I was standing in a shallow wading area of our local pool with my kids last week, trying to make sure my 2-year-old didn’t jump into the deep end, trying to make sure my kids were thoroughly covered in sunscreen, trying to keep a steady eye on all three of my kids, when it happened; I turned my back.
It only took a split second.
My toddler was playing with some pool floats and my 8-year-old daughter was playing with her. I was watching them closely when I heard a few partial “Ma... Ma...” sounds — and even then, it didn’t quite register as I turned around and saw my son, who was only a few feet away and surrounded by other people, none of whom realized what was happening either.
My 5-year-old son was underwater, struggling to get his nose and mouth up for air. There were no splashes, no screams for help. Just a simple “Ma!” before he went underwater.
Only a few seconds earlier he had been with us, playing with the floats. But as my back was turned, he jumped off a nearby ledge into a deeper area that’s still only about 5 feet deep — but too deep for him. He forgot he had taken off his floaties. Although he’s taken swimming lessons, my son still can’t swim well.
I quickly jumped over the ledge into the pool to grab him, surprising some of the other parents and small children who were nearby. One grandmother, who was playing with her young grandchild within feet of him, apologized repeatedly for not realizing what was happening. It wasn’t her fault though. We were all in shock.
In the end, my sweet boy was fine. It scared him just as much as it did me. But it served as a good reminder for all of us how quickly something scary can happen when children are around water.
For the rest of the summer, you can still find us at the pool most weekends. Only now, I won’t be going by myself, trying to watch all three kids at once. Instead, my husband comes along with us — and my son is finally learning how to swim. It may take us working with him on his skills every time we go to the pool, it may take continued swimming lessons. But last week’s scare at the pool convinced me — this is the summer he’s going to finally learn.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two children 14 years and younger drown each day in the U.S. Another five kids receive emergency care for nonfatal submersions every day. To help protect your children around water, here are some safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
— An adult should actively watch children at all times at the pool.
— For infants and toddlers, an adult should be in the water and within arm’s reach.
— For older children, an adult should be paying constant attention and free from distractions, such as talking on the phone, socializing, tending household chores or drinking alcohol.
— The supervising adult must know how to swim.
— The American Academy of Pediatrics supports swim lessons for most children 4 years and older.
— Swimming lessons for infants and toddlers do not prevent children from drowning. Your child always needs an adult present.
— If you have a pool, keep toys away from the pool when it is not in use, and empty blow-up or kiddie pools after each use.
— There should be a fence that surrounds an in-ground or above ground pool with a gate that is self-closing and self-latching.
— Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.