“You are going”.
My ten year old was incredulous. I hadn’t asked his opinion, we hadn’t had long pep chats about new swimming lessons, we hadn’t even worked out a reward scheme. But I had just finished reading the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and told him, it was Chinese parenting from now on. He was a strong swimmer and coming with the family and splashing with his brothers once a week was not enough. Proper training and an end of year gala was on the cards. Why not? He had always been comfortable in the water. Well, he could think of plenty of reasons. The teacher would be cross, it was after six in the evening and he would be tired, I hadn’t even bothered to ask him, I couldn’t make him, his leg was sore. The list went on. The tears came and voices were raised.
Parked outside the pool I found my inner tiger and got him into the changing room, left him with a classmate and found the viewing gallery. There were chairs for parents and I found one but realised that I couldn’t actually sit. I was so tense, my legs wouldn’t bend. The previous class was finishing and I could see a teacher talk sternly to a little boy who was shivering. Another mother sat beside me and started chatting so I moved to seated position but found my bum didn’t actually touch the chair. I hovered until I saw him line up with the other children and get into the pool. He looked ok. She was chatty and told me her son was in second class and I said mine was in fourth.
Below me the children were being tested to see what level they were at and I could see him being moved out of the beginner’s class. He didn’t seem to understand though and lined up again with the little kids. I was behind glass and tempted to vault it or bang on it but controlled myself and saw him being put right. I finally breathed out. Then he did another width. Beautiful over arm with great breath control.
“The boy in the black cap. Move over here.” the teacher said (I was lip reading) but he stood behind his friend and three times the wrong boy stood forward until I saw his little hopeful, tear stained face say “Me?” and he was moved up again, to the next level. I found myself able to turn my head to the mum beside me and we chatted. She was telling me about her son’s second class teacher and I suddenly thought, second class, that sounds familiar? And realised that my eight year old is in second class too. For the previous twenty minutes I had actually forgotten that I had other children!
When the class was over I stood by the door of the changing room and he appeared, looked very pleased. I said, in an unprecedented magnanimous act “what do you want from the machine?” indicating the snack dispenser beside me. Never one to turn down food he acted as if this was perfectly normal, asked how much money I had, I said a euro and he quickly chose something for one fifty. I let the tiger sleep and handed him the money.