It's summer, and the pool beckons.
Every time I drive my daughter home to Martins Ferry from camp in Wheeling, there looms the Bridge Pool, with its vibrantly painted building and its eye-catching waterworks style baby pool. And every time, I have to answer her pleas with, "No, we can't go to the pool. It's closing in 5 minutes" or "No, we can't today. Mommy has to take you home to Grandma and go back to work."
Finally on a recent holiday, I miraculously found a couple of free hours. I thumbed my nose at the ominous clouds, grabbed our towels and Emma's floatie, and headed to the pool. What we like best about the Bridge Pool on Wheeling Island is the "baby" pool - Emma likes the waterfalls and fountains and walking on her hands, crab-style, in the shallow water. I like that she likes it.
Emma is just starting to learn to swim. So unlike when she was 3 and younger, I don't have to stand by her side every second she is in the water. She can hold her breath under water for a few seconds. At the baby pool, she is very comfortable. Because of that, I found myself that day letting my eyes wander from her several times. My Mommy Alarm usually sounded, though, after my eyes drifted for about 1 minute.
(The Mommy Alarm is very handy to have at parks, playgrounds and pools - clanging in my brain when something is amiss. It picks up on both eye and ear input, so it is useful at home, too, and tends to sound when I haven't heard a peep from Emma for about 5 minutes. Kids are always quietest when they're up to no good!)
In this month's Splish, Splash Safely feature, safety experts tell parents they must be vigilant about watching kids who are swimming or playing in pools and natural bodies of water. A child can drown in minutes, and there usually is no sound.
I have been reminded three times already this summer of the importance of keeping an eye on Emma at all times in the pool. All three times, I had disengaged my Mommy Alarm. Two of the instances occurred at Bridge Pool that day. Inexplicably, I decided that it was a good time to clean the receipts out of my wallet. I silenced my Mommy Alarm and ignored the hair standing up on the back of my neck. Once, she smacked faces with a boy while diving for a ball. Then, she swallowed and choked on water. Could I have prevented either of these things had I been watching her like a hawk? Probably not, but I would have been able to comfort her sooner. And I'm lucky the incidents weren't life-threatening.
The third instance is a bit scarier. A friend and I were eating pizza and drinking wine on the deck while our daughters swam in her pool. The pool was 4 feet deep, but Emma had her floatie, a ring in the shape of a turtle that is open in the back. After two glasses of wine, my Mommy Alarm was impaired . My back was turned when my friend, who was facing the pool, pointed over my shoulder, speechless. I turned and saw Emma's empty floatie sailing across the water. She was standing on her tiptoes, hanging onto a raft, and the water was up to her eyes. I didn't know if she was going to pull herself up on the raft or not, but after about 3 seconds, I jumped in and rescued her. She was fine, thank goodness.
Water is a wonderful play thing, but it is not to be taken lightly. It is a killer. In fact, it is the No. 2 cause of death of children under age 5 in America.
Mommy Alarms may be innate, but they aren't fool-proof. We are human, and I can't stress it enough: Keep an eye on those kids at all times!
I hope you have a safe, cool and happy summer!