We took the girls swimming this morning at our local leisure centre. The first time we’ve been there as a family of four and it was the first time our baby has infact been swimming, ever.
We got there early, in the hope of avoiding the half term crowds and because we had been up since 5.30am entertaining our two year old. Parking, paying, undressing, dressing, swimming nappies, it all takes its time but we had a bit more to kill then we realised. Only the main pool was open and the children’s pools wasn’t open for another 30 minutes.
Walking into the main pool it was hard to not notice how it was full of Sunday morning swimmers, quietly freestyling in their roped off lanes all catching sight of the young family that were about to intrude on their solitary time out. I suddenly felt very conspicuous and not because I was wearing my bathing suit.
The girls were quiet as we lead and carried them to the shallow end. Hoping we could just bob in the water for a bit until the children’s pool opened it was never going to work trying to entertain them, keep them fairly quiet whilst avoiding other swimmers particularly as the water was cold. They were having none of it.
We got out and limped our way back to the seating area offering apologetic looks to first the swimmers and then the life guards.
I don’t blame a single one of the swimmers for their looks of irritation which only 2 years ago I would have been as vociferous in my glare. I am ashamed to admit before having children i was particularly unforgiving about them being in public whether it be restaurants or public transport. Can’t you control them or remove them? was what my subconscious screamed.
Both my sensitivity & earth mother chip had yet to be installed. I clearly didn’t have the first clue what it is to be a parent.
I can remember one particularly shameful incident that if I could go back in time I would change irrevocably. I often think of this when I am faced with unforgiving glances like i was this morning and think it’s karmic retribution. It has to be.
Aboard a flight bound from Cape Town to London, having just got married I was sat waiting for our long haul flight to depart in my Business Class seat when a woman with long auburn hair embarked carrying a baby strapped to her. The baby was crying and she was stressed trying to console it. I say it, i neither recall if it were a girl or boy. Her partner was busy carrying and moving their hand luggage.
Seated directly behind me I immediately felt irritation that i was in such close proximity to a baby and one which was crying. With a 12 hour flight ahead of me I selfishly pictured those hours with a non stop wailing baby in my ear. I was incensed especially when I thought how much my seat had cost me.
And then, i committed a terrible sin as far as im concerned now when i loudly, purposefully loud enough for the stressed mother to hear said “I am not putting up with the crying child for my journey home” and beckoned my new husband to sort it.
I knew she heard me, i was deliberately loud enough so that she would. I didn’t see her immediate reaction, now i can only imagine through clenched teeth what it was, but many hours later, after take off and drinks i meandered back to the toilets and saw her sat in the galley, still trying to pacify her child. She avoided eye contact with me. I walked by without a second thought.
Even then I, without the first understanding of parenthood I felt bad for my insensitive comment, but it was too late. The damage was done.
The flight carried on, in peace and when we disembarked i remember neither the Mother or child. And yet now, as a mother myself i remember nothing but the mother and child and how i made a stressful situation so much worse.
To travel, long haul with a child is at best ambitious and at worse a necessity. No sane parent would intentionally choose to do it. When Belle was 10 months old we travelled to Cape Town First Class and she wasn’t very well, later diagnosed with Roseola (baby measles) hours after getting off our flight. I drugged her most of the way freestyling paracetamol & ibuprofen thinking that she was teething. I spent a huge proportion of that flight sat in the galley trying to keep her quiet. To say it was the longest 12 hours of my life would be an understatement and the whole time i got nothing but blank unforgiving looking faces watching me, willing me to shut my child up.
I have never felt so scared or so alone being 40,000 feet in the air and yet the kindness of a perfect stranger, preferably an experienced maternal one would have helped me so much.
I almost long to travel and meet another struggling parent so i can right my wrong as I knew no better then, obviously now I do but until such a time I believe i must suffer karmic retribution.