Recentloy, Bode Miller and his family made the news for tragic circumstances: their daughter, a sweet toddler well under two, had died after a drowning accident. During a friend get-together, Miller's daughter, Emmy, wandered off and was found unresponsive, facedown in a pool. Her death will be only one of many pool accidents this summer.
And let's be honest - even teaching kids how to swim, or proper pool safety, can't guarantee safety 100% of the time. Some cities now have ordinances regarding new builds or remodels - that all pools must be surrounded by a locked fence. The goal, of course, is to keep children away from the drowning hazard. And, by so doing, to give parents peace of mind.
My toddler doesn't know how to swim. What's worse - he's uncomfortable in the water. I feel like I've failed him, because I know how important swimming is as a basic foundation for water safety. It doesn't help, of course, that his grandmother spent much of her life teaching young kids how to swim. In my defense, I have always been a natural-born water bug. I'm definitely not some image of grace in the water, but I enjoy the silky way it folds around your skin as your glide weightlessly through time and space.
....I might enjoy the pool. I don't ever want to own one, but I want my kids to also enjoy their time around water. And, of course, to respect water and its potential dangers. While nature is gorgeous, it is also often unpredictable. Helping little ones learn to be cautious when they're dealing with Mother Nature is definitely a good exercise to begin. Real safety around water begins with a heightened sense of awareness of your surroundings. Generally speaking, that's a useful tool to teach your kids - to be able to hone or focus their awareness upon self-command.
Beyond just basic swimming knowledge, it's critical to know how to react if you're ever caught in a dangerous situation. Just last month, I watched a video of two friends jump into a rushing river. One made it safely back to shore, while the other was swept away and was never seen again. An outdoor water sports expert detailed how to survive such a situation, where your swimming skills can't match the situation you've been thrown into. Stay afloat, and try to orient yourself so your feet are downstream - that is, so you can better see and navigate around oncoming obstacles like rocks or dams. Of course, try to grab onto anything that is thrown to you or might connect to the shoreline.
How do I teach my toddler this? And why do I feel that he won't be safe until he gets swimming lessons and learns to love the water like I do? Or is it just my overly-anxious mama bear wanting my children to be prepared for anything this crazy world throws at them? In all honesty, I want to protect myself, too - from the pain that Bode Miller and his family must feel. Accidents happen, and I can only do so much - but what I can to do try to make my kids safe, you better believe I'm going to try.