It’s summer, kids are out of school, and lots of people are looking to cool off in the water, whether it’s in their own pool, a community pool, lake, the ocean, or whatever.
I’d just like to take a moment to remind everyone to keep things safe for your family in and around the water. We had a minor scare ourselves a few years ago, and the only reason it was minor is because I was paying attention when my youngest fell into my inlaws pool. Still really scary, even though I had her out of the water almost as fast as she fell into it.
Our situation was kind of classic. I was following her as she kicked a ball around the pool. Not right along the edge, but the yard isn’t so big that she could kick the ball well away from it, so I was keeping a sharp eye on the activity. When the ball went straight into the pool on one kick, she ran after it without hesitation and fell in.
My husband, in the shallow end of the pool, did not hear the splash as our daughter fell in. He did hear my scream, and swam over just in case I didn’t get her right away, and was able to help comfort the both of us as I held a rather terrified little girl. She was only under water for a moment because I had been right there watching her.
Still, I think about how easily things could have gone wrong. One of the other kids could have distracted me at the wrong moment, completely innocently. I had scolded my oldest for splashing water at me just minutes before, in fact, telling her I was not to be distracted from watching her younger sister.
This accident had quite an impact on my youngest. She had been excessively bold around the pool before she fell in. Immediately after, she wouldn’t go near the pool without an escort, which honestly was a good thing. I had often said that she needed more watching than my older kids, and after this accident, many family members finally agreed with me.
It took years for her to get over the fear of water she had from this fall. Her first swim lessons were a Mommy & Me type, and she screamed so much they almost kicked us out of the class because she was scaring the other kids.
Her first classes alone the following year went only a little better. She still didn’t want to put her face in the water at all, and really didn’t want to be in class. I kept her in classes because friends and family members do have pools, making them a necessity for her safety.
These days, she doesn’t swim as well as her siblings did at the same age, but she does swim. We don’t have the same amount of pool access we did back when she had her accident – my inlaws have moved into a smaller house that doesn’t have a pool.
Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning
One of the big things to remember is that drowning doesn’t look like drowning. It’s much quieter than movies would have you think.
We also had a close call with my oldest once, a competent swimmer at the time. I noticed she was in distress and alerted my husband, who was right by her. He thought she was fine until I yelled at him, and then he helped her out. She had gotten a cramp in her side and just couldn’t move almost at all. He was upset that she hadn’t called out until I explained to him why she couldn’t. She was in tears, but otherwise fine afterward, and took a break from swimming until she felt better later in the day. No big deal in the end, but if I hadn’t noticed and hadn’t read an article on what drowning looks like fairly recently before that, it could have been bad.
Keep Your Family Safe Around the Pool or Other Bodies of Water
PoolSafety.gov says that drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in children ages 1-4. That’s awful, and so many drownings and other submersion accidents can be avoided if an adult is paying attention.
The usual advice is to have an adult watching the kids in the pool at all times, and that’s an excellent idea. I would add that having one adult paying attention to each younger swimmer or child too young to swim well probably wouldn’t hurt either. I can watch all three of my kids swimming, now that they all can swim, but it was difficult to watch all of them back when my youngest couldn’t swim on her own.
PoolSafety.gov has some other simple pool safety measures you should consider if you have a pool in your yard. It’s vital that kids who live in a home with a pool learn to swim, for example. I enroll my kids at least once every summer in swimming lessons as soon as they’re old enough, and continue until they’ve gone through all the levels. It’s not a guarantee that they won’t drown, but since they have both friends and relatives who have backyard pools, it’s a basic safety measure I consider very much worth adding to my summer budget.
If possible, also consider having a separate fence around the pool, so young children cannot easily get into the pool even if they’re in the yard. A pool fence is not a guarantee kids won’t sneak into the pool area, but it slows them down. A pool alarm may also be a good idea. In general, anything you can do to keep the kids away from the pool without adults, or to alert adults if anyone goes into it, is a good idea. Just don’t trust any solution entirely, as kids are sneaky sometimes.
And, of course, don’t forget about swim lessons. They won’t prevent all drownings, but your kids will have more confidence in the water. They still need to be watched.
I feel so fortunate that our accident was so minor. My daughter was scared, not hurt, and for that I am extremely grateful.