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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

swimming pool dads

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.

Friday, January 20, 2012


It was mortifying. We were just walking back to the car it in the school car park and everything was going fine. The toddler wasn’t screaming, no one fell over their bag, everyone had their coat and there was no awkward artwork to manage. Then I heard it. A low growl that lasted about thirty seconds. It was my eight year old (eight for Gods sake!) menacing a boy from another class. I don’t know, is menacing the right word? What I mean is he was standing in front of him (the boy was walking with his mother. I almost felt like saying “if you want to scare him, at least try and catch him alone. You know, in the toilets, in the school yard when the teachers back is turned. Not when he is with his mother.”) And like I said, growling and baring his teeth.

 The boy didn’t look remotely bothered and kept ambling along with his hands in his pockets but his mother was clearly disgusted. I had seen Colm do it before but to be honest, pretended I hadn’t as there was always something else to be dealt with at the time. Anything else was preferable, verucca's, blunt pencils, car seat belts, anything. But this time I couldn’t avoid it. I had to acknowledge the doggy behaviour publicly. To stop it of course but mostly to show the other mother I had some modicum of control over my children. Or at the very least knew that growling is not an acceptable form of communication.

So, cringing (I use that term a lot but this time it was literal. I could actually feel my insides compressing into a tiny ball) I said “….” My voice didn’t work the first time so I tried again and said “Colm! Colm!” in a firm voice. That was as articulate as I could manage. Hoping she heard me I considered going over to her and apologising but I really couldn’t. It would mean saying out loud that my son growls.  I had to stand by my man. You see I knew the reason he did it. Just over a year ago her son (let’s call him John) had pulled mine from behind by his jacket hood. He  had firstly, terrified him and secondly, hurt his neck. At the time I comforted my boy and agreed that Johns behaviour was unkind and he was someone we would not invite to our house.  “Just stay away from him.” I said. However, since then I have ended up having small chats with the mother at the school gates, about teachers and swimming lessons and the usual shite. She was friendly and normal and sometimes had make up and looked great and sometimes looked like she got dressed in the dark. So we were pretty similar. It was never going to develop into anything because our children were clearly not friends but still, it was pleasant. Until the growl. There was certainly no chat that day.

Instead of grabbing him by the ankles and slamming him into the car violently which I really felt like doing, I decided to be mature. (Anyway, there might have been security cameras). He seemed so happy too, sitting in the front seat on the booster singing “I love rock and roll, put another dime in the shoe box baby..”
We talked about not bearing a grudge and putting things behind us and then when that got too complicated, just forgetting about the coat hood incident. 

So he agreed to stop growling and we went home. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.