The Vigilance of 'water-proofing'

 SOPHIA - 25


(Synopsis:  Terrorism takes many forms, but one of the most insidious for a parent is the Terrorism created by water.   Young children can drown in a small amount of water.   A phone call while a child is bathing can create a tragic event if a child is left unattended.   Swimming pools are as dangerous as a suicide bomber climbing aboard a bus, or Osama bin Laden strolling in the Rose Garden at the White House.   Vigilance can "water proof" the dangers created by the "Beast of Water Terror."  G-Ma Lori offers Parents, Grandparents and Loved One's of Vigilance an incisive look at how to be Vigilant in the Water-Proofing of the Children's Children's Children.)



G-Ma Lori

     “See, Sarah, this is called the side stroke.   I’ll show you the back stroke and the breast stroke next.”  I gasped out the words as I did my best to demonstrate several swim strokes for my five-year-old granddaughter.  I haven’t seriously swum for years and found myself moving slowly through the water like a tired sea lion.  Swimming, I found, was like riding a bike--one never forgets how.  But I did find one flaw in that axiom-- one’s effort, agility and speed are altered with age.

"Look at me G-Ma, I can swim"

       “I can ‘crawl through the water’, G-Ma.  I already know how to do that.  Let me ‘crawl’ to you.”  Sarah, brightly attired in her two-piece swimsuit, effortlessly slipped off her mermaid swim board like a sleek hot pink otter into the shallower water.  She grabbed onto the side of the pool for safety.
      “Wait for G-Ma to catch you, my little fish.”  I paddled closer so there would be less than ten feet between us.  Every year Sarah’s Uncle Bob generously invited Sarah’s family and his many other relatives to the huge house he rented for a summer month in the Hamptons.  It was an annual event--a day of swimming and family fun followed by a delicious barbeque.
      “Ready, set, here I come, G-Ma.”   Sarah released her grip on the side of the pool and moved toward me, her neck stretching and her chin thrust upward completely out of the water.  Her feet churned frantically and her arms paddled like a little puppy floundering in a pond.  Dog paddling was most certainly an accurate name for her swim stroke.
     “Look at me, G-Ma, I can swim.  I can swim.” Sarah’s smile was as wide as Jaw’s grin.
      “You are doing so good, little missy.  I’m so proud of you.”   I was excited for Sarah and her seven-year-old brother, Matt.  Both of their swimming skills markedly improved during these summer months.

I was amazed at how adept Matt and Sarah were riding the waves

        Two summers ago, my older daughter stressed her desire for Matt and Sarah to learn how to swim.  Both children have been enrolled in YMCA swim programs as well as the City Park summer programs for three years.  Matt appeared to have mastered swimming underwater and now Sarah was successful at the ‘dog paddle’.   They were well on their way to learning to swim.
         Last month, their mom, G-Pa (my husband) and I took the kids to Brighton Beach.  We were delighted by the absence of the usual New York crush of beach goers, and blessed by fantastic weather. The grandkids Daddy, an excellent ocean swimmer, had shown them during previous ocean experiences how to dive into the waves and let themselves be carried to the shore.  I was amazed how adept they were at wave riding.  They were very alert to ocean dangers, both real and imagined.  Little Sarah kept telling me the small rocks disturbed by the tidal movements were sea monster eggs. 

Last month we enjoyed the wide expanse and absence of crowds at Brighton Beach

     “G-Ma, yikes, those t-h-in-g-s are still trying to bite my feet.  Are you sure there’s no monsters down there”?  Sarah wouldn’t look down at her feet for fear that I may have misinformed her.  She seemed to like the imagination that sea monsters were afoot.
      “Oh, silly, Sarah.  Sandy Beach will save you if you need help.” Matt thrust out his bony chest, acting like a much smaller version of one of his favorite Rescue Heroes, Sandy Beach, who is ready to make the sand and surf safe for others. 

Sandy Beach was one of Matt's favorite Rescue Heroes especially in the summer

   “Matt, can I be Bob Buoy?”  Already the sea monsters were forgotten as Sarah and her brother played Rescue Heroes.  The Rescue Heroes rely on positive human virtues and nonviolent problem solving.  They are the perfect toys for children to learn a moral message that underscore concern, compassion and sensitivity for others.  These virtues, they learn from their Rescue Hero models, are not only admirable, but cool.
      “G-Ma, did you surf when you lived in California?”  Matt simulated surfing on a surfboard he’d drawn in the sand.
       Matt, Sarah, G-Pa and I sat on our towels watching a lone surfer try to avoid the whistle and commands of the Life Guards.  He was in a ‘for-swimmers-only’ area.
      “Matt, I never was a surfer.  But, your G-Pa was.  He lived in Hawaii and learned to surf there.  His teachers were Hawaiians, the original surfers.  Back then, the boards were much longer and so it was much harder to surf.”
      “ Your Auntie ‘E’ and Mommy learned a little about surfing, but, more importantly, they had a summer course on ‘ocean proofing’.   I gently kicked up some sand onto Matt’s toes, trying to cover them.

My daughters took a course in 'ocean proofing' to be more competent and safe swimming in the ocean

      “G-Ma!  Quit that.  Sarah’s the one who always wants to be buried.  Not me.”  Matt indignantly squealed.
      “G-Ma, I want to know what is ‘ocean proofing’.  What is that?”  Sarah’s question diverted Matt’s attention.
      “It’s simply a safety class on knowing about the ocean.  It teaches you about the dangers of the ocean and how to be safe in the water – so that your mommy and your aunt wouldn’t drown or be afraid of the water ……or worry about all the sea monsters that are carried in by the waves that attack little girls’ toes.”  I grinned widely.
      “G-Ma, you said there weren’t any sea monsters in the water.  Are they only in California oceans?”  Sarah’s brows drew together like the arms of a starfish dried out and shriveled on the beach.
      “Sarah, G-Ma’s only teasing you.    There aren’t any sea monsters here but there are…S-H-A-R-K-S!!!!”   Matt leapt up, scattering sand everywhere.  He opened his mouth as wide as possible and pretended to bite at his now terrified little sister.
      “Matt, calm down.  There aren’t any sharks in these waters.”  I patted the empty towel space he abruptly vacated like a frog leaping off a lily pad attacking a juicy fat fly.
      “No, G-Ma there ARE sharks in the waters around New York and New Jersey.  The bull and lemon sharks live in our waters.  They haven’t bitten anybody yet…but they are looking to bite….a….little….girl….named….Sarah.”   Matt charged up and once more with his teeth barred toward Sarah.

Matt charged at Sarah barring his teeth like a shark in the area's waters

      “Matt, that’s enough.  Sarah, nobody in our waters has been attacked.  Matt is exaggerating.  Right, Matt?”  I stood and started the process of trying to de-grit myself after Matt’s latest attack that showered sand everywhere.
      “Well, there ARE sharks here.  I saw them on Discovery Channel.  Swimmers are supposed to be extra careful and not swim out too far.   Sarah if you see one in the water, you are supposed to be very still and they won’t bite you.  Also, we should swim in a group and that’s lots safer I heard on the show.”   Matt strutted around looking much like a miniature professor, a thin one, of course, and wearing a swimsuit and sunscreen.
      “Well, I’m not going in by myself.  I know that, Matt.  Even in swimming pools I don’t go in by myself.  We have the buddy system in our family.  And I have lots of buddies.  I have mommy, daddy, G-Ma, G-Pa, Auntie ‘E” – so………I’m not afraid of the water.  I’m water-proofed, right G-Ma”.

My grandkids were as brown as the children in the suntan lotion ads

   “Right you are, little seal.”   I pulled my tanned granddaughter up to stand alongside Matt and me.   With their sun bleached hair and healthy glow of their copper-tone tanned skin, they looked like ­­­commercials for sun tan lotion.

      Their mom was underneath the makeshift beach umbrella feeding Angus, their fourteen-month-old brother.  Angus loved the water even more than his older brother and sister.  Besides eating the sand, he tried to catch the foamy bubbles the tide carried to and fro.   He was a real sea urchin, fearless and eager to have the waves lap and swoosh around him.
      Before arriving at the beach we all discussed  ‘beach proofing’ so Angus would be safe.  We all vowed to be Beach Sentinels of Vigilance.
      We agreed that Complacency was the worst enemy of Vigilance on the beach.  Complacency would be not paying attention, or assuming some one else was watching Angus.  We all agreed to be in charge of safety, just like the Rescue Heroes chant:  “Think Safe!”
        Angus is a sturdy bulldog, tanned, blue-eyed, towheaded and very, very fast.  His cries of glee sound like little yelps of pleasure as he races pell-mell into the surf.  Matt and Sarah took turns helping either their mom or me with the exhausting task of watching his every move.  Too many tragic accidents happen when people think another person is watching a child.  We had a genuine ‘Angus Watch’ system set up.  We were all Rescue Heroes of Vigilance.
       At home, whenever the bath water is drawn for ‘tubby time’, Angus races to the bathroom and several times has almost toppled over into the bath water with his clothes on.   Only vigilant care whenever the bathroom door is opened prevents an accident.
      Drowning is often called the ‘silent killer’ of youth since children rarely splash or call out.  Even a few minutes of inattentiveness can mean the difference in saving a child or not. Not all children consider learning how to swim an exciting and fun rite of passage.   Most children’s only experience with water is in the bath.
       After hearing my daughter’s wish to have her children learn to swim, I Googled my favorite search engine and gleaned some facts from the National Safe Kids Campaign:  1.) In the time it takes to cross the room for a towel (10 seconds) a child in the bathtub can become submerged; 2.) a child can lose consciousness in the time it takes to answer the phone (two minutes); 3.) very young children can drown in as little as one inch of water, thus, they are at risk of drowning in wading pools, bathtubs, buckets, toilets, spas and hot tubs.

Facts from the National Safe Kids Campaign are startling

       I also found some other startling but important information.  According to the National Center for Health Statistics, children aged 5-14 most often drown in swimming pools and open water such as rivers, lakes, dams and canals. Children who drown in residential pools had been last seen inside their home.  Most had been gone for less than 5 minutes, and in the care of either or both parents at the time.  Residential swimming pools account for 60-90% of drownings for children aged 0-4.  Half of these drownings occur at the child’s own home.
       Nineteen percent of drowning deaths involving children occur in public pools with certified lifeguards present.  For every child who drowns, four are hospitalized for near drowning.  An estimated 5,000 children ages 14 and under are hospitalized due to near-drownings each year; 15% die in the hospital and as many as 20% suffer severe, permanent neurological disability.  Drowning is the 4th leading cause of accidental death in the United States, claiming 4,000 lives annually.  Approximately one-third are children under the age of 14.  Drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional, injury-related death among children under the age of 15.

     The Center for Disease Control states in the year 2000, 943 children ages 0-14 years died from drowning.  While drowning rates have been declining slowly over time, it still remains the second-leading cause of injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14.
       In a nutshell, all this information simply meant that water equaled Terror for those who weren’t Vigilant.   I elected myself to be the Grandmother of Water Proofing Vigilance, and deputized Matt and Sarah, G-Pa and my daughter.   After all, someone has to be in charge!
     Most children's earliest experience with water is in the bath.  Some of the following milestones toward swimming readiness can begin in the tub, as well as in a pool, lake or ocean.  I found a simple yet detailed list from   for parents on "Helping Kids Learn to Swim Safely".  Let you child master the steps to swimming, in a logical sequence, one step at a time by:

1. Getting the face wet.  Blow bubbles in the water or blow ping-pong balls across a tub or kiddie pool.
2.  Learning to duck under water.  First, let your timid tot select an underwater doll or duck.  Then, tell her to take a breath and hold it while submerging her toy.  When she needs to breathe again, tell her to raise the toy.  Try this first without putting her face into the water.  Then slowly, playing the game together, encourage her to hold the toy underwater while hoe goes under, too.  Then, tell her to let it pop up to the surface as she comes up for air.
3.  Learning to lie across the water to swim.  Children tend to curl up in  the fetal position, which causes them to sink.  Have your child flatten his or her body and feel how his or her body works under water.  You can demonstrate this principle to your child by holding an empty plastic-gallon milk container (with cap on) in each hand.  The containers will help keep the child's face above water while she learns to relax his or her body across the water's surface.  (water wings if not overly inflated will work, too).
4.  Learning to stroke.  Use an inflatable raft or windsurfing board (no sails) to help 'nearly swimming' children get a feel for pulling the water for propulsion.  Position your child on her stomach at the very front and encourage her to paddle with alternating arm pulls and the double-arm action.  Stress the use of strong, slow strokes to learn to "glide."
5.  Jumping into the water.  Hold a hula hoop vertically or horizontally above the surface of the water and entice children to ump through the hoop from the side of a pool or dock.
6.  Getting the knack of floating.  If you're at the beach, have your child lie on his or her stomach in hallow water and put his or her hands in the sand to maintain a sense of control.  Facing the shore, the child should stretch  his or her legs fully behind, which gives a sense of buoyancy and offers quick recovery to a weight-on-hands position.  Next, add the kick and a few paddling motions.  When ready for the final challenge have your child put his of her face in the water while paddling and kicking.

From waist-deep water, your child can "lunge" forward in a body-surfing action, with hands reaching forward and to the bottom.

Keeping your lungs inflated helps you to float, either prone or on his or her back.  Let your child "dribble the basketball" to demonstrate this concept.  Fill your lungs with air in shallow water, curl into a floating "ball" and have your child push you down gently each time you
bounce" back up to the surface.
7.  Diving under water.  Throw bright, weighty objects into the water for children to retrieve.

"Helping Kids To Swim Safely"  from

        Then I thought about all the people who took their children or grandchildren or other people’s children to the water.   I thought it might be good to offer them some Vigilant Water Proofing information.   Here are some interesting tips I found from the web on helping teaching kids how to swim:
         I took the job of Grandmother of Water Proofing Vigilance after my daughter confided her anxiety about teaching her children to swim.   She was like the surgeon who didn’t want to operate on his or her own family.  I was happy to take on the responsibility.
           I thought about my own experiences learning to swim and how G-Pa and I taught her and her sister to swim.   Before our beach adventure, I shared the experience with Matt and Sarah.

When my daughters were younger we employed Pool Vigilance and experienced no Pool Terror

         “Sarah and Matt, your mommy took a swimming class when she was younger than you did when you went to the Y.  She was close to Angus’ age.  The class was called Mommy and Me.”
      “G-Ma, G-Ma, did mommy learn to swim there?  Was that in San Diego?” Sarah’s trill Voice rose an octave in her effort to out yell her brother.
      “You know, little ones, all mammals can swim.  Even cats.  So, you two little spotty leopards for sure can swim.   And, yes, we lived in San Diego. Your mommy didn’t learn how to swim that summer, but the class was a good start for her.  She became comfortable in the water.”
     We were at home in my apartment.  I cozied up to my little ones on our small couch looking like a momma otter with two squiggly little ones on either side waiting for a treat.
      “Did momma blow bubbles in the water like we did at my classes?”  Matt grimaced as he asked.  “I thought I looked like a girl when I did that.  I didn’t enjoy it one bit.”  Matt grumbled.

'Mommy and Me' swim classes are offered in many places

      “Hmm…. That does remind me of what did happen on one morning at class.”  I laughed and continued.  “I was emphasizing the bubble blowing for your mommy when I had to suddenly yank her up and out of the water.  Can you guess why?” 
      “There was a bug in the water,” screeched Sarah.  “That’s why mommy had to get out of the water.”
      “No, it was a great big…terd.   It looked like a brown log floating down a river.  But, this was a swimming pool and it wasn’t a log.    I didn’t want her to get it on her lips as she was blowing bubbles near it.”
      Both kids yelled out “Blaghhh…….Yuck….Yuck…..G-Ma… gross.” 
      “It’s a good thing we have improved swim diapers today.  The water is more hygienic and pool keepers don’t have to worry about Angus’ or other kids’ waste in the water.  I don’t think your mommy remembers that experience at all, but I will never forget it.”

Disposable swim diapers prevent accidents of a different nature in the swimming pool

        Sarah and Matt didn’t think the story was that funny, but hints of smiles appeared on their faces.
      “Mommy said you had your own swimming pool.  Wow, that was cool.”  Matt’s glistening blue eyes reminded me of the Southern California sky.
      “Yes, we did.  We were a careful family and never had a swimming accident in our pool.  We were Vigilant in teaching pool safety as well as skill development.  Your mommy and Auntie ‘E’ were in the water at least 3 or 4 hours each day during the summer.  Until they were older, G-Pa or I were always on alert to make sure they were safe.”
     “I wish we had our own pool, too, G-Ma.  But, at least Mommy had us take lessons and we have the beach, Pitt Street and Tompkins Park pools to use.  I like to swim and I can be like Sandy Beaches and save those who need help.”  Matt, picked up his cardboard surfboard he’d made and pretended to wade into water.
     “Hey, Dude, let’s surf.”   He thumbs-upped Sarah hoping to get her to play Rescue Heroes again.

"Dude, I know how to be careful in and around water.  I'm 'water-proofed'.

     “Copy that, dude.  G-Ma, I’m going to be careful. I know it is important to be safe in the water – the pool and the ocean.  I’m ‘water-proofed’, that’s what I am.  I want to  rescue people some day like the lifeguards and Rescue Heroes.   I’m already a good swimmer for how old I am. Mommy and daddy and you made sure of that.”
      I was glad the summer proved the ability of the kids to swim.  I was even happier that we had “water proofed” the grandchildren with swimming skills and safety lessons.

Now both Matt and Sarah are competent in the water

        Sarah now swims on her back like a pro – and while on her tummy, she’s not afraid to get her face wet anymore.  Matt still prefers underwater to move any distance, but can half dogpaddle, half crawl when he has to.  They both are competent in the water.
        Their mom and dad are proud and relieved a goal has been attained.  But there was another benefit of waterproofing that can’t be overlooked.

         The close physical contact that occurs between parents and children in the learn-to-swim process nurtures the development of family bonds.  It creates a Vigilance Bond between child and parent.    Matt and Sarah’s parents are Sentinels of Water Vigilance.  They know that their children’s early mastery of water is critical to their safety, and equally as important as learning to walk.  All Parents and Loved Ones of Vigilance need to be aware of the importance of ‘water-proofing’ their children.  Complacency might lead to drowning or water-related accidents that can be avoided.

Teaching children to swim creates a Vigilant Bond between parent or loved one and child

     Babies can even be taught to swim.   Babies originate from the watery environment of a mother’s womb, and so arrive in the world inhibition free and without inbuilt fears of water.  The sooner the ‘lessons’ begin, the better.  At this stage babies have not been pre-conditioned to fear water, therefore the introduction to an external water experience, will, if patiently and lovingly conducted represent a pleasant and natural experience for your child.
      Be a Sentinel of Water Proofing Vigilance.   Don’t let Terrorism spoil your ability to have fun in the water. 
      Water-proof your loved ones with Vigilance.  You’ll be glad you did.



Statistics from the Center for Disease Control show drowning is the second leading cause of Unintentional  Deaths in the United States


Go To Sophia 26: Rule 62 And Vigilance Activities


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