August 22, 2014

Sinking and Swimming

I have often said that I can swim okay for myself, but I couldn't save anyone's life. Contrarily, The Sarge is an excellent swimmer. In fact, I love to watch him swim. It fascinates me, much like watching someone who can play an instrument well. I can do neither, and I am mesmerized when I can watch others do those things with such ease and grace.

Moo seems to take after him in this way. She has always loved the water and took to it fairly well without too much teaching. Slim just last year really got the hang of it. He had always liked the water too, but took a little longer to pick up actual swimming skills. And even though Moo is now 12 and Slim is soon-to-be 10 neither of them are ever in the pool unsupervised.

We were at my in-laws last weekend and they have an in-ground pool. The kids love it because they have always been able sit on the steps with a "floaty" even before they could swim well.  I love it because I have never needed to climb and/or carry anyone up and down a ladder to get in or out.  The Geel just turned three a few months ago and while she has enjoyed being carried around the pool the last few years, this year she has been less interested in getting in the pool than she has been in playing with the plethora of pool noodles, inflatables and boogie boards lying around it. And I am perfectly happy letting her play around the pool (heavily supervised) rather than IN it because I'd prefer not to be IN it. In addition to not being the greatest swimmer, I'm just not a water-sports person in general.  Truthfully, I'm not an any-kind-of-sports-person, but I digress. 

This last visit, The Geel has been obsessed with the pool toys. Obsessed. She takes them out of the storage bin. She gathers them around her all within arm's reach of the pool steps. She puts them in the pool; she takes them out.  They float away; I retrieve them. Until she decides to retrieve them herself. My mother-in-law and I both watched her walk around to the deep end and try and grab a boogie board that had escaped her. Of course she knocked it away from the edge and we watched tensely as she bent over the side, determined to grab it's slippery edge. Never taking our eyes off her we discussed in hushed tones her lack of fear. A few feet away we waited for the inevitable splash. It never came. Success(!) as she grabbed the elusive board and carried it back to her domain on the steps of The Shallow End. Her lack of fear now solidified.

The following day we are again out back at the pool. Same obsession, same toys, same scenario. She gathers, they fall in, they float away. This time the object of her attention is a large inflated alligator. She has seen the big kids climb aboard many times from the side of the pool. She is determined. This time, I know, there will be no success. It is impossible that she will be able to mount this creature like the older kids with their longer limbs and so much experience. She will go in. I watch from about 10 feet away. I am sitting in a chair but I am tensed to spring up and out, never taking my eyes off her, knowing she will slip from my gaze and under the water. Knowing I will likely need to go in after her. This is how fast it happens:

In the fraction--THE NEARLY IMMEASURABLE FRACTION--of a second that I glance down to ensure my path was clear, she disappeared. I shot like an arrow to the pool. I, the not-so-great swimmer. I, fully clothed in my pajamas, rush over. And in the following FRACTION of a second I decide that she is too far from the edge for me to easily grab any part of her, but I am equally afraid that she is too close to leave enough room for my 160+ pound self to jump in the water without dragging her down further in the effort. I jumped in and tried my best not to disturb her, not to push her further under. I wrapped my arm around her torso, grabbed the edge of the pool, and hoisted her upper body out of the water. I spun her around and threw her over my shoulder while she coughed up whatever had made its way into her airways. I pulled and kicked us down to The Shallow End where I could stand. She cried and I felt that fear. Knowing I was going to let her fall didn't make the experience any less scary for me. But the absolute worst thing was that under the water, she was so horribly still. She was face down in the water and words just flew at me from childhood pool games: Dead Man's Float. I wasn't afraid that she had died just falling under, but she made zero effort whatsoever to move under the water. No flailing. No thrashing. Just stillness. A terrifying stillness.

This is us, right after wards.
Note the "WhyTF are you
taking my picture?" face.
In the end she was fine. I was probably more shaken, of course, thinking about the alternative consequences. And although has been seemingly no less afraid of the water since then, she has been asking for more help fetching the pool toys.

I do wonder if I should have let her fall in at all, and I do not pat myself on the back for "saving" her. I am no hero, right?  I mean, I let it happen. But everything was okay in the end. I, the not-so-super-swimmer, did not sink. I swam.


  1. My heart was in my mouth reading this. You must have been a complete wreck the whole day, I know I would have been. Motherhood is so difficult and sometimes I feel we are in a dammed if we do - dammed it we don't position. Thank God you were there and acted quickly! Sending hugs!!!

    1. I think I would have been worse all day if she had seemed more shaken up by the whole thing. Maybe it's a good thing that she wasn't though. I think all of my kids just love the water somuch (obviously did NOT get that from me!) that nothing would stop her from getting back in.
      My biggest worry was actually writing this and being criticized for letting it happen at all. It was something The Sarge and I had discussed before--witnessing her lack of fear--and that's how he learned. That was back in the 70's of course, when nobody was watching around every corner to berate our parents for the insane things they did or let happen to us! His father was an excellent swimmer and basically just threw him in the pool one day. He learned fast! I wouldn't have done THAT, but this was definitely an experience I hope sticks with her--maybe not as pertains to swimming it self, but at least staying safe around the pool.


You share because you care.