Originally published in Gulf News ‘Off the Cuff’ on April the 23rd. Late upload on WordPress. My bad.
If I weren’t human, I would have liked to be a bird, because the idea of flying attracts me immensely. If the avian species would have refused to accept me in their ranks, I would have gladly been a fish. That’s because I love to swim. As a child, swimming was one of the few things I excelled at and so, when she seemed to ready to learn, I decided to teach my six-year-old daughter how to swim. (I know, I know, we all make mistakes).
I imagined we would have a lovely time in the water together, and I would be able to give my girls (ages six and three) some quality time and undivided attention, and most importantly be able to have some fun with them. It’s pretty ironic how things never turn out as we presume they will. When I mentioned I was going to give our daughter swimming lessons, the better half suggested we get a professional to teach her, since children sometimes learn better with people other than their parents. I rubbished the idea dismissively.
“Oh no! There’s no way I’m going to pay for those lessons when I can teach her myself!” I said. He shrugged as though to suggest he wasn’t quite convinced.
As we walked to the pool dressed in our costumes, with the older one wearing her shiny new goggles and swim-cap, and the younger one with the floats securely fastened, I felt like an accomplished and impressive parent.
Alas, the feeling lasted all of five minutes. After about 30 exasperating minutes of trying to get her to hold her breath, all three of us were hardly in the best of spirits. I decided to give it a break, swam some laps and watched the girls play in the water in the shallow side of the pool. Later in the day I heard her telling her father, “Baba, Mum told me stop breathing! Can you imagine that!” He bit back a chortle as I said, “It was just the first lesson!”
Sadly we fared worse in the second lesson as I, being the short-tempered person I am, lost my patience a little. “Mum, I’m not talking to you,” she said, as she gladly splashed in the water with her sister on the shallow side, and I swam a few laps by myself. During the third (and final) lesson, I decided to be all patience and kindness, and promised myself that I would not let anything get to me. I was glad to see we were finally making a little bit of progress!
She agreed to put her head in the water and managed to count to ten, but drew a line when I suggested she kick her feet as well. I thought to myself “Well, at least we’re getting somewhere!” but she soon came to the surface sputtering and flaying her arms, and said, “I swallowed water!” I decided not to teach anymore and as though to add to my troubles, the younger one looked at me, beamed as though she had achieved something special and said, “Mummy, I peed in the pool!”
The lessons hadn’t at all gone as I had imagined and he had, for the umpteenth time, been right. As we paid up the next day to get her some swimming lessons, he laughed a laugh that sounded vaguely like “I told you so.”
A day later I watched (somewhat bewildered) as my daughter obliged willingly to every instruction the teacher gave and later the instructor gushed to me, “What a cooperative little girl you have. Such a delight to teach!”
I tried not to roll my eyes and smiled affably. I suppose there are other ways of giving the children ‘quality time’!