Just When Things Are Going Swimmingly…

Most of the time I write about minor family foibles, trivial irritations, and the semi-chaotic environment that life with four boys brings. Though some days I feel like I’ve been run through the wringer, I don’t necessarily feel like a failure. Not exactly like Mother Teresa either, but I feel like I’m getting by. Today I’m leaning more toward the side of they shouldn’t allow me to do this job anymore.

Just when you’re having a great day is usually when something happens to mar the occasion. Call it Murphy’s Law, karma, law of averages, whatever you want.

We went to the beach this afternoon, and were having a great time. Other than a squabble over towels before we even got there, and some tears from Justin because Cameron ate his pickle, things were going well. I watched from the beach, reading a book, enjoying the sounds of their laughter as they tried to catch fish in plastic bags. It was a gorgeous day. Some little girls from Québec were playing nearby and I loved listening to them speak in beautiful and mellifluous French.

David, ordering everyone to remain still so as not to scare off the fish.

Alex was content to play in the sand when the bigger kids played "Jaws."

Cameron, chasing after little minnows by the shore.

Alex, walking "the plank."

Justin, in his comfort zone by the buoys.

At some point the roped buoys that ran parallel to the shore from the dock to the other boundary of the swimming area, got detached from the dock and drifted aimlessly out in the water. I remember wondering if the lifeguards would put those back, but since Justin was able to touch on the other side of the rope, I just dismissed the thought. What I neglected to consider was that the rope line serves as an important gauge, for observers and swimmers alike, to assess just how far into the lake a kid has gone.

Additionally, I should have paid attention to how tired Justin was. His fit about the pickle wasn’t just about being hungry for a pickle. The kids swam for nearly three hours without a significant break. That’s a long time.

I thought I was being pretty vigilant about watching them. The beach wasn’t overly crowded, the guys had a friend out in the water with them. Alex was spending most of his time near the shore or at the playground right behind me, or climbing up steps to the bluff overhead. Without those markers, I hadn’t realized just how far out Justin was with the other three, all of whom are taller, and can swim.

Before I even knew what was going on, the lifeguard sitting not more than six feet away from me, took off into the water, in her tee-shirt, with a life-preserver. I immediately looked to see where my guys were, and they were close to the same spot they were when I’d spot checked them maybe a minute before. Then I realized that they were all a few feet away from Justin, and Justin couldn’t touch the bottom. “Guys! Is Justin okay?” I yelled. Their friend got to him and pushed him to where he could touch, just as the lifeguard reached him and pulled him to where he could walk. I could tell he was a little scared, more I think by the commotion than what had happened. He coughed once and was wiping his eyes. By the time we got back to the sand, he was totally fine.

The guards had to clear the lake while they wrote up an incident report. Justin wanted to go back and swim some more, but we all kind of agreed that it was time to go. I’m grateful to Martha, the lifeguard with Minnetonka Aquatics for being so alert, and recognizing right away that Justin was in trouble before anyone else did. But at the same time, a little bit upset with them, that they didn’t reattach the rope, and at myself, for not asking them to. Justin is pretty self-policing when it comes to safety, and I don’t think he’d have gone out that far if he’d known exactly how far beyond that plane he was. I would have called him back as well, but after it happened I tried to remember where the boundary was, and realized it was actually at the end of the dock, a lot closer in than I had thought.

It’s ironic that this happened to me since I wrote an article earlier in the summer about how quickly and quietly a drowning can happen. You can read that here. There have been quite a few drownings in Minnesota this summer. Be careful as you enjoy these dwindling weeks of warm weather.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2011

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One thought on “Just When Things Are Going Swimmingly…

  1. Children and the water are always a scary mix. My mother used to brag about hauling me up from lake bottom at least three times before I was three. And then she sent me off the beach as a four or five year old to the sea shore to be watched my 12 year old brother. I was washed under and saved by a man. My brother says he was right there also. Even today, I see this has my mother’s haphazard parenting. The danger is always thinking someone else is watching and at least my mother and brother were watching. Mom was the rescuer, my brother doing his best.

    And yes, hind sight says the rope should have been re-attached. Suspect the lifeguards and you learned lessons and I hope you tip the scale to being grateful it was a scary moment, but there were actual enough people watching including Justin’s brother that it ended well.

    It is always ironic when we don’t follow our own advice, but I think that is why I called my second book Parents Are People Too. We do the best we can and fortunately for most of our children that is sufficient. Stay strong, you are far a more than good enough Mom.

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