Elizabeth Davies: Swimming lessons can be a lifesaver
I’m sure you’ve met her.
She’s the mom with kids signed up for three sports. Well before kindergarten kicks off, junior already has music lessons, art class and soccer games – and that’s just on Tuesdays.
I’m not that mom. I’m the opposite of that mom. We’re into playtime — just not organized playtime — at my house.
My apathy toward lessons and sports can be traced back to my days of working as an ice skating teacher during college. There, I saw far too many tots toddle their way onto the ice, where their little legs weren’t developed enough to hold them up quite yet. So they would spend our 30-minute lesson sliding to their bottoms, tears rolling down their cheeks, until I picked them up — only to watch it happen once more. And then, after a long and torturous six-week session, I would show up at work to realize that their parents had signed them up for yet another round of frustration.
I never wanted to do that to my kids. But one lesson I do feel strongly about is swimming. If we’re going to be at the pool, I want my kids to know how to swim. At minimum, I want them to know that they can’t swim.
Last year, I frequented the pool with my then two-year-old and three-month-old. Thankfully, our local pool has a gated baby area so I didn’t have to worry about someone slipping into deeper water.
The one time we ventured into the bigger, zero-depth pool, my tot just kept on walking — past his ankles, over his knees, beyond his waist. I finally grabbed him as the water circled his armpits and hauled two crying children — one frustrated that mommy stopped the fun, and one just joining in for the heck of it — out of the pool.
It was in that moment that I realized some water safety was needed. And since my specialty is in teaching kids on frozen water, not in the melted stuff, that was a task I needed to farm out. So last week, I headed into town and signed my little guy up for his very first swimming lessons.
Apparently, I’m not alone. The American Academy of Pediatrics now has said that swim lessons for children under the age of four can be beneficial. In the past, the group has advocated lessons only for children over four. Now the group says that, while not all tots are emotionally and physically ready for lessons, lessons could prevent drowning for those who are.
From 2000 to 2006, drowning was the second-leading cause of death for children between the ages of one and 19, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. That’s a scary statistic, especially when you consider that most of these kids were just out having fun. Their families didn’t head to the pool or lake that day with the thought that it would end tragically. They just wanted to play together.
That is, after all, the key to water safety: Being together. The American Academy of Pediatrics cautions against using swimming lessons as a catch-all that will prevent drowning. Even experienced swimmers can drown. The best prevention, the children’s advocacy group says, is for adults to pay active attention to small children in the water at all times. That means staying within an arm’s length of infants and toddlers. It also means passing on the alcohol, putting down the Blackberry and watching kids in the pool every minute.
Their lives are just too important for anything else to get in the way.
Contact Elizabeth Davies at firstname.lastname@example.org.