Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Publish Day - keeping kids water-safe

My latest column, Tots at highest drowning risk, deals with a topic that is very near and dear to my heart.

As usual with me, there’s a bit of a back story: When I was 13, I made a conscious decision to never work in a burger joint or other minimum-wage-prison job. I decided to become a lifeguard. I trained hard, got certified, and worked at pools throughout my teens.

The experience helped set the stage for everything I’ve done since. I learned how to lead, communicate and empathize. I learned how to manage in a crisis, and how to control large groups of people. I learned the value of prioritization.

I was also a swim instructor, and much of my work with children and their parents helped me build skills that have lasted a lifetime (so far, anyway.)

I also met my wife at my pool, and I can’t help but think that things would have been very different if I hadn’t been lucky enough to be there on that particular day.

So when I open up the paper and see an almost endless trail of stories about kids drowning, my heart breaks. I look at my own kids and pray we never show up in the paper for that reason. I hover over them when we swim and agonize over all the things that can threaten their safety and their lives. I cringe when I watch other parents and caregivers at a beach or pool virtually ignoring their kids for hours at a stretch.

If this piece reaches one person and motivates him/her to become a water-safe family, then this column will have been worth it.

Pray we don’t read any more news stories like it this summer.

Your turn: How do you keep your kids safe around water? How do you handle yourself when you see kids with no one looking over them?

16 comments:

Trillian said...

Carmi - I know how you feel. Having spent my summers at a cottage on Lake Erie as a kid, I'm painfully aware of the effects of an undertow on little people. These days, we live only 20 minutes from Lake Huron, and go to the beach two or three times a week.

My strategy is to swim with my kids. Both of them are strong swimmers for their age, but I like to be close by. While the rest of the parents watch from the sand, I swim with the my little guys. Not only do I keep them safer, but I have a great time and get a little exercise too.

Heather said...

I was a lifeguard and swimming instructor too. My grandfather drowned when I was two so I am very safety conscious about the water.

Better Safe Than Sorry said...

my kids all know how to swim, they've all taken lessons and at some point of time swam competitely, my youngest daughter swims for mississauga and aspires to make it to the olympics! gotta have a dream

Stationery Queen said...

Would you believe I never learned to swim? And I panic in the water if my head goes under! That's why -- only to my knees in the ocean and only in the shallow end of a pool! Unless you were nearby, of course. Or some of the hotties from the beach I was at this summer. I envy their fitness, too.

Diva said...

I can't believe how many accidental drownings my town has seen so far this year, and we have plenty of summer left. Great job, Carmi, for helping to spread the word. Hopefully it will help.

sharbean said...

Ditto -- I was a lifeguard for 15 years and a swim instructor too. I can't not be in the water with kids... it's too ingrained in me to be within arms reach at all times. Plus it's fun being in the water.

The one thing I have to watch is Makenna loves the water so much now that every little muscle in her body works at getting to it. When she's old enough to understand I will start doing "safety education" and safety role playing around water. I want her to respect the power that water has and how dangerous it is especially since she loves it so much.

As for seeing parents who are not watching their kids: it drives me nuts and I will say something. I've rescued too many tots in my life to not flip out when I see someone's baby in over their head -- educating people is important especially since many of these tots would have died had there not been a lifeguard present.

Raehan said...

It can happen so quickly . I am just like you. A child drowned at a summer camp near me last summer.

Amy said...

I tend to hover near my children. On eof whom just overcame his fera of water this summer and is a swimming maniac. He's five. The younger one (3.6) has never had a fear of water and will jump in without ever thinking twice. So I am always close by. I also closely watch the lifeguards and notice that half the time they're staring at one spot for long periods of time or not watching the water at all. As my youngest is a water baby, I love the lifeguards that lunge up and out of their seats everytime he goes under water. Even when I'm standing right there to pull him up. They seem to me to be few and far between. Just this past weekend we were swimming and my husband was in the pool with ourr older son and I was sitting down with the younger one while he had a snack. When he was finished he put his goggles on and ran to the pool. I was watching the whole time. He ran right past the lifeguard who was standing at the pools edge. I thought he would stop and shout to his dad, but instead just jumped in. My husband didn't see him coming and had turned and gone under water playing with our older son. I ran to the pool with my clothes on, right past the same lifeguard and jumped in and got him. He wasn't under for very long, not even long enough to scare himself. But it sure scared us. We had to have the big talk about always waiting until someone is ready to catch him. Freaked me out and reaffirmed why I hover. Because no one else really is. I'm also amazed (although not sure why) at the number of older children at the inner-city pools here that bring their younger siblings to the pool with them, with no adults. I can't imagine... We were at a pool one day when a four year old was drowning and was resusciated and taken away in an ambulance. Too scary...

Anonymous said...

Gotta love all my typos :-)

Dean said...

I watch them like a hawk when they're around water, and I insist that they have swimming lessons. Which reminds me, we have to start HouseApe 3.0 this year. He's 3, and it's not too early.

Knockoff said...

Good job bringing awareness to this situation, Carmi.
If I had small children, I would swim with them at the beach, and although I wouldn't want to make them feel smothered if they were older, I'd at least keep my eye on them. Besides, who wouldn't WANT to watch their offspring discover their water legs and frolic around?!

Kathy said...

Carmi - swimming was such a huge part of my summertime growing up. I swam well and often. I've tried to pass this love of the water on to my daughter and I'm pretty sure I have. As a kid, I always looked up to the lifeguards at our local pool.

My husband and I have started swimming together, lengths in the evenings, 2 or 3 times a week. The last time we were there, the "junior lifeguards" will still in the pool - not working or learning - just goofing off, disobeying the working guards and breaking all the rules. I was so "turned off" that we ended up leaving. You've inspired me...I think I'll send in a complaint.

Great post.

L said...

we actually taught my little sister to swim before she could walk (always swam underwater with a big smile on her face)... I think the key is to make sure they can swim as early as possible....

puremood said...

Hi, again. Earlier I come on my own... but can you guess how I got here this time?! Hmm...

Yes, OK, is it obvious? Michele made me do it!

When I see kids not being watched I feel very furious at all the lack of parenting I see! Arg! My kids are always supervised!!

Michael Manning said...

Carmi: Michelle sent me. Having had major surgery on both shoulders, I don't swim. But I am a good lookout for possible trouble.

sharbean said...

Hey Carmi -- Just a quick note to let you know that I've linked to this discussion from my site.

Great post by the way!