This weekend, in my quiet neighborhood, just one block from my home, a 3-year old girl died in a backyard swimming pool. I do not know the specifics around how it happened, but I know it was a terrible tragedy and it deeply saddens me. Whenever these things happen it’s natural to imagine the hurt that you’d feel if you were the parent who lost a child. It is almost impossible to imagine because the hurt would be so tremendous it would literally tear you up inside. There is something about the proximity of these horrible things that make them worse. The fact that this happened one block from my house acts as an amplifier. That’s probably why it hurts so much just to even write these words. I feel so horrible for the poor little girl and her family.
I learned about this from my neighbor down the street. He told me as I was returning from the park with my two girls. My wife was out swimming, of all things, that morning (she does it every weekend). My older daughter heard my neighbor explain something to me and she asked me, “Daddy – what did he say?” I had to explain it to her. Her eyes welled up with tears. I was able to hold mine back for a bit, but not for long. I never want to have to explain something like that to my kids ever again, but I’d much rather they be upset by it, yet understand the danger.
I don’t know the facts around this particular incident, but most likely the toddler slipped into the backyard pool without anyone noticing. It only takes a couple of minutes for a tiny child’s life to be gone forever, and it’s a mistake that most parents could probably never forgive themselves for.
If you have young children, I urge you to take water safety seriously
I want everyone to understand just how easy it is to make a fatal mistake around water. Have you ever had a phone call distract you while playing with your kids? Have you ever day-dreamed while you were 10 feet away only to realize afterwards that you were not paying attention? It happens to parents all the time, but usually not around water. If it were to happen around water, it could be devastating. Heck, I was a lifeguard and swimming teacher yet I know that all of the lifesaving skills on the planet won’t make up for loss of attention.
So here are some massively important water safety rules for parents to keep in mind
Always be watching! If you are around water with your kids do not ever let them out of your sight. Danger is lurking and you are their protector. You are their ONLY protector. At the toddler age they don’t know better. You need to have both eyes on them 100% of the time.
Be aware of the potential for danger. Even if you are not playing in a pool, be aware if you have a pool in your yard. Be aware if you left water in the kiddie pool. You may not be playing around water with your kids, but if there is water around and the kids find it, it can spell disaster. You need to know what danger lies in the vicinity of your children.
Teach them to swim, or have someone else teach them. Children should be taught how to move around in the water as early as possible. As soon as they know how to swim the chance of an accidental drowning drops dramatically. Get your kids in swimming lessons and take them to the water (safely) whenever you can to allow them to learn to master this skill.
Make sure your kids know the danger. As you surely already know, kids don’t always listen to rules. But they do listen to their gut. If they know about the potential danger of water they will stay safe. You need to teach your kids that going in (or around) the water is very dangerous if they don’t have adult supervision. Having them truly understand this is better than just making it a “rule”.
Be a swimmer yourself. If you, the parent, are a non-swimmer, go take lessons yourself. I used to teach adult lessons and believe me, I’ve seen my fair share of adults who are scared of the water. You CAN learn, and you can do so comfortably and easily. If you don’t learn then your kids will see less value in learning how to swim. Don’t allow that to happen!
A life jacket is NOT a babysitter. I can’t emphasize this enough. Parents should never rely on a flotation device to protect their child. Although I agree that a life jacket is safest, because it will roll you onto your back if unconscious, you can never let your child swim unsupervised. Lesser-quality flotation devices include “water wings”, Styrofoam “noodles” or other support rings. Kids can fall off of those flotation aids easily. You need to be within arm’s reach of your child whenever they are in the water. That means, generally speaking, that you need to be in the water with them at all times.
Please take these “rules” seriously. I am quite sure that the parents of this little girl, who drowned in the backyard, did not realize the danger she was in. Perhaps they didn’t even know she was in the backyard. That’s the problem with danger. It strikes first, and you only understand it later. Don’t let that happen to your kids. Don’t let ignorance ruin your life. Water safety is a VERY serious topic.