A while ago I was asked to write for the Dad’s edition of my local NCT newsletter. I wrote this. The newsletter is now long delivered so I thought I’d post it on here just to prove I do write about parenting from time to time. Also there’s a happy update.
Boy was born in 2006 and he has always had a strange relationship with the water. This was, admittedly, our fault. His initial bath took place in a baby bath that we had inexpertly filled with tepid water at the freezing Hove flat we were renting off my Mum because we’d just come back here from living abroad. We dunked him in. He squealed. We whipped him out in to a towel. He shivered. He looked at me with eyes that said “please Dad, whatever you do, don’t do that to me again”. Eventually he was only happy getting in to the actual bath with one of us.
At four or so months we went on our first weekend away with Boy. We went to Butlins, Bognor because it was cheap and just down the road. Our simple rationale was that we could be back home in half an hour or so if anything went wrong without having lost any real money or experience. We made it through Friday and decided we’d try him with a swimming pool on the Saturday. Butlins was rammed. Everyone seemed to be a teenager. The pool was a boiling sea of fake tan and testosterone. In fact the only thing that wasn’t boiling was the pool water which was freezing. We dunked him in. He squealed. We whipped him out in to a towel. He shivered. He looked at me with eyes that said “please Dad, whatever you do, don’t do that to me again”. Oops.
Fast forward to 2010 and the birth of Baby. Baby came home to a 2 up, 2 down in the ‘burbs with actual working heating. After a couple of days there was a distinct smell around the place. I sniffed and extraordinarily it wasn’t me. The thing that we’d just brought back from hospital was starting to hum. It was bath time. We exchanged nervous looks and hoped the neighbours wouldn’t report us when the inevitable screaming started. Still we’d learned one thing so we’d got a little seat to hold her in the actual bath. We also made sure the water was warm enough, but not too warm. We dunked her in. She almost smiled. Not a hint of a cry. In fact her eyes said ‘I’ve been trying to get you idiots to do this all my life’.
This love of water, we decided, should not be wasted. She was signed up for baby swimming classes with Little Dippers. These were to take place every Sunday at 9.30am.
Pre-kids this was the sort of time I was considering emerging from bed, hangover on full scream, for a coffee, bacon butty and Goals on Sunday. Going out at this time would have been unthinkable and impossible. But with 2 kids it mattered not a jot. In fact it turned out to be a bonus. On her first day we all went to the pool in the North Laines but we had already decided I would be the first ‘water partner’. Imagine my delight when I saw a host of other Dads carrying their little ones out. This was a Dad class! Also, imagine my delight when I finally got in the pool with Baby and her eyes said “also I’ve been waiting for you to do this with me all my life. You numpty”.
A little routine was born. On Sunday morning I would wake with Baby at the crack of dawn. I would feed and dress her, watch last night’s football highlights off the digi box, grab a bacon sarnie and pack swimming gear and baby bag. At 8.30 precisely we would exit the house and walk to the station, there to catch the 8.46 to Brighton, thence to walk to Little Dippers.
Brighton at that time of the morning is magical, at least to me. All it’s architecture, it’s by-the-sea-ness, it’s rotten underbelly are there to be seen for all for there are very few people about. In fact there are three kinds; tramps, youngsters doing the stride of pride / walk of shame and parents whose kids have got them up early. Everyone I met was either in my current situation, was my past or was where I very much don’t want to end up.
When we got there I would change Baby and me and we’d have half an hour of unadulterated Daddy and daughter bonding. Skin to skin completely naturally. She would love it unless very tired or teething and we soon found she liked being under the water more than being on top of it. In fact the first time she was dropped in from the side, supposedly to kick up to the surface to me, she instead went for a little scuba dive, sans kit. I had kittens (unpleasant for all the other parents but at least there was a net to fish them out quickly with). Eventually she deigned to kick up. ‘Not many of them do that’ said Sue , the instructor.
After I would take her for a quick feed and me for a quick coffee and suddenly I found myself in the Centre of Town with just a dozing baby and everywhere just starting to come to life. I had time to take in the view, to once again enjoy the City I call home. That I love.
Baby did all 7 stages and an advanced class and by the end she was dunking herself deliberately. It was time to progress. She’s now graduated and has just started with Little Swim School in an attempt to turn the deliberate sinking in to actual swimming. The new lessons are on Sunday afternoon, a time in Brighton that can induce maximum misanthropy in me. In fact the first one was today and it was chucking down with rain. I was stuck behind two slow walking students discussing Van Der Graaf Generators and who had the nicest breasts on campus and I wanted, quite badly, to kill them. The calm came with the thought we would soon be in the water. My daughter and me. Swimming. Laughing. Bonding.
Added since I wrote this.
Boy has been going to regular swimming lessons on a Monday with his best friend E while E’s mum babysits Baby and her youngest and The Spaniel Who Must Be Kept In The Garden. This week we had a mammoth breakthrough. During our regular Saturday morning family swim we were sat in a bit of the pool where jets of water randomly shoot out. One hit boy like a water cannon. I had been hearing that the new swimming lessons were getting him to get water on his head but here was proof. Just a few weeks ago this would have led to total meltdown and us not being able to get him to go back to that pool again ever. This time? He laughed. and jumped back in to the water. It’s taken a lot of time but I think we have 2 water babies.