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All it took was a second

All it took was a second

I was on vacation with my three young children. We decided to end the day at the hotel pool. It was hot, we were tired. I thought it would be a nice break.

The kids were suited up, and I grabbed my phone and hotel key and made an intentional decision not to change into a bathing suit. The kids could play in the water, and I would sit on the side of the pool watching. We were there about 15 minutes when I went to grab my phone so I could take pictures of the kids playing in the water. I looked away for a second. Literally, one second. When I looked back in the water, I saw my two girls, but not my son.

My heart dropped and though I was right at the edge of the pool, I couldn’t reach him. All I could see was the top of his blonde head barely above the surface. Just typing these words makes me sick to my stomach. I looked around, yelled to my 9 year old to grab her brother and then jumped in. He was too far for me to grab–my 9 year-old is by no means a lifeguard. I don’t know that the situation had totally processed in my brain, but mommy instincts kicked in, and he was in my arms coughing within seconds.

I felt awful. It was completely my fault that my 5 year-old was underwater and scared. I took my eyes off of him for one second – but that’s all it took for my son to take one step too far into deep water. All of the what-if scenarios swirled in my mind. What if I wouldn’t have looked up? What if I would have started playing on my phone? What if I would have been playing in the water with him?

In the midst of his coughing and my tremendous guilt, another mom came up to me and said it looked like my little guy was ok, but she wanted to check on me. She said she didn’t see what happened, but if a momma jumps in the pool fully dressed, it must have been a scary situation. I told her I was okay (I wasn’t) and thanked her for her compassion. The stranger gave me a hug and walked away. There was no judgment, no condemnation–only kindness from one parent to another.

Haven’t we all been there? Haven’t we all had the close calls that stop our hearts and make us wish we would have paid just a little more attention?

Many people have now heard the story of the little boy who ended up in the gorilla cage at the Cincinnati Zoo. I wasn’t there when it happened. I have no idea how easy or difficult it was for a little boy to find himself face-to-face with a gorilla. I do know that kids are fast, and they don’t always listen to their parents. They can go from the shallow, safe water to deep water with just one step. I know the terror of seeing your child in a dangerous situation, and it is terrifying. I don’t know the circumstances of this situation, but I hope this little boy and his mom are both going to be okay.

For 10 simple water safety tips, click here

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  1. Thanks Jen for sharing. So glad you and your son are ok. Could happen to anyone…

  2. Kristina Morris June 8, 2016 at 1:55 pm · Reply

    Thanks for sharing this story, even great parents look away sometimes…. even wonderful children don’t listen to there parents but it doesn’t make us bad people…Take all of things we encounter good or bad and think of it as a Learning Experience…

  3. Lisa Parro

    We’ve all been there and it’s terrifying. If only we as parents could encourage one another instead of pointing fingers, this world would be a more merciful place.

About the Author

Jen Frey
Jen Frey

Jen Frey, health enews contributor, manages the Transportation Department at Advocate Condell Medical Center. Jen has a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her master’s degree in Recreation Administration from Aurora University. Jen’s favorite things include traveling with her children, exercising and finding a great bargain.