Caroline Verdon: Arthur’s making a splash at his swimming lessons

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“I DO NOT LIKE KICKING” is an angry chant that can be heard across most of Leeds on a Saturday lunchtime when we take our toddler for his swimming lesson.

He doesn’t cry or whine, no, he belts out the phrase with a loud growl a demon in a horror film would be proud of. You’d be forgiven for thinking he hated swimming but he doesn’t, he loves it. All week he tells us with a big smile about how he is going swimming on Saturday with his friend PP and he really looks forward to it.

He enjoys getting ready at the pool and has a big grin on his face as we get in the water but then his lesson starts and he changes. We don’t have this at home or nursery but in the pool he just refuses everything with a very adamant “No. No like it”. His swimming report card shows little improvement over the last 12 weeks of lessons. In some places it seems he may have even gone backwards. He doesn’t do kicking, he won’t do doggy paddle arms and he point blank refuses to blow bubbles in the water.

What’s even stranger is that as well as taking him to his lessons, we also all go for a family swim each week – whether that’s Bramley Baths or further afield to Calypso Cove and when we go for fun, he loves it. We have a bit of a challenge to make him kick his legs but he does do it and the only point he cries is after the hour and a half is up and it’s time to leave!

It’s hard to know why kids do what they do. I try hard to think through the various scenarios to make sure that I’m reacting accordingly – not being overly harsh but still setting boundaries, not being overly soft but still being understanding. It’s important to me to try to get the balance right. I’ve looked at this from so many angles - maybe at two he realises the other kids in his class are better swimmers than him and he’s embarrassed and so acts up?

Maybe he isn’t acting up, maybe he’s afraid of the water as it’s deeper in his lesson pool? Maybe he’s upset in his lessons because his best friend who also goes has another friend there and perhaps he’s jealous? I tried reacting to all of these scenarios and nothing worked. We tried my husband taking him instead of me and that made no difference at all so last week I opted for giving it to him straight. Or giving him an ultimatum, however you prefer to word it.

Every time he told me he was looking forward to swimming I said something like “yes you’re good at swimming aren’t you…but if you don’t try and do what the lady says you won’t be going to the lessons again because Mummy and Daddy will only take you if you try”.

I must have said it about 15 times over the week. Saturday arrived and he excitedly told me how he was going swimming with his friend PP and he was happy again as we got him changed for the water. Then we got in and it started.

The class begins with a welcome song, the kids just wave at each other at which point Arthur shouted “NO. I NO LIKE WAVING” so I warned him again “remember Arthur, if you don’t try and do the things the lady asks, Mummy and Daddy will not be letting you come back again. If you want to come back swimming with your friend then you have to try”.

Well he waved with not one but both hands. I had to remind him a couple of times but on the whole, to my amazement he was like a completely different child. Not only was he full beaming but he tried everything he was asked to do and it turns out he was really rather good at it. At all of it.

At one point he was kicking his legs whilst doing doggy paddle arms whilst blowing bubbles and periodically shouting “Look Daddy I’m swimming”. He even happily jumped off the side of the pool into the water, and then, in a move that floored me, he swam under water unaided. I could not have been prouder.

I’ve spent every day since beaming and telling him how good he was and how proud we were. And then it dawned on me. If he could do it all along, if he wasn’t jealous or scared or embarrassed then what was he? Boundary testing and stubborn? If this is him as a toddler I think we’re in for a bumpy ride in the teenage years!

Commuter friends...

On my drive into work at 4am in the morning I see no one.

Sure there are a few lorries and cars on the road but rarely is there a pedestrian and there’s certainly never a face that becomes familiar through the commuting route.

On his way in to work, Ant always stops at Starbucks and picks up a coffee and there he has made a ‘commuter buddy’. The lady on the night shift now not only knows what coffee he’s going to order (he’s a creature of habit) but yesterday morning she even had it ready for him! It seems Ant isn’t alone with his work route friendships. Tom called and said on his way through the lights at Headingley train station at 7.51 every morning he always sees a man waiting at the traffic lights. In true British style in the two years that he’s done this route at this time he’s never said hello.

Hayley from Elland Road used to work for a car hire company on Water Lane and each morning would catch a bus to Bridgewater Place where she would pop into a coffee shop for a hot chocolate and her lunch before setting off on her way. Each day she would see a particular builder: “He always wore his high viz and his hard hat and he was gorgeous. My friends used to jokingly refer to him as my husband I used to talk about him so much. Then one day, after months of thinking about him I heard him talk and he had a really awful Geordie/Yorkshire accent and a high pitched voice and that was it, instant turn off.” Commuter marriage to commuter divorce quicker than you can say “Grande Frappuccino”.

Is Beyonce down to earth?

Photos have emerged of Beyonce shopping in Target in America with her daughter Blue Ivy.

Beyonce is worth around 272 million dollars and Target is like a cross between B&M and TK Maxx. Lots of people have been saying that it shows how down to earth she is. That she’s not happy to pay through the nose for cheap or disposable items, or that despite being wealthy she still knows the value of money. I view it slightly differently.

Have you ever bought a voucher from buyagift.com? A few years ago I bought my mum one that entitled her to afternoon tea at the Ritz. She went with one of her best friends and they spent the day pretending to be posh.

I think this is what Beyonce is doing only the other way around. Odds on she followed Target up with a bit of dollar land, had dinner in Subway and then treated herself to a Frankie and Benny’s tea so as to give Blue Ivy a balloon.

Caroline Verdon is one half of the breakfast show at Radio Aire. You can hear Caroline and Ant between 6-10am every weekday morning.

Sandmoor Drive. Pic: Google.

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