Monday, March 17, 2014

The day the life guard rescued my son during swim lessons. (yes. for real.)

Two weeks ago, Krew was terrified to put his face in the water. This obviously made swimming in pools difficult, and jumping into pools pretty much impossible. Which really put a damper on going to the pool in the summer.

Knowing that we were going to Florida the end of March, Dave and I decided to put Krew in swim lessons twice a week for the month leading up to our trip. We were hoping it would help prep him for a little more fun in the water.

The first two lessons, Krew made a little progress, but was still freaking out if he had to put his face under water. The swim instructor told all the parents to get their children swim goggles, so we followed his instructions. We had no idea what a difference it would make. We put Krew in the bathtub that night and showed him how to put his face underwater with the goggles, and the change in his attitude was amazing. All of a sudden he realized how awesome being underwater was, and he did a complete 180. In fact, he became OBSESSED. He wanted to stay in the bathtub for forever that night, taking a deep breath and throwing his his head into the water, over and over and over. Then he began requesting to take a bath at least twice a day after that.

Since then, he has done AWESOME at swim lessons. The change really was mind-boggling. At the next lesson after buying the goggles, the instructor chuckled quite a bit and informed us that we had created a "monster." Krew now jumps off the side of the pool, can float on his back, and can swim probably 8 ft on his front with his face underwater. Today he even rolled (with the instructor's help) from his front to his back while floating and then swam for a short bit doing the front crawl with his arms. When it isn't his turn to do something during lessons, he's constantly underwater, looking around and practicing floating, only coming up to take a breath and go back down. Last night, he even started putting his head under water in the bathtub WITHOUT his goggles, opening his eyes! Dave and I are completely baffled. The kid has gotten so brave.

Apparently a little too brave.

Today at swim lessons, I was chatting with another woman, glancing up once in a while to see if it was Krew's turn to do something. One particular time when I looked up, I didn't see Krew in his normal place on the steps. The instructor was busy with another child, closer to me. I stood up and still couldn't see Krew. My heart started to race. I dropped Greyden, who was in my lap, at the feet of the woman next to me and quickly jogged the few feet forward to the edge of the pool, my eyes darting everywhere looking for my child.

Then I saw Krew, on the other side of the instructor, blocked from my view by the instructor's body, and completely out of the instructor's eye shot. All but the top of his head was under water, and he was rapidly kicking with his legs, hands in front of him clasped to the end of his floating kick board. He was facing the side of the pool, away from the steps where I knew he could touch the bottom. A quick assessment told me he was fine for the moment, but I didn't think he had the strength or ability to hold his breath long enough to get back to the steps. I didn't want to make a huge scene, especially for Krew's sake, but he was out of my arm's reach, on the other side of the instructor, so I said loudly to the instructor, crouched next to him at the side of the pool, "Can you please get him??", and pointed my finger at Krew. The instructor didn't respond, deeply focused on working with other the child in front of him and oblivious to my voice due to the loudness in the room. I saw Krew change directions to face the steps, so I knew he was consciously swimming toward the steps, but I knew my little guy couldn't hold his breath so long. "Please GET HIM," I said, my panic starting to rise, poking the instructor and jutting my finger at my underwater son. The instructor still didn't respond immediately, and at once I had a million possibilities running through my head, from screaming at the instructor to full on jumping over him into the pool myself. The instructor finally looked up at me, and what was happening must have registered based on my face, and as he twisted to see Krew, we were both thrown back by a huge SPLASH as the life guard jumped into the water and scooped Krew into her arms.

As Krew came above water in the life guard's arms, he seemed unfazed and wasn't choking on water or anything (such a relief). She placed him on the safe steps and climbed out of the water, her clothes drenched. My heart had fallen through my stomach and I was shaking. The instructor apologized to the life guard, and immediately turned to Krew and assessed what had happened. Krew's kick board had apparently floated away, and Krew, being so sure in his swimming abilities, had decided to go after it. The instructor talked with him about how we need to make sure we follow the rules and don't go past the line on the bottom step. Krew was completely calm up until the point that he realized he had disappointed the instructor. Then he looked at me, and I saw his face register the tears that had unavoidably started streaming down my face in the aftermath of my panic. It only took a split second for his face to fall and I knew that he was crying inside his goggles.

The instructor sympathetically smiled at me and asked if I was ok. I nodded yes, and he apologized, and said next time please just yell at him. I fumbled out a few words but I was too shaken up to say much. He assured me that I was much more traumatized than Krew was, and I knew he was right. Krew hadn't seemed scared at all.

Krew sat on the steps, crying, just staring at me, brokenhearted. I went over to him and pulled his goggles off his eyes, and he sobbed to me, "I broke the rules!!!" I reassured him it was ok, rubbing my hands up and down his little wet arms, telling him that we all make mistakes, that no one was upset with him, but he just cried and cried. I finally put his goggles back over his eyes and told him to get back in and swim. The instructor called him at that moment, told him it was his turn, and the kid must really love swimming because he stopped crying long enough to take his turn. But as soon as his turn was over, he sat on the steps and looked at me and began crying again. The last five minutes of the lesson went this way, with him pulling himself together emotionally just long enough to take his turn swimming and then falling apart into tears again as soon as his turn was over.

We talked in the locker room afterward, and I asked if he had been scared. He said no. I asked if he had just been swimming, and he nodded. I told him that we had all thought he couldn't breathe, and so we all got scared. Based on his blank stare, I could tell that no thought of being unable to breathe had ever crossed his mind. Sweet boy. He then cried nearly the whole way home, so disappointed in himself. This kid sure takes things hard.

Now that I'm home, I can't help but have the scenario run through my head over and over. Even though it all came out fine, I keep wondering, did I do my part as a parent? Should I have reacted more strongly initially, based on the fact that the life guard jumped in after him? Or was I correct in assuming that he was fine at that moment, based on the fact that he hadn't swallowed any water and didn't seem scared at all afterward?

It's one of those moments that really makes you step back and assess yourself as a parent. Did I react the way I should have in an emergency, if it even was an emergency? There's no way to practice for these scenarios...the moment your child is at swimming lessons and under water next to the unaware instructor and you have to decide if he's ok or not...and so what are we as parents supposed to do??

So there you have it. The story of my typically overly cautious water-loving child nearly drowning himself at swim lessons because he decided to be brave and take a risk.

Let me tell you, parenting is not for the faint of heart.


  1. :( I'm sure you saw the FB pics of E. Parenting is definitely not easy. We can't put them in a bubble...we just can't protect them from everything that happens, but that's where faith comes in, right? I think we do the best that we can and let God do the rest.

  2. I did see Emily's pictures - so sad!! Thanks for your words Joyce - I needed that reminder to do my best and let God do the rest. :) (I need to listen to the words of my kids' music more. Krew loves a song that sings, "With Jesus as my strength I'll do my best, He'll do the rest!")

  3. Oh wow, how scary! I think you handled it just right, especially since Krew didn't seem scared at all. I am in the middle between feeling bad for him and chuckling about him crying about breaking the rules though! I was that kid too. So cute. :-)

  4. Stephanie Nimmer DinkensApril 18, 2014 at 2:48 PM

    I had a similiar situation with my son, almost the same thing about 6 years ago and I still worry about it! Its scary when we see them underwater and the instructor doesn't. What if we hadn't noticed? I worry about that everyday. Its so scary. Thanks for sharing this story :)

  5. I am so glad that he is okay! Lifeguards are really good to have around. It's a good thing you had a vigilant lifeguard at the pool that day.