My toddler fell into the pool yesterday.
He’s okay. Everything is fine. It was not as dramatic as that sentence may lead you to believe. I think that’s part of the reason it was so scary. It was such an ordinary scene. Such a quick incident.
In a nightmare I had last summer when my son was a baby he went under water in the pool. In the dream I couldn’t reach him. He slowly sunk deeper beyond my reach. I heard my own screams and my daughter’s screams as she swam beside me, begging me to reach her brother. It was wildly dramatic and frightening. I woke startled and upset. It was awful.
Yesterday was nothing like my nightmare. It was a typical Thursday morning. I toted my little ones with a stroller full of stuff into the pool. My daughter had her group swimming lessons or “Junior Swim Team” class. This left me wrangling the wild little bull that is my 19 month-old. It’s an hour of entertaining toddlers who can’t go in the pool until class is over. He whined to get out of the stroller when he saw his little friend. They threw toys in the shallow end of the pool. They ran. The other mothers and I caught them and told them not to run. The class was going on in the lanes, dare I say “swimmingly.” I took my little swimmer to the bathroom while another mother watched my son. We came back. Everything was fine. I assured my impatient little guy it wouldn’t be too much longer before he could get in the pool too.
Well, you could say he got in the pool.
I was standing RIGHT THERE. I was outside the water at the shallow end, watching my daughter in her lane. My son was right by my leg, near the edge of the pool. I watched my daughter with her instructor as I turned to put something on the stroller. I don’t remember what it was. My phone, my drink, my sunscreen. Something. I had something in my hand. I walked three steps to set it down. That’s when I heard the splash.
I turned and saw him flip over in the water and his head pop up above the surface. I pulled him out so quickly I barely remember it. I grabbed him tight and took him over to a chair. He screamed and cried. He was scared and mad that he had water in his nose. I wrapped him in a towel and held him until he calmed down. I looked around and saw some sympathetic, knowing looks from parents. I saw some relieved looks from lifeguards. I eventually avoided all their gazes, worried I was being judged as a bad mother.
I felt awful. It took me awhile to calm down. It took him no time at all. He wanted to get off my lap right away and run to the other toddlers who didn’t have mothers who let them fall in the pool.
This was my brain:
“What if he had hit his head?! He was like, a foot from the pool steps. We should’ve joined a pool with one of those endless edges. I think he had been reaching for a toy, the toy I let him throw in the empty shallow end because he was having so much fun. I never should have let him throw toys in the pool. This is why we rented a beach house with no pool on vacation last week. Was I watching the class for too long and not paying enough attention to him? Did I have my phone? Had I been looking at it? Someone texted me earlier. Another mom had borrowed my sunscreen. When did she hand it back to me? Was it right then? What did I set in the stroller?!? WHY COULD I NOT REMEMBER THESE BASIC THINGS!?!”
There is one thing I did right. He had his life jacket/floaty thing on 45 minutes before the pool was open for us to swim. That was during most of the class while we waited. I like to put it on him right when we get there for this exact reason. He has a Puddle Jumper. Some parents don’t like the Puddle Jumper because it tips kids forward a bit, putting their faces in the water, but it has worked for us.
This was right after he fell in.
I worried that somehow a flotation device would hinder and delay the kids’ swimming. I heard that it was bad to let them use them because they become dependent on them. I read about how they may not understand that they don’t have it on and they’ll go running in the pool even if they don’t have it on. Blah. Blah. Blah. Whatever. His head popped up above the surface instantly today. That’s all I needed to see to know he’s wearing his Puddle Jumper the second we get to the pool.
Funny thing. After he fell in, he couldn’t wait to start jumping in the pool to me when it was time to swim. He had more confidence and did not feel the need to cling to me while we were in the water.
I am still beating myself up. I’m still replaying those three seconds in my head. I’m still thanking God he didn’t hit his head. Thanking God it wasn’t worse. I keep imagining both kids drowning. It sucks. We got back in the water. I was still shaken, but I didn’t want the kids to see that. I didn’t want this to make them afraid of the water. Next week I will bring some games and toys to play with further away from the pool. I’ll bring more snacks to see if I can keep him strapped in the stroller longer. Lord knows I’ll put him in his Puddle Jumper and watch him even closer so that a quick accident with little consequence will never become my tragic nightmare.
Please be safe this summer!