We Were Right There, and It Happened Anyway: Be Vigilant With Your Little Ones Around Water

I couldn’t fall asleep Monday night. I couldn’t get the image out of my head of him standing on the bottom of the pool, water up over his head, eyes wide open, waving his arms up and down like a baby bird learning to fly. I couldn’t stop thinking about what that day might have become for us.

I went over to his room for the third time, checked his breathing, kissed him on the cheek.

Earlier that day, we sat in the 68-degree weather, holding our arms tight to our sides while the kids swam in my uncle’s heated pool. Sometimes, when a breeze blew over the water, steam actually rose from the surface. Not exactly what you hope for on Memorial Day weekend, but the kids were so excited to swim, so there we were.

Our older four are accomplished swimmers. No worries there. Poppy is 9 months old and was much more interested in the dog running laps around the pool than getting into the water. But Leo.

Leo is almost 3 years old. He desperately wanted to get into the water, but for some reason (lack of a nap that day? First swim of the year?) did not want to put on his floaties, his water-wings, his armies. Whatever you want to call them. So, he sat on a seat by the water, wrapped in a towel, and watched the kids splashing around.

Eventually, we told him he could sit on the steps with his feet in, but he couldn’t go into the pool. He is about a foot shorter than the depth of the water. He seemed happy to be there. He seemed content to watch. We would watch him.

How quickly we can lose track of what a child is doing! There were probably ten of us adults sitting there, not 15-feet away. We laughed and talked and, goodness, we had no idea how close we came to disaster.

Please. This year, be careful around the water with your little ones.

“Dad!” my oldest child shouted. He’s 13. He had been hanging out around the edge of the pool while the others were in the deep end. What if he had been with the others? What if he had been in the bathroom? What if he had stayed home?

I looked over at him. He was lifting Leo up out of the water by his armpits, about 10 feet away from the steps. Leo was red in the face, coughing up water, sputtering, gasping for air. He hung there in the air like a puppet, limp.

“He was under the water!” Cade shouted. Maile ran over and scooped him up, held him close in a towel. We could hear the water rattling around in his lungs. He coughed again. When he talked, it was in a raspy voice.

Shawn Smucker
Shawn Smucker
Shawn is the author of the book The Day the Angels Fell, a middle-grade adventure tale that asks the question, “Could it be possible that death is a gift?” He has also co-written numerous non-fiction books and lives in the city of Lancaster, PA, with his wife and their six children. He blogs regularly about family, faith, and city-living at shawnsmucker.com.

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