I should have thought of this years ago

I used to hate bringing the boys for their swim lessons. The swimming lessons themselves are a good thing — I see them less as weekly exercise and more as a fundamental survival skill. Swim lessons are not really an option, they’re a necessity. And I didn’t begrudge the time, the cost, or the shuttling them back and forth to the community centre.

What I really hated were the change rooms. I hated the fact that the alternate use (aka “family”) changerooms were always so crowded. I hated trying to yank dry clothes onto damp, wriggling boys in tropical humidity levels. I hated the fact that the tiled floors and walls made even the slightest noise an echo chamber from hell. I hated the fact that I never came out of the changerooms without being damp and sweaty and cranky.

At the beginning of this most recent session of swim lessons, I noticed the sign on the wall outside the family changeroom at the community centre. “This changeroom is for the use of parents with opposite-sex children under the age of seven.” Hmmm. Simon is seven, Tristan is nine. I’ve noticed this sign before, but always justified my willful ignorance of it on the fact that at least one of the kids was under the maximum age.

The idea of sending them into the men’s changeroom unattended made me uneasy. Would they be okay? Would they comport themselves in a manner fit for public consumption if I was not there to glare them into obedience? And, on a more practical level, would they be capable of drying themselves off sufficiently to get themselves dressed? Would they have enough attention to the task at hand to come out without leaving their bathing suits, towels and/or pants behind?

Faced with the choice between willfully ignoring the family changeroom policy for yet another three months or giving the boys the benefit of the doubt, on the first day of the session this year I sent them into the changeroom on their own and hoped for the best. (This seems to be how I make most of my parenting decisions lately. Perhaps this is a blog topic we should explore soon.)

Who knew swimming lessons could be so pleasant? Turns out the boys are entirely capable of getting dried and dressed without me shepherding them through every stage. Swim lessons are now the highlight of my week, a chloriney oasis of serenity in the madness of daily life.

We show up at the pool and I hand over their bathing suits, pointing them toward the men’s changeroom. I meet them on the pool deck, and minutes later relinquish them to the care of their instructor, while I sit quietly and read, or play with my iPhone, or stare at a place somewhere in the middle distance and breathe for minutes on end. Some days I even have time to chat idly with a friend.

At the end of the lesson, I meet them as they come dripping out of the pool and tousle them briefly with a towel before sending them back into the men’s changeroom. I then retreat to the hallway and await their transformation to moderately dry and fully dressed. WITH NO INTERVENTION ON MY PART WHATSOEVER.

This has been a transformative experience. They don’t need me to do stuff for them? They’re capable of not only behaving but staying on task for up to five solid minutes? This changes everything!

The cruel irony in all of this is that Lucas is about to start his own swim lesson journey, and my reprieve from the sweaty, damp and overcrowded hell that is the family changeroom is to be short-lived at best. But I’m thinking by the time he hits preschool, he’ll be drying his own bits and pulling on his own drawers. This mommy has had a taste of the cool, dry air of freedom, and there’s no going back now!

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian. storyteller, photographer, mom to 3. Professional dilettante.

6 thoughts on “I should have thought of this years ago”

  1. Funny I should read this today. My 7 year old son just completed another session of swimming lessons yesterday and I was rejoicing in the fact that I don’t have to battle the family change room for a little while. Man-o-man… after reading your post I can see the light 🙂

  2. A wise parent (hello! brother-in-law) recently said to me: you should be your kids’ enabler, not their do-er. So I’ve been trying to do less and less for my pair of six year olds. Who knew they could put away their lunch kits on their own, put away their own laundry, make their beds – I’ve now bought myself a few more minutes everyday and helped my kidlets become a bit more self-sufficient!

    P.S. glad to know I’m not the only one who relishes swim lessons as time to read and/or stare into space…

  3. I noticed that very same sign this week. Oddly enough I only go in to help Lil’ Man with the shower temperature. He does the rest on his own.

    There is the odd time though that he prefers the mens change room. I am still nervous about letting my baby be alone in a room full of wet slipery floors without me.

  4. I am just commenting about that: “giving the boys the benefit of the doubt, on the first day of the session this year I sent them into the changeroom on their own and hoped for the best.”

    This is already a parenting principle in our household: I’ll let you try, see how you do and we’ll adapt. My son is only 3. But he’s always been cautious about what he does and asking for help when he does, so I could do that. And I love it 🙂

  5. I like Mary’s comment re: parenting being about preparing our children for the life ahead of them. I do try to remember that, although it is admittedly very easy to forget.

    I hate the changerooms too. And think about all that hair I always had to deal with after swimming lessons! Thankgod that part of our lives is over. It was always so much work!

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