Sunday, March 02, 2008

Quite A Little Swimmer

Parental Pride Endangers Children's Lives In Backyard Swimming Pools

A Tragedy Waiting To Happen

Not long ago I had the opportunity to visit with an old friend. She was proud to show off her nice suburban home, and her backyard which included a swimming pool. The pool was drained and covered as it was Fall, but its proximity to the home's back door had me concerned.

I had just met her little daughter for the first time in years. The child is just a little preschool age girl so I asked my old friend, "Aren't you concerned that your pool is within just a few steps of your back door?"

"No", she said, "my little daughter is quite the little swimmer".

I was shocked at the response, but I kept my silence as I was only visiting for a few minutes. Still I wondered, how it was that this college educated middle aged woman actually believed that her little preschool age daughter was somehow safe from becoming just another drowning statistic.

Each year more than four hundred children die in backyard swimming pool drownings. And behind each story are parents filled with pride over their little tykes swimming prowess. It's insane, and almost all of these children's deaths are entirely avoidable.

Sad But True Personal Story Of A Child's Drowning

Only last summer a couple of business associates, a married couple living in a southern state, had attended a neighborhood pool party. There they mingled, and spoke with other parents. They felt safe knowing that their little children, a preschool aged boy and girl, were "quite the little swimmers", and because there was a lifeguard on hand.

The father only a few feet from the pool was busy talking, while the mother was taking photographs of her children. She left the children so as to take her digital camera away from the pool. She was gone for only a few minutes.

The mother had warned the father, telling him she was putting the camera back in the car, and believed the father understood that he was to watch the children in the pool. He was busy mingling, and thought that the mother was taking the children with her. It was a simple misunderstanding, but it allowed for the tragedy which would unhinge this family's world.

The children were safe, the parents thought, for after all their children were quite the little swimmers. Everyone in their neighborhood had backyard pools. In the South the only way to beat the heat is a backyard swimming pool, and their children had been swimming from the time they could crawl.

Besides the parents thought there were all those other parents around, and to make things even safer there was a lifeguard too.

How could anything go wrong?

In just those minutes that it took for the mother to run her digital camera back to the car, and to return it happened.

When the mother returned she noticed her little son floating face down in the pool. The lifeguard had just thought the boy was playing, but he was not. He was unconscious.

The father jumped in, and brought the boy out of the pool. They performed CPR, and only in the madness of those moments did it cross the mother's mind to ask where her little daughter was.

That is when they realized that the daughter was at the bottom of the pool just a few feet away.

The little girl died, but the boy survived with brain damage.

The mother could not even attend her little girl's funeral, as she was being watched around the clock for fear she would try to commit suicide - she blamed herself.

I had only been talking with the mother the week before. I spent weeks last summer trying to cope with the thought of what had happened to these loving parents, and their little children.

I often reflect upon how unrealistic parents can be when it comes to believing their children are "quite the little swimmers". It only takes a moment for a child to get into life or death situation in a swimming pool, and young children should NEVER be allowed in a swimming pool unmonitored.

Simple Precautions Can Save Children's Lives

I'm hoping that my friend installs a lock on every door which leads into their backyard. This includes any sliding glass doors, and outdoor gates. Including any back exit gates which neighbor children may use to sneak into their backyard.

I'm hoping that inexpensive door alarms be installed on every door or gate leading into their backyard be installed. These are simple, inexpensive, and easy to install precautions which one would have thought would have already been installed in this expensive and modern home, but which I failed to notice upon my visit.

I have now told my old friend this story, and hope she understands how precious her child's life is. I'm hoping that she realize that when there's no gate around a pool that it opens up the potential for grave danger to any child, including their own - even when the pool is empty!

I'm hoping my old friend realizes that the perceptions of their little girl being "quite a little swimmer" is most probably based upon a misplaced sense of pride - a pride which endangers their little daughter's life.


rickmonday said...

A truly sad story. The thing is that this happens quite often and "pool parties." I believe that a kid died at Tommy Lee's son's birthday party a few years ago.

Although these kids need to be contanstly watched, I wonder how many kids at the age of 5 or 6 dont even know how to swim.

grasshopper said...

Tragic...I just don’t get it, why some parents think that it could never happen to them too. Why can’t they learn from mistakes that other parents did? The pools can never be fully safe for children, not even for grown up’s.

Dave said...


Before you start calling your friends irresponsible parents maybe you should find out what measures they DO take instead of judgmentally assuming the worst. For example, coincidentally (ahem)we have a pool in our backyard with no fence around the pool itself. However, we have door alarms on our back door and side door to the garage which we use during the four months the pool is open. Additionally, we provide good supervision and have had no problem in six years with kids and the pool. Even expensive fences around pools can be left open or climbed over

I must confess though that there is one danger that is year-round, and far more deadly to kids, just beyond our front door. And it’s not fenced off. Perhaps you’ve heard of streets. Wickedly dangerous.

JeromeProphet said...

Dave: All good parents, like yourself, love their children, yet hundreds of children die each year from something so simple to prevent. Something is obviously wrong.

As a responsible pool owner, and loving parent, you would surely agree that such precautions as the one's you've mentioned are worthy of any cost it takes to employ.

One thing I've experienced as a parent, and that is that precautions one takes when a child is very small can easily become obsolete as a child gets older.

So hopefully, in addition to any alarms which you have installed, that you also have installed some locks which make it nearly impossible for your children to wander into your backyard when say, you might be mowing your front lawn while your spouse is on run to the nearby grocery store.

In this hectic modern world filled with distractions, and overworked, exhausted parents it's important to remember that it only takes a few seconds of not breathing to fall unconscious, and a few minutes to die.

Rickmonday - thanks for commenting. We made sure our daughter hit the YMCA for years even though we never owned a pool.

Grasshopper: Thanks for commenting.

email jp






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