At 12:45 p.m. on Saturday July 18th I nearly lost my mind, but thankfully I did not loose my cool. I was at a birthday party with my girls at a local beach. It was a beautiful day and everyone was having a great time. Typically, I do not consider myself a helicopter parent. I feel like I allow a reasonable amount of space between me and my children for them to feel safe, confident and independent. However, that amount of space significantly decreases when water is involved. Anyone can drown in less than 2 inches of water if not carefully supervised, or respectful of water safety rules.
I am not a super strong swimmer, and I am outnumbered 2 to 1 when it’s just the girls and me at the beach. I am hyper vigilant, especially when they go in opposite directions. While we were at the beach both of my daughters were wearing life vests and only approximately 15 feet away from me. Suddenly, a rough set of waves came to shore and I saw my daughter topple over. She lost her footing and I could see very clearly she began to struggle to catch herself. She started moving her arms like she was trying to swim, but I know she does not know how to swim yet. I could tell by the look on her face she was in trouble. I immediately ran into the water and began shouting, “you’re OK! Mommy is coming!!”
I reached her in a matter of seconds. I scooped her up into my arms and sat her on my hip and began to sooth her. I was impressed at how little she panicked and she didn’t even cry. Another mom came over to chat and I told her what happened. All of this took approximately 30 seconds of time. The life guard on duty, a young teenage girl, never left her guard tower. She didn’t even come down the ladder to ask me if my daughter was OK, she leaned forward in her chair and casually called over, “Is she OK?” I was so angry I could see red. How could this life guard not identify a dangerous situation that happened literally several feet in front of her guard tower? She gets paid to keep an eye out for signs of struggle in the water. Doesn’t she know that drowning is silent?
I was incredibly agitated by the fact she didn’t rush down as soon as she noticed what had happened. It is her job to assess if someone is in danger. Even while I was soothing my child on my hip it was her job to confirm we were safe. That means leaving her chair to come down and speak with me directly. I was so angry I couldn’t even talk to this girl. I was terrified of how I was going to verbally rip her to pieces. Man, that mama bear instinct is STRONG!
I’ve had many friends tell me not to worry while at the beach, that’s what the life guard is there for. I have witnessed many parents lying out on the sand (sometimes napping) while their older children are in the water alone. I know I am the first one to say hey, you do whatever it takes to get through your day with kids, but water safety is one of the things where I draw the line on saying Whatever too.
Thankfully, I was very vigilant. I know that accidents happen so quickly in water. So, parents, no matter how old your children are, do not take your eyes off of them for a second. Do not leave their young lives up to teenagers who are paying way less attention. I heard from friends at the party afterward that the young guard was texting on her cell phone. Perhaps that is why she completely missed someone struggling in the water only 15 feet from her station. If you are the parent of a teenager, or parent of a young life guard, please share this story with them. Let them know their job is important as people’s lives are in their hands. It may be my child’s precious life in their hands. No text message is worth the loss of anyone’s life.
I may not have been a helicopter parent before, but I am now! Especially while at the beach!
Click here for safety tips and quick lessons from Lifeguard 101. There are options for water safety inside the home and outside of the home.