Friday, July 27, 2012

Catching a Glimpse of the Thin Veil

"Can I dive and get the mermaid?" asks my daughter.

As always, I shake my head yes and reach to help her slip off the pool noodle she holds beneath both arms.  Amelia holds tight and waits for me to count to three, then plunges her head underwater as I give her a push downward.

I watch, amazed at how far she's come over the summer, how many seconds she can hold her breath before coming up.

This time, she kicks out away from my legs to get a second mermaid with the purple hair.  Then, she's on the surface again, grabbing hold of me and pushing that ever-annoying hair out of her eyes.

This is the routine for the half hour we're in the pool most days--me as the lifeguard encouraging three little ones to practice swimming and diving.

While she and her twin brother still can't technically "swim," they've learned as long as they hold that pool noodle beneath both arms, they won't sink.  While we own arm floaties, the pool noodle gives freedom to dive underwater, something they couldn't do with big balloons stuck on their arms.

It's with this freedom that they have grown comfortable with having water over their heads and in their faces, something that didn't happen until I took the safety of the floaties off and allowed them the potential for danger.

There is such a fine line between freedom and danger, safety and restriction.

As a mother afraid of being in deep water, herself, this decision to let the twins swim and dive has been difficult.  Yet, with one pond on our farm and Opa itching to dig a second one, sticking my head in the sand to ignore the possibility of my children drowning isn't an option.

Leaving them in flotation devices is safer while in the pool but not in the long run, not for teaching them what to do if they're in a situation where floaties aren't an option.

So, two months ago, I enrolled my three children in week-long swimming lessons.  My oldest son, Wyatt, did pretty well at kicking his feet and using his arms as long soup spoons to propel himself across the pool.  Then again, he can stand in our four foot above-ground soup bowl with no problem.

The twins?  At three and a half, they learned well how to kick and how to paddle, but not really how to do both at once.  Holding their breath just added a third item to remember.  As I well know, multitasking isn't something young preschoolers do well.

More than anything, though, Mrs. Glenda taught them pool safety, to be comfortable looking around underwater, how to "kick up" from the bottom, and what to do when you jump in a pool--immediately find the side. 

This past Thursday morning after prayer walking, Amelia finally had a chance to put some of that training into practice.

As Wyatt and I scooped up the remaining diving rings and sticks on the pool's bottom, Amelia tried to lie on her back and be "silly," something I'd warned her about already.  This time, she slipped off her floating device and sunk underwater, as I knew she would.

Although scared, she knew enough to kick to the surface and grab a breath before ducking below the surface again and kicking towards me. 

It was mere seconds before I caught her.  But that's all it took for her to learn a good lesson about sticking close to the pool's side, about really not being able to swim on her own yet, about water being worthy of a fearful respect.

She and I clung together at the water's edge as she gulped tears, fear and relief mingling in the safety of her mother's arms.

When I asked her why she didn't call for help, she said she "couldn't talk underwater."

I shook my head solemnly, reminded all three now serious children that this is why mommy always insists on being the "lifeguard" in the water, not a play partner.  After chastening Amelia for her silliness that caused the scare, I also encouraged her for doing the right thing--for kicking her legs so she could surface and get closer to help, to me.

And I prayed to God right then and there, thanking Him for taking care of my daughter.

The veil between life and death is just that thin...just that quick to part.

While Amelia was giggling moments later, my heart still felt the sinking fear late into the night.

I'm well aware that pool noodles are "not intended to be human floatation devices."  Then again, the arm floaties we own are stamped with the same exact statement.

There is no 100% safety in the water.  So, we take precautions.  But, life doesn't carry any guarantees either.

As her mother, I must do my best to protect Amelia by preparing her for potential dangers beyond my doorstep, by preparing her for how to react in those moments when mommy isn't there to scoop her up...

and by praying, praying, praying for God and His angels to watch over my little ones and protect them better than I ever could.


  1. Wow! What a beautiful post about faith and trust in parenting. I needed to read this one. {I love the idea of what you're doing with the noodles and how you are teaching them.}

  2. I need to start throwing the little ones in at least once each day and giving them a mom-guarded chance to "find the side" on their own. Then, if it happens like this again, it'll just be something they know how to deal with better. Scares me, though. :-)

  3. It is scary, Jennifer. We take a lot of precautions, too. My kids have become very good swimmers, but I'm still very close by ... even in pools with actual lifeguards on duty.