people dangling from high ropes on an asssult course

Things to do in the school holidays

By Lauren Edwards

The Easter holidays have landed and, as Boris drip feeds us tiny bits of our freedom back, it feels almost impossible to find fun things to do with the kids when most places are still shut, we are not really allowed to venture very far and ‘going for a nice walk’ has become a bit of a daily chore.

I have three children: 13-year-old boy/girl twins and a 17-year-old son. They are close (to a point) but mostly irritate each other and since entering their teens do not see the point in getting out of bed before 10am. My daughter has cold bones, even on a sunny day she will complain of a slight breeze and will soon be sporting blue lips and shivering. Her twin brother has the energy levels of a Tasmanian Devil and, much like our Labrador Chester, needs regular walks, likes to dig holes, bring sticks home from the park and partake in wild wees in wooded areas. My eldest son needs to eat on an hourly basis, rarely emerges from his room before dusk and any suggestion of a walk is subject to questions of; How far do I have to go? How long we will be out for? Will you have snacks? And, most importantly, what is the point? 

Today, I managed to persuade all three to take part in the super fun outdoor assault course at The Playground. As expected, my youngest son was all over it and happily swung from every monkey bar and scaled each rope ladder with gusto. My daughter reluctantly completed one lap of the course and then joined me on the spectator’s bench, whilst my eldest son agreed to accompany his brother on a second lap, secretly enjoying the opportunity to beat his younger sibling through the muddy ditches, but also by way of bribery – if we bought him McDonalds on the way home.

It did, however, remind me of a similar day a few years ago when we booked a Total Wipeout event at the Olympic pool in Stratford; in the very same pool Tom Daley donned his teeny tiny speedos in the London 2012 Olympics. 

As my twins were only 9 at the time, hubby and I decided that we should take part too. No sooner had we lined up alongside a gaggle of energetic teenagers, a lifeguard casually started handing out lifejackets stating that “the inflatables were quite full on.” Lifejackets! Was this going to be like the advanced swimming class we had at school when the better swimmers had to wear their pyjamas and try and retrieve a rubber brick from the deep end?! I never got to that level, in fact, this was now the first time I had ever worn a lifejacket in open water, and I was starting to worry whether I would be able to swim in it or just bob about in search of a wardrobe door. 

We were put in pairs (as usual a family of five is never catered for) and run through a basic safety briefing consisting of; do not block the inflatables, swim out of the way if you fall off and don’t drown! As we reached the edge of the pool, I noticed that most other parents were sitting in the spectators’ area looking on at us sympathetically. However, my daughter was beaming up at me and I soon realised that there was no backing out. So, in our pair, we stepped up onto the poolside and, when given the nod by the lifeguard, we jumped in and had to swim a few feet to the floating barge of inflatables. 

The first task was to pull yourself up onto the unwelcoming island using handles. At this point, I was thankful that hubby was behind me as the clambering part was definitely not flattering! Once on board the ridiculously slippery rubber, we had to climb along a vertical wall, facing each other with nothing to grip onto other than hand grips. I sort of shimmied along to the end to reach an inflatable plank to enter the next phase. We were told to run it, which I did, and then subsequently face planted at the end taking out the legs of a young girl who ended up on my back! My daughter skipped across the plank making it look easy and was back alongside me whilst hubby and my eldest son were already in the water – so I was doing alright. My youngest son had zoomed past me from the outset, practically leap frogging over my back to get past.

Next, we had to run around a sloped area to the main climbing wall and slide. We could crawl here, which my daughter did. I carefully considered that I might look like I was in trouble if I crawled, especially as the lifeguard walking alongside the pool with the ‘rescue hook’ was already eyeing me up as, in my hesitation, I was causing a queue to form. I decided to make a run at it. I just about got round the slope then catapulted straight into the climbing wall with a wallop. 

My agile daughter was already over the 12ft climbing wall, down the slide and swimming gracefully back to the poolside. At this point, I was sorely tempted to adopt the foetal position and cry, but as it was the last obstacle, I knew I had to give it a go. I started climbing up the super slippery surface using hand grips fit for a child, finding it impossible to steady my balance. I managed to drag myself to the top, then lost my footing and landed back at the bottom. I climbed again, got to the top, got one leg over and then fell backwards nearly wiping out a small child. Children were clambering past me like chimpanzees, including my youngest son, and I was fully expecting the lifeguard with the hook to start shouting ‘go round’, but I was not going to quit. Finally, with all three of my children cheering me on, and with sheer determination, I scaled that wall, then belly flopped straight into the water. But it was worth it to see the total look of shock on my children’s faces (I’d like to think awestruck, but I could be wrong…)

As I swam what felt like a mile to get out of the water, I clambered onto the poolside to find myself back in the queue to go again! A teenage girl behind me vomited all over the floor and a lifeguard leisurely came to deal with it like it was a regular occurrence, this was of no comfort to me as we jumped back in and swam towards the barge for another go. After another five rounds my daughter’s inability to stay warm saved the day as she came shivering out of the pool and asked if we could go home. I could have cried with relief as I was now covered in friction burns and concerned about the amount of chlorine I had consumed.

It was lots of exhausting fun; all three children loved it and were proud that me and hubby had taken part. However, it was a nice feeling today that when faced with another (albeit dry land) assault course, they were old enough for me to sit this one out. Maybe one day I will face the wall again.

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