Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Water Logged

Years ago, when I was a young man with a mane of golden wavy locks on either side of my head (I had male pattern baldness early in life), I taught an after school acting class to small children at a French Immersion Catholic school. After a long day of being forced to talk in a language not their own about the seemingly impossible magic that is the Christian religion (spoiler alert: it is impossible), children are not at their most attentive. This is why I have a lot of respect for teachers of these types of programs. They see the children once a week for an hour, which is not enough time to get to know how to teach each kid to their own individual level, or figure out a way to mock them without it getting back to the parents.

Mock: My favourite pastime and food

I recall one time I asked a little girl, likely in grade one or two, what else she did after school. The kid broke out a day-timer and started rhyming off what she did each day. Between tennis, horseback riding, acting and painting there wasn’t a spare day. There were even a few days with multiple activities. I was horrified. I asked the kid when she had time to play, to be a kid.

My eyes are playing hide-and-seek with my brain right now

I was a stupid single man with no children back them. Now I know what her parents were thinking. “I need a break”. Children are tiring and because we live in a country that discourages under-aged employment we have to find extra curricular activities to get them out of our faces for an hour.

"Guys, lets get going! The way you are working we'll only be called a perspiration shop."

With this in mind, tomorrow is the dreaded registration for city programming in Toronto. For the last three days parents have had the cold sweats, and planned on who would be manning the phones, staying sober and who would be keeping the children at bay. If nothing else we need to get our oldest into swimming.

I come from a line of people who grew up and worked on the Rideau Canal. My Grandfather and Uncle were lockmasters. I wish that meant I came from a line of sexy cat buglers stealing diamonds in the middle of the night. Actually they let boats in and out of the canal. Suffice to say you would think that my family would be great swimmers and love the water. That is not the case. Knowing everything there is to know about undertow and freak water flow does not make one very excited about swimming. We fear the water and would be happier being where we can touch bottom at any time (so long as there are no yucky seaweed down there- blech!).
It's like underwater salad. And like surface salad kids don't want to touch it.

Also, I am a sinker. If I stop treading water for even a second, down I go to the depths of the sea. This makes it difficult to swim with two children. Children think it’s the best to crawl on you while in the water. Little do they know it means certain death. So whenever swimming with my kids in the lake I wear a life jacket to keep me above water. This makes me look and feel like an idiot. Believe me, as a teenager I wore a t-shirt swimming so I know how to look ridiculous.

When my oldest was nearly two we took great pains to teach her to enjoy the water so that she wouldn’t be a victim to my family history.  This was a year where the temperature rarely went above about 18 degrees Celsius so my wife and I would try to smile as our bathing suit areas were submerged in the icy cold water. “L-l-l-l-l-look h-h-h-h-ow m-m-much fun this i-i-i-i-is!” we would shout at her. She would have none of it.

Then this happened:

 That was a set back.

Somehow we managed to convince her that swimming was fun. We spend a lot of time at my wife’s family cottage, where everyone has worked as a lifeguard or swimming instructor (except me, see the comment about wearing a shirt swimming), so being able to swim is extremely important.

That’s why every week I schlep the kids 10 blocks to a city recreation center. This particular center does not have a family change room. The first time I was there I was going to take them into the mens changing area as I figure having two small girls in there is better than having me in the women’s changing room with a ton of small girls and their mothers. I was about to walk in when another father looked at me and said, “You aren’t going to take them in there are you? You should take them into the mens washroom, where it’s more private. I decided to go for this option only to find that I had the girls getting dressed next to a toilet that badly needed a flush on a floor that also badly needed flushed.

It was somewhere between Dumb and Dumber and Trainspotting.

From that point on I took the girls into the men’s room, which for some reason was always occupied by old Asian men. Though I tucked the girls away in the handicapped stall where there were a few walls to separate them from the larger change room, the old Asian men refused to get dressed while the girls where there. Instead they sat fully dressed, or in their swimsuits staring at the floor until we left. It gave me the same anxiety that the grocery store does since they all moved to self bagging.

No the next guys food is about to touch mine! Hurry hurry hurry!

On those times when someone does decide to get changed in the company of my kids I would catch the oldest staring at them. I know it’s not out of anything more than she is bored and procrastinating on getting herself dressed, but it is fun to shout out, “Quit judging that man’s junk! It’s not his fault it’s cold out!”

I also quickly found out I am completely biased when it comes to the swimming instructors. One the first class I walked in and a middle aged heavy set man with glasses greeted me. I was sure this had to be an administrator or an accountant or something. Swimming instructors are supposed to be emotionless teens with necklaces made of twine and beads, not hairy backed dudes. Turns out he was an instructor, but not ours. We had the bored looking teen with Bieber hair who looked at the clock more than at my kid, instead of the heavy guy who seems both excited to teach and was engaged with the children. So you know, we dodged a bullet there.

No less than four times over a nine week session have we made our way to the recreation centre to find that class was cancelled. Begin old man rant: In this day and age I don’t understand why an email or phone call can’t be made to those people expecting to have a class that day to tell them it’s not on. We don’t own a car (still better than you) so that 10 block trip is actually pretty significant. A heads up could save us over an hour of prep and travel time.

The one cancellation I don’t feel badly about is when there was a pool fouling. That’s lifeguard speak for “someone shat the pool”.  Without any grumbling we changed back into out regular clothes and went home. Later, from a friend that swims regularly at that pool, I was notified that they were still fishing out full pieces of broccoli hours later.

Someone's digestive track is seriously fucked up.

1 comment:

  1. yep... so glad I'm past that.
    Darling Daughter fouled the wade pool at Monarch once. about an hour after it opened. It was a hot day, but mysteriously, quite empty. We escaped without embarrasment. I can't spell that last word.
    Anyhow.. did you get in?