I wrote this post 4 years ago. Yet once again today I watched our youngest blaze down the pool, determined to beat the girl in the lane next to her during the race. Things look different now. She’s a swimming pro and I no longer sit by the pool during every single swim meet practice like I did for the past three years. Thankfully for us, this is but a memory. But as we hear more and more tragic news of kids drowning this summer, I want to share our story with you. Drowning does not look like what people think it does. It’s quiet and silent. Read this. Share it. Save a life.
This Saturday our youngest daughter swam in her last swim meet for this swim team season. She worked hard from the start of the season where she hung on the lane ropes in the water more than swam to the end of the season where she blazed down the the length of the pool at a snail’s pace without stopping and was victorious in her own right.
The victory was hers but more than anything it was ours as her parents.
Watching her swim was a victory for us. With every kick she trampled on one of the worst memories that I have. With every breath that she took before putting her face back down in the water to swim again it released the memory of the day that I didn’t know if she would be breathing.
4 years ago we heard her sister scream, “mom! Ellie’s in the pool!”. Looking into the pool our hearts sank as we saw her floating under the water. Her long hair drifted in a circle on top of the water, her legs and arms perfectly still in the water. Her body was straight up and down, nothing like the thrashing horizontal drowning victims that you see in the movies and TV shows.
I don’t know what I thought in that minute. Everyone surrounding the pool dashed towards the water but I reached her first with my husband right behind me. We pulled her out where she finally opened her mouth and let the sucker that she had been holding onto in her mouth go. The sucker was a lifesaver.
She coughed a few times and spit up a small amount of water but other than that she was fine.
It was at that minute that the truth of what could have happened hit us like a brick. Yes, she was fine but what if it had gone the other way?
If our oldest daughter wouldn’t have seen her in the pool or she wouldn’t have been sucking on a Tootsie Roll Pop the whole time she was under water, she wouldn’t have been here this weekend to swim down the pool and get her trophy for completing this swim team season.
I’m not writing this to just tell a story but I’m writing this to bring awareness.
Swim season is here. The pools are open. Sadly but surely a child will drown this summer. It’s not because of parental neglect, it’s just simply a tragedy.
On the day that Ellie almost drowned we were at a pool party at a friend’s house. The friend was so cautious about the large number of kids in the pool that she had hired a lifeguard. We had kept our eyes on our youngest the entire day and stayed within arms reach, at times even being probably too cautious.
The girl’s swim teacher had told us that most drownings happen during parties or when the pool is crowded because one child slipping below the surface is easily overlooked. We had been vigilant. Everyone at the party had been vigilant.
Finally, it was time for the party to end. The lifeguard left but we stayed for a few more minutes, dipping our feet in the water while the oldest two kids played in the hot tub and the littlest one played by my feet on the steps of the pool. She was the only child still in the actual pool although she was just playing on the steps with a bucket and a shovel.
Several other adults sat around the edge of the pool talking and just basking in the lovely evening. There were many eyes on the pool yet no one saw.
I turned around to talk to Mr. Byrd for a brief moment. For one moment I took my eyes off of her. One moment and somehow she slipped off of the steps and into the pool. I was still in arms reach. Two women to my right were in arms reach of her but no one saw.
It opened our eyes to how easily a child can drown. There is no sound, no splashing, no calling for help – they just simply sink under the water.
It’s horrifying and the image of her under the water is forever burned into my memory. But this week our high octane, wild child with a fighting instinct finished her first year of swim team. We still have to watch and be vigilant because she’s a little too sure of swim skills but that memory is just a memory. It no longer has hold over us, she’s defeated it this year.
Be vigilant with kids in the pool this year. Watch them and don’t let them out of your reach unless you know they can swim. Teach them from infancy to flip onto their back and float. Teach your older children to scream and yell if they ever see one of their younger siblings in the water.
After Ellie’s accident, we bought a Puddle Jumper and she wore it non-stop until we felt like she was a strong enough swimmer to go without it. Yes, she hated it at times but she didn’t go near the pool unless she was wearing it.
Accidents happen unbelievably fast and you can’t take that time back or claim a mulligan. Be extra vigilant this summer with any kids that are in the pool or near water. Most importantly remember that you probably won’t hear anything. You can’t look away and just listen for a splash because it might never come. It happens in an instant and is nothing like you expect it to be.
We are blessed that it is nothing but a memory but some families this summer will face a very different result.