I’m not a person who frightens easily.
Well, actually I get frightened very easily, but not normally by water. Swimming is great, and when you’re underwater no one can demand that you turn on the telly or smear you in humus or pluck out your neck hair. It’s lovely.
The other day, though, water was terrifying.
Obviously it is impossible to take a two year old and a one year old swimming at the same time, on your own. Except I had seen Mum’s do it. I am a Dad. What a Mum can do, a Dad can do. Theoretically.
The swim session was at midday. Stupidly, I decided not to put my grumpy, surly, teething one year old daughter down for her nap. This made her very, very angry. Excellent work Daddy. She then helped me get ready by chasing me around the house like a crawling air raid siren, increasing my general sense of panic.
Obviously, she fell asleep on the journey to the pool. I knew her rage at being woken again would crack the earth in two. Well done Daddy.
Then a miracle happened. As I heaved her chunky thighs into her little yellow inflatable island, she stopped crying. Then for the whole session she drifted around the pool like a serene, amphibious, ginger Buddha, bobbing along and giggling, her legs waggling beneath her. Even my son was a delight, splashing and playing and being friendly and happy.
I was on a high as the session ended.
Then I found myself trapped in a cold, wet cubical with two shivering, angry, wet children, and the hell began. As I dressed my son my daughter angrily pulled her clothes out of the bag and mopped the floor with them. Minutes later both children where bellowing at me, incensed at my bumbling incompetence. The sound must have been so frightening that a lovely, concerned Mum asked if I was all right.
I wasn’t. But I had to say I was.
Next time, a Dad solution. We go home from swimming in dressing gowns. All of us.