Monday, June 6, 2011

Water Safety Time

I am the mom that makes my kids wear their life jackets in the river, even though it is like a foot deep. As The Things have gotten older and become better swimmers I have loosened this rule a little, if they are just catching frogs on the bank no life jackets are required, but otherwise WEAR THEM.....
I grew up playing in the ocean, did swim team, was a lifeguard, a swim coach, and a swim instructor and I have had three near drownings.  The first time I don't even remember, I was in a shallow tide pool and the tide came in, thankfully I had some swimming and rolled on my back until the adults all showed, I have heard the story a million times.  When I was twelve we were rafting and I was on a tube behind the boat, when the boat went to get another boat out of trouble the current caught me and I wrapped the tube with the rope around a tree and was trapped by the rope with most of my face in the water, my uncle quickly got me.  At 20 while life guarding and teaching swimming at a camp I got between two people in a heated argument and was hit accidentally, it was just enough and I went under.  I can remember the feeling of my fingers sliding off the dock and knowing it was bad.  Thankfully, another lifeguard on duty saw what was happening and pulled me out. Drownings can happen at any time and not necessarily with the shouts of help me and flailing arms we always see.  Even if you are a strong swimmer it doesn't mean you are always going to be able to swim your way out of it, be cautious and be aware.
When you play on the river or out on a lake a life jacket may be a pain, but kids need to wear them, they keep them safe.  Much like bike helmets I feel that an adult can make the decision for themselves depending on the situation, but kids should always wear them when playing in rivers or lakes.  The first time we ever got the things in the water and they were comfortable we practiced slipping on rocks and what the Things should do. What they should do is point their feet down river, cross their arms over their chests and yell for help.  What they did do as roll on their stomachs and try to swim back to us.  Kids need support in water crisis situations and a life jacket gives them that, swim lessons help but they will not make your children invisible.
Just like talking about what to do in a fire, talking to your child about what they should do in and around water is important.  Kids should know and have drilled into them to never go into the water to save someone else. THROW SOMETHING, CALL 911, GET AN ADULT; but no matter what DO NOT GO IN.  Every year in the Treasure Valley where we live there is a heart breaking story about someone falling into a raging canal and someone else going in after them, usually these situations end horribly with both parties drowning.  Without talking about the fact that you should 'REACH OR THROW, BUT NEVER GO'; kids will go in and get into just as much trouble as the person who was in trouble in the first place.
A few more key basics and then I will get off my soap box. Swim lessons are not a bad idea for any child, but particular one who has water fears. I taught at Flow Aquatics, and both Things attended classes there; if you are looking for a place in Boise that is year round and offers summer intensives this is the place.  Always teach your kids to ASK BEFORE THEY GET IN, this is a great reminder to the adults they ask to pay attention to their swimmers. As a lifeguard I can tell you, sometimes it is tough to keep your eyes on everyone and the extra set of eyes you the parent have are important. As a parent I try to keep and eye on the things and remind them to always ask before they get in if they forget, and when they go with daycare to a pool to only go where they are comfortable.  Another tip, just because your child has on floaters doesn't mean they are safe, floaters and water toys are not life jackets and will not save a child who gets in trouble. Teach young children to stay away from the edges of open water unless they are playing in it and ask to get in, often kids don't intend to fall in they just get too close and tip over.  Wear sun screen, no one can have fun in the sun with a burned back; I have not always worn it and now know my dermatologist better than I should. 
I will now climb off my soap box, thank you for listening and have a great summer.


  1. Another note is to make sure the life jacket fits properly. A recent case here in Alaska happened when a zodiac sank, 2 passengers swam ashore, one passenger's life jacket did not fit right and trapped the person's arms above their head, drowning them. The driver of the zodiac swam back to help the drowning person, and was not seen again (presumably he drowned while trying to help the struggling girl).
    (I always feel the need to tell a joke after I've darkened the mood with a macabre story. . . so: why do blonds hate m&m's? Because they're too hard to peel. ba-dump-bump)

  2. Great advice. I almost drowned once, by getting to close to the edge of a cliff and falling into the water below.