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A Family Affair

 

My sisters and I were probably the only teenagers awake by 7:30 on a Saturday morning during the summer break. After a quick breakfast, we would jump into our swimsuits, spread sunscreen on each other and throw over a tank top and some shorts. As the eldest, I would lift each one of our suspended bicycles off their hooks outside the kitchen, grab the bag full of goggles, swimming paddles and small kickboards, and then the four of us would finally ride together to the clubhouse, some 15 minutes away. By 8:00, some of the kids from our village or of family friends would arrive and we would gather everyone at the poolside for instructions before splitting them into groups according to their swimming ability. I normally supervised all the groups, stopping every now and then to give someone corrections to their stroke, add to their workout, or encourage them to finish their laps. I would assign my sisters their own students whom they would closely instruct throughout the program.

 

It was quite the family affair. My father started offering swimming lessons to children between the ages of three and nine (my age at the time), for an hour each day for twelve consecutive days. He developed his own program that would allow anyone to progress from being afraid of water to crossing the full length of the pool and sometimes, even to completing their first triathlon. My sisters and I would help him out and he would give each one of us a cut from the fee he received. Eventually, he turned things over to me.

 

For nine years, this was my summer job. The pay wasn’t at all a big deal but the job was ideal because it was close to home, swimming was something I loved and would have done on a daily basis in the summer anyway, and it was great practice in terms of leadership, teaching, and ultimately, discipline, at an early age. Of course, it was not always perfect. Some children were hard headed, had too short of an attention span, or disinterested in learning to swim and preferred to play with their friends. Nevertheless, the sense of fulfilment and satisfaction that came with watching a proud parent witness their young one crossing a 25-meter pool non-stop for the first time was more than enough to keep me motivated to offer the program one year after another. But perhaps the best takeaway from those Saturday mornings were the innumerable and memorable bonding moments I shared with my three younger sisters, which I look back on quite fondly as I think of my childhood and of home.

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