A few weekends ago we had one of the biggest scares of our lives when Theo ended up in a swimming pool without a life jacket, in an area that was too deep for him to touch. I could go on and on about the details of this experience, our feelings, the boys’ feelings and how it has affected us since but I’m going to try my best to keep it reasonable.
The boys were so excited to arrive at the house where we were having a get together with most of the people Josh works with. They knew there would be lots of eating, playing, and mostly swimming. When we arrived, we changed the boys into their swim suits and they were off! Josh and I walked them out to the pool where there was a huge bin filled with different water toys and flotation devices. We found a little water belt for Theo and strapped it on him. Both of the boys took off towards the slide and the fun began. There was a 15 year old acting as lifeguard for the day and we were assured that she could keep her eye on the few kids that were swimming. We stood there and watched them for a few minutes and decided that Theo needed something a little more substantial, so we asked the owner if there was anything else he could use. We found a better solution in a floaty that was more like a life jacket. At this point we decided to go get some food and eat by the pool.
I need to add that during the entire first 10 minutes that we had been at this house, I had a teeny, tiny voice in the back of my mind reciting “What are the statistics of kids who drown in the exact same circumstance as today? Lots of people standing near the pool but not really paying attention to the kids in the pool. All of the kids safe in their life jackets but still somewhat unattended.” I believe that I’ve experienced mother’s intuition twice in my life and this time was definitely one of them. I knew that it wasn’t right to let my kids swim in a pool without an adult swimming with them. Up until this point they had never done that in their lives. But for some reason, I went against my gut and listened when I was told that they would be fine.
After Josh and I grabbed some food we went back out to the swing by the pool and ate while we watched the kids swim. The owner of the house came over and made a joke about the two of us being antisocial and again assured us that the kids were fine. Come join everyone else! So we took our drinks and Ruby and moved to some lawn chairs that were about 10 feet away from the pool. We joined in the conversation and I started to feed Ruby.
Within a few minutes, Theo was out of the pool and needing to use the bathroom. He needed help getting out of his life jacket so Josh or I helped him get it off and he ran into the house. Right after, Parker was out of the pool also needing to use the restroom so he went into the house with Josh, who was getting more food. The next minute is somewhat blurred in my memory but what I do know is that within no more than 2 or 3 minutes after Theo had been helped out of his life jacket I heard the most pathetic cry that sounded like a cat whining. Within that cry, I heard the word HELP and instantly knew that it was Theo. I looked over to the pool and saw him hanging on the side while Parker had his own arms wrapped around Theo holding him up. Immediately I realized that Theo had forgotten that he had taken off his life jacket and must have just jumped right in and then flailed his way to the side. I called for Josh who was starting to walk back outside at this point. He and I (still holding Ruby, even though I had handed off her bottle) ran over to the boys at the same time as two other people (I still can’t remember who the fourth person was) and Josh pulled him out of the water. He was crying and coughing and could barely stand up. I was shocked at how blue his lips were. He started vomiting up water and then laid on the ground while Josh covered him in a towel. I just could not even believe that this was really happening. I still have no idea where the “lifeguard” was while this was happening but I do remember her saying that she didn’t realize there were any kids back in the pool. Once Theo felt better he came and sat on the swing with me and we started talking about what happened. Later on, Parker gave us his version of the story.
According to Theo, he had finished using the restroom and was excited to get back into the pool. Just like I had thought, he had forgotten that he had taken off his life jacket and went down the slide which led straight into the deep water. He said that he tried to kick and push off of the bottom but could only get his head just to the surface for a second. He said that he was crying for help under the water and in his mind he thought that he was going to die. But then Parker grabbed him and told him to hold onto a pool noodle so that he could pull him to the side.
Parker’s perspective completely blew me away. He was walking out from the bathroom to jump back into the pool when he saw Theo’s face just under the water. He immediately jumped in and swam to him. He grabbed a noodle that was near by, pulled Theo up and told him to hold onto the noodle so they could make it to the side. When they got there, Theo still couldn’t hold himself up, so Parker kept his arms around him until Josh pulled him out. When I asked Parker why he didn’t yell for help when he saw Theo, he told me that he didn’t feel like he had time. He said his reaction wasn’t to think but just jump in and save his little brother.
I don’t think I have ever been more proud of Parker in my life, and I’m a pretty proud mom. What 7 year old has the courage and the ability to work under pressure like that? When I was 7 my little brother fell out of the door and down our porch steps and I stood there crying and yelling for my mom.
That day I realized quite a few things. One, children do not ever belong in a pool without adults in the water, no matter what. Two, always, always, always trust your gut. Three, I came very close to losing my little guy. If Parker would have stopped to grab something to eat or been distracted by the kids playing the Wii in the house, it could have been too late by the time someone realized that Theo was drowning. This day was really terrifying but since then I feel like I appreciate my kids a little bit more. I try not to ever take advantage of the fact that they’re here and I am so thankful for all of them. I think both of the boys are feeling a little of the same thing. That night before bed, Theo said to Parker, “Thanks for saving my life Buddy.”