She jumps in, and splashes away. Sometimes a real stroke can be spotted in her movements; sometimes it’s a doggie paddle. The teacher encourages her, smiling, and she plods on, swimming the whole half lap she is supposed to. It is Jasmijn’s first swimming lesson in the ‘big kids lane’, where no parents have to go in to support their offspring. I stand on the edge of the pool, my guts clenched with mixed feelings.
Pride, off course, for my daughter who just turned three, and now swims her half lane independently, without flinching. Elation as well, as I have been looking forward to this moment for years. The moment that the last of my kids would be able to swim, and I no longer had to join them in the pool for their classes. This moment signals the end of an era. The era of parent and child classes, where we have to sing ‘wheels on the bus’ and ‘sleeping bunnies’, while our kids splatter and splosh, learning to be confident under water and to do simple strokes with pancake-, and crocodile arms.
My thoughts go back to those first classes with Tijm, in a sweaty English public pool smelling of chlorine, where the baby pool was cold enough for Tijm to turn blue at the end of the lesson, before we bundled him off to the hot and sweaty changing cubicles which were always too pokey to move with our small crowd.
From there to the sunny outside pools of Singapore with their icily air-conditioned changing rooms was a big improvement. I remember Linde’s first lesson, who, being too old for parent and child classes, was encouraged to ‘jump right in’ and swim to the teacher in the middle of the pool. Before I could shout ‘no, she cannot swim!’ Linde was in the water and had, I am still not sure how, reached the teacher.
From Jasmijn’s classes I mostly remember the cloudy afternoons, where the kids and I managed to feel chilly even in thirty degrees, and the sparkly blue pool just did not look inviting enough. Thirty odd years after my own frustrating experiences, I still don’t like swimming lessons.
So here I stand, my toes dipping in the cool water, together with my friend whose daughter trudges next to mine. We speak, jokingly, of afternoons of leisure, of poolside gin and tonics, of the books and magazines we could bring next week. And I know I am happy, deeply happy, with this new milestone. But somehow I can not ignore this nagging feeling deep down, that makes me just the tiniest bit sad. The feeling that it all goes too fast, that it will never come back again. That I will miss my little monkey jumping off the edge to swim to me, her little arms grabbing my neck and hugging my wet body tight. That I might even, one day, miss 'the wheels on the bus.'
Gin and tonic, anyone?