|See those empty chairs? We never sat in them for more than 1 minute in three hours.|
Watching Other Peoples Children Swimming
I write this, somewhat intermittently as I watch other peoples children in the pool at our current beachside locale. If I’m honest, and why write any other way, it’s only one 'other peoples child' that I’m watching (not children), the other two currently in the pool (that I’m responsible for) are mine. Luckily for this sadly neglected blog (sorry everyone, but I’m back now, I think), my increased responsibilities require me to glance up and sight this little swimmer about every word or two typed, (which still means I can bang something out). If I was responsible for any more kids not belonging to me, I would be standing poolside, fretfully spotting and respotting, watching their little rashie clad bodies and wet, zincy faces weave in and out of what seems like about fifty other similarly clad and sized bodies.
Stressful. You bet.
Currently, there are also two of my children in the pool. I make a point of clapping eyes on them, perhaps once every two or three sentences…or so.
So what’s with that? Talk about difference in care factor. Which is interesting, because, I do care. Lots.
I, like every other parent I’ve ever met, love my own children passionately, more than any other children in the world. I love lots of other children, some of them, including my little responsibility today, I love only a shadow less than my own. But it’s only my three who can tug on my heartstrings with just a smile.
But them, holders of my heartstrings, I just let them swim around, in a pool chockas with many quite wild individuals, looking up to check every couple of minutes. One of them is 9 and a very capable swimmer. But the other one is 5. She is capable, and overconfident, she’s been called a fish (to her face, so she’s completely full of herself). All it takes is one careless bomb by one of the aforementioned wild people, and she could be in trouble.
I think the potential (and largely unspoken) guilt and horror of being responsible in a situation like this that can go wrong so quickly and even worse, silently, is enough to make you go on neurotic overdrive when you’re looking at someone else’s kid. You know exactly how frightened they are of something happening, because it’s the same fear you have of it happening to your own kids.
And really, this is a good thing. Because it makes us ultra vigilant.
As I said, the little swimmer I’m watching now, is someone very close to my heart and I have a good idea of how good she is, and how she’d cope in a crisis. But it doesn't make me stop panicking if I can't see her for 2 seconds. And it doesn’t matter who I’m watching, even if an acquaintance asked me to watch their kids I’d feel the same sense of muted panic until I was relieved of my responsibilities.
|This is not the fish. But he is the only one I have a photo of in the pool. No idea why.|
When I have friends of Issy’s over for a swim at home, I spend the entire time in an emotional state just below panic. The relief when another parent (any parent) arrives is huge. A pool, in your own back yard is a hugely fun, hours of entertainment, treacherous paradox of a thing. I love having it, but it does cause angst, just by being there.
Watching them in the surf is as scary, or even worse, if that’s possible. And I hardly ever have to watch other people’s kids in the surf, my own are bad enough. I’ve spent ten minutes watching a kid I thought was Sarah, same size, same hair, same colour rash vest, bouncing happily through the break and back again, only to discover it wasn’t her at all. Sarah was about 15 metres away, still between the flags, just as happy but to a large extent, completely unsupervised. At least the other two are petrified of going in past knee level unless Mike or I are with them. Which is as it should be.
I do love summer and swimming and holidays, I do. It’s my favourite time of year. The swimming part is just not all that relaxing. And going to the beach, while fun, isn’t relaxing at all. Bespoke sand fort for two 5 years olds anyone?
Really, what have I got to complain about? Nothing, that’s what.
PS. On New Years Eve, after all my bluster about closing the pool at 8:30 and allowing no child to re-enter under any circumstances, I allowed three 9 year olds to have a stealthy 11:30pm night swim. Didn’t they feel special. I stayed down on the deck with them while they swam around, mermaid like, in the weird blue pool light for about ten minutes before the remaining 7 and 8 year old boys realised what was going on. The pool was then hijacked, causing the girls to evacuate in complete disgust, blaming me for not keeping it a secret. Luckily for me, midnight swiftly approached and we all had to hot foot it to the top floor for our firework viewing.