8 reasons why I don’t make my kids go to the school swimming carnival


I used to be the kind of school swimming carnival mum who says, “go and support others, even if you don’t participate”, but not anymore. I don’t make my kids go to the school swimming carnival anymore. I did for years, but I’m done with it.

Even though I’m really opposed (see below), I think I stuck it out for years because I do believe in team spirit. I believe in kids supporting other kids and being part of a house team. I’m a fairly strict parent and I make my kids do hard things all the time.

Like this: We need to stop being so available to our kids


Plus, it’s compulsory at our school. Eventually, though, all the reasons why I wasn’t comfortable with sending my kids stacked up and I just nixed the whole thing.

This year only my youngest (Year 7 newbie) went to the carnival and she had a great day, but the other two were perfectly happy spending the day at home. For last year’s swimming carnival, I sent in a ‘conscientious objector’ email which resulted in a ‘unexplained absence’ on the kids’ record. This year I lied and said they were too sick to attend, aka sick of the school swimming carnival…

Facebook discussion: Here’s what other mums think about this topic

Swimming carnivals don't suit every kid

Here are some of the reasons why I didn’t make them go:

1. It’s only ‘team spirit’ when it’s sport

I reckon this is probably my number one reason. It bugged me when I was at school and it’s still bugging me now. When they have a day of debating or band or Maths or painting or singing or any number of things that could be turned into a house competition, I might feel differently. But why is it only the sporty kids who we expect the whole school to front up and cheer on?

2. It’s always the same three kids

Okay, maybe more than three – but not many. The same names winning the swimming events year after year. They might slide up and down between blue, red and gold, but basically it’s the same kids. The kids who can.

I get that there are a handful of other kids also in the race, but I doubt it’s the majority of the age group. By high school, at best it’s maybe 20% of the year group actually jumping in to swim. The other 80% are doing the mandatory cheering (or at home, like mine). This makes no sense to me.

3. My kids just aren’t swimmers

Like everything we do, some kids are great swimmers, some are adequate, some kids just never quite get there. My kids fall somewhere between adequate and floated-through-swim-classes. I’m all for kids ‘having a go’, but I’m not a fan of public humiliation. All three of my kids love being in the water, but not a single one would ever want to swim the length of an Olympic pool in front of their classmates.  Not even breaststroke.

School swimming carnival is not for everyone

4. Novelty races are a thing of the past

I’m sure some schools still have novelty races for all the kids who aren’t confident enough to swim for real, but our schools haven’t ever done them. Which means that non-swimmers no longer have an opportunity to participate and win points for their team. I think the novelty races were a really important part of the school swimming carnival. Does your school still do them?

5. You can’t swim if you don’t swim

Back in the olden days when I was at school, all the kids got to jump in the pool for free swimming a couple of times during the day. Which meant that even if you didn’t want to swim the races – or even the novelty races – you got to get wet. You weren’t sitting around in the hot sun all day watching other people get cool in the pool.

6. It’s hours in the sun

Which reminds me, if you’re lucky and it’s a hot, sunny day for the swimmers, it’s a hot, sunny day for the kids sitting in the hot, sunny sun all day too. Sunscreen is only good for a few hours, no matter your skin type, and there is rarely enough shade at the local pool. I’m not on board with my kids sitting in the sun all day just to watch other kids do their thing.

Some kids love the school swimming carnival, but many do not

7. There are other hard things to sit through

Sure, it’s good for kids’ independence, resilience and all the rest to suck it up and stoically endure life’s boring bits. But is the school swimming carnival really one of those things? I’d rather save my energy for insisting they sit through Maths class when they hate it. Or climbing a mountain at dawn. Or exercising because you really have to if you want to remain upright at 40 (that could just be me). The school swimming carnival is not really that big a deal in the scheme of things.

8. In your togs, at school

Year 7, mid eighties: I went in all the races and came overall third in the under 13 girls (I reckon about five of us participated, so don’t get too excited for me). Year 8, one year later: the very idea of walking around in my swimmers in front of the school was just a big (fat)  no from me. I did not contest third place under 14 girls. In fact, I was never voluntarily seen in my bathers at school ever again.

I’m pretty sure both boys and girls feel equally mortified in 2020. Until neck to knee bathers come back into fashion, I reckon the whole togs thing is reason enough to let the kids stay at home in they want to.

Feature image by takahiro taguchi; submerged by Lavi Perchik; hand by Alejandro Macias Valverde; swimmer by Richard R. Schünemann

Written by Bron Maxabella

Bron is the founder of Mumlyfe and is so happy to welcome you here. Bron has been writing in the Australian parenting space as Maxabella for more than seven years and is mum to three mostly happy kids and wife to one mostly happy husband. Mostly happy is a win, right?

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