Close Calls in the Water – A Cautionary Tale for Water Safety

'Swimming' photo (c) 2011, Jim Pennucci - license: to the Puny Pundit and Karen at Teach Your Kids To Swim for sharing their water safety stories and facts. I had a close call with my 6 year old just the other day. Thankfully there were others close by that saw her in trouble and were able to get to her before me as I had my hands full with a 3-year-old that was welded to me like a tick. Like you I just turned my back for a second and all I heard was my brother-in-law say, “OK, don’t panic, just bounce.” She was in control enough still to heed the instructions but I thought to myself, ‘what if he hadn’t been there to help? How would I have gotten her when I have this one on my hip?!?!’. She got a little too daring and got herself into a situation that could have been fatal.

No one loves your children as much as you do so no one is going to watch them with the same care – unless maybe it’s grandma (but for us that is not an option since I don’t think either grandma can swim well). Everyone takes for granted the ‘safety in numbers’ principle when we get together in the water, but we can’t rely on that. I need to be more proactive making sure one of us is riveted to each child. Granted that makes us poor party guests, but I’d rather be boring and out of the loop than risk losing my baby. Like Karen I need to teach my child how to swim. We don’t have access to a pool at home, but we do have family members who have them. I need to make sure that Daddy is on the same page and willing to put himself out either being in the water or babysitting while I’m with the other child in the water (I’d prefer he come along because it’s not fair to the one that can’t have my full attention).

Learning to swim has been a skill that though I’ve used it scarcely in the last 15 years or so has been a life-saving and enjoyable skill. When I was 15 my family went on a trip to the Pacific coast of Mexico to a secluded and rather undiscovered resort town called Las Bahias de Huatulco. It made the trip quiet, laid back and much more enjoyable than Acapulco. One day we took a boat trip to one of the more secluded bays and spent the afternoon there. I had no desire to go snorkeling and neither did my brother (because he was still afraid of the water and not a strong swimmer) so we stayed on the beach while my Dad took off alone to a nearby bay and my mom and aunt went on a guided snorkel tour that lead to an underwater little pocket beneath some rocks. I had swum in the waves earlier and was rather tired so I just sat down to relax. I told my brother that he was not to even think about getting into the water without his life jacket. The last thing I wanted to do that day was watch my brother drown. Well, not thirty minutes after my parents took off he decided to wade into the water to look for shells – without his life jacket. I went to get a drink fully expecting him to be back or on his way back from the water when I returned and to my horror I saw his head bob below the waves. I ran as hard and as fast as I could and swam out to get him. When I reached him I realized I couldn’t touch bottom anymore and in my panic even I got a mouthful of seawater. I reached out and grabbed under his arms and swam backwards with him in my grasp till I could touch bottom again. I was angry, terrified and relieved that I got to him in time. Of all the times we fought as kids I think that was probably the worst chewing out he ever got from me for not having worn his life jacket after I figured out he was OK. He responded, “I didn’t think I’d gone out that far and a wave knocked me off my feet.” Needless to say that lifejacket did not leave his body the rest of the afternoon.

That day I learned how important it is to have a healthy respect for the power of water and how essential it is to learn how to swim whatever your age. The sooner the better though.

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