It was summer. It was hot. We were invited to a pool party. It was a big pool party with lots of families, food, ping pong, volleyball, the works. My children at the time were Lucas (6 ½) a capable swimmer, Max (4) afraid of the water, and Asher (1) a fearless toddler. We arrived at this party excited to see our friends and ready to enjoy the food, and to play the assorted land and water games.
But I had misgivings. Something seemed off to me. The large pool had a variety of floating devices, diving toys and squirt guns. Around the pool there were Frisbees, paddleball racquets, lawn darts and a tricycle. Guests were eating and playing and laughing and talking. I felt uneasy.
I let the bigger kids join their friends while I shadowed my toddler and attempted to have the standard conversations that starts and stops when one has young children. I didn’t drink, I wasn’t relaxed, I was unusually watchful.
The previous day I had finally relented and bought my first cell phone. I had never wanted a phone, I liked being unavailable, but was willing to appease my husband and get the phone, for emergencies. This day, I had it in my back pocket because he was planning on meeting us at the party and thought he might need directions.
We had been there several hours when IT happened. Asher was toddling around the edge of the pool. The tricycle was in his path and in his attempt to walk around it, he fell in. I was five feet away, watching him, then ran over and jumped in. I grabbed him around the waist and was waiting for my feet to touch the bottom, but they didn’t. It was too deep. I threw him out of the pool and he tumbled onto the side.
It was all very exciting, and the adrenaline was pumping. My new cell phone of course was soaked. The hostess offered to give me a change of clothes and Asher and I followed her into the house. I was in the house still comforting Asher when my husband walked in and asked how we were. I looked at him and yelled, “Where’s Max?!”
I ran outside and was standing at the top of the brick stairs that lead to the pool. It was dusk and everyone had gone inside. I saw Max at the far end of the pool riding the tricycle. He turned the corner and the back wheel missed the ground. I watched as he and the trike tipped into the deep end. A silent plop. Running to the far end I saw Max under the water, still holding the handlebars. He wasn’t even trying to swim. I threw myself on the ground. Putting the top half of my body in the water, I grabbed one of the handlebars and yanked Max and the tricycle out of the water.
It was terrifying. I was shaking. I was overcome with fear and gratitude and exhaustion. I felt like I had been waiting for this moment all day. The fall with Asher was a red herring. Of course I would watch a toddler like a hawk. But I felt like his fall was meant to distract me, to keep me from preventing the true disaster.
Water in all its forms demands respect. It is the one area of my parenting that I never underestimate. Enjoy the water this summer, but be vigilant.
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and follow your intuition.