Playing it Safe: Tips for Keeping Everyone Safe Around the Water

Playing it Safe: Tips for Keeping Everyone Safe Around the Water

Long before I ever became a mother, I was an Auntie. I was that woman who adored her nieces and nephews. They made me smile and I enjoyed watching them explore life.

One afternoon I decided to pick up two of the kids and take them to feed the ducks. Never did I imagine that our planned outing would quickly turn into a scary adventure. I didn’t want to take them too far, so I decided to take them to a park just a few blocks away. It was a beautiful spring day. At that moment everything seemed perfect, but shortly after we arrived, I knew this was not the spot. There were no ducks! We were just about to leave when my nephew fell over the rail and into the river below us. It happened so fast!

I have replayed the event over and over inside my head. He lost his balance, his arms went up, and into the river he went. I was literally standing right next to him, yet I had no time to react. Watching him fall into that water was absolutely terrifying. At that moment panic entered every part of my being. I was left standing there with a toddler by my side and a little boy floating underwater downstream. There was nobody around and I was hysterical. I screamed for help with every breath that I had in me. I was not a strong swimmer, but I dove in after him. I can’t begin to describe the terror and what was going through my mind as I tried to get to him in the muddy water. The river was fast moving and full of debris. I was getting pounded (as was he) by branches and other debris floating around us.

My memories haunt me with the long minutes of struggle inside that river. I feared I wouldn’t have the strength to get us out alive. I was struggling to stay afloat with him lying limp across my chest. I screamed and I cried. By grace, I was able to grab a willow branch that I wrapped around my wrist and used as a rope to pull us in. Somebody else had heard my plea and came to help pull us onto shore. That day I was granted a miracle. I was able to return my nephew back into the arms of his loving parents. We were both treated for hypothermia and suffered the after effects of muscle aches and bruises, but we were alive!

I learned that day how quickly things can happen. Now that I am a mother, this memory haunts me even more.  I share my story with hope that I may reach even one parent, who may think differently about water safety.

That day I had two children under foot. It terrified me to know that in order to save one child’s life, I had to leave the other one alone. We are parents of multiples; we can never let our guard down. It only takes one second of your life to rock your world. We MUST practice Safety First, so here are a few water safety tips that may come in handy.

NEVER GO ALONE: Even as an adult handling two children with nobody around can quickly become dangerous. DO NOT go to a lake, a river, or the ocean by yourself. In the flash second I had to make a decision, I had to leave one baby alone. You don’t want to make that decision. Take someone with you.

Even at the pool, the people around you are not watching your babies. They are watching their own children. It is best practice (especially when they are little) to have two adults. Do not rely on older children to assist you. In emergency situations, they too become very frightened and it is not fair to place that burden on a child.

LET THEM FLOAT: When you are near ANY body of water with children that cannot strongly swim on their own, please put them in a PFD (Personal Floatation Device). This is so very important, even if you have no intentions of swimming or going into the water. On any boat, a dock, or by the shore, a PFD is needed.

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Minde Buckingham
Authored by: Minde Buckingham

Minden Buckingham lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband Mike and twin girls. She is a stay-at-home mom and enjoys running the daily carpools. Minde enjoys spending time with her family, trips to the coast, photography, and writing.

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