A Very Important Message

by Marinka on June 28, 2010

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, and I wavered because this is a humor blog and this topic is decidedly not funny.

But it’s important and sometimes that trumps funny.

Last week, a 12 year old drowned in New York, in an outing with her class.  Obviously, this is a tragedy and it’s complicated by the blame being tossed around.  Not enough adults supervising the outing.  Kids going into the water when there were no lifeguards on duty.

A few days later, a three year old drowned with her nanny, when they slipped in the deep end of the pool.

Others will allocate blame.

I just want the drownings to stop.

I want swimming to be taught in schools, starting in nursery school. I want water safety to be treated seriously, as a life skill, because it is.

It is more important to know how to swim than it is how to ride a bike.

It is more important to know how to swim than to vacation at Disney.

All children should know how to swim.

There is a lot to learn about water safety here.

Drowning is the second cause of  unintentional death for children between ages 1 and 4 and 10 and 14.

Even if a child knows how to swim,  he can drown.  Olympic swimmers can drown.

We have to talk about it because we have to stop it.  Please look into water safety classes in your area and sign up for them.   Learn about water safety.   If you can’t find a reasonably priced swimming classes near where you live, email me at MarinkaNYC@gmail.com and I’ll help you find one.

Because I think it’s that important.

(If you came here to read something funny,  just hit refresh for 20 or so hours, and I’ll come up with something by then.  Promise.)

One year ago ...

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{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

Cute~Ella June 28, 2010 at 4:33 pm

As a swim instructor/lifeguard for the last 15 years, I thank you for this post. It is so very important!


June 28, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Our doctor kind of scared us when she said that toddlers/preschoolers who have taken swim lessons are more likely to drown than non-swimmers because they don’t have a fear of water. It makes sense, but we are trying to get our 5 y/o into lessons. She just won’t go. She only wants to play in the kiddie area.
As far as the field trip? It shouldn’t take place without enough supervising adults. I sometimes wish I could be one of those moms who relaxes near water letting her kids play, but stories like these make me glad that I’m kind of nutcase.


Marinka June 29, 2010 at 7:46 pm

That’s a good point–a child can have a false sense of confidence. Still, I think it’s important that a child be taught to swim. It’s hard going through life avoiding water.

good luck getting your daughter to swim lessons. Maybe if a friend goes? I’m a mean mom and told my kids that if they wanted to go to the lake, or the pond at my parents’, they had to take lessons. I think splashing on the shore, not knowing how to swim, is too dangerous.


Maggie June 28, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Totally agree with you! I put my son is lessons at the age of 3, and he continued till age 10. These situations are so sad! Even with his ability to swim well, I worry about him. I hope with this post you have saved some lives.


Halala Mama
June 28, 2010 at 4:34 pm

I agree with you 100 percent. Adam scares me to death because he is in LOVE with water. I have two different life jackets for him that we use when ever we are going to be even remotely close to water, and I am considering using them both at the same time.


Marinka June 29, 2010 at 7:48 pm

You sound like me. I know this is crazy talk, but how about swimming lessons?


June 28, 2010 at 4:38 pm

I agree with you 100%. I was in swimming lessons from practically an infant and all three of my kids have been as well. Here it’s harder because our hot months are basically only July and August, where as in Los Angeles, we basically swam year round. It’s still on of the most important things a kid should learn.


traci June 28, 2010 at 4:38 pm

I never thought about it like that. Swimming IS more important than learning to ride a bike.


Marinka June 29, 2010 at 7:48 pm

I am very wise, Traci. Very, very wise.


Lisa June 28, 2010 at 4:41 pm

I’ve had my daughter is swimming lessons since she was 6 months old, she is now 2 and a half. She can’t swim yet, but she knows about water safety, she knows the importance of wearing a life jacket when in or around water, she knows how to hold on to the edge and climb out by herself, she knows the importance of ALWAYS listening to her parents or other adults when near water. I grew up around water and learned water safety at an early age. It is important to me that my children learn about water safety. I think this post delivers an important message and I hope a lot of people listen and take action.


June 28, 2010 at 4:41 pm

I also think there should be more required of lifeguards at public pools. I remember when I used to go into pools and lakes at day camp, etc., the lifeguards were typically teenagers themselves more interested in flirting with other lifeguards than watching what is going on. We used to dunk each other into the water, and do all sorts of stuff unsupervised, and most of us kids knew very little about swimming other than doing the doggy paddle.


Marinka June 29, 2010 at 7:53 pm

I’ve been really impressed with the lifeguards that I’ve seen. It’s true, most of them are teenagers, but they’re all certified and totally Baywatch-y.


Brooke June 28, 2010 at 4:51 pm

This has been on my mind for weeks. I am not a Mom, but I see these children wearing some kind of swimming aid until they are 5+ and it makes me nuts! Teach them to swim! Thank you for this.


Kate Coveny Hood
June 28, 2010 at 5:01 pm

You know, I never really thought about it that way – but you’re absolutely right. I like the idea of swimming being required in school (you know – now that I’m not a twelve year old, horrified by what she looks like in a bathing suit). I’ve been having similar thoughts about locking car doors, since Oliver got stuck in our car (while I was frantically searching the neighborhood for him) in 90 degree weather. You hear stories about this all the time, yet now that I live in the suburbs, I frequently forget to make sure my car is locked. While the tragic stories are hard to hear, they’re good reminders to pay more attention, teach important skills and really just appreciate every day that WE’RE not the family in the tragic story.


Marinka June 29, 2010 at 7:55 pm

That is terrifying.
I’m so glad that it turned out ok.


Melissa T June 28, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Amen sister! You are exactly right – the ability to swim is a life skill. But, young kids who can swim are still in danger because they don’t know to stop when they are tired – they’ll just go and go until their muscles give out. Adult supervision is critically important even when kids are strong swimmers, and a gaggle of moms chatting poolside is NOT supervision. Still, there is no excuse for letting your kid go through life without the ability to swim.


Marinka June 29, 2010 at 7:57 pm

That’s an excellent point.
Kids need to be monitored and we all need to listen to our bodies, to know where to stop.


Rene Foran June 28, 2010 at 5:10 pm

Marinka, Thank You! I have been advocating the importance of swimming lessons along with Red Cross certified water safety classes for years!
Swimming lessons are a necessary life skill.
One that could possibly save your life or give you the ability to save someone elses.
I also believe that field trips and outings should not be held at facilities where there is not a proper lifeguard/supervisor to swimmer ratio.
That applies to any kind of filed trip land or water.

Thank You!
Rene Foran


dusty earth mother June 28, 2010 at 5:23 pm

sooooo important. Thank you, Marinka.


Mary @ Holy Mackerel
June 28, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Totally agree, Marinka. Here, there is a school program for all elementary students to take classes so they at least have the basics. So so so important. Thank you for reminding us.


Kat Gordon June 28, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Tragic. More advice for parents: when on vacation, always designate one parent in charge of the kids around water. I heard that vacations are dangerous times, too, because one parent thinks the other has “got” the kids. A three-second conversation could save your child’s life.


Christine June 28, 2010 at 5:40 pm

We just had this conversation last night at dinner. I told my children that I honestly believe I had three things to teach them in life: to read, to use the toilet, and to swim. By swimming I meant swimming and being safe in and near water. If they learn other stuff from me, that’s just icing on the cake. It was good to have that talk last night (after a day of lake swimming) to review what to do and not do near water.


June 28, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Agree wholeheartedly. My grandmother grew up on The Shannon River in Ireland, I have visited her old house and you could throw a rock in the river from the back door. She saw children swept away when she was young and never went in the water EVER again, until she was in her 70’s in our 4 ft deep pool. I wasted so much time in high school playing stupid games like kickball, dodge ball, or taking Chemistry when I had no intention of going into science…all those hours could have taught me to be a lifeguard not only to swim but the dangers of oceans and currents, learn how to be an Emergency Medical Technician instead of just 911, what to do in a fire like a Firefighter would do…I later in life became all 3 , practical skills I will carry forever, all which we could have learned in High School. Great post and reminder Marinka.


June 28, 2010 at 5:52 pm

This happened to a 4 yr old in my neighborhood last year. His parents started Colin’s Hope in Austin to promote water safety & swimming lessons for all.


dopeysmom June 28, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Well said Marinka. It is a life skill that every child needs and should have. Thank you. Sometimes we all need a little break from funny and a wee dose of reality… But not for long please 😉


Crisanna June 28, 2010 at 5:55 pm

As much as I love the humor on your blog, I love that you are able to use it as a forum to spread this kind of message to your readers. Swimming is most certainly a life skill that every child should learn – and the earlier the better.


empress bee (of the high sea) June 28, 2010 at 5:58 pm

good post, thanks!

smiles, bee


June 28, 2010 at 6:17 pm

A young healthy mother just drowned here in NH. She knows how to swim but no one was paying attention so no one knows how this happened. I remember the buddy system we were taught as kids. This tragedy didn’t have to happen if we adults remembered and respected those lessons we learned so long ago. No one should be swimming without someone knowing where they are.

Thanks Marinka for posting such a timely topic.


Miss Britt
June 28, 2010 at 6:37 pm

OK so I’m kind of having a panic attack right now because my children are 1400 miles away from me right now with my mother who just got a new pool.

But… yes. This is important.


June 28, 2010 at 6:55 pm

The best money I ever spent was one-on-one survival swim class. After an entire year of paying a dollar a minute for my two older kids – they learned to swim/float and survive in the water. I agree with you – every child should know how to swim.

Thanks for reminding me to sign up my youngest.


christy June 28, 2010 at 7:16 pm

This is so incredibly important. Those two stories you linked to were so tragic – I hadn’t heard of either. I do know someone who was babysitting a bunch of kids, and one of them drowned in the family pool on her watch. Incredibly devastating to all involved…Fiona’s been in swim classes since she was 4 months old and I’m going to make sure she and her brother know how to swim, and swim well. I think you mentioned a survival swimming class in another post – I immediately mentioned that to my husband and we both love the idea of that too. For all four of us – even though Matt and I are already what I’d consider strong swimmers. You can never be too safe around water.


Heather June 28, 2010 at 9:05 pm

Just yesterday I was at a friends house sitting on her 3 foot wide step in the pool talking to her and watching my 5 year old. My 3 year old was playing on the step, he slipped off the edge and was in literally over his head. I was right next to him and didn’t see nor hear him as it was behind me. Fortunately my friend suddenly noticed and pulled him straight out. I was RIGHT NEXT TO HIM literally a foot away and the scariest thing of all is it was SILENT – no splashing, no screaming so for all of you reading this DO NOT TAKE YOUR EYES OFF YOUR KIDS not even for a second. This makes it difficult when you have 2 or more but even in shallow water get your little ones in some form of flotation device because I know how lucky I was yesterday!


kimberly June 28, 2010 at 9:17 pm

I want tree branches to stop falling on people in Central Park. Especially little babies. maybe a little tree maintenance is in order.

Oh I want swimming lessons too! Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t know how to swim (in Michigan of all places) when I was 20 and fell off the back of a boat at 3 am. I came extremely close to drowning.


magpie June 28, 2010 at 9:25 pm

swimming is the one “sport” that i’ve encouraged my kid towards, insisted even. because it’s a lifelong skill and for all the reasons that you mention.


Scary Mommy
June 28, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Water scares the shit out of me. My kids are in swim lessons all summer long, and I’m hoping next year not to be such an insane wreck at the pool. Although, that’s probably not going to happen.


Bella June 29, 2010 at 12:10 am

Great post.
After swim lessons I had my kids participate on a low-key swim team to strengthen their skills. When they turned 15 they took a Red Cross lifeguard class and now have good jobs for the summer.

Swimming can save a life, and help save for college!


Sophie@Fabrications June 29, 2010 at 1:44 am

I agree. Knowing to swim is important, and practicing water safety is even more important. Every summer here quite a few adults drown, going to swim in beaches with no life guards or during the night. More adults than kids.


June 29, 2010 at 2:04 am

Could not agree more. My college actually required you to pass a swim test or take a swim class to graduate. For the 5YO who still doesn’t want to swim…my kids were the same way / all decked out in goggles and lifejackets and clung frantically to me. They finally learned to let go when they swam at a YMCA camp w/o mom around.

The lifeguards around here are fabulous. They stand with whistles in their mouth, switching every 10 minutes or so to keep alert.


JK June 29, 2010 at 7:12 am

Brava! I completely agree. Even though they were proficient swimmers, I sent all my teens kicking and screaming to lifeguard class as soon as they were old enough because we own a pool. Swimming is a necessary life skill that we don’t require of all our young people. I am sure you’ve saved a life today.


Loukia June 29, 2010 at 9:45 am

Absolutely true, and yes, it is of utmost importance for children to learn to swim. My oldest son, last year, at 3 years old, was afraid to take swimming lessons, however, since he was a baby he was in the water – pools and oceans – with us. Never afraid of the water. This year, he took lessons happily, and can swim on his own now, but is more comfortable with floaties on. Of course, he’s never in the pool unless we’re in with him, too. I’m so anal at the pool/ocean. I’m a constant lifeguard! And my baby, 2 years old, this year, out of the blue, started swiming on his own, with only a noodle and now, with floaties. It’s amazing me and blowing my mind, because this is someting our oldest son (almost 5) just started doing this year!
When our oldest son was 3, he had a scary incident in the pool. He was sitting on the stairs in the shallow end of a friend’s pool, without any life jacket on, and I thought he was safe so I started doing laps – next thing I know he was face down in the water not moving. I swam so fast, freaking out, and got to him (or my friend first, can’t remember) and he was coughing and choking but he was okay. So scary to think what chould have happened a few minutes later…
We can never be too safe around bodies of water when children are involved!


steph June 29, 2010 at 9:47 am

Just wanted to say thanks for putting this post up. I think that some people are just too careless around the water with their children and it makes me nuts.

I have a pool in my backyard and it absolutely HAUNTS me. I have my 3yo daughter in private swim lessons here 4 times a week. I wanted to give you the website where I found my instructor as it was a huge help for me.


They provide all of the qualifications and training that the instructors have and you can choose to use their pool or your own, it was an incredibly helpful resource to me and I got a WONDERFUL instructor. I feel so strongly about this that I opened up my home to about 8 kids to be able to come and take private swim lessons here.


Katie June 29, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Here in AZ, a high schooler recently died at school in ‘open swim’. He was 17 and didn’t know how to swim, and slipped into the deep end somehow. So unnecessary and tragic.


Heather, Queen of Shake Shake June 29, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Even though my kids have had two years of swimming lessons, I’m still like a hawk with them when they are in the pool.

When I took them to the beach for the last time, I sat on the shore and watched them, again, like a HAWK. I saw two other mothers (one with children younger than mine) paying more attention to their iPhone than their kids in the water. WTH?


Elizabeth June 29, 2010 at 2:19 pm

My own 3 year old daughter was left unattended in swimming lessons. When she was pulled out, she was throwing up water. She was in a pool with an instructor and a lifeguard watching.

I’ve always believed that the ability to swim is a life skill but after that experience I have even stronger opinions.

My children, no matter our financial situation at the moment, receive private lessons until they are water safe. They continue with swim lessons until they are proficient and strong swimmers. I don’t believe in any form of flotation device. They need to know that they can drown. The flotation device gives them a false sense of security.

A lifeguard and, even, adult supervision can only be trusted so far. They are all only human. In my eyes, the only true form of water safety is the ability to swim.


Roshni June 29, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Absolutely. I have told my 6 year old son (who’s scared of swimming classes) that he has to go until he can swim the entire length of the pool by himself…its not negotiable.
I am so sad for the parents of these children. Its just not fair.


Brie June 29, 2010 at 5:03 pm

I couldn’t agree more.

My sister enrolled both of her children–as infants–into the Infant Swimming Resource (http://www.infantswim.com/home.html), probably similar to what Pauline said she did with her kids. They definitely hated life for the time of the lesson, but the instructor would put the child in the water as if he/she were to fall in and instill methods to get his/her face out of the water. The classes are done fully clothed, sometimes even in a winter coat, to make it that much more realistic.


June 29, 2010 at 5:58 pm

I completely agree! I practically grew up in the water and it still scares me to this day. It is a LIFE skill and a SURVIVAL skill that everyone should know. I took swim lessons until I was 16 and my father made us become CPR certified. Sadly, before the age of 18 I knew 4 people that had drowned in our local lake. Maybe that is where my constant fear comes from.


Maravonda June 30, 2010 at 12:23 am

Kudos on your post, Marinka…I knew you could use your abilities for good as well as evil. Seriously, thank you for bringing up such an important issue.


Tiaras & Tantrums
June 30, 2010 at 10:12 am

I force all three of my children to participate in swimming lessons. BUT I STILL FREAK OUT while at the pool with three little ones! It is hard to watch all three! I am so afraid of dry drowning now from all the water they swallow while trying very hard to show me that they are GOOD swimmers! Each day when we come home from a swimming afternoon I won’t let them out of my sight for hours!


I'm Nate's Mom June 30, 2010 at 11:48 am

For kids who are afraid of lessons, you can find a certified instructor to come to you, at a local lake or your own pool (or a neighbor’s!). That’s what I ended up having to do when my kids were little. They were much more at ease and willing to do what the instructor was teaching. More expensive, yes, but worth it!


June 30, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Drowning is such a huge fear of mine after seeing the children in the ICU during med school and my husband’s pediatric residency. {shivers}

One thing we always do is assign an adult to each child. If I have to run inside, I specifically let another adult know that they are now in charge of my son (or daughter). And they need to be in the pool to do it.

Because often if there are adults AROUND everyone thinks the other person is watching the kid. Also my children always wear life vests. And only my husband or I take them to swimming. (That last sentence is due more to fear than the inability of another adult to care for my children.)


Bob Snitchler
June 30, 2010 at 9:55 pm

I found you, and then this post, following links from @vodkamom on Twitter. She’s been one of my Teachers over these few months that I’ve been involved in the Social Media world (even though I’m more than 50 years removed from being a second grader!)

Reading this post gave me a gut-wrenching flashback to 8 years ago when I got a call from my twins daycare center that my 4 year old daughter had been pulled from the bottom of the town pool during a pool-day field trip and was on her way to the hospital! Try hearing that news when you’re 50 miles away at work.

She’s a fine 12 year old now. But, you have no idea how gut wrenching that call is. My first wife passed away at the age of 23. All three of my kids are from my second wife who walked out almost ten years ago. (That explains my Twitter name of @MrMomWorld.) To add the loss of a daughter is just unimaginable.

This post will be shared.


the mama bird diaries
July 1, 2010 at 11:36 am

i so agree. i would also never own a pool until my kids are older. My sister almost drowned in a pool because i left the gate open. as a reporter, i have covered ENDLESS stories about drownings. One major factor… when you have a party at a pool, no one is specifically watching all the kids. It’s this group mentality where there are lots of people but no one is really paying attention. It’s how Stew Leonard lost his 2 year-old son to a drowning. Hire a lifeguard if you throw a pool party or make sure one adult is watching. Great post marinka.


monica peapod August 9, 2010 at 1:48 pm

my 5yo triplets have had swimming lessons and are pretty confident swimmers but i STILL make them wear life vests in the deep end. i worry like crazy and will put them in lessons again next summer…even if it means doing without something else in order to pay for the swimming lessons. you’re so right. it’s MUCH more important than a family vacation or anything else people may choose to spend the money on instead.

sometimes life is funny. hilarious even. but sometimes it’s SO not. thank you for addressing this.


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