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The absolute litmus test for how I am feeling occurs when I am watching the Proles swimming.

The early days of swimming lessons were mildly embarrassing things.
They began lessons aged four.
Prole1 was still quite rotund when he started.
With his tight red hat and over sized goggles and shorts he looked like a chubby, grumpy, bald owl.
His early attempts at co-ordination in the pool would often see him slowly going round in circles or inadvertently joining the next class by accident.
He was taught by a man who believed yelling as loud as you can at small children renders the best results.
He would bellow at the top of his lungs as Prole1 veered off into open water or slowly sank to the bottom.
Prole1 adored his teacher with every fibre of his body.

Prole2 was still a couple of years off lessons at this point and would spend the half hour waiting for his brother swinging on me, climbing on me and seeming to attempt to unscrew my limbs. We sang songs together, I bounced him on my knee, read books, played games and we generally annoyed all the other parents.

When Prole2 started lessons he was so skinny I could not find swimming trunks that would stay up on his snake hips.
Every time he got out of the pool his bottom was showing.
His teacher was a softly spoken lady who wore artificial flowers in her hair.
She showered love and positive praise on Prole2, even though he actually managed to go backwards in every stroke.
I am not making that last bit up.
He used to actually go backwards.
I would get a warm shot of pride if, during all the splashing and thrashing around, he managed to maintain his position in the pool, let alone go forward.
In return for all her kind words, Prole2 was mortally afraid of his teacher, it took several months for her to win a sliver of trust from him.

The Proles did not exactly rocket up through the classes, both taking the ‘wear them down until they cannot stand the humiliation of being unable to teach us and HAVE to send us up to the next class” approach.
Four years of lessons have been a marathon, not a sprint.

These days they take it in turns, Prole1 has his lesson and when he comes out Prole2 goes in.
This is the time in the week they officially get to play on my phone.
The spare Prole makes a small nest of towels and curls up for half an hour and crashes through their favourite games.
Some of these are universally popular with them both, Angry Birds in it’s various guises, Gravity Guy and Jetpack but then there is a definite separation.
Prole1 will spend at least quarter of an hour tending his Smurf Village, building houses, feeding the pets, checking in on the Smurfs and planting crops.
It is a bustling happy place where Prole1 can indulge in some civic planning and harvesting food for the population.

Prole2 has found ZombieSwipeout.
This is a game in which you dismember cute looking Zombies.
I know, I know, I should never have downloaded it in the first place and I should certainly have deleted it from the phone a long time ago.
Small children should not play with Zombies, it really sits ill with me but HE LOVES IT so I am waiting until he moves on into another phase and I can surreptitiously drag it to the waste bin.
Soon, and then I don’t have to listen to the awful chuckling that comes from him whenever he plays it.

So, one in the pool and one out playing games, quick swap, other one in the pool and the other one playing games.

This gives me the best part of an hour to stare at the water.

In the early days I though about nothing.

My mind was not a complete blank but there was not much going on. I would think about the trip home, which lane I might drive in. I would think about next weeks shopping a bit. I would stare at the water.

As the years have gone on I sort of think about more.
For a while there was a nice lady who would sit next to me whilst her daughter swam rings around Prole1 and we would sometimes chat.
She was divorced and sporty and wanted to get on her bike and take on the world.
I can only imagine that is what she did as I don’t see her any more.
A little girl from Prole1’s class comes over most weeks and we chat about school and shoes and little sisters and how far it is to travel to Cardiff.

When I have no one to talk to I just think.
I can tell a good day and I can tell a bad day by how I get on at swimming.

I can’t tell you what I think about on good days and bad days.

Seeing it written down is open to misinterpretation.
Suffice it to say it is the mind laundry for the week.
I can have a clear out and start the week again.

This is the time to think about what worked and what didn’t in the last week, how the Proles are changing, how our routines are evolving.
We are growing as a family and it’s hard, really hard, to let go of the things that have made us comfortable.
There is danger in complacency, things fester, things get stale, things have no room or grow disproportionately.

You must try to manage the danger in your life.

I don’t give this much time during the week and I shut these thoughts down at night time. I did not used to. I used to think all or nothing about it. Long sleepless nights of mind racing worry with the Proles about to wake at any moment or blocking everything out because it was all too awful and hung over me like a towering cliff.

Sitting by the pool and watching the water is a good place to rummage around in the back of my life and get some, little, tiny amount of perspective. It is not exactly tranquil in the middle of six sets of swimming lessons but it is a start.

Prole2 swipes out his Zombies and Prole1 builds his village.

I wonder what happens to all the odd socks…

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