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  • Writer's pictureHaim Omer

How falling in love with my neighbor helped me to learn how to swim

Updated: Aug 10, 2019

Other people can help children with their fears much better than our parents. That's why we use members of the extended family, friends of the family and neighbors to help with the treatment of anxious children. There are many things that kids feel unable to do when their parents are around, but are surprisingly capable of doing in the presence of others. I was an extremely anxious boy. When I was 5, my mother had to take me to a psychiatrist. I was afraid of everything, the dark, dogs, high places, vampires... The last time that I literally ran away from zombies was when I was an officer in the Israeli army at the age of 23! I was also afraid of swimming. I knew the motions, but was too anxious to dare and leave the shallow part of the swimming pool. My parents wanted me to learn how to swim, for they believed (rightly) that it would make me feel good. But if they were around, the moment I was supposed to swim, I'd start waving my arms in the air and screaming for them to save me, which was not very helpful to make me stay afloat. We lived in Sao Paulo and my mother was a very sociable person. So she talked with our neighbor (Dona Olga), telling her of my fear of the deep water. At the time I was 9, and completely in love with Dona Olga (who was 40, I remember the round number – if you think it strange that I was in love with her at 9, well... you simply don't know her). Dona Olga came to me and said: "Jaiminho (that's the diminutive of Jaime, my name in Portuguese), I and Dona Aideˊ (the other neighbor) have decided that we're going to teach you how to swim. We'll go tomorrow to the club and you'll be swimming in no time!" That was an offer that I simply could not refuse. Dona Aideˊ was not a beauty like Dona Olga (how could she be?), but had a reputation for bravery. That's because she was the grandchild of Lampiāo, a very famous bandit, a brazillian Robin Hood of mythical proportions. So next day I go to the swimming pool with Dona Olga and Dona Aideˊ. We went to the deep water and Dona Olga told me to hold to the brim of the pool firmly. No problem in that. She then swam about 2 meters away from me and said: "Now I count to three, and then you jump towards me and I'll hug you!" There she went, one... two... three! Praying to all the saints in heaven I let go of the brim and launched myself towards Dona Olga and... she caught me in her arms. What a hug!Strong and wet and cold and hot and smooth, seventh heaven! She then sent me back to the rim with a light push. I would have floated in the air, to say nothing of water. Then came the turn of Dona Aideˊ. She said: "Jaiminho, that's nothing for us, with me you can do it even a little further!" so she went out another half a meter. And I went for Dona Aideˊ, knowing full well that next would come Dona Olga again! And so it went, Dona Olga, Dona Aideˊ, Dona Olga, etc. At the end of the lesson I crossed the swimming-pool with my beautiful neighbor on one side and the brave one on the other. You'll surely agree there is no better way of learning how to swim. My parents could never had done it!

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