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8 year old wallflowers at the gym

6 replies

tigermoth · 19/01/2003 08:49

Our leisure centre has a creche. That's`the good news. The bad news is that it only caters for 5 year olds and under, except for one measly evening a week when a playclub runs in the indoor soft play area.

It's the flagship leisure centre in the borough with lots of facilities. I enjoy going there for a swim or a class. I try to go three times a week - the recommended minimum number of times to exercise, I believe. (I often don't make my target - I'm not super fit). I'm lucky in that I can exercise alone during school and nursery hours.

Now what happens to parents who want to keep fit, do their three bouts of exercise a week, but have children over 5? OK if you can slip off during the day minus children, but increasing numbers of parents with school aged children work. If you aim to exercise in the evening after work, child care is available for only one evening a week.

I have already run into difficulties with my 8 year old. Too old to join his brother in the creche, he is also not allowed to sit quietly in the gym while I do a class. We tried this but another woman complained - my ds was giggling and playing up and I think she and others felt uncomfortable exercising in front of an 8 year old boy. Other children don't wait for their parents in the classes either - it is not really allowed. For the same reasons he is not welcome to wait in the women's changing rooms (and I'm sure he'd be mega embarassed to be there). So the only place he can wait is in the cafe next to the gym and in view of me, mostly. It can get busy, and it is open to the public, so there are risks. I trust him to be sensible and he sits there quietly doing his homework etc for an hour. However I certainly wouldn't leave a 6 year old alone there. When his brother is too old for the creche I don't know what I will do.

Despite the lack of supervised facilities for over 5 year olds, 8 year old swimmers are allowed to go to the pool and changing rooms alone. Since I feel my son can't swim well enough to be safe, and I don't like the idea of him being totally alone in the changing rooms (I wouldn't be in calling distance) I won't allow him to do this. However I have run into difficulties leaving my son alone in the cafe, which is in view of me when I do a class. Once at reception I was told that no under 16 year old can be left alone in the cafe and they refused us entry!! Talk about double standards - for 8 years that same 16 year old could have been swimming alone in the pool.

I have taken all this up with the manager of the leisure centre. He phoned me and we had a good talk about it. He recognises the double standard and admits there's a lack of care facilites for older children. Apparently the playclub opened its doors to over fives for extra evenings each week but few parents used the facility, so they reduced it to the one evening a week. It is not financially viable to offer care facilties for older chidren apparently. I find this strange because the creche itself is always heavily booked. Do parents of older children suddenly lose the desire to exercise?

I was also told that of course under 16 year olds were allowed in the cafe minus an adult, and leiure centre staff would turn a blind eye to my son if he was quietly reading in the cafe. It was my decision, they would accept no responsibility etc etc so strictly speaking this is not encouraged and I am left treading a grey area.

I have noticed that many other creches have either a 5 years or 8 years cut off point - ie shopping centre creches - and I think this is really not on. Why is it assumed that it is easy to take a 6 year old shopping? Why are there so few safe and supervised places for older children? they are surely just as much at risk of abduction?

I'd just like to ask you all if your local leisure centre provides supervision for older children. I'd like to go back to this manager and tell him how other leisure centres cope with this problem. Also, do private health clubs offer more in the way of care?

OP posts:

CAM · 20/01/2003 10:47

I have recently changed gyms for this very reason now my dd has turned 6. Will post more later.


tigermoth · 20/01/2003 11:47

Cam, thank you, thank you - I was beginning to feel I was alone with this problem. I'd love to know what other mothers do when their child is too old for the gym creche.

OP posts:

Jaybee · 20/01/2003 12:11

Does the leisure centre do any clubs that would suit your ds maybe judo, football training or swimming lessons that he sounds as though he needs. While he is in his course you could go into the gym, could you not go into the pool and do some lengths while he is is the pool.
I have to be honest that if I was 8 I would find it very boring to be expected to stand and watch Mum in the gym no wonder he messes about. I work full time and, consequently, I do not tend to go to the gym as I feel my time out of work should be spent with my kids. I take them swimming on a Sunday and they both learnt to swim at an early age, I do go swimming a couple of times a week but I take my 9 year old with me (he can swim far further than I can!!)


tigermoth · 20/01/2003 12:49

good idea about finding classes for my 8 year old at the leisure centre. He does already go to swimming and judo lessons with some of his school friends, but these are not, unfortunately, at the leisure centre. He's not a natural swimmer either - never liked the water much as a toddler, but we are making slow progress with his swimming lessons. The swim classes are for half an hour only, so not long enough for me to do a class, but you are right, jaybee, I could swim some lengths while the 8 year old is having a lesson there and the toddler is in the creche.

We often go to the leisure centre on a sunday - toddler goes in creche, I do a class, 8 year old does homework, then we all 3 meet for a family swim. If my ds is bored waiting for me, he knows he has a nice time coming up, and he can get on with his homework in the meantime.

There's a problem with these family swims, though. Because I have to look after the 3 year old, I can't swim at all. Whenever I take just my oldest son to the pool, I feel OK about leaving him while I have a swim. I'll have to wait another four years at least before I can leave both sons in the pool while I swim lengths.

As far as I know, children's football and other sports classes are mon - sat only, and usually straight after school so, if I was working office hours, I couldn't do a class then anyway.

Again if I was working mon to fri, I'd be too knackered and busy to go to the gym much on weekday evenings, so I'd probably go to a class on a Saturday - but there is no creche on that day, so even if my oldest son had a sports class to go to, the youngest would have nothing. AHHHH!

I just wish there was a care facility/playclub for older and younger children outside working hours three times a week. I really don't think that's asking too much.

OP posts:

Jaybee · 20/01/2003 13:01

Could you not child swap? There must be loads of other people in the same situation - could you not have your friends kids for an hour and then she have yours - you don't mention a dh or dp? If there is one could you not all go into the pool together and you keep an eye on the kids and he swim and vice versa.


tigermoth · 20/01/2003 13:25

I am sure there must be lots of other local parents in a similar situation, too. That's one reason why I think the leisure centre should cater for us far better. We are hardly a minority group.

I do know of local parents who might well look after my sons for an hour or so, but it would be asking a lot of them to do it regularly say two or three times a week - and there are fewer people who are that eager to look after the three year old, anyway. Most of my nearby friends do not have toddlers. I do have a dh but he is not very sporty and could not be relied on to go willingly to the liesure centre on a regular basis. I would rather pay an hours creche/playclub fee - much less hassle. He will look after the children at home, but can't do this automatically at times that are convennient for me.

And if I didn't have a dh or dp I'd be even more stuck - how would a single working parent manage if they wanted to have regular exercise in our borough?

OP posts:
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