PARENTING AND SAFETY
Be Sure to Watch Your Children When You’re Near Water. I’m Not Kidding.
About 1 in 5 drownings in the U.S. are kids under 16 or at least 2 per day.
This past weekend I was talking with my mom — I call every Saturday at 8:00 a.m. — and learned yet another story about myself that I hadn’t heard before.
The trigger for this story was the annual Newman Reunion at my brother’s house in South Jersey. My daughter and her husband will be flying there with my grandson Wally who is a year and a half old. My brother Ron and his wife have a swimming pool.
I’m sure I’m not the only grandparent who ever worried before. I’ve lost my measure of sleep as a father, most of it needless. The emotions are real whether warranted or not. So knowing my brother has a pool, well, you know how it is. I brought it up to my Mom. “I hope that with all the little ones running around there will be someone always watching the pool.”
This led to my mother telling me a story I’d never heard before.
Once, when I was perhaps about a year old, my parents had gone to a park with a public pool. Rather, the park had a pool for older folks and a separate wading pool suitable for toddlers. My mom was seated near the pool reading a book, keeping an eye on me.
At some point she turned her head away for a minute and when she looked back I was gone. Then she noticed I was lying face down on the bottom of the pool.
Naturally she nearly flipped out, leaping up and pulling me out of the water. I was O.K., had not even inhaled. Not sure what I was doing but survived, and fortunately the young mother did not have a heart attack.
When she told me this story, which I’d never heard before, it brought to mind another story.
I was eight years old and the previous Christmas had received a Timex wristwatch. (When I found the store receipt in the waste basket I learned, for the first time, who Santa really was.) Now summer, our family was visiting my relatives in Hamilton, Ohio. As was our custom, we children had all gone swimming at the public pool near Five Corners.
It was a large public pool which now houses many memories. On this particular occasion we were taking turns trying to see who could hold their breath the longest underwater. Wearing my waterproof Timex watch, I jumped into the water, exhaled all the air from my lungs and floated to the bottom of the pool where I stared at the watch as the second hand ticked around the dial.
Suddenly, a pair of hands grasped my torso and flung me up out of the water. When the lifeguard had seen my body lying on the bottom of the pool, I’m sure his blood pressure shot through the roof.
I don’t know if I had a chance to explain what I was doing, but I could tell it wasn’t something I’d be trying again any time soon. He was clearly shaken.
Drownings are real. I was visiting my mother in Tampa when the tragic Parkland shooting occurred in Florida, resulting in 17 deaths and many other injuries. What I also remember is reading a newspaper story that week with a headline stating that something like 68 children under the ager of six had drowned that year in Florida.
I’m not trying to minimize gun violence, only trying to put it in perspective. These infant and youth drownings should never have happened.
No parent should ever have to bury their young, especially when the cause is so senseless.
As my mother used to say, “A stitch in time saves nine.” We don’t have to be fanatically absurd about safety, but we can be wise. And that’s the point I am hoping to make her.