Somerville, Mass – There are many keys to a successful family vacation: planning, flexibility, novelty, down time, etc. In our family, however, the most important element is not what you would expect. The surefire guarantee of a good time for the kids and a relaxing time for the parents is (drum roll) the swimming pool.
This is not news. I discovered the benefit of the swimming pool early on, when we took our first family trip to Costa Rica when the twins were two years old. I fell back on this knowledge in a time of crisis, when the snow was falling, the schools were closed and our heat was on the fritz. And I remember this truth every time we visit the grandparents in Sarasota, Florida.
Sarasota is a lovely place to vacation. There are fantastic beaches (the best in the country, on some lists). There are some cool animal encounters (wild and otherwise). It’s the circus capital of the world. While we try to check out one or two of these excellent experiences when we are in town, we actually end up spending most of our time pretty close to home. That is, in the swimming pool. This has been true in years past, and it was true this year.
The twins can amuse themselves for a while in the pool, in any case. If somebody throws some dive toys for them, they are good for several hours. This time, we added a new game.
My father–former swim coach–told the twins that he would give them a nickel for every length they swam. I scoffed. A nickel? Prices have gone up, Dad.
But the twins went for it. At first, I think they were humoring my father. But they soon realized that even five cents a length adds up to a dollar if you do 20 lengths. And so it began… they did the math and figured out they might take home $8 or $10 at the end of the trip. Then my dad encouraged them to try to beat their daily record and swim a few extra laps each day. When they started trying to top each other’s totals, the numbers soared. In the end, they went home with $14 or $16 a piece. I was blown away.
The timing was perfect, as we got home just in time for Somerville’s annual all-city swim meet. It’s a fun event where the kids swim for their school “team” and the schools compete against each other. Kids swim any two events they want. There’s no recognized winners for individual events, but the winning school gets a trophy. This makes for a friendly atmosphere where the emphasis is on supporting your school team–perfect for kids who might not be used to competitive swimming or who might be nervous about participating.
The twins had a blast, mainly because their friends were there and because their school WON, with the best participation and the highest score. But they also had fun putting their swimming skills to test in a new way, especially since they had been getting so much practice. Overheard from Twin V: “All those laps in Florida made me such a fast swimmer!”