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Parents: Help Kids Swim Safely This Summer

While all public pools have lifeguards on duty, it's still a parent's responsibility to ensure your child's safety while in the pool.

It happens in a second, your child falls into the pool, unable to swim. It happened to my son recently. We were playing at our pool with friends – we belong to a private club with plenty of lifeguards on duty.

Here’s what it happened. My oldest had been swimming in the shallow end with his friend. My youngest had been playing in the baby pool, but decided to head back to the big pool. I asked my 2-year-old to wait for me while I went and got his – which was about 15 feet away. This was my mistake; he should have walked with me.

Instead he spotted his brother, playing with a boat, and jumped in. My head was turned for a second, because I was walking away from him. My 5-year-old acted fast and heroically. He screamed – “HE’S DROWNING!!!” I recognized his voice, turned and jumped fully clothed into the pool to save my young son who was trying to kick and keep his head above water.

Fortunately, I pulled him out quickly. We sat on the shallow end steps with him on my lap, he coughed, and cried. We were both scared, but he was fine.

What shocked me about the incident was that not one of the lifeguards moved. And no one acknowledged us afterwards, as we sat there shaken up.

After regaining our composure, I got my son’s puddle jumper, and got him back in the pool, so that he wouldn’t be afraid of the pool next time we went.

Now, the point of my story isn’t to rag on the pool or the lifeguards. Guarding a pool is one of the most difficult jobs. And yes, I made my complaint with the pool manager. Ironically, I think the world of our pool, and love the staff and guards.

My objective is to warn parents that even though guards are watching, they can’t possibly see every swimmer every second. Parents need to make sure – as they sit on the side and read their magazines – that they know exactly where their children are at all times. 

Even competent swimmers can find themselves in trouble quickly. In fact drowning is the number 1 cause of accidental death in children under 4. And it can happen in seconds. And the CDC again reiterates the importance to teach you kids to swim, as a swimmers risk of drowning is reduced by 88%.

My son was very lucky. I can’t even imagine what would have happened had my older son not gotten my attention so quickly.

Summer isn’t over yet, there’s still plenty of pool time left. And while the lifeguards are there for your protection, it’s important you know that the . An most importantly, that as the parent you take responsibility for your child while in that pool.

AmandaR August 02, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Oh my that is so scary. So happy your oldest was watching, those little ones are so quick. Thanks for sharing your story!
Tim August 02, 2012 at 02:48 PM
It's sooo true. All lifeguards seem to be completely worthless. My wife time and again at the Towson YMCA has had to effectively save children from drowning. One week, the kid's dad was right there, texting away on his phone like a loser while his kid is completely underwater. Makes you want to slap somebody. It's just amazing that for such an important yet mostly slack job, they find some real 'winners' to occupy them.
Stacey Schantz August 02, 2012 at 06:50 PM
It just reminds you to always watch. I see so many parent just lounging, resting reading, and I am usually in the pool with my kids. Perhaps as they get older you get more relaxed, but I still hold my breath everytime my kid jumps off the diving board!!!
Stacey Schantz August 02, 2012 at 06:52 PM
It's very easy to think that other people will watch your kid, and to be distracted. And cell phones/smart phones are very distracting - be it while driving, while playing, while swimming. Glad your wife helped the kid out!!!

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