By Physician Mother, Anonymous
As the mom of two very energetic toddler boys, I would probably describe myself as fairly laid back. I don’t care if they jump on the couch, or play in the mud, or wrestle each other to the ground. If dinner ends up being turkey bologna and a cheese stick, I’m probably happy.
But as a Pediatrician, I’m always on heightened alert. Hot dogs, carrots, and grapes are cut into tiny pieces. Car seats and bicycle helmets are non-negotiable. Supervision at the pool is priority. Swim lessons start at age 2, despite the fact that pool season is pretty short in New York.
So how did my son, then age 2.5, almost drown? Well, let’s back up for a second…
It was a gorgeous summer day, and my husband and I decided to take our two sons to our community pool. We invited my brother and sister-in-law, and their kids. When we got to the pool it was fairly crowded with neighbors, and children.
I was post-call, and decided to take a nap in the shade. My older son, a strong swimmer already at age 4, was playing with his friends and cousins, supervised by another mom. My husband held and played with our two year old (Callum) in the pool. Although he was taking swim lessons, Callum was definitely not a “swimmer” yet. At one point, he got out of the pool to give me a kiss, and walked back towards the pool and sat on the steps.
I began to doze, and did a quick surveillance glance. I saw my older son, laughing with his friends as they jumped into the pool and swam back to the side. I saw my younger son…wait, WAIT, WAIT! My half-awake brain screamed. I didn’t see my younger son. I saw my husband standing in the pool near the steps talking to a neighbor. I jumped from my chair, scanned the pool, and I immediately saw a tiny blonde head submerged under water, arms and legs flailing as he tried to reach the surface. I jumped in, wearing my clothes and shoes, and pulled him out of the water.
Callum came out of the water clinging to me like a baby monkey, and crying. He was upset for approximately 3 minutes at which point he asked if he could go back in the pool.
I’ve been upset for approximately…well, it’s been nearly a year. And Callum is now, at age 3.5, a good swimmer. But for a few days after the incident the what-ifs ran through my mind. What if I had not looked up at that moment? What if I had not spotted Callum?
At this point, I have had many months to reflect on my youngest son nearly drowning, and instead of dwelling on the “what-ifs”, I would prefer to let this serve as a lesson and warning to every mama out there. As we enter the summer, I BEG you to keep a few things in mind when you bring your children to swim:
1. Assign a SPECIFIC person to watch your child.
My husband and I realized that this would have likely prevented this entire situation. At the time, I thought he was watching my son, but because Callum had stepped out of the pool (to give me a kiss), my husband stopped watching him, and didn’t see him come back to the pool. Since that day, anytime we go to a pool, we actually say who we are going to watch.
2. Don’t assume the lifeguard is watching.
I know this sounds horrible to say, but there was a lifeguard at our pool that day. But it was so crowded, he just couldn’t see everyone.
3. Your kid can’t swim.
I’m kidding, obviously, since many of our children CAN actually swim, but I think it’s important to remember that children (even pre-teens) should not be left unsupervised in pools and oceans. In terms of water, there can be so many variables. Crowds, horseplay, and water currents are just some things to keep in mind.
4. It can happen to you.
Don’t judge other moms in this situation. Despite our BEST intentions, mistakes happen. I know I’ve definitely questioned a mom who I felt wasn’t watching her kids. Instead of judging one another, let’s try to learn for ourselves.
5. Teach your kids to swim!
I think it’s so amazing that my son wanted to go right back into the water, and I have to say that on our recent trip to Florida, he didn’t want to get out of the pool. Part of this is luck, and part of this is sheer determination on my part (despite my fears) that he conquer the water.
Hug your babies tight tonight. And hopefully, take some of my advice this summer when you head to the pool or beach.