Parenting - Through The Swimming Years

I had such a lovely swim last weekend; doing lengths in the swimming lane, splashing about in the main pool, relaxing in the Jacuzzi and simply dissolving in the Steam room and Sauna. It was two hours of pure bliss, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

As I gently floated along, starfish style in the tepid waters; gazing out through the chequered windows at the greenery beyond shimmering in the cold early morning light, I got to thinking....

It wasn't always like this. Peaceful swimming . It used to be a different kind of  fun - and a bit of an ordeal too!

When he was a baby I just couldn't wait to introduce him to the water. He was going to be a water baby for sure.

How he splashed his way through his water-winged toddler years in (very!) local, hotel or foreign pools.

It was fun and wonderful to see but it was completely hands on. You know what I mean.  There's not much length swimming, Steam Room dissolving or sun worshipping going on when you're child-watching by pool or by beach! But you wouldn't change it for the world, the memories we have that time itself can never erase. Besides, as it turns out, it doesn't last forever.

Being the responsible parent you bring them to swimming lessons, so that they're confident in the water, can eventually ditch the water wings and can have more fun. And can ultimately become more independent too. Well, that steam room and sun-lounger constantly beckons after all!

You religiously sit pool-side through every lesson your child ever had. And you feel your heart fluttering in your mouth as the silly swimming instructor brings the little 5/6 year olds up to the deep end, in only week 5 of the term. He can't see the pure panic in your eyes, but you see the look of pure joy and excitement in your child's eyes.... 'look at me mum, look at me'!! Turns out the 'silly instructor' actually knows what he's doing so you eventually relax. You begin to let go, just a little.

Your child does indeed become more confident and you enjoy 'swimming for fun' sessions together, all the while ensuring he doesn't accidentally stray into the deep end. Keeping him safe. As your favourite hotel pool is not too deep you begin to be able to grab a few rushed minutes in the Jacuzzi. Alone. All by yourself. He's still within your line of vision, happily splashing about with water-wings on.

Then you have the changing-room dilemma years, when your 7 year old boy  is apparently old enough to go into the men's dressing room to shower and dress himself. Alone. All by himself. I think not! Thankfully there follows a couple of years of school swimming lessons - in a pool with Holiday Village style changing rooms. Lessons learned, problem solved.

And then suddenly things come full circle and none of the above applies. None. Before you know it you're spending time alone in the Jacuzzi and Steam Room. Alone. By Yourself. Secure in the knowledge that your fully-fledged swimmer of a son is perfectly safe in the pool. Bliss!

He's even more confident and independent at the beach and in water parks too. In fact you hardly see him at all at the Spanish water park this year. He however sees you: the oldest mum in the pool doing Aqua aerobics - Gangnam Style!! Well, why not I ask you, why not?! But perhaps the less said about my underwater twerking moments the better!

You do your best, as a parent, to prepare and empower them. In life, as in the pool. As time goes by and without realising it, you've instinctively taken a step (or ten) back, while also keeping a discreet eye on proceedings. Your boy has transitioned nicely from supervised to solo swimming (and dressing!), from Primary to Secondary school and from being driven to school to using public transport. Alone. All by himself. 

And then it suddenly hits me.

In a mere four years time, college aside, his childhood school years will be complete. Four years?? Good Lord, how on earth did that happen?! When conceivably he'll be doing everything solo. Or perhaps in partnership - with someone who is not his mother!

The thoughts that swim through your mind as you float starfish style in the tepid waters. Surrounded by the endearing sounds of  the next generation of water-winged toddlers and young children, and their doting and very attentive parents. Their time will also come, all too soon.

Their childhood years are all so fleeting. Best make the most of his company while I still have it, I think to myself.

And I do, I really do. You see I'm no longer alone on my forays into the Jacuzzi and Steam Room. As he's nearly the acceptable age, and definitely has the acceptable behaviour, I now allow him to accompany me and we relax together in the comforting heat.

I'm not alone doing lengths in the swimming lane either.

There he is, swimming ahead of me, leading the way........


My Thomas Cook Memory....

Although saddened by the news, I did momentarily lose myself in a wonderful wisp of nostalgia when I heard that, having been here for over 100 years, 'Thomas Cook Ireland' are to soon depart our emerald shores.

You see it was Thomas Cook who helped me to leave these shores, for my first holiday abroad as a young adult, way back in 1980. It was a very, very exciting time for me and I remember it well.

Now just to set the record straight, we did have some holidays when we were children and on two occasions these holidays actually involved flying, on an actual airplane! One time we even hired our own caravan. All to ourselves. For one whole week.

(I remember going - ahem - 'apple gathering' with a new friend and getting caught!)

 You see, our  holidays in Ireland generally involved bunking in with cousins in their hired mobile home or Butlins chalet! They were fun times and the holidays that involved flying were to other family members in Dawlish, UK, where I once came second in a 'Hot Pants Competition'! Imagine, a 'Hot Pants Competition' - for children??!!

But I never went on a real holiday, like, to Spain or anywhere like that. It was unusual back then for families to be able to afford such luxurious holidays, to the far flung and terribly exotic Spanish Isles. Some of our relatives got to make those annual trips though, and how I cherished the little presents they'd bring us back. My favourite being the little Spanish basket/handbag thing, with a gathering of plastic fruit on top.

Anyway I am digressing I know, but I have to set the scene properly you see. You just simply have to understand how terribly exciting my very first holiday abroad was, all on my own!

Well, I may have traveled alone but I didn't actually holiday alone.

You see I had a very good friend growing up, here in Ireland. We were 'besties' when I visited or stayed over with my granny, as she lived nearby with hers. We had great times for the few years that we were friends here; until such time as she and her family emigrated, that is. To a far-flung, distant land, far, far away - and waay more exotic than then any of the Spanish Isles could ever be.

A land so far away that only the people of Thomas Cook, Grafton St; Dublin could get you there.

We made a pact, my friend and I, before she departed. I was then about 13 or 14 (my son's age) and she was a little bit younger. I promised that when I got my first job I would save up and fly over to see her and her family, in their far away land.

My friend and family subsequently left Ireland. There was no Facebook, no twitter or no Bebo back then. There wasn't even Internet.

There were however lots of paper and pens, so we followed that age-old and almost forgotten tradition and became pen pals. 

Thus we kept in contact and saw each other whenever they visited Ireland. 

During all that time I never forgot my promise. 

And then one day I grew up, left school and got a job. Soon after that I very promptly paid a tentative visit to the Thomas Cook office to inquire about how one would go about getting to this faraway land.... and how much it would cost. It cost a lot! But I'm a true blue, loyal friend who never reneges on a promise - especially if it involves visiting faraway exotic lands - so I opened my very first grown-up bank account and started saving from my weekly (IR) £39 wage.

They were really nice to me in Thomas Cook and before I knew it I had saved up enough money to pay off my holiday, and eventually I held the magic airline tickets in my hand, that would take me to see my friend on the beautiful, faraway and exotic island of ....... Bermuda!!

Imagine, me from a working class area in Dublin who had never been beyond Ireland - or Dawlish - going to ..... Bermuda!!

Oh, it was fabulous to see my friend and her family on this stunning island. To travel around and see it's beauty, to meet her friends, splash about in their pools and to spin about the island as a pillion passenger on her new moped!

It was a special holiday, that very first one of mine and I thank Thomas Cook for getting me there and for helping to create some very special memories.

Naturally I also thank my friend and her family for giving me such a wonderful first holiday.

These days we keep in touch via social media and have met up here, a couple of times over the years.

She still lives abroad, you see.

In a different far-flung, distant and exotic land.....

Far, far away.



Goals and Remembrances.........

As I've said before I don't do New Year's Resolutions, they're just made to be broken after all. But I do have goals, things that I want to achieve. I like to have goals, they give me a purpose and besides, I always seem to be working towards something; it's what makes me tick. 

To me the New Year is always a great opportunity to start afresh. All those unfinished thoughts, projects, goals and things to do that never got done but can be re-visited, or re-created. No need to feel as if you've under-achieved, just start afresh.

I'm a tad late to the New Start this year but, it's never too late to begin anew and besides, you can't really do so until school is back now, can you?!

My goals for 2014 are a mix of things that will keep me going for the whole 12 months. I have drawn up a definitive list of these goals, for to put them in writing gives them some importance in my head and therefore a possibility of achievement.

Of course the usual weight-loss and re-rejuvenated commitment to exercise, and other lifestyle changes, features - I did it before and I will do it again. Some interesting (to me) knitting and crochet projects also features as does some family orientated goals and an intention to continue my involvement in Social Media..... and in some meetings that may lead a new and very interesting project indeed!

Underpinning all of the above is a re-visited determination (and a plan) to be more organised on a daily basis, for this clears my oft muddled head and ultimately makes life easier.

One final goal is something that started last year and that social networking, and an unexpected event, has assisted me with; re-connecting with extended family that I'd lost touch with.

Among my re-connections is the re-location of a cousin in the UK and a determination to find another.

As we grow older families, especially large ones, do tend to drift apart. That's life, sometimes assisted by disagreements it must be said, but life is too short.

Sadly, this particular goal of mine got a bit of an unexpected boost with the funeral of my uncle 2 days ago. I was very sad to hear of his passing (and that of another uncle too) and although I didn't get to re-connect with him before he died I did get to reconnect with his children. The little bit of blue sky in an otherwise sad day.

My uncle was a hard working and devoted family man who was hugely involved in construction and Karate, where he achieved the esteemed title of Senior Grand Master,  and who left behind a legacy steeped in these involvements of his. The 'legacy' he'd be most proud of however, is his lovely family who did him very proud on the day, especially his eldest son who gave a very moving eulogy.

One of his construction legacies stands proud in our back garden. Not knowing me as the desperate housewife I was to become, he once slagged me that I'd be like his (late) wife and have a vase of flowers in both windows.

As you can see that wasn't to be..... and I shudder to think of his thoughts if he saw the inside!

So now, at the very top of my 2014 goals is my plan to honour his prediction this summer - in my own way.

May he rest peacefully and be remembered fondly.