A trip to the pool puts your family into a very different environment from the safety of home. With it comes a bevy of rituals, behaviors, and predictable quips. Here, then are the 23 things that happen to every family when visiting a pool, whether an indoor, outdoor or fun pool.
1. Have you got the correct-sized coin for the locker? Do you have any coins these days? Will you need more than one locker for all this stuff? Needless locker anxiety plagues you right up to the moment you reach the pool and discover that lockers are actually free.
2. Youngest child discovers what happens if you chop the last letter off the word ‘pool’, and spends the whole session making predictable, annoying jokes.
3. As soon as you get in the pool, someone tries to spook the younger kids by swimming underwater with one hand sticking out, like a shark’s fin. It’s usually dad.
4. A game is initiated of “can we stand on the flotation device without sinking or falling off”. Answer: no.
5. Eldest child insists on floating with their eyes closed. Lifeguard takes an interest.
6. Prized wristband or pool toy goes missing. Rest of session spent in fruitless search.
7. There’s a plaster/band-aid floating in the water.
8. “Aghhhh… my eyes sting daddy!”
9. Older child desperately wants to have a go with younger child’s armbands, even though they’re way too big for them.
10. The old trick of ducking under water and blowing bubbles up to the surface.
11. A voice comes from the diving board: “Look at me! Look at me!”. Inelegant belly flop ensues.
12. No matter how many times you tell them, one of the kids will have fun squirting water from their mouth.
13. It’s mandatory for you to tell the kids, at least once, to be careful not to slip on the wet poolside. “No running!”
14. Remembering an old pool safety poster from your own childhood, you can’t help deploying the word ‘horseplay’, which never gets spoken in any other setting. (Or is that just me?)
15. “Look mum… I’ve invented a new stroke!” Cue a splashtastic hybrid of the crawl and breaststroke with inefficiently flailing legs.
16. You have to pretend that you’re a crocodile/swamp monster/shark in a repetitive game that generates more squeals and shouts than you’d like.
17. You notice how other parents have left useful things like towels and bottles of water close to the pool’s edge instead of in their locker, and tell yourself (yet again) that you must remember to do that next time.
18. Outdoor pool: there’s the inevitable ‘beetle moment’ when a large insect is discovered floating in the pool. Child A cowers behind you. Child B wants to scoop it up and play with it. Child C thinks they’ve swallowed one and now feels sick.
19. Your child insists on doing somersaults over the lane rope, much to the disgruntlement of the serious swimmers.
20. It’s time to get out. Dad makes the hilarious joke about ‘pulling the plug out’. Again.
21. “But WHY do I have to have a shower when I’m already wet?”
22. Putting socks back onto slightly damp feet turns out to be the hardest thing in the universe.
23. Despite the shower, you all reek of chlorine for the rest of the day.
Although originally from the Midlands, and trained as a biochemist, Matt has somehow found himself writing about London for a living. He's a former editor and long-time contributor to Londonist.com and has written several books about the capital. He's also the father of two preschoolers.