It’s gotten to the point where Edith and I have to do something, so I signed her up for baby swim lessons on Saturday mornings. I have this problem where I relentlessly rehearse in my head all the tiny little micro-steps that it takes to do anything over and over before doing the thing, and it’s so exhausting to me that I usually end up just not doing the thing at all. I’ve always been this way. So I almost talked myself out of swimming lessons many times, because whoo boy, the logistics!
We’d need her swimsuit and my swimsuit and her street clothes and my street clothes, and the diaper bag, and towels, and when we got there, I’d have to find some way to change while keeping her from crawling around and licking the locker room floor, and if I had to use the bathroom, and after we’d have to shower, and I’d have to juggle her and the floor situation while I dried off and changed and dried her off and changed and if cold would require layers and COVID also with assorted precautions and need flip-flops for the pool even if normal shoes for car and then swim diaper and sometimes will be on my period and if bring stroller in where to put it and wallet somewhere and then if Edith gets hungry in the pool need milk stuff to be adjacent and I just really, really hate my brain.
But I can’t just not take my kid anywhere because the mental rehearsals of the administrative details are exhausting to me, so I signed us up and this morning we got in the car, and off we went!
The natatorium (a term I only know because my previous bedroom community was engaged in a years-long fight about whether or not the taxpayers should pay for one) is on the grounds of a private Christian college in San Marcos, and it turned out I did not have to worry about the locker room situation, because we didn’t have access. Instead, the group of bored college girls who conducted the swim school set up a couple of zipper pods next to the pool, and then low tables with padded changing pads for the babies.
After somehow successfully navigating the bathroom with Edith clenched under one arm the whole time, Edith and I entered one of these pods, and I sat her down on the cement floor right next to someone’s big hunk of chewed gum and started to change.
At which point, Edith, for some reason, kicked up a howl to rival entire packs of wolves. This was my first experience having a screaming baby in a public place where I’d rather not have had a screaming baby. Being that we were at an indoor swimming pool, her screams were magnified and echoed around each other, which made her scream more and from within the changing pod, I could feel the “oh fuck” from the college girls and the few Moms and toddlers who were on the other side of the pool.
I tried to shush Edith, but she was NOT having it, and let me tell you, wrestling a swimming tank top over a pair of enormous mom boobs is difficult enough at the best of times — doing it hunched over in a 90-degree nylon pod while your infant shatters your eardrums and those of everyone else in a five-mile radius is not something I ever want to do again.
I finally got changed, swept up Edith, and proceeded to the baby changing spot. There were two, and another mother had her toddler on the other one, and she tried to smile gamely as we approached but she didn’t fool either one of us, or our babies, for that matter.
“Look, Edith, a little boy!” I said. “Look!”
“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHAHAAAAAAAHHHH” said Edith.
“She never does this, I don’t know what’s–” I said to the woman’s quickly retreating back.
I wondered if we should just leave. Edith seems so game and adventurous at home, and she really never freaks out, and I thought she was ready for something different and some socializing, but now I was suddenly feeling like I was completely insane for bringing a literal infant to a swimming class and that everyone present was judging me for dragging a tiny baby out to a pool. I began to panic that this was one of those things that everyone knows not to do except for me.
Then, I thought Edith was maybe just hungry, so I carried her half-dressed and screaming back across the pool to where I’d left my diaper bag, and we sat down and I tried to quickly fix a bottle while Edith writhed and screamed on my lap and I grinned nervously at everyone around and tried to act like I was totally chill about this and said things like, “my, we’re not happy today, are we! We’re probably just hungry” and meanwhile spilled milk all over my male bathing suit trunks as sweat visibly poured down my face.
Edith wasn’t hungry at all, so after that debacle, I had to carry her back around the pool, screaming, to where we’d left her cast-off swimwear and apparently my phone.
Anyway, we finally got changed and in the water and Edith calmed down and cheered up and started being her usual chill, happy self. At first, there was just us and two other moms with toddlers, but after the class started some other moms came in and one of them had a teeny goggle-eyed peanut of a five-month-old (who did his very best in the water with great seriousness and who I somehow managed to avoid abducting), so I was relieved. The mothers were all friendly and all of them except one were wearing masks (well, and except for me because Edith immediately pulled mine off my face and submerged it in the pool).
We did kicking and splashing and sang songs and floated, and Edith had a good time with one exception. One exercise we did for probably the bulk of the class involved swimming the babies up to the side of the pool, putting their hands on the edge and then helping them go along the wall, knocking down a series of foam turtles.
Edith HATED the wall. She wouldn’t even pretend to tolerate it for a minute; every single time I put her little hands on it, she began to scream like she was touching a hot stove. I don’t know what that was all about, it was very weird. But I respected her boundary.
At the end of the class, they put the babies in little inner-tubes and give them toys to play with, sort of the swimming class equivalent to savasana. The girl handed Edith a little plastic thing that looked just like the poop emoji with long tendrils hanging off it.
“Oh boy, a little poop!” I said to Edith.
“A jellyfish,” corrected the girl.
“Right, that’s what I meant, a jellyfish!” I agreed hastily.
This bit suited Edith right down to the ground. She luxuriated in her donut sucking on the jellyfish and gazing at the ceiling overhead in bliss. It only lasted a couple seconds, though, and then we were invited to leave the pool.
By this time, the pool had become very crowded with moms and dads and children of all sizes. I had thought we might just bundle back into the car wet, but then I realized I can’t do things like that, because Edith is a baby and she’ll be cold and she can’t just grit her teeth and handle it for 30 minutes. So back to the hateful changing station we went. But this time, a cherubic-looking blond woman with a gang of adorable tiny mop-haired boys offered to watch Edith for me while I changed, which made me want to fall to my knees and embrace her ankles.
I don’t know that I noticed this type of woman much before I had a baby, but now I see them everywhere and I am obsessed with them — these calm, steady, cheerful women who effortlessly corral gangs of tiny children. They have absolutely nailed motherhood, and they go about shepherding their broods with this complete ease and relaxed competence. They exude this sort of transcendent wisdom. I’m in awe of them.
Anyway, this one added some stranger’s infant to her docket like a master juggler incorporating another ball, and I changed in peace, collected my baby, and left.
When we got home it was somehow only just 11:00am.
But overall, a very successful outing. It felt good to do something, even if it was also a mild nightmare to do something. We’ll be doing this every Saturday going forward.
Every part of this resonated with me deeply.
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Me too. My little swim partner is 8 and can almost pack her own bag, and I still struggle to get us to the pool because thinking and logistics. One tip has helped that I’ll share: we put on swimsuits at home and then put clothes over them, so we only have to change once and remember to bring underwear (which we sometimes do and sometimes forget).
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YES this was my first takeaway, and definitely what we’ll do from now on. And actually I can probably just come home wet if I need to, it’s really only changing Edith that is essential.
It’s genuinely refreshing to hear that this is similarly burdensome for everyone, I’m glad I’m not just missing something.