For this swimmer, lack of pool is no wash

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.


4 thoughts on “For this swimmer, lack of pool is no wash

  1. as you know, i read everyday to get my news…. old habits you know. and when i read both of those stories about the twins drowning i was so sad for those parents. pools scare me, mostly because i am a weak swimmer. but scare me for people with little people… no matter how many warnings you tell them i just don’t think water danger (or any danger) sinks in. you hope it does. i can see ellie acting just as you described and it sends a shiver through me. can you put a bell on her?

  2. i’ve spent most of my life luckily being close to the water. first growing up on indian lake and then later as a young mother on mountain lakes. water never frightened me then. i was not the world’s greatest swimmer but i always felt that i had it under control. i felt confident that my children would be safe. as a grandmother, i worry a lot more. during the “cousin olympics” i was not relaxed in the pool watching so many, even though there were plenty of other grown ups there. when we moved to ERR, i said to daddy, omg, the power substation is so close! his reply, you’ve just come from living on a lake, and that didn’t have a fence around it! it’s a scary world we live in. and a fine line between keeping them safe and letting them enjoy their childhood.

  3. These stories terrify me. John loves to swim and his own pool is definitely something that features in his “someday” dreams, but the responsibility does not in the least appeal to me. Even beyond the little kid danger, I would hate to be that parent hosting a bunch of teenage kids for an end-of-school pool party when someone dives in the wrong way….You hear those stories too.

    That being said, I spent *hours* having a blast unsupervised in the pool at my friend Anna’s house when we were kids. Older kids who could swim, but kids. My mom was religious about taking us to swim lessons and we spent many summer days at the Y’s outdoor pool…..So I guess we were safe….right?

  4. You have every right to fear the worst arounf pools. It is so easy to lose sight of children at parties and such. Too ofen i parent or grownup thinks someone else is watch the children when in fact no one is.

    Yes, Ellie would not be deterred by a fence if she really wanted to get into the pool. But she can swim a little. It’s Jo Jo would might follow and she can’t swim.

    But you can’t put bells around kids or grownups. Life is full of danger and good. Teach your children well and pray a lot. … So pay attention, don’t leave them alone by pools or lakes or oceans. Don’t assume someone else has yoyr kid.

    It’s your responsibility as a parant, for life, to protact your kids.

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