Thursday, May 21, 2009

i don't mean to scare you. but ...

Last year, one of my girl friends told me a story that has since haunted me.

When she was a teenager, several of her family members had come over for an afternoon pool party. As the day wore on, people began to migrate from the pool in to the house. After a certain point of time, her sister-in-law became concerned that she hadn't seen her three-year-old son. People started looking for him although everyone had assumed someone else had him.

Because surely someone was watching the baby. Right?

My girlfriend went out to the pool area and after a quick scan of the pool, didn't see him. But she did notice that several of the inflatable pool toys had congregated in the far corner of the deep end. When she went over to the deep end and started pulling the various toys out of the pool, she found her three-year-old nephew floating under a raft.

Sadly, he was long gone.

Not many years later, my girlfriend's family hosted an exchange student from Israel. He was married and actually had a wife and two small children that remained at home while he came to the United States to finish up his college degree. He didn't know how to swim and although my friend's brothers often told him that they would be more than happy to teach him in the family pool, he never took them up on their offer.

Probably because he was embarrassed.

One afternoon, when the family returned home from a day out, they noticed that the back door leading to the pool area was open. Just as they stepped outside to close the door, they caught the sight of someone on the bottom of the pool. It was the exchange student, who had tried to teach himself to swim when he didn't have anyone watching.

Sadly, he wasn't successful.

Within a matter of days the family had the pool filled in with concrete and a few months later, they moved.

When I was a child, a three-year-old little girl that lived down the street fell in to her family pool. It was January and she fell right through the cover in to the stagnant water below. She might have drowned if not for her brother that told her mother that she had fallen in to the pool and the level-headed mother who ran outside, jumped in to the pool, tore through the cover and pulled her blue toddler out. She administered Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and her baby survived.

When I was a teenager and on the swim team, I remember showing up for practice one day and spotting an unusually large object on the bottom of the pool. There was a moment of stunned disbelief when I thought, "Is that what I think it is?" before I started to yell for help. Sure enough, a young girl who had been part of an afternoon swim class and had been playing on the pool ropes slipped over in to the deep end. Almost everyone who had been standing pool side jumped in at the same time to rescue her. She was administered CPR and taken by ambulance to a local hospital. From what I recall, she was in a coma for two weeks before regaining consciousness. But sadly, she sustained brain damage from oxygen depletion.

Last summer over Labor Day weekend, when I was sitting at the neighborhood pool with my mother, we noticed that there was a helicopter circling a few miles away. On the news later that night, we heard that a young child who had been playing in the pool - surrounded by her family - had ventured in to water that was too deep. After several minutes, it was discovered that she had sunk to the bottom. They helicoptered her to Children's Hospital but it was too late. Even though her family had been there, actually in the water with her. Even though there was a lifeguard on duty. In the blink of an eye, she was gone.

Having worked as a lifeguard and taught swimming lessons, I have a moral obligation of stressing the importance of knowing how to swim. And as the daughter in-law of Kathleen, "Gator-Head Grannie", I feel compelled to use my blog as a platform to propagate drowning prevention.

Kathleen is amazing and in addition to winning countless GOLD medals (not silver or bronze) for swimming in the Senior Olympics, she has swum from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman's Wharf. Now she is swimming 100 miles, with a bottle on her head, to raise awareness for drowning prevention.

Last week, she swam in the Bahamas and taught local children how to swim.

Earlier this year, she swam in 41 degree Alaskan glacier water, sans wetsuit.

If you do not know how to swim, please do not be embarrassed.

Instead, make it your mission to learn.

You never know when you might need to save someone's life - or your own. There are classes offered through a variety of different organizations. Swimming lessons are typically available in most communities through private gymnasiums and programs such as the American Red Cross, Swim America, public schools, YMCAs, and sports clubs.

This is a fantastic link (HERE) that I suggest everyone click through to read about water safety and some of the myths about drowning. Here are some of the facts taken directly from the article:
  • Most drownings occur in less than four feet of water.
  • When you assume everyone is watching, usually no one is. Unless someone is diligently watching the water (including the pool bottom), the individual may go unnoticed until it is too late for resuscitation (CPR) to be effective.
  • Flotation devices (floats, noodles, rafts, etc.) usually require an individual to hold on, sit on, or lay on the device and are not dependable. Among other risks, flotation devices increase the chance of weak swimmers falling off in water that is deeper than they would swim in without the float.
  • Drowning victims typically do not thrash, splash, or yell for help. Many drownings are "silent"; a person has submerged and is unable to return to the surface therefore, the struggle occurs underwater and the victim makes no sound.
  • Accidents are never expected events, and therefore can happen to anyone at any time. Being prepared to react and give care during an emergency can often be the difference between life and death -- for yourself as well as the person in trouble.
Everyone needs to learn to respect water - and a certain degree of fear is not a bad thing. And if you think that you or your child are competent swimmers, the next time you go to the pool, jump in with all of your clothes on. There is a very good chance that if you ever have a close encounter with drowning, it might be when you fall in to a body of water, fully clothed.

Socks. Shoes. Shirt. Pants. Hat.

(Possibly holding a fishing rod.)

Many years ago, I was very involved in synchronized swimming. During one of the regional shows that our team put on, I was required to do a cartwheel in to the pool wearing a long flowing nightgown over my team bathing suit. The plan was that once I was in the water, I would simply pull the nightgown off, leaving behind my suit.

Since I had been sick with the flu the entire week leading up to the performance, I had never had the opportunity to have a dress rehearsal. So the first time I attempted this move was when I was under the spotlight in front of 200 people. Suffice to say, the experience of swimming when you are fully clothed is entirely different than when you are in a bathing suit. And when I went underwater and was wrapped in a soaking wet nightgown that stuck to my head and arms and I couldn't tell which way was up, it took everything in my power to not flail to the surface screaming for help.

Even if you are hanging out at the pool, life jackets on children who do not know how to swim are a GOOD idea. Of course if your child is 22-months old and goes by the name of Henry, it would probably be easier to saddle a bucking Bronco than put them in a life jacket. But safety is one of those few things that cannot be negotiated. Also, just because your child has a life jacket on, does not preclude you from watching them at all times.

Seeing as this is Memorial Day weekend, are you familiar with the the ABC's for Drowning Prevention?

A: ALWAYS watch your kids around water. Although I have my hands full when I take all four children to the pool by myself, I feel the safest when I am on my own because I know that I am fully responsible for their safety. They know that they have to play in one area because I can't be diverting my eyes from one spot of the pool to another. And if they don't abide by my rules, we go home. If you are at a body of water with multiple people, task at least ONE PERSON with being a spotter. It is their job to keep their eyes on the water to make sure people in and around the water are safe. Don't make the mistake of assuming that this is being done.

B: BARRIERS must be installed to keep children away from water if you are near a pool or a other water body. Don't assume that just because you tell a child to stay away from water, they will listen to you. If you live in an area where there is a nearby water body and you have small children, keep your doors and windows locked. I have heard too many stories of children who walked out an open door - or climbed through a fence - and drowned in either their own pool or a neighbor's.

C: CLASSES and CPR. If you or your child doesn't know how to swim, LEARN. If your child is too young (personally, I don't think that children are truly capable of understanding and/or having the physical strength to swim until they are 3.5 to 4 years old), the development of safety awareness, water skills, and a sense of enjoyment of the water should begin at home in the bathtub.

If someone collapsed in front of you - or you pulled someone who was unconscious from a body of water - would you know how to administer CPR?

Two rescue breaths, followed by 30 chest compressions?

No?

Then what are you looking at?

Leave a comment on THIS post and tell me what you are planning to do for Memorial Day Weekend. I am going to take the total number of comments and randomly select someone to win a CPR Anytime Kit. This compact kit allows you to learn and teach, the simple and yet critical technique that could save the life of a loved one. You have your choice of a dark skinned or light skinned mannequin, although I'm fairly certain, color doesn't matter.

I'll select a winner on Monday night. Until then, just think how great it would be if you won. You could host parties where people from your neighborhood come over and in 22 minutes, learn how to resuscitate someone. And then, you could have a potluck.

I seriously think you'd be the coolest house on the block.

Now, if you're concerned about the spread of infectious diseases during the course of administering CPR, you can always pick up a few of these CPR Medic pouches. We actually have one in each one of our vehicles, and I carry one in my diaper bag, purse and briefcase. I like to always be prepared.

And ... well ... it seems I have a problem leaving the house with less than 50 pounds of stuff.

82 comments:

  1. Just paid $260 for my 6 y.o. and 4 y.o to have a month's worth of swim lessons 2 days ago. Thanks for this post! I wasn't too thrilled writing the check at the time, but I knew it was necessary. I think I'd like to follow you around for a day...I bet you have lots of cool tricks on stuff I could learn...Holly W (who can't figure out her password on her husband's computer)

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  2. What a great post, thank you for reminding us all about this very important issue. I am working on getting my kids in their first swim class this summer, hopefully.
    I am doing nothing this weekend:) My husband has to work, and although we have a birthday party to go to, I know it's going to be craziness and I'm not really sure I want to do it myself..

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  3. This is our last weekend as a family of 4 (baby #3 is on the way next week), so I will be firmly planted on the couch all weekend.
    Your post gave me the chills, and I am thankful that I live in a place that rarely gets warm enough to want a pool in the backyard. Although I do agree that knowing how to swim is of the utmost importance!

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  4. Now I'm afraid! j/k this is an awesome post and wonderful to bring awareness during this time of year. Thanks for doing it.

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  5. I'm going to spend the weekend holding my brand-new baby granddaughter, and talking to her mama and daddy about safety of all kinds - including water. (It's not being a pushy grandma if the parents welcome the advice and the advice could save the life of the child, right?)

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  6. Nice post Jen.........I'll be at the Cape attending a wedding this weekend, and unlike that stoic bottle-balancing, Ester Williams nymphette in your post, I will NOT be going in the water. LOL

    Have a safe and happy Memorial Day!!

    P.S. Don't forget to run, run, run.

    XOXO AM

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  7. this is a great post. i haven't taken my 17 month old daughter to any swim lessons yet, but we'll go to my home country this summer to visit grandparents and she'll be playing by the mediteranean sea. i'll be extra cautious. thanks!

    this weekend is a busy one! we will be having a barbecue party on saturday and will go to folklife festival in seattle.

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  8. THANK YOU Jen for this post!! Pools scare me.. ALL water scares me. Growing upa 2yr old of a friend of ours wandered out when mom thought dad had her and vice versa. She wandered into their small backyard gold fish pond of 2 ft. Unfortunately, they did not find her soon enough.

    I babysat for a little girl who fell in at 3yrs old a friends pool. She was rescued, unfortunately she suffered severe Cerebal Palsy after that.

    My husbands co workers wife had their 2 little boys (unsure of ages, under 3) in a small round baby pool (you know, te ones that hold 12" or so of water). The phone rang and she ran in the house to grab it, came back out and he had drowned in the pool. That was all the time it took :(

    PLEASE PLEASE teach your children to swim, but more importantly, take the necessary safety precautions..you cannot have too many around water. We use there Terrapin Turtle watches when we visit the ILs and I LOVE them!!! Cant say enough.

    As for this weekend..we are stickin' home and doing yardwork..woohoo..maybe taking the kids camping in the backyard!

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  9. And I'd like to add --- even if your children are considered WATER-SAFE supervision is still a must.

    Thanks for the reminder. My dh and I are always a tag-team at the pool. I watch for a bit and then literally will walk over and high-five and make eye contact with "you have four to watch. I'm off duty.....going to the bathroom, to get food, etc." He will literally excuse himself from the conversation and re-focus.

    I just get really pissy when other people assume I am and/or will watch their kids. Um, four isn't enough????

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  10. nice post! My son is only 9 months old but we've already begun to discuss when/how/where we want him to learn to swim when the time comes.

    Actually, this weekend for memorial day we will likely introduce him to the pool for the very first time =)

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  11. After putting up our new, bigger pool yesterday, we discovered today that Austin cannot safely stand in it. It's too deep and we only filled it just high enough for the intake for the filter. So even though he just learned to swim a few days ago, there is NO WAY, he's going into that big pool without a life jacket. He's just not a strong enough swimmer yet. You KNOW I'm going to be working with him everyday. EVERY DAY.

    So we are going to our neighbor's house on Sunday for a margarita party. I'm going to be the spotter. I don't trust anyone else.

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  12. Wow. This is the PERFECT time of year for this post. Sad, but so important. Thanks for it.

    This weekend I'm spending it with my three daughters in Sedona. Yay! It's my Mother's Day gift.

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  13. We are going to the poconos for the weekend!

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  14. I've been swimming since I was still in diapers. I can't imagine not knowing how to swim and/or not teaching my children how to swim.

    Saturday will be spent at home, but I believe we are going to our friends house that evening, then swimming in their apartment pool on Sunday. I'm hoping that the mom of 7 that lives in the complex watches her kids at the pool this time - last week she had her 12 y/o watch all the little ones (as young as 4) while she was on the phone.

    Then, on Monday, I'll be going to the Giants baseball game.

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  15. Three days ago I thought, for the briefest blip of a second, that the triplet I suddenly could no longer see had fallen off the dock about fifty feet behind me. I screamed his name over and over as I flung off my backpack and leaped toward the water. In the process of spinning waterward, my eyes spotted the missing boy, bright yellow jacket and all. Turns out he'd instead gone and stood exactly where I'd told him to, only behind a pillar. I've had three nightmares since.

    I will continue their swim lessons this summer. I've had it on my 'To Set Up Before We Leave England" list all year. Now that June is almost here, I bet the YMCA has its lessons up and running. Maybe soon I'll stop having nightmares.

    -Debbie

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  16. Have you heard about the latest research re: chest compressions? They are now saying 50 chest compressions are better than 30. Apparently, fewer interruptions to chest compressions increases the survival rater. It has to do with building up enough pressure to start the heart pumping. Every time you interrupt that, you have to start building that pressure up over again. And if the heart isn't pumping, any oxygen breathed into the person isn't going to do them much good...

    Here is a medline article on it:

    http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_83772.html

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  17. We have gone to Singapore for our long weekend. Great post. Everyone needs to remember these safety processes. Remember too. Even 4year olds have drowned in the bath. Falling asleep after an exhausting day was the last incident in our old town. Scary stuff

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  18. Thank you, thank you for this post...my friend's 18-mo-old had a near-drowning in the family pool a few years ago...see www.howsluke.blogspot.com

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  19. Great Post. I feel like printing it out and hanging it at our club. People are so busy socializing that they don't watch their kids. The lifeguards are teens and often seem to be dreaming of teenager things. Although my son has been in the pool since he was born and is a strong swimmer, he is still only five and may not use good judgement in the water all the time.

    Thanks for the reminder!!

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  20. It's going to be rainy and not too hot this weekend, so I don't know that we'll be swimming this weekend. My kids are older now - 10 and 13 and good swimmers, on the swim team - so I don't watch them like a hawk anymore. When they were little, though, even with a lifeguard on duty, I watched them every minute.

    When my older son was 2 1/2, we were at a hotel pool, with a lot of family members. He was playing on the stairs with some cups - not going anywhere. DH (and several other family members) were a few feet away, watching, in the pool. I was on the side, 7 mo pg. DH looked away for a moment, son reached for a cup that floated away and went under - completely silently! I couldn't believe that he didn't make a sound or splash. I saw it, ran over and grabbed his arm and hauled him out - he was under maybe 30 seconds, didn't even sputter water when he came out. Scared me to death though.

    Since then and until my kids swam well, I always had my eyes or my hands on them. I also put my younger one in a life jacket at the pool for several years, although it really did hamper his learning to swim. For years he tried to swim almost upright in the water. But he lived to learn to swim.

    Don't count on a paid lifeguard to be watching your kids when they are small - its a good backup, but they are often too busy or not properly attentive. It only takes a moment for a tragedy.

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  21. I'm going to spend my Memorial Day husband-free & child-free back in the good ol' U.S.of A (living abroad in Romania now...yeck!) enjoying probably BBQ or crawfish..or heck both! Washing them down with good ol' American beer and relaxing in the Southern Texas sun...ahhhhh. My family?? It's just a normal Monday here in Romania, so the kids are in school and the husband is at work. Yeah, don't worry, I'll be "thinking" about them, yeah, uh huh ;-)
    Thanks for the tips on swimming...and yes you scared me.

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  22. Excellent post. May I add one thing?

    Knowing how to swim does not mean your children are safe in the water. In Quebec a couple of years ago a 12 year old girl drowned because her hair became caught the water intake thingie at the bottom of the pool.

    It doesn't matter how well anyone can swim, no one should be in the water without a spotter.

    Thanks, Jen, for pointing this out. :)

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  23. We don't have any plans except to enjoy the day off! Also, my fear is also the ocean. I love to swim and I like the ocean but last time we went with our son (he was 1) there were helicopters looking for a teenager that was missing from his group. It put the fear in me.

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  24. We have a pool and we spent about a grand last year making sure our 3year old could swim, float, get to the edge, the whole she-bang. We are now working on our 9 month old. And we still don't leave our oldest alone even for a second. AND...our rule for pool parties is we assign ONE person to watch the kids...it's never like "Hey, I'm going to in for a minute..someone watch the kids." It's always "Mom, you're responsible right now." That way no one ever assumes someone else is doing it. And as for this weekend, we are having a barbecue at a park and going mountain biking...everyone is bringing the kids and we're all taking turns watching them and playing with them while the rest go off to bike on the trails. (No water nearby for this event! =) )

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  25. Jen - thanks for this post. I don't know how to swim; I am terrified of water. And I live in Florida. And drive over a bridge at least two times every day. This long weekend I am: going to 2 birthday parties, taking my 21 month old daughter to Disney for the first time and - probably most importantly - researching where I can get private swim lessons. Again, thanks. Linda

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  26. My mother-in-law put my husband in swim lessons when he was 6 months old because she doesn't know how to swim. We are putting the trips in swim lessons this summer at 9 months old. I feel this is so important and cannot be taken lightly. Thank you for your post.

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  27. I learned to swim in your pool - the first one before you were born....bathing cap at all! Bathing caps were very important back then - your Mom made us all wear one! I have a picture of Eileen and I in our "caps" in the first pool! We were styling back then! Circa 1970 - I think!

    I'm going to visit my Mom at the Cape this weekend - good luck on your run - I'm thinking of you, Charlie and Marg!

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  28. Ah - recheck - Good Luck NEXT weekend!

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  29. I am heading out to see my family on Long Island and remembering those who have served our country and made the ultimate sacrifice.

    We're also using the time at home to book our wedding ceremony location (aka the church) and hopefully getting some beach time in. With six nieces, we will sure be swimming (and learning) a lot this summer! We will also be shopping for life jackets after this post!

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  30. I say it is as much a parent's responsibility to teach kids how to swim as it is to teach them how to cross a street safely. We have an in-ground pool that is entirely surrounded by a tall wrought iron fence, then the entire yard is fenced too. We have never had an accident and now, with a 7 month old grandchild, we are looking at an alarm system too. My kids always wore water wings until they could touch bottom in the shallow end, even though they could swim at about 3 years old.

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  31. I think Australians, living on a country surrounded by water, with 90% of the population on the coast, tend to be very aware of water. Swimming lessons are held at schools each summer term. Summer vacation swimming lessons are a given for most families every year (the year in Albany, with water coming off Antarctica, and stinging jellyfish, was one to remember, let me tell you). Pool laws in most states require fences around all sides of pools, with strict laws on the types of fences, gates and locks.

    And yet, we still have too many drownings.

    Anything that can be done to get the message out there, should be done. I commonly harass my friends with pools to check their fences and locks (even the regulation locks can be opened by a clever 3 year old...keys or combination locks are really the only safe bet).

    Lawrie Lawrence has a great program, which is relevant worldwide: http://www.kidsalive.com.au/

    (As for Memorial Day, I'm spending it shopping your great sales online...I'm a Gymboree and Gap addict LOL.)

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  32. Thank you for this post. I had been going back and forth over putting my two year old in swim lessons this summer but thanks to this post I just called and signed him up!! :-)

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  33. work all weekend - try to catch up! plant some flowers, do some yard work, help my dad.

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  34. That's one reason we will never have a pool, I am way too paranoid that someone would drown in it. We just have a little kid pool with less than 6 inches of water and I still make sure to keep an eye on the boys because I know kids can drown in even less. We go swimming at my brother's apartment and I always make sure I know who is holding onto my boys. I'm hoping to start teaching them to swim this summer. It's also important to know your own limits. Last year we went to a lake and my sister and I were going to swim out to a buoy and back, even though I was 6 months pg. I made it almost to the buoy and suddenly had no more energy. I seriously was afraid I was going to drown, I could barely keep myself afloat, but managed to slowly make it back to shore. I'd always wondered how an adult who knows how to swim could drown and now I realize that it can happen to anyone.

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  35. I am just spending time with my family this weekend. I have to work on Memorial Day =[

    That kit would be great to have, as I have a 15 yo daughter who really needs to be trained in CPR. She does a lot of babysitting and, we all know that anything can happen.

    Luckily all my kids are pretty decent swimmers. They have had to pass swim tests for boy/girl scouts to be able to go on canoe/kayak trips so I'm confident they know how to swim.

    Our school district had a boy drown in the school pool last year. Two gym classes and 3 lifeguard certified instructors were present when all this happened. So yeah, anything can happen at anytime unfortunately.

    I love your pictures, your kids are so dang adorable!

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  36. Grannie Gator-Head5/22/09, 9:59 AM

    Tahnk you for bringing Drowning Prevention Awareness to your blog!
    If we can save just one child, hopefully more, with our out-reach on our blogs or swims with funny bottles on our foreheads....it is all worth while.
    We are giving 2 YMCAs here, in Phoenix area, a special Grannie Gator-Head swim off in June and again in July.
    Will be on blog: www.granniegatorhead.wordpress.com
    God bless you and the children and swim safe this summer.
    Kathleen

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  37. We have an inground pool and I am haunted by a story that is the same as yours except the boy was nine years old. About 15 years ago he died in the middle of a family gathering, underneath pool toys--I did not know him but I know his grandparents.

    I do not let our kids in the pool area without me, even our 12 year old because I am so cautious...I think I worry more about our little neighbour boys getting into our pool lately. So scary!

    As a swimming instructor, I'm sure you've seen this, but if you haven't, what do you think of it?

    http://www.infantswim.com/home.html

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  38. We'll be on my in-law's house boat this weekend. Our 18 month old daughter has the fortune of growing up in and around a body of water like her parents did, but she'll spend the weekend in a life jacket for sure!
    I'm certified in CPR and would love to be the nerd mom on the block to host a CPR crash course cookout!

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  39. Those stories are heartbreaking. I I worry so much about my kids when it comes to swimming.

    This weekend, I am not sure what we will be doing but it won't be swimming - it's not hot enough here yet.

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  40. Hi Jen, I don't need to enter the contest, since I am a licensed EMT in town, and I teach CPR classes, and have even more advanced equipment that I never ever want to have to use in my car, but I just wanted to thank you for putting this message out there.

    You have a lot of readers, and the more the message gets spread, the safer people will be.

    Here's another topic you might want to put out there: I have worked for years as a lifeguard at parties, and I really strongly reccomend that ANY parent who is going to have extra kids over their house, even just 2 or 3 more, for a swim, you should consider hiring a lifeguard. Its another set of professional eyes, so that if something does go wrong, at least they do have training. If you are having a large family pool party, the lifeguard is not going to spend the time catching up with Uncle Jimmy, they are going to be watching the pool.

    Contact your local YMCA, or high school swim team, or the American Red Cross. They probably can put you in contact with their lifeguard instructors, who are going to know of some lifeguards looking for some extra cash.

    Its worth every penny of an investment.

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  41. Thanks for the great post. We had our 22 month old twins in a pool last weekend and it was such a bad experience. Last summer, they were happy in baby spring floats being pulled around by us. this year, the independant toddler streak hit hard and they want to do it all alone - of course, they can't swim so this can't happen, but they tried to pull away every second we were in the water. We're getting life jackets this weekend before we get near water again, just in case they manage to escape our grasp. Also we are hosting our new neighbors for dinner and going out for ice cream. Have a great weekend!

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  42. What a great post! We have a pool in our backyard and we believe that we take extra precautions for our boys but it is so TRUE that you can turn for one second and someone will be under the water that FAST. We have a special door to go outside and a fence but there is never enough...YOU HAVE TO WATCH THEM EVERY minute. We have our three year old in private swimming lessons, she comes to our house once a week and it has made a huge difference with him. The best money we have spent. I also took him to the city swim lessons and those were NOT very good, a complete waste of time.

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  43. We are remodeling this weekend.(Far away from water.)
    I don't know how to swim- well, not officially- but I think I could at least save myself. I am not a water person- but that's no excuse, I know.

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  44. I love how you work so hard to help people with you blog. You inspire me!

    I'm actually go to the lake with my family. We will be practicing water safety for sure now.

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  45. You know...only after reading this post did I realize that I am completely surrounded by water, and none of my children know how to swim. Well, they can doggy paddle in a pool. But, as I live in Extreme-North Alaska, doggy paddling will only work for about the thirty seconds it takes for you to become hypothermic in MY water. I was a lifeguard when I lived in Orlando (an adventure) and had to save a 4yo boy, who threw up white gunk (Probably milkshake I later discussed) in my mouth when he FINALLY started breathing. It was the grossest/best experience of my life. My cousin died drowning, at age 24, my other cousin died drowning at age 3, and my aunt died at age 16 drowning on the river. My kids are not allowed (for fear of MOM, they listen) near the water without a lifejacket on, or if we have five adults to our kids. I've seen it many, many times...and I'm terrified. Our water is seriously about 35 degrees, there are literally ice chunks floating when we take the kids "swimming" in the ocean during the summer. So...many adults and a large fire make my heart OK with it. Oh, how did I EVER survive here?! (BTW, my dad "taught" me and my sisters how to swim by throwing us off the boat, fully clothed, in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. We're still here, and know how to react in that situation...and plus we know how to swim now!)

    This weekend, MY twins are coming. (Well, my husbands twins, but just cause I didn't squeeze them out don't make them not mine!) And their birthday was Tuesday, so we're having a LARGE BBQ outside cause its supposed to be FIFTY degrees out Monday! Can't wait. :) Plenty of kids, bikes, and a treasure hunt throughout the neighborhood. :)

    Every Memorial Day my mom and I repaint her grandmother's grave marker too. We do that early in the AM though. Over and out.

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  46. I've officially renamed your blog in my bookmarks/favorites "The Amazing Mom of Amazing Trips + H". This post is a super reminder of an important topic. Too many people are a little too relaxed with children around water.
    We will be working around our house this weekend and then going to my parents' home on Monday to help them open their inground pool (with twin 3 year olds in tow). I'm going upstairs RIGHT NOW to get and put the lifejackets in the van so we don't forget them!
    THANK YOU for this post and for the great opportunity to win such a terrific, life saving prize.

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  47. Perfect timing for this very important reminder. We're going to my SIL for Memorial Day Weekend. They have a swimming pool which always makes me nervous. My 6 year old son (despite many swim lessons) is not a good swimmer yet. Thank you!!
    Ali/IL

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  48. Grannie Gator-Head5/22/09, 1:04 PM

    One other comment on pool fences.
    Just last month a 3 year old climbed over his locked, pool fence and had to be removed from life-support later that week.

    NO POOL is the most perfect solution......if not....WATCH THEM EVERY SECOND.
    We have lost 5 little ones already this year in Phoenix.
    WWW.granniegatorhead.wordpress.com

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  49. We're just hoping for a low key, no more throw up kind of weekend.... how long did you say that stomach flu that your family shared lasted again?!? So far we're still on our first victim, but I know it's only a matter of time...

    I've been meaning to sign up for a resfresher CPR course at the YMCA for a while now. I may just go do that now. Thanks for the reminder.

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  50. Michelle M in TX5/22/09, 1:29 PM

    I am glad you blogged on this topic. It just happened to me this Wed. We went to a friend's pool and had never been there before. My son is 3 yrs old. He was playing in the jacuzzi, which wasn't warmed up, around the step or seat which made a circle. Before I knew it, I looked over and saw him in the center w/water over his head. He had just tried to walk across what he thought was the baby pool. Luckily, I caught it early and he had pushed off from the bottom, but not much longer and he'd have really been in trouble! It scared the bejesus out of me b/c, like you said, it was silent. He wasn't making any noise b/c he was below the surface of the water. I assumed (stupidly!) that he realized that he was on a step and not to get off of it, and he assumed it was a baby pool and all at the step's depth. Next month we'll be spending the entire month in swim lessons from the YMCA. We were already planning on doing that, but now I cannot wait to see him learn how to safely get to the edge of the pool instead of just sinking helplessly.

    Thanks, Jen!

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  51. I'm once again going to have to mention that I'm in my 9th month of pregnancy and have cried no less than 4 times today. So I pretty much had to skip over most of this post. I know it's very important info to know, and I know it but just can't read about it.

    I lived at the pool every summer growing up, and it's important to me to not only ensure my children know how to swim, but also that they know and understand the importance of water safety.

    I will tell you my weekend plans. I've coordinated a DC Area get together of some other area bloggers and readers of blogs on Saturday! We haven't gotten together since last fall, so this should be fun. And a bunch of new people are coming. Sunday, we are going to the pool, where we will watch the toddler vigilantly and where I will enjoy feeling like I weight less. We'll probably go back to the pool on Monday too.

    I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

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  52. Thanks for reminding us of this. WE are scheduled to attend a pool party on Monday evening with our Bible Class. My kids are almost 5 and 2. I'm already worried. We've had 2 summers of lessons with my son and we'll start our first year with my daughter this summer. Thanks again!

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  53. A few years ago - when James was younger - 7. Wehad a neighbor who was 14 years old. She had an asthma attack while under water and was gone within 3 minutes. IT was such a shock. She could swim!!

    It was a terrifying and sad experience as a witness. Her family went through so much worse.

    Come to think of it my parents need a gate around thier pool! Think I'll talk about it some more to them today.

    Think I may get that kit for our family here as well. Thanks again for the reminder.

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  54. PS that last comment was from me. Marg.

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  55. I have plans for some conferences, babysitting, and a pool party at a friend's apartment. Sadly, I'm not a strong swimmer and I AM embarrassed to say it. I bet my parents would be embarrassed to tell you too seeing as how experienced they are, the number of people we know who have died by drowning or come close, and the fact that both of them were in the healthcare industry (mom still is, 24 years). Both of my siblings (younger: 13 and 11) are strong swimmers. My dad is a very strong swimmer. (and yes, even with clothes! he and my mom together have saved several people from a drowning death.) It's embarrassing to be 22 and unsure of how to really swim. I can hold my own in a regular pool when necessary (and I know I can stay up at least for a little while in a lake fully clothed since I did fall in once) but I don't really enjoy it since I can't swim like other people. Add to that that I'm overweight and... yep. I avoid the pool.

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  56. Thanks for a timely post. I have a very healthy respect for any water after being present when my cousin drowned when we were kids. I will never forget my aunt and uncles heartwrenching grief. Because of that experience I put my children into swimming when they were 6 months old. I just mentioned to my son last week about my grandson to swimming now (he is looking into it).

    This weekend I will be spending with my husband and children.
    Kathy

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  57. We're going to a parade on Sunday to honor the veterans who march and thank those who aren't around to march. Otherwise, a low-key family weekend.

    Then Tuesday I was already planning to head to the rec department and sign my 6 yr old up for swimming lessons again this summer. She's the most dangerous of non-swimmers: She's confident that she KNOWS how to swim because she "practices" in the bath tub.

    My in-laws have a lake house. These kids of mine need to be able to swim!

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  58. Ah, the inlaws are coming in for a visit! Our little parade tomorrow morning and maybe a festival at the local Catholic church. I get up early on Saturdays to exercise (!) so maybe the extra day means I get to sleep in one morning!!
    And that CPR kit is awesome. I will look into purchasing one if I don't win!

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  59. I'm so glad you posted this, I am an avid believer in learning how to swim. When we were kids my aunt was a swim instructor and my grandfather insisted she teach all of the grandkids how to swim. We've had Chase is swim classes since he was 6 months old and already have him signed up for classes next month. Water is awesome and totally scary! Kudo's to you for posting this!!!

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  60. Great post. My biggest fear is my niece drowning at my aunt/uncles pool. We'll be there next month and I'm not looking forward to the child chase!

    We're not doing anything this weekend! Childless...ugh. :-)

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  61. We just enrolled our newly 4 year olds in swimming lesson for the summer. I hope we'll always watch them like a hawk even when they can swim.

    This weekend we are hanging out at home taking care of our 8 week old bundle of kitten joy.

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  62. This is exactly why my 13-month old is starting "swim lessons" next weekend. It's actually a class through the Infant Swim Resource that teaches infants how to turn into a floating position if they fall in. Once they can walk, they teach them how to float, swim towards the side, and stop and float again when they need to rest---and they eventually get them to do it fully clothed! www.infantswim.com And they never just throw them in--it's all kind and gentle. Even still, you're right--you can never take your eyes off of them! Ugh. Water and toddlers makes me nervous! Anyway, we're not doing anything exciting this weekend. :)

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  63. Memorial Day weekend I am going to start writing up my Masters thesis. Glacial Facies here I come.

    Drowning is one of my ultimate fears (along with flying). I can think of nothing worse.

    I wish people would understand how dangerous even the littlest bit of water can be, and how lax supervision can sometimes be when they don't read the dangers.

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  64. Thank you for writing this!

    We're visiting the inlaws today to open their pool. Dd (20 months) will be having her first summer this year where she's really mobile and into everything. We've already got the life jacket, floats, float swim suits and other safety equipment on hand - along with plenty of adults to supervise, including CPR and AED certified adults of course.

    One thing that you didn't mention that has always stuck with me from my very first CPR class - IF you are ever in a position where you think you need to perform CPR, do not be afraid to act, even if you are not sure you remember exactly HOW to perform CPR. If you do nothing that person will die, but if you do something, you may be able to save them.

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  65. We have been taking our two children to parent/child swimming classes at the YMCA down the street for the past few years. Oftentimes, it feels like a massive pain in the ass ... and, as your post makes clear, also totally worth the inconvenience.

    Good post. Thanks.

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  66. Ugh... I hated reading this post. It was totally necessary and I am glad you reminded all of us but damn... life is so scary. Chase and I are taking a mommy and me swim class this summer... but I am with you, I don't think they are totally ready to comprehend saving themselves until much older. Can't hurt to have him used to the water though ;~)

    As for memorial day... I am not sure we have any plans. Good family fun time... maybe enjoy the deck... maybe take in a park... spend quality time with grandma. Enjoy the husband and baby, that's my memorial day.

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  67. Jen, thanks for the post. My husband keeps asking for a pool in the back yard. I told him I'd consider it in 3-4 years (when the trips are 5-6 and already know how to swim). I was on swim team in highschool. I'm pretty capable. I've pulled 4 kids from pools...all conscious. All on their parents watch. None of them my children. Water scares me, quite frankly. I think that fear keeps me watchful. But I DO need a CPR refresher. It's been too long. And with 5 (minimum) children at my house all summer...even without a pool...I want to recert.

    Side note: Do you have a "favorite" life vest you can recommend? This summer, with the trips walking, I want to make sure they're always wearing one when we're pool side (we have 1001 friends with pools). Ava's 20# and Cole's 30+# (Eli's somewhere in the middle), so I have a feeling I'll need different kinds.

    As for my weekend...nothing! I'm relaxing and getting random things off my To Do list that have been stuck there for weeks because I keep running out of time in the day!

    Keep running, girl. I'm cheering from Jersey and practicing my cow bell!

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  68. This weekend we have the sibling group of four we are adopting until Monday. We are just hanging out, acting like a crazy family with 7 kids! I really enjoy your blog, thanks.

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  69. We have no big plans for this weekend, except to get the dog shaved! This means no more dog hair in the house for the summer! (can you tell I'm excited?)

    I was a lifeguard at a girls summer camp for five years quite a few years ago. I think knowing how to swim is one of the most important life skills there is. I think it ranks right up there with knowing how to take a bus by yourself and knowing how to read a map (believe me, I know a few people who can't do either and it just baffles me).

    If I were to win this I would definitely throw a party like you suggested to make sure all the people I know know what is needed to save a life. Thanks for offering this!

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  70. We had a pond growing up, and my aunt was so terrified of us kids drowning in it that she paid to have a fence installed around our house so we could play outside without being near the water. We always had to wear life jackets, could only swim with adults around, etc. Yet I am TERRIFIED of water bodies that you can't see the bottom of, and pretty much avoid pond, lake, or ocean swimming. I will definitely never have a pool.
    I really appreciate this article. I especially worry about the whole "assuming someone must be watching" mentality, as I have seen that many times in crowded family gatherings. Usually the result of such a thing is that the toddler ends up eating too many cookies or breaking someone's cell phone, but obviously, if you're outside near a pool or pond, the consequences can be much worse. This is a really good reminder that someone needs to be specifically designated with kid-watching at all times near water.

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  71. whew. I hate reading stories like this but they are important to hear so you don't become complacent.

    My kids are learning to swim at the local YMCA. I realized, while watching them, that I had never had a formal swimming class and really? would I be able to jump in and swim strong and confidently enough to save someone? Probably not. So I enrolled myself in a class as well. I'm a stronger swimmer now, though could still use improvement.

    I've actually had to perform CPR on a person before and I tell you, preparation is EVERYTHING. Great idea to give these kits away!

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  72. We live near the Russian River, I am constantly amazed at the number of people in this area that have not learned to swim. Every summer, year after year we have several drownings because people do not understand that water is a living thing with great power that must be respected.

    As for the weekend we are spending with out dog who will be going to dog heaven next week. We are spoiling him rotten all week-end, including hiding his pain pills in tri-tip.

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  73. I was introduced by a friend to this website about a year ago:

    http://www.infantswim.com/home.html

    A child as young as SIX months can begin learning how to survive falling into water! Make sure you watch the video. This is amazing & well worth the money for anyone who spends a significant amount of time in/around water.

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  74. We will be planting flowers, painting and doing some general summer clean up this weekend.

    Great post BTW!

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  75. I will be doing some catch-up around the house and then hanging with friends. Have a great weekend!

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  76. Hi Jen,
    great post.
    In Australia it is compulsory to have a backyard pool fenced. I remember seeing pictures from your father's house when you visited with your children playing beside the unfenced pool and feeling very nervous- maybe I'm just conditioned this way because of our strict laws.
    I plan to have a pool one day, once all my children can swim, well, with clothes on. Seriously, drowning is my major phobia for my children. Just seeing pictures of houses with unfenced pools in British and American home magazines make me nervous. Our children all attend swimming lessions (though the 3 and 5yr olds can swim, I want them to have the best possible ability).
    And Go Kathleen! What a woman!
    Rebecca
    (PS- dont; enter me on the competition, I am in Australia and have CPR training)

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  77. What a great post! When I was pregnant, I worked at a gym in CA. I was able to get my husband and I both in for the compulsory CPR training required of all trainers (I was in accounting but it was offered to me). As the gym was opening a child care facility they also offered child rescue and instruction on using the defibrillators that are required around the gym. Our pediatrician gave us a chart that was a quick reference of infant CPR that we hung in the kitchen (and used the chocking instructions once). Our certifications are almost up, and we need to plan on renewing them. This is all fantastic information!

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  78. I spent this weekend (Fri, Sat, Sun) at a camp, certifying the camp staff in lifeguarding, CPR, and first aid. This is the second year that I've gone to help with their staff training and do this for their staff, I think it's great that they realize how important it is to have a staff full of trained lifeguards (instead of just a few).

    We went to the local army base this morning, they were open for tours.

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  79. I'm back to say 'thanks' for the scare. I enrolled my 3 yr old girls in swimming lessons at the Y today. They start Saturday!

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  80. The swimming lessons begin this year for my 10 month old water baby.

    This post scares the crap out of me, not for the drowning parts, they are scary too, but for the loss of your child or loved ones.

    It's my worst fear.

    I'll be the one who will have her eyes glued to the pool, if my daughter is in there.

    The water can be so much fun, but can't be underestimated!

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  81. Just found your site through another triplet blog and wanted to thank you for your post here. Growing up in South FL, drowning was a common story on our local news. We were introduced to infant swim (www.infantswim.com) when our triplets were 2 years old and it is the best investment we have made to date. I highly recommend checking it out - the emphasis is on safety and survival and it has been a great experience for our family.

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  82. Swimming lessons are a must. What a list of tragic stories. They might also have been avoided with a pool fence installed. We should do all that we can to keep out little ones safe.

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