‘Fighting for a fitting room in the noise of branches and sweltering heat’


I am not a fan of swimming. If you told me now that I would never be allowed to swim again, I really wouldn’t cry. But there are extenuating circumstances, so sometimes I don’t mind swimming a lot.

First: a little warmer water. When we were on vacation in Phuket, the water there was a few degrees warmer. Just a little lukewarm. Then you might think: So it looks like forty kids have peed in it, but it wasn’t like this pool. This warm water, not to hang on such a tray for a minute, questioning and chattering your teeth, really makes a difference to me.

Then: a nice dressing room (it actually belongs to a point at the top). Nothing gives parents more stress than swimming than a cramped changing booth with babies (I read once, but it’s also the experience of other parents around me and the experience of parents in any random pool – just listen for the crackling in the booths next to you). You have to deal with sudden sweltering heat, thick winter coats (it’s winter then), and four hundred items of clothing and socks falling into a single puddle of water (is it water, or another kid’s urine?). Another thing that really bothers me: dirty floors in such a cabin. Rollers of hair (gadverdam), mud and other filthy things that cannot be identified. Bah. Of course, my kids always stand in it with their bare feet, and I’m really not afraid of stains, but I think that’s gross.

Last year we were on holiday in Denmark, in one of those Lalandia parks. This is where they understood it. The dressing room became just a resting place for me, it was an oasis of calm and cleanliness. Somewhere it was of course because the boys were with Niels in the men’s dressing room and the little girl was still in my stomach at the time. Hey, relax me! The boys are older now and they do everything themselves which is fine, but still. In that Lalandia park, they had two big changing rooms, one for men and women, and everyone was naked in those changing rooms. Walk around naked, shower naked, everything. It was the first thing I noticed. Nobody makes a fuss, it’s over. It was very clean, there were cribs with a (clean) plastic mattress and boxes and plastic high chairs you could put in the bathroom. Thus, mothers with babies or young children had their hands free to take a shower with their baby next to them. The shower rooms were huge and wonderfully warm. There were plenty of cupboards with an easy to use system and enough space to hang your stuff. There were also plenty of changing facilities for babies. Ideal! If you can prepare to swim with your child in such a place or come back after swimming, it will – I think – save a lot of stress for the parents. At least my dislike of my changing swimsuit room disappeared like snow in the sun.

This past weekend we were at Center Parks, and that’s where I came up with the idea for this column. Niels still has to work on Friday, so I drove to Lommel with the kids that morning to figure things out together. The boys, of course, wanted only one thing: to swim. Fine. Sophia wasn’t allowed to go into the water with her for two months, so I had already considered sitting somewhere next to her. Then the boys can swim well and I can watch and wave at them.

How naive can you be.

So I end up standing with the boys and Sofia in a very cramped cabin at Aquafuckingmundo, because the larger cabins for families have been occupied ages ago. So he was very busy. I should have left the stroller behind and pulled Sofia out with her warm sheepskin suit and we all still had our winter coats on too. The end result: we were four boiled shrimp in a can and we weren’t happy at all. Where was this cradle? There was nowhere to put Sofia so I could take off my coat. The poor child had a face like a tomato, though fortunately she found it interesting to keep silent.

I said, “Get out, guys,” after they took off their clothes after much suffering. “I’ll find a place to put it and then put it all in a safe.”

Open booth. Winter coats, clothes, boy’s shoes, swimming bag, baby suit in lamb, check.

Our path to the lockers was blocked by a cleaning lady, who raised her hand like a real traffic controller. “Madam, your shoes.”

I looked down. Yes, I’m still using my Air Max. “Mm, if I had a place to put my baby, I would take off my shoes.”

“Family Booth!” Screamed.

“I’m here for the first time and the family booths are full.”

‘But still, your shoes! Give your child and you can take off your shoes. She reached out her hands — wearing plastic gloves with some long hair on them — towards me. I was terrified.

“Nah. I’ll arrange it myself. My temperature has now risen to eighty degrees and sweat is running down my back. The cleaning lady, annoyed at this stupidity, vanishes.”

“Karen,” Lewis added.

Luckily, the locker up the road was free, so I headed over to the locker, as I was definitely respecting the cleaning policy, and dumped all my stuff in it. Of course it didn’t fit, but with a little nudge it went well. Sweat was now dripping from my forehead. I took off my poor child’s sheepskin suit and then sat for half an hour in the bough noise and sweltering heat, tucked away somewhere among the tropical vegetation and saw several Belgians eating French fries and my sons even once.

While getting dressed, Louis dropped my jacket in a puddle of water (or another kid’s piss) and then Miles dropped his pants as well. Sophia was yelling in delight over a dirty changing pad, but hey, at least we occupied the family room. This again.

In the following days, Sofia and I took turns at the restaurant overlooking the pool and swimming was really fun. I even thought so and the water was nicely warm.

Oh and we forgot the swim bag that’s still at Center Parcs as we speak.

Until next time!

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