Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Water: Friend or Foe

Water. Summer, kids and water. A recipe for fun. Sometimes a recipe for tragedy.

My daughter has a pool at her apartment complex. The girls love to swim. Sydney swims well. She dives and swims like a lovely mermaid. Gabrielle on the other hand does not like the deep water. In the shallower end, she manages a few strokes across the pool. She has good reason to be apprehensive, not for the lack of swimming lessons but for the poor supervision of a beginning swimmer.

Stacey and I would meet at the swim center every week sitting behind the fence watching both girls in their swimming lessons. Sydney had advanced to swimming the width of the pool in the deep end. Her sister was just learning.

The beginners stood on underwater tables waiting for the teacher to take them one by one out into the water. Gabby was fearless and loved her turn with the teacher. She would hold on until it was time to go back to the table. The teacher would stand in the water a short distance from the table pushing the child off to paddle back to the platform. It gave the child a sense of swimming alone in what should have been a safe environment. We watched the same routine week after week.

"Stacey, where's Gabby?" I yelled.

"Mom....I don't see her." she answered.

I saw her under the water next to the table.

"Get Gabby," we screamed as we ran to the gate. "Get Gabby!"

The teacher just stood there looking at us. The lifeguard sitting immediately above the table where Gabby should have been was looking around but not down.

We screamed and ran. My heart was in my throat. Even now it brings tears. My granddaughter was drowning.

By the time we got to the side of the pool, the lifeguard had pulled her up. God bless her, she held her breath. Stacey and I did all we could to remain calm.

"I held my breath," Gabby said. "No one got me."

Thank God our strained calmness convinced her to stay for the rest of the class.

Our anger met with several people as well as the swim center. The teacher had pushed her back to the bench but had not watched to see if she made it. That was unacceptable.

I was very small child. My parents were in charge of the church youth group. We were at the local camp swimming pool. Something had happened on the deck of the pool emptying it of all but one little girl in an inner tube. It flipped sending this little girl beneath the water. I could see the side of the pool but couldn't get to it. The inner tube was hold me. Suddenly, my feet were grasped, and I was pulled from the pool with Dad pumping the water from his little tot.

This is a difficult blog for me to write. The fear I felt in both instances still sometimes captures me and takes me back. Children deserve the best from us at all times. It demands the best of those responsible for our children when they are out of our sight.

I sat in the boat as Sydney, about age 7, sat in the water with skis on her feet, her daddy holding her. Terror had a grasp on me, but she wanted to try to ski. Her dad let go as the boat revved. She never got up but she held on. She finally released the rope and was alone in the water. My panic subsided when she was once more aboard along with her father. Water.

According to emedicine about 1500 children die each year in emersion accidents. Grandparents, parents, we need to do all we can to keep our children safe. I learned the hard way that even a swimming class can be fatal. Please, watch your children. Teach your children.

Water. Children. Summer. Please make it safe.

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