6 08/08/2012 parenting

Away from the shallow end

Man, every weekend now it seems like I read about a new rash of accidental drownings all over Ontario. I just looked it up and actually accidental drowning is down year-over-year, but still, maybe I am aware of it because my kids are constantly in the water, like noticing pregnant women when you are pregnant (not me!) or smokers when you trying to quit smoking (who me?). In any case, it’s tragic and, especially in the case of children, seems there is a lack of education on how dangerous water can be.  

When we were camping on Lake Huron last weekend, the wind picked up on our last day and provided an ocean-like atmosphere along the shore and in the water. Three foot swells provided ample opportunities for our boys to try and boogie board along the curls and wash.

All I need is some tasty waves, a cool buzz and I’m fine:

Surfs up.jpgAnd with the swells, the undertow picked up and easily toppled Tasman, if not an off balance Hudson as the careening waves kept crashing in. It was not that deep, three, four feet tops, but we were stringent in keeping a watchful eye on our surf dudes and they were instructed to keep it tight to our umbrella and soccer mom chairs neatly arranged on the beach.  

At the cottage, it’s about eight feet deep off the end of the dock and about 25 feet to the swim platform closer to a massive rock (called The Shoal). Tasman, a born swimmer spends more time in the water than anyone else.

Tasman Swimming.jpgHe is constantly looking for a partner in wet crime to jump in lake with, to climb on the windsurfer board with, to swim to The Shoal with, so his swimming confidence is sky high. Which of course means nothing to us. We watch his massive for six year-old frame as he tries to swim underwater from dock to raft. I scan the splishes and splashes of the four or five kids playing with an overturned canoe or the king of the mountain games on the platform. All it takes is one distracted moment, one quick visit to the boathouse to grab a beer before one of them could hit their head and slip underwater. So our eyes remain stoic, the tail risk is simply too high.

Hud Swimming.jpgMy wife was the pool rat and lifeguard growing up. She is a much stronger swimmer than I am and will occasionally front crawl across the lake to prove it. It was her that insisted we enroll our boys in high quality lesson program. We originally had them in city-run programs, which were cheaper, but the instructors looked like they just sucked hits from bongs and did not pay much attention to the mechanics of swimming or general water safety rules. So we switched about three years ago.

Now both Hud and Tasman are very confident swimmers and are a bit reluctant to join in their lessons come the fall. But the I know how to swim lament falls on deaf ears because they are going back every year until they can take their bronze cross. Save my life once and I may let you skip a season.

Until then, my little porpoises, play safe knowing you will never, ever be a Monday morning newspaper headline.

Safety first!

Safety First.jpg

  • Tracey

    Water safety is SO important – good post, Jason!!

  • Sara

    It’s scary – I wrote about the woman at Blue Mountain beach before and leaving her kids in the water. It’s just ridiculous. YOu have to be safe.
    Will has a healthy fear of the water and I’m happy for that – he’s in swimming lessons but not exactly kicking ass – we’ll get there. I think the key is start really early – we started at 7 mos in the water.

  • Wendy

    I put my kids in our cottage lake’s red cross swimming program – at $30 per child per week it’s a steal! After 2 weeks, they might move up a level and get a badge. My kids are much stronger and confident now than they were at the beginning of the summer and it’s due to lessons. However, I suspect it’s not up to par with the GS Aquatics or Zodiac lessons. I don’t know how I would ever find out, unless I tried the hard core swimming clubs.

  • Kim

    I too was a lifeguard and so was my husband in addition to being a competitive swimmer. We are always around water and in Canada it is a disservice to your children not to have them in lessons and COMFORTABLE in the water. I also believe they should know how to skate but our priority was swimming. ;)
    Swimming lessons at the city-level are dependent on the instructors. You can get great ones (we’ve had them) and you can get the bong smoking ones for sure (we’ve had them too). Having had enough with lessons especially when your kid tops out before being old enough to attend the next level you think now what? We enrolled ours in the local competitive swim club. Now they can SWIM SWIM. Maybe not Brent Hayden (50m FR bronze medal swim) but more than comfortable in the water.
    My oldest has completed her Bronze Medallion waiting to take Bronze Cross and will move on most definitely to NLS on her way to becoming a lifeguard/instructor (it’s waaaaay better and pays more than flipping burgers).
    We also enrolled our youngest in LifeSaving Sport Fundamentals (basically lifeguard skills) She loves it and there is less emphasis on swimming and more on the skills of mannequin pulls, rope targets etc…
    We still watch the kids on the dock and have to be home to see them use the backyard pool. We use the hand signals when tubing and they wear their life jackets EVERYTIME. You should always be conscientious around water but having them self-confident around water makes for less paranoia and more fun!!!!
    PLAY SAFE!! :)

  • Christine

    I’m not sure why but I have an unnatural fear of one of my kids drowning.
    It’s bad. But I don’t let my anxiety around it stop my kids from experiencing fun summer activities like tubing or skiing. I just hide in the shed and have a panic attack (true story).
    It wasn’t even an option for my kids – they were going to learn how to swim if they wanted to or not. Cuyler was the most challenging. Getting him INTO the water was challenging.
    I’m glad you posted abut the importance of lessons.
    I’ve been pretty happy with the fact that all 3 of my kids can tread and swim in deep water (pools). They’ve spent most of this hot, humid summer in a swimming pool.
    Dark water (beaches/lakes) scares the shizz out of me.
    I’ve been waffling on lessons because they “know how to swim” now. Rethinking that now…

  • holly

    For eight years I was a lifeguard and swimming instructor for one of our city pools. When my daughter turns three, in less than a year, I will definitely be signing her up for lessons! We are in the water 24-7 as well, but I think there are lots of good things with lessons – it makes swim time with parents fun, not something they dread because they are going to be forced to do front crawl etc…it’s great to do some practice, but not for full out lessons. Children can be strong swimmers without lessons and be able to doggie paddle or swim under water, but learning proper strokes is key. Lessons also incorporate water safety, kids get a chance to socialize with their peers, follow directions in a formal setting etc. So much good stuff to offer and lots of fun as well. Starting them in lessons opens the possibility of being a lifeguard as your highschool job – great pay rates, is a skilled job vs working a cash register, teaches lots of responsibility, and talk about a great summer job! If you don’t have all your levels and badges, you can’t progress into the specialized lifeguarding courses/qualifications. Best job I’ve ever had!!!

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