Children are all consuming, we know this, babyhood means no sleep, toddlers keep you on your toes, and just as you think things are calming down, they start gaining independence and their own ideas and before you know it you become their taxi driver and support worker.
Their hobbies and interests start taking over your life as well as theirs. Gone are the days where you took them to Jo Jingles or tumbletots for half an hour each week. Now your little ballerina who twirled around in her tutu wants to take on yet another dance discipline, your son who went to soccer skills each Wednesday for an hour after school not only has training each week but at least one match each weekend.
Mums (and often Dads too) trail around after their offspring keeping them happy, it is not just the weekly lessons either, it is the competitions, the festivals, the exams and the auditions. Not that we mind, it is ‘our pleasure’, hobbies keep our little darlings busy and off their screens, gives them a skill and hopefully keeps them off the street as well.
I have recently discovered a new kind of Sports-mum. Readers of this blog will know that I don’t and won’t swim so it has always been very important to me that my three children learned as soon as possible. From baby swim lessons to toddler training onto weekly swim lessons, all three were competent swimmers before leaving primary school.
Only one of my children has continued swimming on a regular basis and after swimming lessons ceased for his age group, he joined the local swim club. He has pottered along at swim club quite nicely, improving slowly and steadily but recently has expressed an interest in entering galas.
I am now involved in a world I didn’t know existed. Up and down the country every weekend, parents are getting up at ridiculous-o’clock armed with child and kit to set off before dawn driving miles for an 8 o’clock warm up.
As we are drive down the motorway watching the sunrise, there are very few cars on the road, cars, no doubt, full of parents driving their offspring to their chosen activity.
When we arrive at the sports centre it is already packed, the children go off to change and the parents queue to buy tickets to sit or stand and watch our child complete in a gala we have already paid their entry fee for. Galas are an all day (and in some cases all weekend) event so there is a bit of a scrum for good seats. If you don’t get one, you have to sit on the stairs or benches. It is backbreaking work.
I am still a newbie, inexperienced and it shows, I don’t yet own a stopwatch or know which child in the county is nearest my own’s ability, but I have now downloaded the right apps (you need three) and with the help of more experienced parents I am learning the ropes.
The nice thing about swimming galas opposed to football/rugby matches is there are results happening every minute or so and if even if your child isn’t racing, you eagerly cheer on others in your child’s swim club. The scoring system is such that your child races those who are the same ability (regardless of age) which makes every race close and exciting, it is only when all the heats are over that you know if your child has been placed in their year group. It is a mathematical conundrum, but while you are scratching your head and working things out the hours slip by ‘almost’ unnoticed.
I must mention the heat as well, even in the depths of winter, the viewing galleries in swimming pool are heaving with roasting spectators fanning themselves with hefty programmes (which you also have to pay for).
The organisation of these galas is incredible manned by amazing volunteers. Opening the gala programme your heart can sink when you realise that there are nearly 150 children entered in the 100m freestyle, but it all goes by relatively quickly and as each race finishes the next set of children are on the starting blocks.
Once you learn the dos and don’ts and learn what to pack and not to pack for poolside, watching swimming galas are not so bad, in fact they can be quite fun – just as long as I don’t have to swim, I think I can put up with it.
I can safely say that I have never watched a swimming gala before so a bonus to tick off one of my #101in1001 challenges: Number 39 – Watch a sporting event I have never seen before.