Boston Moms Blog recently shared an article on Facebook that hit home with me. I, too, had a heart-stopping moment with my daughter around water.
It happened on one of the last warm-ish days of last autumn. My dad took my then 2-year-old daughter and the dog for a walk. Fifteen minutes or so later, Dad came back in with the dog but no kid.
Dad replied, “She came back inside awhile ago! She told me she didn’t want to go for a walk!”
Quickly, I start calling around the house as I made my way outside to look toward the lake. Sure enough, my tiny tot was sitting on the dock, looking at the water. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and hurried to the dock to have a very stern discussion on letting adults know where you are at all times. It all happened so fast.
I had procrastinated taking her to swim lessons that summer. Our younger daughter was a newborn, and I was just getting my sea legs on bringing two kids out regularly. I couldn’t imagine wrangling swim suits and outfit changes and extra towels quite yet. I wanted to enroll my children in an infant swimming resource (ISR) class — an intense (and often controversial) swim course that requires one-on-one pool time with a certified ISR instructor, every day for only 10 minutes a day for four to six weeks. After our incident last October, I knew I would commit to the program as soon as I could.
We started the week our younger daughter turned one. I enrolled the girls together, and every weekday for six weeks we drove 45 minutes to the Weymouth Club and got changed in the locker room for a total of 20 minutes of pool time. It was worth it. Now, if either of my girls fell into the water accidentally, they would be able to bring themselves up to the surface, roll on their backs, and float. It would buy them some time for an adult to rescue them. This is an invaluable skill.
Now that summer is finally here, I’ve put together a few friendly safety reminders about water recreation. Let’s all play it safe this summer!
Supervision — always
Even if your children know how to swim, there should always be a (sober) adult watching the water. Share 15-minute-increment shifts with other adults so that no one person is having to watch the water the entire day. The person on duty will be able to stay diligent and alert. If you’re hosting a pool party, consider hiring a lifeguard. You can put out a search in your local Facebook group or call your local swim club to hire a certified lifeguard for the day.
Make sure your children know your water rules. And if you have your own pool, share your water rules with guests before they get into water. No dunking games, no running on the decks, no glass by the water, etc.
If you have water in your life, think seriously about swim lessons for your child. We decided on ISR for our children because we had seen the results first hand in our nieces. We wanted our girls to have the skills necessary to save themselves until help arrived. Traditional swim lessons can also be great, but research the goals of the class to make sure there is skill development (not just water-friendly play).
Make sure your kids take breaks
Playing in the water takes a lot of energy! Make sure kids take periodic breaks to recharge. And yes, a person should wait awhile after eating before jumping back in the water.
Fences, door alarms, locks
If you have a pool or direct access to water, install all of these. You may trust your child to not go wandering outside without telling you, but visitors to your home may not do the same.
Understand there will be some push back
Some people will think you are being excessive. But I truly think that around water, there is no such thing as a helicopter parent.
Never lose your diligence
It only takes a few minutes for tragic events to happen.
All the scary stuff aside, being in the water is a lot of fun. Both my girls love the water. And I’m very glad that neither of them have any fear of swimming or playing in the water. But I strongly feel that instilling a respect for water in your children and having lifesaving skills is an essential component to being around water this summer.