parents

"I was only metres away when my child almost died. And I didn't hear a sound."

The near-death experience that changed this mum.

Last week my eldest child almost drowned. The scariest thing was that I was standing only metres away from him. And I didn’t hear a sound.

Here’s what happened. We had been staying with my in-laws, who have just installed a new pool. It could have happened anywhere though, easily at the beach or a public space. My three-year-old son jumped in the pool wearing his floaties while I prepared my younger son to go in also.

I didn’t plan to enter the water with them, and instead chose to sit on the side of the pool dangling my legs while they played.

“The scariest thing was that I was standing only metres away from him. And I didn’t hear a sound.”

As I was putting a float vest on my younger son, my eldest started playing on one of those pool noodle things. He was pretending it was a horse and was laughing and carrying on the way three-year-old boys do.

Then, in the next moment, it happened. I focused my attention on my younger child as I pulled his head through the opening on the vest. At the exact same moment my older boy fell off the noodle and put his arms in the air. As he did that, the floaties came off and he slipped under the water.

Just as an FYI, you should know that this post is brought to you by the Victorian Government’s community safety campaign, Play it Safe by the Water.

It was only a few seconds but as I said, I heard nothing. I looked over to see him waving his arms in the air, struggling to stay above the water.

“It’s highlighted to me just how quickly these tragedies can happen.”

I put my baby to the corner and jumped in fully clothed to pull his brother out.

He was okay. A little shaken, but okay. However, the experience has affected me deeply. It’s highlighted to me just how quickly these tragedies can happen. As parents, we are constantly dividing our attention. We multitask and at times, like I did, we get complacent.

You see, my son is a fairly good swimmer for his age. With his floaties on he is confident and able to paddle on his own. He has been doing lessons for years and I became too comfortable in his ability and forgot the fact that he is only three years old. Without those floaties, he had no chance.

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Don’t risk being overconfident about your child’s swimming ability.

Never again will I place so much trust in a piece of plastic. Floaties are a great training device but they are just that. If a child cannot swim without the aid of their floaties, then to me, that child cannot swim. Nothing replaces proper adult supervision by the pool and that means 100 per cent undivided focus.

I’ve made a deal with myself that I am not confident in having both my children in the pool without me being in there with them. Even when I am in, the experience has taught me that children (especially little ones like mine) need to be within arms’ reach at all times. No exception.

My husband and I have been thinking about ways that we can better supervise the children in the pool. So far we have also decided that where possible, there should be one adult per child in the water and we have banned phones from being in the area, as I feel they have the potential to distract attention from the kids. Like I said, it only takes a second. The exact time it would take to check Facebook or reply to a text.

Your child’s safety is more important than a Facebook update.

I hope that no other parent ever has to experience the guilt, the worry and most of all the fear that is a near drowning.

For me, it is now very clear just how important it is to supervise children properly when they are around a body of water – any body of water. No exceptions.

The 20 Seconds campaign forms part of the Victorian Government’s annual water safety program. This year’s campaign aims to promote the need to constantly supervise children aged 0-4 years when in or around water and raise awareness among parents and carers of children that it doesn’t matter where you are, 20 seconds and a few centimetres of water is all it takes for a toddler to drown.

Play it Safe by the Water is a community safety campaign that aims to increase safety around water in a bid to reduce the number of fatal and non-fatal drowning incidents in Victoria.

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