May is Childhood Drowning Prevention Month. When I first started working on drowning prevention I considered myself a pretty well-informed and safety-conscious mom. I was shocked to discover that drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death for children in the U.S. Only automobile accidents pose a great danger to children. The statistics are the same for every developed country and even worse for under-developed countries.
I had no idea. I knew I shouldn’t leave my baby in the bathtub by themselves, but once they were stable sitting I’d dash into the other room to get clean clothes or something else I’d forgotten, confident they were OK for ‘a minute’. I made sure our pool had a fence and an alarm, but never thought about that ‘empty’ ornamental fountain at the back of the garden after days of rain when I let them play in the fenced-in yard. I’d watch my kids like a hawk when we were in the pool together (any pool), but on the day of our annual end-of-summer BBQ I’d trust that the mass of kids in the pool would raise the alarm if one got in trouble while the adults were within eyesight but talking and laughing and really not paying attention even though we’d have sworn otherwise.
I love the water. The best time I spend with my kids is in the water. I love watching the sheer exuberance on my son’s face when he’s dodging waves, doing cannonballs or just racing around having water gun fights. My heart swells with pride at every one of my kid’s accomplishment in swimming – whether executing the perfect dive or putting their face in for the first time. I will do anything to keep my kids in and around water – it’s good for their health and good for their soul – but I have also learned I need to be more vigilant. I will teach them water safety. I will watch them whenever they are near water. And I will protect them by knowing how to CPR if an accident does occur.
I know you love your child, so remember….Teach. Watch. Protect.