped off his shirt (nice flat stomach, smattering of dark hair, not bad at all in case you were wondering) and fished my boy out. Freddie spluttered for a while but was pretty unabashed by the drama unlike myself and his sister. In fact he seemed perfectly happy to continue with the lesson and also with NOT PUTTING ANY EFFORT IN WHATSOEVER.
Ten minutes later the lesson was over and as the bedraggled little swimmers came out one by one into the waiting arms and towels of their carers, the teacher was saying about various children ‘Oh, he’s far too good for this group, He needs to go up to Moorhens, as does she.’ When it came to me he simply said ‘Ah.’
‘Please can he continue in this class,’ I begged. ‘I know he’s in a world of his own and that he put in no effort at all but it is the right group for his age group and having them on the same day is so convenient.’ I didn’t add ‘I can’t take the stress more than once a week, and frankly if it wasn’t clement weather there’s a chance I wouldn’t be here at all’ but I was thinking it.
‘That’s fine,’ he said, still naked from the waist up. ‘Just tell him at home that he’s not allowed over the half way mark in the pool and that he has to move a bit or it’s pointless.’
‘Thanks so much,’ I said, making a hasty retreat before he could change his mind, slowed down only by having to fill out an accident and safety form. I’m not joking.
In the car, on the way home, Fred and Lily ploughed their way through lots of banana and protein and carb based snacks so hungry were they from their exertions, though in Freddie’s case that doesn’t really follow.
‘Mummy,’ he said at one point.
‘Yes Freddie?’ I replied.
‘I did good swimming today didn’t I?’
‘Well….,’ I said, at a loss ‘You did okay but perhaps next week you could kick a bit harder?’ I suggested tentativley.
‘Did Lily come first then?’ he said, still munching, unperturbed.
‘Yes, I would say she probably did.’
‘That’s Ok,’ he said ‘First the worst, second the best, third the one with the hairy chest. Like my teacher. He had a hairy chest.’