As the months and days have warmed up we often find ourselves with our children cooling off from the heat in water. This is always a very sensitive subject for me, and you better believe I exercise extreme caution around water. So much so, I rarely go into pools myself with the children. I find myself feeling the responsibility to watch other children whose parents are not watching them and are reading books, on their phones or tablets or engaged in conversation with others. It then becomes so overwhelming and stressful for me, I often pack the kids up and head home.
But as most of you know it was about a year after Miles' pool accident that I put Vivian in swimming lessons. That was a REALLY HARD thing to do. But Mark and I felt compelled to empower our children and ourselves around water. So since that time we have gone to weekly swim lessons year round, and there is no end in sight as to when we will finish. We are in swim lessons indefinitely. Both Vivian and Clara go now. But this is still not an easy thing for me to go and do with the children each week. I really have to bury my feelings, emotions and fears. Although the fears are always on the surface and my nerves a bit on edge for the entire lesson.
We have had really wonderful and amazing teachers over the past couple years. Each one teaching us something great and truly life saving. We are grateful and touched by each one of them!
A couple of our rules we live by are:
1. No getting in the water until you ask. This means my children have to turn to me, or their swim teacher and ask "May I get in the water please." Only until they are told yes, can they get in. We strictly enforce this rule in our family!
2. Having a designated "Child Watcher" - This is a person assigned to watch over 3 children max at a time who is designated to watch the children in or around the water. This person is not allowed to read, talk to others or have any other distractions while on duty. Because we have two children and there are two parents, we make sure to verbally communicate and acknowledge who is in charge of which child, and confirm that they know they are in charge of that child while in the water. (I even do this with my parents or family members if we are with them around water. Actually I do this even when are at the playground or my parent's nice big yard, with the river across the road. Or just in public in general. It's always good to know who is in charge of and is watching which child.)
But I want to talk about one other caution with water today. Stairs and children. Children don't understand that stairs in water are different than stairs in the house. They know how and are safe on stairs at home, so they think the same is the case with stairs in the water. This is NOT the case. Stairs are actually extremely dangerous and children need to know that they can only go on what is designated and shown to them by an adult as their "Safety Stair." This is the last stair they can go on before they are in danger. Count with your child and physically show them and help them understand which stair is their "Safety Stair." (For example...Clara's safety stair is stair 2 and Vivian's is stair 3 most often right now. These are the stairs they can still have their chest and head above the water and be safe on.)
Almost a month ago I learned another valuable things about stairs and pools with children. We were at swim lessons, waiting for our teacher to finish with her previous student. The girls asked if they could get in water and wait on the stairs. I said yes, and I literally sat right next to the pool by them. Watching only them. This is our weekly routine. The girls were enjoying the water and all was well. I was holding Vivian's goggles and noticed a scratch on them. I examined the scratch for just seconds making sure it wasn't impairing her sight when she wears them. Then I looked up and saw Clara floating away face down in the water. Shock took over. Seconds...literally seconds is all it took and my baby girl was floating away. The sight is still so haunting to me, that I'm literally in tears writing this. Without even thinking I walked in fully clothed, shoes and all and reach in and grabbed her. She was floating away so fast that an on looker said he thought I fell in because I was in so deep. But he also said he saw the who thing, and it was literally two seconds of time that she was under the water. Both her and I were shaken up by the whole thing. I couldn't believe that happened to me. How could it. I thought over the situation, and realized that Clara was being the sweet and active girl that she is. She was so excited about swim lessons that she was hoping on the stair and must have lost her footing, even on her "Safety Stair." She now knows that she is not allowed to jump or hop on the stairs in the pool. In fact for now, it's bum on the stair for her. But this situation really shook me up!
I truly HATE having my son being one of the statistics of child loss due to a drowning accident. I HATE telling people how he passed away, and don't like to go into detail with many people. I feel so instantly judged as a parent, as inattentive parent even. Sadly I'm in a bigger group of parents than I would prefer to be who are haunted by the "how did this happen" scenario. But I'm here to tell you that most of the parents in this terrible group are some of the most attentive parents I know. So as you are out cooling off this summer I beg you to exercise extreme caution and communication with your children and those you are with! We are all in this together and I hate hearing of more parents joining this hard and awful club of child loss!!!
click here for the .pdf version of the printable)