On Tuesdays I take LittleBear swimming. We have moved on from the "throw him in" teacher, and LittleBear has remained an aquatic bear. But now we go to a little pool attached to a primary school in a nearby area. An indoor swimming pool where the indoor area, including the changing room, is maintained at a temperature only marginally lower than that of lava. The experience of having to sit watching LittleBear is close to being in breach of the Geneva Convention. So by the time I've spent half an hour losing 3kg in sweat by the side of pool, I am feeling A Bit Flustered, and not usually in the mood for wrangling a clammy small boy into his clothes again.
So you can picture the scene...
... a small boy who has just spent half an hour exhausting himself attempting to swim front crawl, after a full day at school. He has entered Insanity Hour, where all sense and reason have departed and he is as likely to speak utter gibberish as anything else.
... I have removed as many clothes as is legal in public in an attempt not to collapse in a puddle of sweat.
... 8 adults and children, plus assorted siblings are attempting to get 8 soggy children dry and dressed in a space approximately large enough for 3 reasonable sized adults to move around without risking inappropriate physical contact with each other.
And I launch into a Joyce Grenfell-esque monologue:
"No, please don't tickle me. No, no tickling. Not with your foot either. No, tickling me with your foot while I'm trying to put your shirt on is not a good idea. Put your foot down. No, put your foot down on the floor. No, don't just swap feet. Don't tickle me with either of your feet. It's really not helping. See? Now you haven't got your arms in your shirt because you weren't concentrating. Where is your arm? It won't fit through the neck of your shirt. Please put your arms in your sleeves. One arm in each sleeve. Time for your trousers now. Please step into your trousers. No, step into them with your feet, not your arms. And don't tickle me. DO NOT tickle me down the front of my shirt. Why not? Because not everyone in the room wants to see my underwear. I don't know why they don't. Yes, I know it's pretty, but they still don't want to see it. I don't know, it's just how grown ups are. PLEASE STOP TICKLING ME while I'm getting you dressed. I just want to get you dressed so we can get out of this sauna. What's a sauna? It's a stupidly, stupidly hot room that no-one in their right mind would want to spend any time in. No, I don't know why it's so hot in here, but I'd really like you to stop tickling me until you've got your clothes on. No, I don't mean you can never, ever, ever tickle me ever again, I just don't want to be tickled right now. I want to finish getting your clothes on right now, and then when we're out of this room, then you can tickle me. Yes, really you can. No, please don't cry just because I've asked you not to tickle me. I stop tickling you when you ask me to, so please stop when I ask you to. I just want to get out of here, and THEN you can tickle me. Yes, really you can. As much as you want, as long as I can get out of here."
At which point a complete stranger came over to me, bent down and said, "It's such a relief to hear someone else having the same conversations as me. I feel less mad now".
I'll be providing a public health service in a swimming changing room near you any day now. Maye I need a new byline for my blog? "Making other mothers feel less mad, one swimming lesson at a time."