Monday, July 02, 2012

Water, Water.........

My father was a wonderful dad--playful, affectionate, and always ready with good advice. Just what a motherless child needed. But most of that advice had little to do with safety. My safety-conscious husband had critical things to say (to me) about the chances I took as a child and teenager. I disliked hearing criticism of my dad, but even I had to admit a fatherly chat about drinking and driving would have been a good idea, especially when Dad and I were strolling the streets of Queens, trying to find where I had parked my car the night before.

So when it came to raising my own children, I was happy to following guidelines set forth by my cautious husband. Did I say "guidelines"? Silly me. He set forth specific rules:

The car doesn't move until all seat belts are fastened.

Smoke alarms will be installed at all critical points (even though we were smoke-alarm innovators, and each unit cost $110 at the time).

When the children are in water of any kind, we do not take our eyes off them ever, even for a second.

In the summer of 1978 my daughters and I spent an afternoon at Prompton Dam with Nora, my best friend at the time. Suzanne was 4 and Gillian was 2, and I was pregnant with their brother. Nora and I sat on a bench while the girls waded in waist-deep water. Nora and I chatted, and I watched my daughters.

Suzanne and Jill started walking slowly toward the shore, and as I watched, Jill disappeared. She had stepped in a deep hole, and she just sank—quicker than I can type this. And I'm a fast typist.

I jumped up without a word and ran, fully clothed, into the water, grabbing Jill and pulling her to the surface. I've thought often since then about the precious minutes that would have been lost had I not followed my husband's rule of never taking my eyes off a child in the water, even for a second. I imagine I'd be talking with Nora, looking at her, looking back at the girls, back and forth, until I looked at the girls and saw only one of them. I would have scanned the swimming area, thinking Jill had wandered off. I'm sure Suzanne would have alerted me to what had happened, but how long would that have taken? How long would Jill have been under water?

I thought about this today, all these years later, while listening to the noon news. It was reported that a 2-year-old girl drowned yesterday in an inflatable pool. I'm sure she had parents who loved her. But they took their eyes off her while she was in the water. They didn't know about my husband's rule. And that's why I'm here to tell you.


13 comments:

Susan said...

In the picture with Joe are 2-year-old Suzanne and baby Gillian.

Kathleen said...

My mom always took us to Prompton Dam. We always thought she was enjoying a book while we played in the water. It wasn't until I was an adult that she told me the truth. Being afraid of water herself, she always sat with a book, but in reality was watching us every second. She said it was particularly scary the summer that we spent practicing holding our breath under water.

Susan said...

Kathleen, I'll bet it was! Good for your mom for not transferring her fear of water to her children.

Stacie Sich said...

Thank you Susan! We are at the lake right now and my rule is that the kids don't approach or are near the water without me or a life jacket and once in the water Dan and I are in it with them with our eyes on them at all times.

Susan said...

Hi Stacie! Good job--have fun at the lake!

crystal said...

Great photo. Joe sounds like a really good dad and you a really good mom :)

My mom/stepfathers were like the anti-Joe ... they'd leave us places and go off for hours. We worried they'd forget they had children and never come back.

Susan said...

Was it just you and your sister, Crystal? That must have been scary for you.

crystal said...

Yes, just us. My mom used to drop us off at the movie theater, for instance, and then come back long after the movie was over and it was dark. I really thought then that it was possible she might forget she had children and just not come back. I guess this explains a lot about the present demented me ;)

Bridgett said...

I've pulled Leo up out of a pool twice in his 3 years already. And I was standing directly next to him. My family has a deeply scarred past when it comes to drowning.

Eulalia (Lali) Benejam Cobb said...

Yes! Yes! Absolutely the right advice.

Susan said...

Thanks, Bridgett and Lali. Bridgett, your comment about your family history gave me a chill. Lots of sadness carried in those few words.

crystal said...

Susan, I posted a pic of my hair at 25 too - your's is nicer :)

Bridgett said...

I'll write about it. I have before but I will again...