Mother: a woman exercising control, influence or authority.
February half term holiday is an odd week, children have barely settled back into school after Christmas and parents having just crawled out of last year’s overdraft when the kids are back home again for a week without the promise of presents or good weather.
I have three children; 9 year old boy/girl twins and a 13 year old son. They are close (to a point) but mostly irritate each other and if given control of our plans for the day, will never agree on the same thing. My daughter has cold bones, you could wrap her in a bear skin (obviously a faux fur one) and within 5 minutes of being out in the elements she is sporting blue lips and shivering as if she’s in the closing scenes of The Blair Witch Project. Her twin brother has the energy levels of a Tasmanian Devil and, along with our 5 year old golden Labrador Chester, needs regular walks, likes to bring sticks home from the park and partake in wild wees in wooded areas. My eldest son has depleted energy levels since entering his teens. Any suggestion of a walk is subject to questions of; How far will we walk? How long we will be out for? Will I have snacks (and most importantly) What is the point?
With three very different children, I try to pre-plan a lot of our school holidays with activities to keep them from moaning, to afford me some stress free time and to not spend too much money. Obviously, these desired outcomes are rarely achieved. So today I had a masterplan up my sleeve to ensure all three of my rugrats were catered for, on Valentine’s Day, we arrived at the Olympics pool in Stratford, as a family of five, to take part in a Total Wipeout/It’s a Knockout type event in the very same pool Tom Daley donned his teeny tiny speedos in the London 2012 Olympics.
As we lined up alongside far too many energetic looking teenagers, I nervously asked the lifeguard if many adults took part to which she agreed that there would be as it was ‘quite full on’. What I really wanted to ask her was ‘are there any women of 41 who are feeling a bit unfit and out of place taking part’ but I just smiled and felt relieved when I spotted a few other parents trying to wedge themselves into the lifejackets that were being handed out. Lifejackets! Was this going to be like the advanced swimming class we had at school when the better swimmers had to wear their pyjamas and try and retrieve a rubber brick from the deep end?! I never got to that level, in fact, this was now the first time I had ever worn a lifejacket and I was starting to worry if I would be able to swim in it or just bob about in search of a wardrobe door.
I must have been sporting the look of fear as my twins kept on reassuring me that I will be fine to which I shrugged and try to convince them that I was looking forward to it. We were put in pairs (as usual a family of five is never catered for) and run through a safety briefing of basically don’t crawl along the inflatables, swim out of the way if you fall off and don’t drown! As we reached the edge of the pool I noticed that a majority of Mums were sitting in the spectators’ area with their coffees looking on at me sympathetically. Oh well, I would just have to embrace my fun Mum alter-ego and just make a prat of myself. My daughter was beaming up at me and I would just have to get on with it, so in our pair we stepped up onto the poolside and when given the nod by the lifeguard we jumped in and had to swim a few feet to the floating barge of inflatables.
The first task was to clamber onto it using handles, at this point I was thankful that hubby was behind me and not a random child as the clambering part was definitely not ladylike! Once on board the ridiculously slippery rubber, we had to climb along a vertical wall, facing each other with nothing to grip onto other than hand grips. I sort of shimmied along to the end and then we had to try and walk an inflatable plank to enter the next phase. We were told to run it, which I did and then face planted at the end taking out the legs of a young girl who ended up on my back! My daughter skipped across the plank making it look easy and was back alongside me whilst hubby and my eldest son were in the water already so I was doing alright.
Next, we had to run around a sloped area to the climbing wall and slide (god how I envied the Mum’s with coffee at this point). We were allowed to crawl here, which my daughter did, but I considered I might look like I was in trouble if I did it and the lifeguards might feel the need to rescue me so I went for the run once daughter was out of my way. I just about got round the slope then catapulted straight into the climbing wall with a wallop.
My agile daughter was already over the climbing wall, down the slide and swimming gracefully back to the poolside and I felt like lying in a foetal position and crying at this point but knew I must get over the wall. I started climbing up the super slippery surface with the smallest hand grips possible to steady my balance. I got to the top, lost my footing and landed at the bottom again, I climbed again, got to the top, got one leg over and then fell backwards nearly wiping out a small child. I was starting to feel like Cadet Seeger from An Officer and A Gentleman and that the lifeguard was going to start shouting ‘Go Round’ any minute, but I made it, with sheer determination I dragged myself up that wall and belly flopped into the water and inhaled about a pint of water but it was worth it to see the total shocked faces of my children (I’d like to think awestruck but I could be wrong).
As I swam what seemed a mile to get out of the water, I clambered onto the poolside to find myself back in the queue to go again! A teenage girl behind me vomited all over the floor and a lifeguard leisurely came to deal with it like it was a regular occurrence, this was of no comfort to me as I jumped back in and swam towards the barge for another go. After another five rounds my daughter’s inability to stay warm saved the day as she came shivering out of the pool and asked if we could get out. I could have cried with relief as I was now covered in so many friction burns and concerned about the amount of water I had swallowed.
It was lots of fun, all three children loved it and were thankful. I felt proud that hubby and I had ventured in despite how we must have looked. Now we are home and youngest son wants to go the park and play football, there is no end to that boy’s energy levels! Tomorrow I think a trip to the cinema might be on the cards, something a little less energetic…