It is always a tragedy when a child dies. Period. I can’t contemplate losing my own children without tearing up. But here’s the tough part. When you lose a child to an accident, despite the definition of accident being ‘unintentional’ and ‘unexpected’, parents feel guilt on top of the crushing grief. “What if….” “I should have….” “If only I hadn’t….” And how many of us subconsciously agree with them? Do we self-righteously tell ourselves, “I NEVER let my toddler out of my sight for even an instant”.
Really? Aside from unrealistic, that probably wouldn’t be good for either the toddler or you. “I NEVER leave my child alone in the bathtub.” OK, more likely, but are you saying you never, ever forgot their jammies or a clean diaper in the other room? I’m even going to confess to just standing in the other room with my eyes closed for a second when I dashed to get something just channeling the energy to keep me going until the kids were in bed after a very long day of solo parenting.
So what do you do when your child is the victim of an accident? When your child drowns or almost drowns? The reactions are as varied as the people impacted. Do you suggest pools should be banned? Do you keep your other children away from all water? Or do you understand that water is everywhere and a fact of life and that drowning happens in the blink of an eye to the best loved and monitored children and try to make everyone around you more aware and safer?
Here are a couple of my heroes. Ordinary moms who have the enormous courage to stand up publicly to teach other moms about water safety.
Sara Staker’s toddler Bronson almost drowned in a bathtub when she stepped away for just a minute. He was declared dead but a dedicated team of doctors tried a new treatment and Bronson is alive and doing well.
Jenna’s toddler son drowned in their backyard pool. He was out of their sight for literally a minute or two and somehow got up the side of the pool with no ladder and fell in. He had drowned by the time his frantic parents found him only minutes after he went missing.
The bravery that really boggles my mind? The Stakers have been on national television talking about their near-miss. They have Bronson in water safety and swimming lessons and have taken him to the beach. Jenna had her infant daughter in the water within months of her son drowning (wearing a life vest, a float and with both mom and dad within arm’s reach). She has taught her daughter water safety and talks to her regularly about how to stay safe in the water. Jenna is also trying to raise money to become a certified swim instructor so that she can help other kids.
These moms have faced our worst fears and realized that they need to teach their children how to have fun in the water – safely, and they are willing to share their story. There is no greater courage.