In at the deep end


The Dad Diary
Edwin McGreal

From where I am typing this, I can see our local Blue Flag beach, less than a five-minute walk away.
In the coming years, our three kids are going to spend some amount of time there; it will be a home from home.
They don’t know how lucky they are. When I was younger, a trip to the beach usually meant a 30-minute drive to Bertra or Old Head. Further still if we were going to see my mother’s cousins in Killeen, outside Louisburgh.
There were the inland beaches in Pontoon, 20 minutes away which were great fun too, but a beach within walking distance was unimaginable.
Now, living on Dooega on Achill Island, we’ve a beach on our doorstep and can be at every beach in Achill and Mulranny quicker than we were ever in Pontoon. Even the glorious Keem Bay, or ‘Kimba’ as Frankie likes to call it.
But if you’re planning to go to the beach a lot, you better be well equipped for it. And the number one tool for that is the ability to swim.
Maybe because I’m an inlander, I didn’t learn to swim until I was 15. I learned in the old Castlebar swimming pool. I’m told I was a late starter because I got a bit of a fright when I fell into a pool in Spain when aged two. I’ve no memory, of course, but perhaps a seed of doubt was planted.
Since then, I’ve never really become a strong swimmer. I’m not afraid of the water but I would be wary of where I go and don’t go. It’s something I need to improve, especially now with the kids.
Myself and Aisling intend that it will be very different with our gang.
Covid-19 has halted progress though. They’ve had plenty of splashing in the sea but learning to swim is much more manageable in a pool.
So Frankie has just started swimming lessons now that the pool at Mulranny Park Hotel has reopened.
In line with her general attitude, she took to it with total confidence and self-belief, a little bit too much perhaps. Instead of leaving the pool at the end of her first lesson, she decided to swim off into the centre of it, before soon realising that armbands were no guarantee for keeping your mouth out of the water!
With the instructors gone away, poor Aisling, watching on from poolside, had to jump in and get her before Frankie developed a total fear of water, perhaps like myself.
I’ve enjoyed playing the Baywatch theme tune on repeat in the days since!
Éamon is too young for lessons but I’ve started taking him myself just to build him up. There’s no deep end in Mulranny so my confidence is supreme! Éamon was less so starting off. The water temperature took getting used to for him and he took a while to trust that I wasn’t going to let him go. As if I would!
The first 15 minutes were filled with protestations of ‘I wanna go home’, to which distraction was the only option.
Bit by bit, he got more confident and even took to jumping in off the edge. I showed him the jacuzzi and asked if he wanted to go in, knowing he would refuse.
“I just only like the swimming pool,” came the reply. That represented progress.  

In his fortnightly column, Edwin McGreal charts the ups and downs of the biggest wake-up call of his life: parenthood.