Friday, June 14, 2013

We are every child's parent

Last night I had water aerobics, as I do several times a week. It's a fun class, a good workout, and I like the camaraderie of the women. I especially like being in the water after a long day at work.

Before heading into the restricted area, the first few minutes of the class is spent in the main part of the pool, where we stretch and are surrounded by families enjoying the water. I was bending and stretching and felt someone bump past me. This isn't unusual, and I half turned and looked to make sure I wasn't going to kick someone when I pulled my leg up.

The next two or three seconds were both a blur and an eternity, each moment startling in its clarity.

I looked back and saw a young boy, maybe seven or eight, floating on his back, his eyes closed. Standing next to him was his younger brother [?], maybe six or seven. The water wasn't deep there, up to the younger boy's shoulders.

I heard over my shoulder, "Is he o.k.? He needs to stop that," and looked to see a life guard squatting at the edge of the pool. 

I looked back as the younger boy said, "He's just faking. He's faking," and moved to pull him away.

Again, I heard over my shoulder the life guard calling, "Is he o.k.? He needs to stop that. Is he o.k.?"

The younger boy kept saying, kind of laughing, "He's faking, he's just faking."

I got a sick feeling in my stomach, looking at the floating boy's pale skin, his eyelids blue-ish, his small chest breaking the surface of the water, and I reached for him.

"Sweetie," I said, grabbing his arm, pulling his body toward me, "are you pretending? You need to stop that."  Pulling his unmoving body toward me, saying, "Sweetie, you have to stop this. Wake up. You have to stop pretending."

He wasn't moving. His eyes weren't opening in mischief. I drew him toward me and turned to the life guard and said, "I don't know what to do. He's not faking."

She dropped into the water. I moved to her, holding the boy up under his shoulders and handed him over, relieved that someone knew what to do, cursing myself for not having taken a CPR or First Aid class in over 10 years.

The life guards moved quickly, clearing the pool, and administering CPR.  The boy was taken to the emergency room, an oxygen mask over his face. I'm not sure what happened to him to cause him to be unresponsive, and I'm hoping that there will be no lasting effects.

But as I stood in the public shower stall later, crying and trying to pull myself together, I realized that just because my kid wasn't in the pool doesn't me that I shouldn't be vigilant. The life guard did her job, and I don't know that I could have done any more for that boy, but I don't like that sickening, helpless feeling. I didn't like that I was standing right next to an emergency and barely noticed.

And I certainly didn't like that horrible woman who, when the head life guard came out after the young boy had been taken to the ER and said it would be at least 20 more minutes before the life guards would be calm enough to open the pool, said, "I can't believe I paid $18 and I can't swim." Even I don't have the swears this person deserves.

Please take a look at the article in Slate to recognize what a drowning child looks like. I know I'm going to pay more attention when I'm in the water, whether my kid is there or not. Even though she's 16 and a good swimmer. Because it's not just her I'm worried about, it's all the kids - we are every child's parents.


  1. Such a scary situation, but you did all you could. That makes me think I should sign up for a first aid and CPR class as soon as possible. It's also been more than ten years since I've taken one and I remember nothing from them. It's good to have the skills. You never know when you might need them.

  2. That IS really upsetting. I never thought that a drowning person would not look like they're drowning, like on TV. I'll be more vigilant when I'm at the pool. (The one I used to use regularly has no lifeguard and I was terrified that I would drown during the period in which I was learning how to swim. Lifeguards should be required at all public/for-profit pools.)

  3. That is so scary. Thank goodness you listened to your gut. You did good. He's lucky you were there.

    I hope he's ok.

  4. Your story gives me chills. I'm taking my toddler to Mommy and Me swim classes this month, so it's especially relevant to me. Thanks for sharing. Very horrifying situation.

  5. Thank you for posting this -- the video link was especially helpful. I will send out link to everyone in my contact list. A family friend lost a four year old in their new pool just a year ago. Thank goodness you were there for that little boy. I hope he's ok...

  6. Put up a post too. Not that anyone reads me, but still. Any word on the child?

  7. Shudder shudder shudder. The nightmare...Do remember an eminently forgettable movie with Tom Cruise, called Minority Report? The one segment of that movie that got to me is when the main character takes his young son to a crowded public pool and...the little boy slips away & drowns. Horrifying.
    Thank god you were there.

  8. Wow. Not only is it good for us adults to be aware of what's going on with not only our own kids, but also kids should be taught to never fake such a thing. It isn't funny.

  9. kind of scares me.... thanks for this post!! good to see your blog!

  10. Embarrassingly, I cannot swim. I have made my girls learn, though, and the boy starts lessons this summer. I will get in the water, but that's about it. I'm even too afraid to fully submerge. I WANT to get over it, but I have yet to find a class with an instructor patient enough to work with me. That said, my anxiety at a pool is astronomical. I can't imagine how it felt to realize this boy was not playing. I hope he is OK (and shudder at the thought that he is not).


Every time you comment, I get a lady boner.