I love the water. I always have. When I was little, I was the kid who put on a bathing suit at 8 a.m. and stayed in it until bedtime. First, it was splashing in the backyard blow-up pool or at my grandparents’ lake. Later, it was at our summer house in New Hampshire, where small twin lakes graced our backyard. As a teen, instead of walking or riding my bike, I’d swim from home to my job as a lifeguard. Not faster, but surely more fun.
Swimming defined my summer days as much as anything, well into my 20s, as I continued lifeguarding at lakes, beaches, and pools. I always dreamed of the day I’d have a luscious backyard pool, not only for myself, but also for the kids I hoped to have when I married.
Today our pool is still a blowup one. Neighbors to the left and right have real pools, and we’re lucky to get invited to enjoy a swim from time to time. On the days we don’t, my kids eye the fences longingly, unsatisfied with their own little play space. I know how they feel.
And yet, part of me is very glad.
Last month in Massachustts, two sets of twin girls died, within weeks of each other, in their family pools. In both cases, the toddlers wandered away from supervising eyes and bypassed safety fences.
Every year, 300 children under the age of 5 drown in pools. Older kids are at as much risk, even if they know how to swim.
Drowning happens quickly, and it’s almost always quiet (no thrashing about for help like in a movie). It just doesn’t look like drowning.
All of my kids but the youngest can swim on their own, some better than others. Ellie is most reckless, leaping into the water with abandon, just like her mother did. She also prefers a bathing suit during summer days, just in case the opportunity for a swim arises.
She scares me. At age five, she is also the one who listens the least. It’s not hard to imagine her sneaking over to the neighbors’ yard, deftly bypassing security measures (she’s awfully smart, too), and helping herself. Some days I’d like to put a bell around her neck so I always know where she is.
I remind them repeatedly about water safety rules, admonishing them that a person can drown in just a few inches of water. Like always, it’s hard to tell what they hear. Still, I remind them, daily.
When they gripe about the pool situation, I shrug. I’d love a pool of my own. But maybe not until they’ve all moved out.