“Summer will end soon enough, and childhood as well.”
–George R.R. Martin
Not everyone lives in a suburban landscape dotted with luxurious swimming pools à la John Cheever’s “The Swimmer” filled with summer parties galore, or belongs to a country club, or even has a swimming pool conveniently located in their very own backyard. Bathing in the pool is one of life’s great pleasures—especially on particularly hot summer days and nights that evoke a nostalgic, David Hockney-inspired summertime feeling. What we want, more than anything, is for our children to be safe at the pool (and every body of water) this summer and always. A perfect summer filled with fun in the water gives us memories to treasure forever, and we probably all have vivid memories of learning to swim. Let’s keep all the memories good ones with extra safety suggestions and reminders.
Most of these are common sense but still cannot be stressed enough…
First of all, it’s so important that your child be able to swim. You’d be surprised at how many people cannot!
- Always accompany children while swimming and stress to them that they must never go swimming alone.
- Wear water wings, safety vests, etc. if the child is not a strong swimmer and, in some cases, even if they are.
- Always wear protective gear (a life vest) on moving boats, rafts, kayaks, etc.
- If you have access to your own pool, there should be a fence surrounding it and a gate that locks to keep children out of bounds when unattended.
- Parents: always, always keep an eye on children while swimming.
- If in the ocean, do not go out too deep. Watch for undertow and strong currents.
- If in a public pool, there should always be, at the very least, one lifeguard on duty.
- Adults: at summertime parties with family and friends, be conservative with your intake of alcohol. You are responsible for ensuring a sober adult is vigilant when children are swimming. Never assume that somebody else is shouldering that responsibility.
- Remind the older kids to keep an eye on the younger kids and not to get too rowdy in the water (no matter how much fun it is to push little brother into the pool). Remember that two pairs of eyes (or more) are better than one.
- Do not run around the pool! Have you noticed that all public swimming pools have massive signs declaring this? There’s a reason for this. Someone is bound to slip and fall.
- It’s true: the swimming myth of waiting after you eat is actually not a myth at all. One shouldn’t swim right after they’ve eaten a meal because they might get a cramp.
- If you’re in lake or river, steer clear of unknown and shady areas; the water may be deeper than you think.
- Clarity is very important: if water is murky and you want to swim beneath the surface, wear goggles so you can open your eyes for better visibility.
A final thought…
- Some children feel embarrassed if they haven’t learned how to swim, so be kind and patient and become a teacher.
- Instill these safety tips in your children so they’ll know how to behave with their friends when they’re swimming without you at summer camp.
(Artwork used in this blog includes David Hockney’s “A Bigger Splash” and photography from Gordon Parks’ Scenes of Integrated 1940s Summer Camps.)