As I drive home from swimming lessons, instead of praising my wonderful children for their efforts, I find myself ignoring them and trying to thing of apt nicknames for the mums and dads I see in the changing rooms. This is what I came up with last week.
First is rugby dad. When he thinks no one is looking he is perfectly nice and normal towards his kids. But when anyone is close by he feels the need to display what excellent control he has over them. Barking out one word commands he has the whole room on tenterhooks to see if they do what he says.
“Max! Shoes! Now!”
Max, unperturbed, takes his time. Dad breathes through his nose and pretends he is answering an urgent message on his iphone. Then he ties the laces on his huge, huge shoes.
Then there is blow dry dad, who spends a minimum of forty minutes drying his daughter’s hair. When they finally leave, giving the rest of us a chance to get at the dryer, her hair is salon perfect. Gleaming, smooth, shiny and bouncy without a flyaway in sight. Actually I have to hand it to him, he does a fantastic job. I'd say something if he didnt look so smug.
Next, parenting book dad.
For starters he is a show off. For seconders, his hair is cut in a pageboy style, which I am definitely narrow minded enough to judge him by. He arrives nonchalantly swinging his daughter’s teddy.
“Look at me! I carry a teddy without a thought for my own image. The safety of teddy is my first priority!”
Then, when the lesson is over and they are ready to leave, he gets down on his knees in front of the children to very slowly and carefully explain the day ahead. Following the usual parenting book advice (I can imagine the pile on the bedside table) he makes eye contact and outlines exactly what is going to happen next. Both to the children and to the rest of the people in the changing room. All of us are of course, closely following the whole exchange. Then they all skip happily out. Him flicking his pageboy and giving teddy a swing. First to Daddy’s office to check something, then to Marks and Spencers to meet Mummy and then to the restaurant, for a yummy lunch with ice cream for desert!
This leaves us, looking for socks and turning coat sleeves the right way out, wishing we were meeting Mummy and getting ice cream too.