‘Fighting for a fitting room in the twig noise and sweltering heat’

I am not a pool enthusiast. If you told me now that I would never be allowed to swim again, I really wouldn’t cry. But there are extenuating circumstances, so sometimes I don’t mind swimming so much.

First: slightly warmer water. When we were once on holiday on Phuket, the water there was just a few degrees warmer. Just a little lukewarm. Then you can think: then it is as if forty children have pissed in it, but it was not such a swimming pool. That warm water, so that you don’t hang on such a staircase for a minute, doubting and chattering your teeth, really makes a difference for me.

Then: a nice dressing room (actually it belongs with a dot at the top). Nothing gives parents more swimming stress than a cramped changing cubicle with children (I read once, but it is also the experience of other parents around me and the experience of parents in any random swimming pool – just listen to the snapping in the cubicles next to you). You have to deal with sudden sweltering heat, thick winter coats (in winter then), four hundred pieces of clothing and socks that just fall into that one puddle of water (is it water, or another child’s piss?). Another thing that really pisses me off: dirty floors in such a cubicle. Bobbins of hair (gádverdamme), mud, and other filthy indefinable things. Bah. Of course, my children always stand in it with their bare feet, and I’m really not afraid of stains, but I think that’s gross.

Last year we were on holiday in Denmark, in one of those Lalandia parks. That’s where they understood it. The dressing room became just a place of relaxation for me, it was an oasis of peace and cleanliness. Somewhere that was of course also because the boys were with Nils in the men’s dressing room and the little girl was still in my stomach at the time. Hey, rest for me! The boys are older now and they do everything themselves just fine, but still. In that Lalandia park they had two large changing rooms, a men’s and a women’s variant, and everyone was naked in those changing rooms. Walking around naked, showering naked, everything. It was the first thing I noticed. Nobody made a fuss, done. It was spotlessly clean, there were baby cots with a plastic (clean) mattress, boxes and plastic high chairs that you could slide into the shower. Mothers with babies or small children thus had their hands free to shower with their baby next to them. The shower rooms were huge and wonderfully warm. There were lots of lockers with a handy system and enough space to hang your stuff. There were also plenty of changing facilities for babies. Ideal! If you can get ready for swimming with your child in such a place or come back after swimming, it will – I think – save a lot of stress for parents. At least my pool-changing room aversion disappeared like snow in the sun.

Last weekend we were in Center Parcs and that’s where I came up with the idea for this column. Nils still had to work on Friday, so I drove to Lommel with the children that morning to discover things together. The boys, of course, only wanted one thing: to swim. Fine. Sophia was not allowed to go into the water with her two months, so I had already thought of sitting somewhere along the side with her. Then the boys could swim nicely and I could keep an eye on them and wave.

How naive can you be.

So I ended up standing with the boys and Sophia in a far too cramped cubicle in the Aquafuckingmundo, because the larger cubicles for families had been occupied for ages. So it was terribly busy. I should have left the stroller behind and got Sophia out with her warm sheepskin suit still on and we all still had our winter coats on too. Final score: we were four boiled shrimp in a can and it didn’t make us happy at all. Where was that baby cot? There was nowhere to put Sophia so that I could take off my coat. The poor child also had a face like a tomato, though fortunately she found it interesting enough to keep quiet.

‘Get out, lads,’ I said, after they had taken off their clothes after much struggle. “I’ll find somewhere to put her and then I’ll throw all the stuff in a safe.”

Booth open. Winter coats, clothes, boys’ shoes, swim bag, child in sheep suit, check.

A cleaning lady blocked our route to the lockers, raising her hand like a true traffic controller. “Ma’am, your shoes.”

I looked down. Yes, I still had my Air Max on. “Um, if I had somewhere to put my baby, I would have taken off my shoes.”

“Family booth!” she honked.

“I’m here for the first time and the family cubicles were full.”

‘But still, your shoes! Give your baby and you can take off your shoes.’ She held out her hands – wearing plastic gloves with a few long hairs on them – towards me. I was horrified.

‘Nah. I’ll arrange it myself.’ My temperature had now risen to eighty degrees and sweat was running down my back. The cleaning lady disappeared, annoyed at such stupidity.

“Karen,” Lewis added.

Fortunately, a locker down the road was free, so I tiptoed over, as I certainly respected the cleaning policy, to the locker and tossed all the stuff into it. Of course it didn’t fit, but with a little pushing it went well. Sweat was now dripping down my forehead. I took off my poor baby’s sheep suit and then sat for half an hour in the twig noise and sweltering heat, tucked away somewhere between the tropical plants and I saw many fries-eating Belgians and my own sons not even once.

While getting dressed, Lewis dropped my jacket in a puddle of water (or another kid’s piss) and then Miles dropped his pants in as well. Sophia was crowing with pleasure on a dirty changing pad, but hey, at least we had conquered the family cubicle. That again.

The following days we took turns with Sophia in the restaurant overlooking the pool and swimming was actually fun. I even thought so and the water was pleasantly warm.

Oh and we forgot the swimming bag, which is still in Center Parcs as we speak.

Until next time!

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