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A Mother’s 4th of July Story

August 24, 2013

A mother who brings her sons to Emler Swim School shared her story of a Close Call for her two year old son, Max. Here is what happened in her words.

“It was the 4th of July, and we were visiting our friends’ new house in McKinney with a pool. We’d made an American flag out of bananas, strawberries and blueberries to bring. The kids were excited to swim. We were happy to go hang out with other adults.

When we got there, we went swimming in the pool first thing. We all had our fun in the pool, then dried off and had burgers and hot dogs outside. The younger kids (including mine) changed back into regular clothes and were playing with toys around the yard. The pool was fenced, although the gate was propped open for the day. Three of the older kids went back in the pool after dinner.

There were at least 4 adults at a round table just on the other side of the pool fence – the girls’ parents, my husband, and me. We were just sitting back in our chairs, chatting, having a drink, and keeping one eye on the other four younger kids.

Surely *someone* would see if a child wandered into the pool area that wasn’t supposed to be there, right? We didn’t give anyone the “assignment” to watch the pool. We were all watching, so it was fine. (Or so we thought.) Last I’d checked, Max was playing with a bubble lawn mower on the patio, just behind my chair.

Maybe seconds later, maybe minutes later, I don’t even know…. I didn’t hear any alarming sounds or anything. No big “splash” or anything. As parents with little ones, we sometimes tune out our kids during adult conversation. Of course we’re always listening for a scream, a cry, or some sign that we need to jump in. But unfortunately, when a child is underwater, there are no audible clues that anything is wrong.

When Max went into the fenced pool area, and either jumped or fell into the pool, I was not watching him. His dad and I were right there, but completely unaware that he was inside the fenced pool area.

Until I heard Max crying to my left. I turned and saw the 10-year-old girl, holding Max up out of the water. He was soaking wet in his clothes and crying. I jumped from my chair and went to go get him. I pulled him up, held him close and wrapped a towel around him, comforting him and looking for signs that he wasn’t OK. He was clearly breathing fine – crying and upset. I held him in my lap, thinking he might vomit, but he didn’t. He just cried it out, calmed down, and got dressed and started playing again. The whole “event” suddenly seemed about as trivial as a scraped knee. But I knew it wasn’t.

I immediately felt an enormous amount of guilt, regret, and even a bit of anger that my husband had missed it too. We were probably seconds away from an absolutely HORRIFIC story. I can’t even let my brain imagine the possible scenarios (coma, brain damage, death) in much detail, but I’ve heard the stories and they are absolutely devastating.

We are incredibly fortunate that God sent an angel in the form of a 10-year-old little girl to save my son.

I held Max so tight for the rest of the night. When I sang him “You Are My Sunshine” by his crib, (part of our routine), I cried. And I barely slept that night, replaying the moment in my head and feeling overwhelmed by guilt, regardless of the fact that he was completely fine.

Still. I should have been more alert. Especially since I’d JUST read this blog post, and was even talking to the other parents about it. The whole scene fit the exact description, yet I failed to recognize when it was happening around me.

I think that anytime a group of parents and kids get together, we (parents) all feel a bit more relaxed. Like we can take a load off and not worry so much about our kids, because with so many other adults there, there’s no need to worry. Surely SOMEONE would be around if something started to go bad – kids fighting over toys, scraping knees, etc. I don’t think that’s a conscious thought, but just a feeling that the safety of our kids is under control.

That false sense of safety around a pool is something we need to fix. As embarrassing as it may be to suggest it, we need to be more responsible than that. We need to watch children around water as closely as if we were the ONLY adult there. And if that means taking turns playing “lifeguard” by the pool, so be it. It may sound a little goofy and extreme, but it’s absolutely worth it to keep our children safe.”

We, at Emler Swim School are so grateful that Max is OK. We’re grateful for angels and for second chances.

Even though it’s back-to-school time, don’t drop your guard around the pool. Choose designated Water Watchers. (Get a free Water Watcher Tag at any Emler location.) And don’t prop open the gates around a pool.

For more water safety tips go to Lonestarlifesavers.org.