Ollie proves that everyone needs a mermaid in their lives

Being a parent is like being a leader in business. The best results come from encouraging others in the right direction, rather than forcing them that way, as Ollie Banks demonstrated to his wife in the curious case of the reluctant swimmer…

“Now and again, Banks, you’re a genius,” said Lizzie, dangling her legs in the swimming pool close to where their daughter Alice was laughing in the shallow water.

“I can’t deny it,” said her husband, smiling smugly as he towelled their baby son Jack, who had just been hoisted from the pool amid cries of protest.

It was their Saturday morning visit to the pool, where Lizzie insisted they should go because she believed swimming was an important life skill.

For some time, it hadn’t been a problem. They’d load Biffo, the family’s lugubrious Basset Hound, into the car and take him to Grandad Ron and Grandma Lorna, where he would spend the morning asleep under someone else’s table, and then they’d head for the pool.

Both children had loved it – Jack had never known anything different; he’d been taken from being a few days old. His big sister Alice had seemed to enjoy it, but then had become reluctant, and then refused point blank to get into the water.

They’d tried everything they could think of. A promise of sweets afterwards (which Lizzie didn’t really approve of), or a trip to the park, or inviting Grandma Lorna to join them in the pool. Nothing worked. Ollie had even offered her to take her to watch his beloved soccer team Aston Villa, but, as Lizzie pointed out, that had been another bit of Banks nonsense, and was only likely to make the problem worse.

Ollie finds the answer
The problem had simmered, the elephant in the room, until the family ran out of coffee. Ollie was sent to the supermarket to get some, and, taking a short cut to the coffee aisle (always at the back, he pondered, sidestepping fellow shoppers) he took a short cut through the children’s clothing section. It wasn’t dangerous, he reasoned; Lizzie wasn’t with him, so he wasn’t likely to be asked to share her captivation in a tiny pair of dungarees or a pint-sized parka.

But then he saw it. The answer to a parent’s poolside problem. A tiny mermaid swimsuit. Shimmering in baby blue and pastel pink, with a scale-shaped pattern and a purple frill. Alice was captivated by mermaids, and Ollie knew in an instant that she would fall in love with it, and with a child’s logic she would want to wear it and be transformed into a mermaid – which she couldn’t do on the side of the pool.

He bought the suit instantly, and hurried home with it, doubly delighted that he’d bought the right size.

Sure enough, Alice was captivated, and insisted that she should try the suit on at once. It was a perfect fit, and the following Saturday she wore it under her clothes to the pool, pulling up her shirt to show it off when they arrived at Grandma and Grandad’s to drop Biffo off for the morning.

Once at the pool, she was as enthusiastic as her little brother to get into the water, and as reluctant to get out as he was.

“The trick,” remarked Ollie to his wife on the way home, “was to come at the problem from the side, and get her to want to go in, rather than force her to do it.”

“The real trick,” said Lizzie, “would have been remembering to get the coffee you went to the supermarket for in the first place…”