On Sunday afternoon, my son Walt was swimming and life-guarding two of my adult students. We were watching Melone, 2?, who was playing alone in the yard, in sight of both groups.
Suddenly the toddler noticed the pool and ran back to get her mother, saying, "I see water. Hold Momma’s hand." She took her mother to the pool to watch the swimmers. Melone’s mother is Nikki Simmons of near Russellville. She has taught Melone to "hold Momma’s hand" when exploring water. That trick could save the lives of many toddlers if parents would teach it to their little ones.
Holding their mother’s hand is the positive way to avoid the sudden tragedy that takes the lives of 1,000 little fellows each year. Bright, curious, investigating toddlers will test everything in their small worlds. Parents and grandparents are certain that drowning can not happen to their precious one. Wishing will not help. Adults must act to eliminate problems and teach alternatives, as Nikki and Jace Simmons have done with Melone.
My pool has a tall fence, the gates are locked in all seasons and children do not play on its deck in summer or winter. My grandchildren and swimming students lined up at the gate where a sign said, "Toilet, teacher, tub." That meant use the toilet, wait for the lifeguard - parent or teacher - and step in the foot tub to rinse off grass clippings before going through the pool gate. Waiting for the lifeguard is the older child’s alternative to "holding Momma’s hand."
The end of summer requires extra caution on the part of parents, lifeguards and all involved with summer swimming.
"Just one more swim" seems to convey a dare to try things people never tried before: "Wonder if I can swim in deep water? If I can do a flip off the diving board? What’s it like to play in the pool when the water is rushing down the drain? How long can I stay under water if I really try?" Even lifeguards have lost their lives in those last two ways.
Diving off the board when part of the water is gone involves more distance for the body to plunge though air and not enough water depth to cushion the fall. A few - playing in water that’s going down the drain - have been pulled by the tremendous suction of a large-diameter pipe and have fought but couldn’t pull away from the drain. These are true stories; the last days of summer have special hazards.
I beg pool owners, managers, operators and parents to take this seriously. Just because a person has had lessons or learned to swim does not qualify that person to go into deep water, especially on an inner tube, a plastic toy, in a life jacket or water wings or to even play on the deck around the deep water.
I believe deep water is for those who can do the following things confidently, under the watchful eye of a lifeguard or teacher:
● Swim and float for three minutes without stopping.
● Swim several yards on the back, roll over and continue by swimming on the front.
● Swim as above but change from front to back, which is more difficult.
● Swim around an imaginary post in deep water and return to starting point without stopping.
● Go around the imaginary post in the opposite direction.
● Step off into deep water feet first, level off and swim 30 feet without stopping.
Maybe you’ll want to clip Granny’s deep-water test for next summer.