Water Babies - Part 2
This is something I never really thought about until after I had lost my son. He was most definitely a “water baby” and I encouraged it, in fact, I was proud of it. We have a pool and some of our best memories spent as a family are swimming in our backyard. Jackson LOVED swimming. And when I say swimming, I mean, floating around in his puddle jumper floaty. We also took him to parent child swimming lessons. We played with balls in the water; he “swam” to them while I held him and then he would put them in a basket. He would get so excited with this game. We would sing “The Wheels on the Bus” and I would move Jackson’s body along with the song. We taught him to climb out of the pool “elbow, elbow, tummy, knee”. We also taught him to jump in the pool from the side to us. We would let him go under the water after jumping and then we lifted him back up. He loved it! We all looked forward to his swim lessons, my husband and I took turns. We thought we were doing a good thing, but looking back on it, it was one of my regrets. Jackson was 18-months-old when he lost his life to drowning.
We taught Jackson to jump into the pool before he was equipped with the lifesaving skill of floating. In fact, I don’t remember us working on floating at all during his several weeks of lessons. I remember holding him on his back in the water, but never letting him go or letting him feel his own buoyancy. We continued this practice, this “culture”, at home. We let him jump in the pool to us, with and without a floatation device. We let him float around the pool in his puddle jumper. We instilled a false sense of security for our son, but also ourselves.
This summer, two local friends of mine, both Emergency Room nurses, watched their children become submerged while in a group swim lesson. Both times, the swim instructor did not see their child slip under the water. Both times, the mother had to bang on the glass from the observation room to get the instructors attention to save their child. Thankfully, they were watching their child’s lesson, but what if they were looking at their phone and no one noticed? Their child could have drowned, in the place where they trusted a swim instructor to teach them how to swim.
I am 100% positive that these types of lessons contributed to his lack of fear and respect for the water. I blame myself for encouraging it. Not that I wanted him to be fearful of the water, but I wanted him to be safe. At 18 months old, he didn’t have the developmental capabilities to understand that his puddle jumper was holding him up. He just knew a world that when he jumped into a body of water, he had fun, he floated, or mom or dad was there to catch him. Like Carmen said, “magical hands”.
I am also certain that if Jackson would have had survival-based swim lessons, he would still be with us today. My son snuck out to our backyard pool when he was unknowingly unsupervised for 5 minutes. Five minutes when I thought my husband was watching him. Five minutes when my husband thought he was safe with his older sisters, playing upstairs in our game room. No one had any intention of going swimming, we were about to get ready for bed. But Jackson found his opportunity and only wanted to have fun.
I miss my son every minute of every day. I want to help prevent this tragedy from happening to others. We need to change our culture around swimming. We need to change our way of thinking. This does not only happen to neglectful parents. I thought I was doing everything right. I thought this would never happen to me. When I was home with Jackson, I never let him leave my side. He went everywhere with me and I always knew exactly where he was. I even took him to the bathroom with me. But this didn’t happen when I was home alone with Jackson, our entire family was home. There are so many misconceptions surrounding drowning; we need to break these barriers for parents to see that this can happen to them.
All children, ESPECIALLY those who love the water, need to be skilled with the ability to save themselves if they make it to a situation where they reach the water by themselves. Even at pool parties, with many people around, children have drowned.
Drowning is silent. Please teach your children to respect the water. It is not a fun safe or safe place, especially not until they are skilled with the ability to get to a float independently to breath. We need to change.
Jenny Bennett, Co-Founder of PPCD, Registered Nurse, Grieving Mother