According to the CDC, nationally “drowning is the…second leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 14 years” and “for every child who dies from drowning, another four received emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries”…injuries that usually affect brain function. Not a happy thought. To make things worse, we live in a state were drowning is the leading cause of death in children. Probably because we’re one of those hot states where everyone owns a pool or knows someone with a pool. During swimming season (which seems like half the years), it feels like the news stations are reporting pool related accidents regarding children…daily. Being a mom of small children, this is heartbreaking…and worrisome.
It was quite naive of us, when we moved here, to not even consider swim lessons for our kidlets. At first it never really dawned on me how big swimming is here. Then with DoubleD coming along and all his health issues, there really wasn’t that many chances for them to go swimming. Not that I wasn’t worried about drowning or water accidents…in fact some of my worst nightmares were about finding one of them in a pool. But I figured that as long as we never had a pool…and if I kept them away from friends’ pools…then they’d be safe. Right?
Recent experiences have opened my eyes to how blind I’ve been…and how much my blindness has endangered my kidlets even more. To be fair, we have been trying to get them into swim lessons for the last few years. But whatever money was set aside, was always needed somewhere else more critical. I suppose some might think that we just didn’t put swimming as a high enough priority. Perhaps…but surgery and working vehicles were just a bit higher priority. After all…without a way to get to work there would be no money. But if I knew then, what I know now…I would have made more of an effort to find a way to teach my kidlets water safety.
All I can say is that angels come in many forms and disguises…and answers to prayers can come from the most unexpected round-about sources. I had been desperately looking for a way to gain strength and healing from my back injury. My doc highly recommended water exercise…but that even seemed hopeless because the closest public pool wouldn’t work for what I needed. Then a friend was inspired to start a morning exercise group…using one of her friend’s pool. I’ll just say that joining this group and getting to know these amazing ladies has been an answer to prayer…in more ways then one. The owner of the pool insisted that I bring over my kidlets during the day and teach them to swim. Every child in our area needs to learn to swim…right? I’ll admit right here…I’m not sure I completely believed that..not at the beginning. Plus I wasn’t sure I could handle all 6 on my own…or have the patience and motivation to go every day.
A little more then a week later and I’m singing a different tune!
Remember the drowning statistics? I’m not so blind any more. There’s a sign hanging up in my kidlets’ pediatrician’s office…one in each of the exam rooms…that lists the ways to help keep children safe around water. The CDC lists them as well. I’ll list them here as well…and explain what I’ve learned from my own kidlets.
Supervision when in or around the Water.
It’s amazing how fast a child can go under the water…and there’s never much sound. It’s recommended that “touch supervision” be used…particularly with small children. If you can’t reach out and grab them…you might be too far away. True…and I try to do this…but have you ever seen how fast those little monsters can move? All I can say…is be vigilant.
“Always swim with a buddy.” Here’s the kicker with this one…and my bit of a pet-peeve. “Buddy” doesn’t always mean responsible in a child’s mind. A 5 year old is not a good swim buddy for a 3 year old! As an adult that’s common sense. To a child…even a teen…that kind of rational thinking isn’t there. After all…their “buddy” is a friend, right? So logically…if you say “swim with a buddy” they’ll happily take a friend or sibling in the water with them and think they’re doing the right thing. I know the idea is that if one gets in trouble the “buddy” can go for help…but realistically, how often does the “buddy” go for help…or try to help themselves? We practice “safe side adults” for stranger danger…perhaps we need to do a “safe side buddy” for water safety.
Learn to Swim.
“Participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88% among children aged 1 to 4 years.” Sounds great…but the sign at our pediatrician also states clearly that knowing how to swim does not keep a child safe around water. I’m going to take this one step further…and it goes back to how a child thinks. The very first day we took the kidlets swimming, LittleMiss insisted that she could swim and that I needed to let her go. I did…thinking that a quick dunking under would scare her enough to be more cautious. Nope! If anything, her insisting that I let her go and then grabbing her back up became a game…and she loved every second of it! Children tend to have no respect for water…because life hasn’t given them the experiences needed to gain caution and respect for their safety. On top of that…”I know how to swim” doesn’t always mean they really know how to swim safely. 9 times out of 10 a child will watch and analyze and then decide they know everything they need to know about doing something. Safety is the last thing on their mind. 3 days into our swim adventure, KnightJester had decided he knew how to swim…because he’d been watching his older siblings get the hang of it. Without a second thought he stepped off the steps…and immediately went under. Not too surprising, right? For us adults, it’s easy to see this and wonder what in the world he was thinking. Didn’t he know he couldn’t swim yet? Nope…that never ever crossed his mind. He’d watched and analyzed and decided he knew how to swim. I am constantly seeing this kind of childlike rationalization with all my kidlets…even with all our safeguards.
Learn Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).
Accidents happen…and seconds count! Literally! Thankfully I haven’t had to use CPR in our swimming adventures…but I have the knowledge and training. When DoubleD was hospitalized as an infant, he couldn’t be discharged until I had been trained in CPR. I prayed I would never have to use it…but there were times when having that knowledge helped tremendously. There is NOTHING more horrible then the helplessness and guilt felt watching your child suffering and turning blue right in front of you…and not knowing what to do! For nothing more then piece of mind…LEARN CPR!
Do Not Use Air-Filled or Foam Toys.
“…such as water wings, noodles, or inner-tubes, in place of life jackets (personal flotation devices). These toys are not designed to keep swimmers safe.” Initially I really didn’t want to use water wings or swim noodles while teaching my kidlets to swim. It’s so easy to become lax in watching them…to think these things are keeping them safe enough. But it became clear right away that LittleMiss and DoubleD in particular would never think twice about jumping in behind me. They’re both so sure they can swim that they’re now all over the place. So even though I will never allow those things to lull me into a sense of safety around water…I am grateful for their help at the moment. Again…constant vigilance…
I love watching my kidlets take on this challenge and learn to swim. They’re all little fishes. 🙂 But I’m even more grateful that I’ve been given the chance to open my eyes and see how important it is to make sure they learn to swim. Remember…a child is NOT buoyant!