My family and I have recently moved from Brooklyn, New York, to Bradford-on-Avon, England, for a year. Our mission: try out life at a slower pace. In my new series Brooklyn to England, I’ll write about the weekly adventures of living in the English countryside with my British husband, our three-year-old daughter, and my baby-bump (I’m due in September!). Come with me as I go from strollers to prams, diapers to nappies, and whatever else it takes to raise a family abroad.
Much like everything in Bradford-on-Avon, swimming lessons are in high demand. Within a week of moving here, I stopped by the local community pool to sign Trixie up, but was handed a wait-list form, followed by a pitying smile from the receptionist. Apparently my daughter had a snowballs chance in hell of acquiring a coveted aquatic slot.
Oh well. Lessons aren’t everything. Having always loved summer days with Trixie at the Double D Pool in Brooklyn, I grabbed our gear and the two of us hit the kiddie pool—a meter-deep steam bath loaded with babies, mums, and big kids mucking about like chips in a deep fryer. For an hour and a half we played with watering cans, rubber duckies, kick boards and noodles until our fingers shriveled like raisins and we decided to call it a day.
Even though it was dizzyingly hot in the pool—probably ten degrees hotter than the exceptionally-scorching English summer—we had a blast, and Trixie and I have been back several times. Once a week, from 12-1:30, my little water-faerie swims and splashes and floats. And I, like clockwork, ask her the same question.
“Trixie, do you need the toilet?” (That’s the word I use now. That, or loo. Anything but bathroom, that flat-sounding American word).
“Nope,” Trixie always replies, and continues to splash around.
Fine. I hate to nag her, but Trixie used to feel her most, um, “relaxed” in the water. Gross, yes. Grisly, sometimes. But that was the old days, when Trixie was in swim diapers. She’s been potty-trained a year now. Still, old habits die hard, and even though she’s never had an accident sans-swim-nappy, I can’t resist the constant cross-examination because, after all, with big girl undies come big girl responsibilities.
“Do you have to use the toilet?” I inevitably ask five minutes later.
This time, Trixie said yes. Out of the pool and around the corner we went, through the changing room and into a stall. Right away she pooped in the potty. Huzzah. Back into the pool for more splish-splashery.
But a few minutes later, she got a look on her face.
“Mummy! Potty!” she said in an urgent voice.
Without a moment’s hesitation, I tucked her under my arm and waded through the pool, then up the steps and out of the water. Trixie and I were nearly at the changing room when I spotted the first one: a tiny brown pellet poking out from the hem of her purple bathing suit. Dread seized my heart as I looked back at the water. She hadn’t … had she? …. No, thank god, she definitely hadn’t. Exhibit A was far from the water, but as I ushered her out, exhibits B, C, and D came in quick succession. A total of four gritty blobs that had escaped her elasticated swimsuit lining and splattered onto the slippery tiles.
The kiddie-pool was so crowded, no one seemed to notice as I bent down, casually scooping pebbles with one hand and cupping my daughter’s bum with the other. Who me? Oh, I just dropped something—something non-disgusting—that’s all.
With evidence palmed, we rushed the last few steps to the toilets, but by then, of course, she’d finished. Luckily (if luck can figure into this scenario), it really hadn’t amounted to much. A fun-sized candy bars-worth, if you will.
The worst was over. I pumped a gallon of hand soap into my palm and scrubbed my hands with the voracity of a surgeon. Next, I lathered up my flustered daughter from head to toe, careful not to let my PTSD show as I told her everything would be alright (well, after a quick visit to the scene of the crime and another, Who me? Oh, I’m just using paper towels and hand soap to wipe the tiles because that’s the sort of thing I do. Don’t mind me).
Days later, I got a call from the swimming pool. My heart froze. Had they found a scrap to test for DNA? Was I doomed? But no. It was the person in charge of swim lessons, calling to tell me there would be room for Trixie starting next week.
“Oh,” I said tentatively. “Already?”
The horror of Poo-gate flashed in my mind. What if it happened again? I wouldn’t be in the pool to save her—to save everyone. But I took a deep breath, reminding myself that my daughter has swum a hundred times without a nappy, and she’s been fine every other time. It was an off day, an accident.
“That sounds perfect. We’ll see you in the pool next week,” I said … and I felt my palms begin to sweat as I hung up the phone.