Through the week they are bank tellers, managers, builders, salespeople, doctors, secretaries and teachers. Come the weekend, professional roles are divested and they morph into Parents, with a capital P.
These responsible adults assume a whole new persona as simply Sarah's Dad and Jamie's mum. That's how we parents recognise the same breed and greet each other with uncertain smiles on soccer fields, at ballet classes, on the sides of swimming pools and waiting outside the disco.
It is kinda quaint and kinda spooky how playing the role of Parent unsettles one's confidence. Some working parents like me, bursting with confidence on the job, cower in the capacity of Parent, unsure of the Rules, uncomfortable with conversation revolving around report cards, schoolyard rumbles and where the kids’ team is on the ladder.
Yet there are doyens of the Parent set. They are masters at sideline politics, regulars at P and C meetings and tuckshop. They always read their school notices. And know when sports day is on before it happens, not a week later like me. I envy them. As a Capital P Parent, I often don't make the grade, though I once grasped a piece of chalk in my trembling hand and recorded times at a swimming carnival.
On another occasion, fed up with my kid wearing the most pathetic costume (like a stocking stuffed with newspaper for a kangaroo tail), I plucked myself up and went the whole hog on a wizard costume for a Halloween Party. My toddler was resplendent in star-studded cape, pointed hat, jewellery, sparkling face makeup, blue hair and magic wand. The only hitch being that none of the other parents bothered. My poor little OVER-costumed fella was painfully embarrassed!
Now sport is another thing. Not being a really Physical Type myself (I prefer to think of myself as cerebral rather than sedentary), I invented this convenient notion that Daniel should be a sporting dilettante and try all manner of sports rather than limit himself to one. Well, the idea was infinitely more appealing than getting up at 4am every morning to take him to serious swimming training.
Dan The Adventure Man has dabbled in everything including fishing with Pa, archery, karate, Aussie Rules football, Scouts, golf, cricket and snorkelling and has the confidence to throw himself into any new experience, even if his parents are not quite stayers in the sporting arena.
Yet I'm about to get serious when it comes to Little Nippers because it appeals to my logic. What makes more sense than water sports in our hot, coastal environment? What could be more fair-dinkum Australian? I like the versatility of ocean swimming and paddling, beach sprints and the fact Lifesaving also performs a community service; giving meaning to the activity and teaching kids responsibility and concern for others. That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.
Who knows, I might even take hold of a whistle and blast a few 12-year-olds into line. I quite fancy myself graduating to the ranks of Capital P Parent at last. However my hopes were dashed after a few Sunday morning training sessions in the blazing sun, when Daniel announced he’d had enough of diving headfirst into the beach and eating sand! Who could blame him! A strange activity, really. It’s back to sitting in the shade reading a book for me!