Sunday mornings are swimming lessons for us. Toddler at 8.30am, Little Man at 9am and Miss E at 9.30am.
Yes, it’s a far cry from those lazy Sunday mornings pre-children and it means leaving the house earlier than we do for school – but all three little ones absolutely love their swimming lessons and I think water confidence and safety is such an important thing for them to learn.
As Sunday mornings are such a rush, I usually pack our bags the night before. Except last weekend I was working late on Saturday night and couldn’t face thinking about it. “I’ll do it in the morning,” I told myself.
And amid the rush of getting two big people and three little people ready to leave the house, I packed up all the bags and loaded them into the car. We got to the swimming pool lovely and early for a change, and Toddler – who still needs an adult to go in the water with him for his lesson – and Cardiff Daddy started getting changed.
Except Cardiff Daddy’s bathers (that’s what we in South Wales call swimming costumes) were nowhere to be seen. He checked the bag. I checked the bag. I checked the bag again. Nope, definitely not there.
I started muttering about it being a waste of money and time and that we had rushed to get there for nothing.
“I’m such an IDIOT!” I said rather loudly and with an air of frustration. “What an absolute idiot.”
And then a small voice piped up from the corner of the family changing room we were in.
“You’re not an idiot, Mummy. You’re lovely.”
It was Little Man O, my four-year-old middle child.
He looked shocked. I honestly thought he was going to cry. I gave him a big hug and could feel the tears in my eyes.
And then I felt quite ashamed. Because he was completely right. I wasn’t an idiot. It was an entirely innocent mistake. I hadn’t deliberately forgotten Cardiff Daddy’s bathers. There was nothing malicious or pre-planned about it. It was a genuine mistake.
What would I say if someone else had done the same? I’d probably just laugh about it and tell them not to worry, it was just one of those things.
Yes, it’s mildly frustrating that Toddler had to miss his swimming lesson, but it’s hardly the end of the world. If he’d been a year or so older, he might have had a tantrum, but as it is, he didn’t really seem aware of what was going on, and was more than happy when we hung out in the swimming pool café for half an hour until Little Man’s lesson. Where, incidentally, we bumped into another family who had forgotten to bring wipes and nappies for their baby. I didn’t call them idiots. They didn’t call me an idiot. We all just laughed about it, and they were thankful that we could help them out spare nappies and wipes.
Little Man’s reaction has really got me thinking about the way I talk to myself and about myself.
My own worst critic…
I know I’m not the only one who will call herself “a bad mum” for such ridiculous things as giving her kids pasta two nights in a row, or who calls herself “a failure” because the house is a mess. I criticise myself for things I have no real control over, and belittle myself all the time.
Why do I do this? I would never speak to anyone else like this. If a friend used those words to describe herself, I’d reassure her that she’s doing her best, that parenthood can be hard, and to go easy on herself.
Sometimes I am my own harshest critic. Sometimes I fail to treat myself in the way I deserve.
And having spoken to a few of my friends about this over the last week, I’m far from the only one to does this.
It’s silly really, because as a yoga teacher I talk a lot to my students about ahimsa. This is a yogic virtue that translates as non-violence or non-harming. Not just physically, but in the way we speak and think too. I try my best to do this towards other people – taking a deep breath and practising compassion towards someone who has annoyed me, for example, trying to see the world through their eyes and understand why they might have reacted in a particular way.
But that morning in the swimming pool it struck me that I often forget to do this to myself.
Seeing my beautiful, innocent son being so upset about this really shocked me. And so I’ve been trying to be kinder to myself since then. Because if I can’t even be kind to myself, why would anyone else?
In the words of a lovely quote by Doreen Virtue, “Always speak and think kindly about yourself because your soul needs your love and approval.”