So Cords being away last week, I made a daring return poolside for a water babies swimming lesson with Sheba, my two and a half year old daughter. A brave move, considering last time I took the kids swimming, Noah hid in a locker from me for about ten minutes, Sheba opened the changing room door at a critically inopportune moment (mixed changing room) and I had a huge smiley face drawn on my tummy in permanent marker. Lucky not to have a life ban from the place.
Phase one went well. Changed unscathed, no evidence of eye catching childlike drawing on stomach, headed poolside on schedule. Things going better than expected, took position alongside the other Dad in traditional demonstration of male solidarity in the face of twenty mothers – all effortlessly capable in controlling their charges.
Phase two. Not so well. Entered the heavily chlorinated water a bit too early, assuming that’s where the lesson was. Didn’t appreciate the full pre-swim sing-a-long on the side of the pool first. Attracted a few looks, delayed the beginning of song, did make Sheba laugh though who aptly pointed out I was all soaking wet.
Phase three. Nailed the Grand old Duke of York, belted it out, perfectly in tune. Totally lost on some sort of Pinocchio song though. Sheba happy. Class divides into pairs. Me and other Dad face each other. Queue small plastic spaceship our respective children are supposed to blow to each other as we hold them in the water. Other Dad, a man mountain of tattoos, decides to ‘help’ his child in blowing of the spaceship which rapidly propels towards Sheba. I feel obligated to ‘help’ Sheba by blowing it back. Some water flicks up in his childs face. Total accident. Other Dad eyeballs me. I smile apologetically.
Phase four. Many of the other Mothers stopped their spaceship game to watch ours. The other Dad blows the spaceship back. He’s upset. It shoots towards Sheba. I block it before it bumps into her and then blow it back hard as I can. He then blows before it arrives, and before things can go any further, I find myself blowing at the same time as the other Dad, his fetid breath washing over me, mine over him. I wipe spittle from my eye. The children are watching us.
Phase five. The swimming teacher intervenes by removing all spaceships from the pool and announces it is time for ring-a-ring a roses. There is a collective laugh amongst the group of Mothers. Me and the other Dad move to opposite sides of the pool. The session ends with a resounding ring-a-ring of roses.
“Did you enjoy the spaceship Daddy?” Sheba asked me on the way back.
“Loved it Sweetheart,” I replied, lying.
“The other Daddy seemed cross,” she said.
“Not at all, I think he was just trying to help his little boy,”
“Like you were helping me?” Sheba said.
“Yes” I said.
There was a pause,
“I think you blew it better Daddy,”
That’s my girl, I thought. Thank goodness Cords is back for swimming next week.