Smiley’s swimming pool scare

I only took my eyes off her for a couple of seconds.

We were watching our two-year-old, Smiley, have her regular Saturday morning swimming lesson.

She was laughing and splashing on the pool’s ledge playing the role of class clown perfectly as she entertained the other kids with her antics.

I had glanced away momentarily to take in what was happening around me.

The pool is busy on a Saturday morning filled with adults and kids in a confined space. Nine times out of 10 there’s a handful of kids screaming at the top of their lungs as they refuse to go into the water. It’s noisy and hectic.

When I turned my gaze from the action on the sidelines back to the pool, I couldn’t see her. She wasn’t on the ledge where she was happily splashing just seconds before.

I leapt up and frantically scanned the pool as I teetered on the edge ready to jump in fully clothed. I spotted her under water not far from the ledge. Her little legs were paddling desperately trying to get her to the surface.

Her face appeared through the water, she spluttered and gulped for air, and went under again.

The chaos around me faded into nothingness as I stood watching her in horror. She was too far from the ledge to make her own way back. She cannot swim by any stretch of the imagination.

I screamed like a woman possessed to the teacher. She was across the other side of the pool with a kid oblivious to what was happening. It was not like Smiley to wander. She must have accidentally fallen in.

The teacher waded over to her, scooped her up and placed her on the ledge, where she gave her a right talking to. The teacher was in shock, we were in shock, and poor little Smiley was hysterical.

I looked to Dave who was sitting a couple of seats down from me. He had been distracted by Miss Four and hadn’t seen Smiley fall off the ledge. It occurred to me that if I hadn’t been watching her, if I hadn’t turned my gaze back to her at that time, the situation could have been a lot worse. She could have drowned in a public pool surrounded by adults.

Dave looked me in the eyes and shook his head. He knew I wanted to get her out of the pool and tell her she was alright. He was telling me telepathically that the teacher had the situation under control and if she needed me she would tell me. If I was to rush over to Smiley the lesson would be over for her and she may become even more upset.

I sat on the edge of my seat holding back tears attempting to be brave for Smiley, who was looking directly at me as she wailed. A stranger beside me rubbed my back attempting to distract me with light conversation.

When Miss Two realised we weren’t rescuing her, she pulled her goggles back down over her eyes and with a look of sheer determination, that strong little love of ours finished her lesson.

The experience has impacted her though.

She has gone from being an absolute mad dog in the pool, who used to love her swimming lessons and beg me to pack her swimmers for Nan’s house each week, to a child who is now afraid of putting her head under water.

The first time she went back, the teacher had to peel her off me. After about three minutes of hysterical crying the teacher told me she was making herself sick. We were to try again next week.

The following week I attempted to prepare her for her lesson talking about how fun swimming is and how important it is to learn how to swim.

She was not convinced … so I bribed her.

I bribed my two-year-old with the promise of a treat if she would get in the pool. She negotiated with me. Yes, my two-year-old negotiated with me. She would get in the pool for a lolly snake as long as she didn’t have to run along the floating mat. It was a deal and into the pool she went.

Fortunately, she was the only kid in her lesson that week which gave her the one-on-one attention she needed to help her feel at ease.

Alas, last weekend we were back to square one. As I attempted to wrestle her into her swimmers she kicked and screamed.

‘I will get you a treat at the corner shop,’ I attempted to bribe her again.

‘I don’t want a treat!’ she said adamantly.

I was screwed.

I wrangled her into her swimmers all the while remaining upbeat hoping and praying she couldn’t feel my body tensing.

As I placed her in the pool, I whispered words of encouragement in her ear.

A little boy ventured over and splashed her. She took her thumb out of her mouth with an agitated look on her face. He splashed her again. Her face broke into a smile as she splashed him back. She was back in the game.

She lasted half the lesson before climbing out of the pool and running into my arms. She is not yet ready to do anything that involves putting her head under water.

While we made a huge step forward last week, we have a long way to go. I wonder if we’re doing the right thing continuing with lessons, or whether or not we should take time off and start back when she’s older.

This parenting gig is tough, isn’t it?!

tpddler swimming

In happier times …

Have you had any scares with you or your kids around water? What would you do? How old were your kids when they started swimming lessons?

Linking up today with Essentially Jess for IBOT.

45 comments on Smiley’s swimming pool scare

  1. Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me
    June 16, 2015 at 9:16 am (4 years ago)

    As you know this subject is close to my heart, it can happen to anyone anywhere. And it took O ages to get over it but he did eventually, baby steps. Big hug, you know I know what you’re going through and it’s freaking shiz. xxx

    • Mummy, Wife, Me
      June 17, 2015 at 9:29 pm (3 years ago)

      Thanks darling. I thought of you while writing this x

  2. Amy @ HandbagMafia
    June 16, 2015 at 12:04 pm (4 years ago)

    That is so tough- I would have found it hard not to grab her, just like you. Swimming is a life saving skill though and so important to learn. Good on you for helping her face it in whatever way worked. Don’t feel bad about bribery- it’s ine tool in your arsenal. Screw the experts- I’ve been a mum for 12 years and sometimes it’s warranted. Feel proud of your resourceful nature xx

    • Mummy, Wife, Me
      June 17, 2015 at 9:30 pm (3 years ago)

      I love the way you think, Amy. I was so impressed that she was trying her hardest to get back up to the surface. Bless her x

  3. Dannielle
    June 16, 2015 at 3:04 pm (4 years ago)

    Oh Renee poor all of you! Glad you are all ok, well as ok as you can be after a trauma like that.
    God you can write Renee, you had me poolside with you while I was reading, I was giving you some back pats of comfort too! I had tears, I know that panicked emotion/feeling you describe,(not from a pool but from winding up the window while our Miss 4 was still hanging onto, and then trying to frantically free her fingers hoping I hadn’t chopped them off, thankfully I didn’t). Try not to think about the what if’s they’re too scary, think about what an amazing mum you were and staying strong for your little poppet so as not to freak her out anymore than she already was, you did great! Your husband sounds like a very sensible man too. You guys were great.
    As far as swimming goes we’ve had a few rounds on and off with the older 2 kidlets and Miss 4 is still on her first round from starting at 2. I don’t like making them do something they don’t enjoy, it’s too stressful for all of us not to mention costly. My thoughts are you made sure Smiley got back on the bike but now if it’s causing you both grief I would have a break maybe until the summer and go from there. Have some fun in the bath with a watering can tipping water over her head, you know kind of go back to the fun basics, just a thought ๐Ÿ˜‰
    PS – This parenting gig is BLOODY tough! Rescue remedy and the odd wine work a treat!
    Take care gorgeous lady xx

    • Mummy, Wife, Me
      June 17, 2015 at 9:34 pm (3 years ago)

      Dannielle, you are the sweetest person out there, seriously! Thank you so much for your kind words and you’re advice. I think I’m going to see how we go this Saturday and reassess from there. I think you’re right. If it’s causing us both stress then a break would do us good. Oh my goodness with your little ones fingers. That would have been so stressful. I can just imagine it. It reminded me of when I accidentally gave my first daughter an upper cut when she was just six months old while I was trying to tighten her seat belt. OMG. You have to laugh. xx

  4. Bec @ Seeing the Lighter Side
    June 16, 2015 at 3:31 pm (4 years ago)

    Oh Renee, how terrifying! I’m so glad she’s ok. I think I’m still shaking just from reading that. xxxx #TeamIBOT.

    • Mummy, Wife, Me
      June 17, 2015 at 9:35 pm (3 years ago)

      Thanks Bec. I definitely don’t want to experience that again ๐Ÿ™‚ x

  5. Deborah
    June 16, 2015 at 3:39 pm (4 years ago)

    What a scary experience. Last summer my friend and her 3yr old were at my complex and he jumped in the pool thinking he could swim back to the side easily but his little legs were kicking and he was getting nowhere. We were right there and about to get in so my friend jumped in and pulled him to the edge. She was a bit freaked out and went mad at him for jumping in before we were ready, but thankfully he didn’t seem too worried by the incident… but I could see that it could be traumatic for a child.

    • Mummy, Wife, Me
      June 17, 2015 at 9:36 pm (3 years ago)

      Oh gosh the poor little thing. I hate it when they work so hard yet get nowhere. Stressful!!

  6. Emily M Morgan
    June 16, 2015 at 4:39 pm (4 years ago)

    OMG what a nightmare! I had a similar thing, only it was just a shock sudden submersion with my little girl – it was during a swim class and she just wasn’t expecting it. It really put her off, it’s taken almost two years for her to become confident to start trying to put her face in the water again. Poor little blighters! My dad taught us to swim by throwing us in and making us get to the side (he was in arm’s length I hasten to add!). We didn’t think much of it then, but boy we learned to swim fast and then you couldn’t get us out of the water. I guess I’m just not ready to do that yet!

    • Mummy, Wife, Me
      June 17, 2015 at 9:37 pm (3 years ago)

      Ha! That’s an interesting tactic on your Dad’s behalf ๐Ÿ™‚ I can see how a sudden submersion would freak your little one out. I know with my girls they require a lot of mental preparation beforehand lol.

  7. Robyn
    June 16, 2015 at 4:47 pm (4 years ago)

    Oh honey I know just how you feel. The EXACT same thing happened to my Hollie at that age during her swimming lesson. The teacher was also distracted and didn’t notice and my hubby ended up jumping in fully clothed! It took almost 3 years before she got her water confidence back again. I hope your little smiley recovers well. There is almost nothing more scary than kids and water!!!

    • Mummy, Wife, Me
      June 17, 2015 at 9:42 pm (3 years ago)

      Oh my goodness, Robyn. Really?!! Wow. Poor Hollie. You know exactly how we feel then. Perhaps a slower approach back into the pool is best for us then. Thanks for sharing x

  8. JodiGibson (@JFGibsonWriter)
    June 16, 2015 at 5:01 pm (4 years ago)

    Oh what a horrible experience for you all. You did it exactly right though. So many parents just scoop their kids off and go home and that’s the worst. It will take time, but she will get there, and so will you. As Emily said, baby steps. But still, awful thing to go through. Hugs Renee. Big ones. xxx

  9. Raychael aka Mystery Case
    June 16, 2015 at 5:41 pm (4 years ago)

    What a lesson that was. We had something similar happened to our youngest at a swimming lesson, although it was a case of the teacher moved on to anther child and failed to see our daughter hadn’t safely made it to the side. It took a long while to come back from that as far as confidence went.

    • Mummy, Wife, Me
      June 17, 2015 at 9:43 pm (3 years ago)

      Yes, I’ve noticed that happen every now and then. I’m always on the edge of my seat at the pool now. I’m watching everyone like a hawk ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Haidee@Maybe Baby Brothers
    June 16, 2015 at 7:13 pm (4 years ago)

    That would have been terrifying, I am nervous around the water at the best of times. My kids just started lessons – Mr 2 hates them and screams (so much so we have managed only one lesson this term!) and Mr 3 doesn’t listen but loves it. Baby steps.

    • Mummy, Wife, Me
      June 17, 2015 at 9:45 pm (3 years ago)

      Ah gosh. I hope Mr Two gets into the swing of things soon. Hopefully his big brother can show him how much fun it is ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Bec @ The Plumbette
    June 16, 2015 at 8:34 pm (4 years ago)

    Omigosh Renee. It’s scary how fast it can happen and it can happen right in front of you! When we went away to Byron Bay, Esther was in the pool with a noodle and Maggie was on one of the steps. I was talking to Jacob who was standing on the ledge of the pool when we looked at Maggie, she had drifted off the step and was treading water. She was fretting as she was trying to keep her head above water and she was kicking her legs madly. When Jacob jumped in to bring her back to the step we scolded her but I was so proud she knew what to do to keep her head above water…but she couldn’t keep doing it for long. Thankfully she hasn’t been scared of the water. My heart always jumps out when I hear a child has drowned. I hope Smiley can get her water confidence back. xx

    • Mummy, Wife, Me
      June 17, 2015 at 9:46 pm (3 years ago)

      Oh my goodness. Yep, all it takes is one step too far and they’re in. Well done Maggie for keeping your head above water xx

  12. Kathy
    June 16, 2015 at 8:55 pm (4 years ago)

    Feeling for you Renee. We have been lucky with our kiids – they had a private lesson so there wasn’t the opportunity for distraction with so many kids and adults around. I think your Smiley has been really brave and you guys too for trying to move on from the experience and keep the lessons up. Maybe you should try one-one-one lessons rather than giving up and she can move slowly as her confidence builds again.

    • Mummy, Wife, Me
      June 17, 2015 at 9:47 pm (3 years ago)

      Kathy, I think one-on-one lessons is a great idea. I’m going to enquire about that at the pool.

  13. Hugzilla
    June 16, 2015 at 9:57 pm (4 years ago)

    Oh my gosh, how terrifying! I am a very laid back parent in a lot of ways but I have to admit that I have a lot of trepidation with the kids around water (bordering on paranoid!). I’m not sure why, but it scares me, and this story is exactly why. It can all just happen so quickly, and so silently. I am so glad that your little one was OK s

    • Mummy, Wife, Me
      June 17, 2015 at 9:48 pm (3 years ago)

      Thanks so much! Yes, water and roads oh and driveways too make me super paranoid xx

  14. Vicki @ Knocked Up and Abroad
    June 16, 2015 at 10:05 pm (4 years ago)

    OMG Renee, my heart was beating reading that. Terrifying! I have become too aware through stories like this about the very real dangers of kids and water. I am very alert when they’re near water, but it’s soooo easy to take your eyes off them. I’m so glad you were on high alert that day. Thank god.

    • Mummy, Wife, Me
      June 17, 2015 at 9:50 pm (3 years ago)

      Yes, I know. Thank God. I will never take my eyes off them in the pool again x

  15. Caitlin
    June 16, 2015 at 11:23 pm (4 years ago)

    That is such a scary story Renee. I’m so glad you were looking at the right time. It is also so unfortunate when children go backwards with their swimming after a bad experience. They do get it back eventually. My eldest (when he was 2) got dropped out of my husband’s arms when our nephew jumped on Alex’s back and straggled Alex by the neck. Alex let go of Jonty so he could breathe, Jonty immediately sank, and even though it all happened so quickly and he wasn’t under the water for more than a few seconds it took a year for him to get his full confidence back. Now that he’s 8, you wouldn’t even know, but while you have a scared child near water, it seems like they will remain petrified for eternity.

    • Mummy, Wife, Me
      June 17, 2015 at 9:52 pm (3 years ago)

      Oh my gosh! That sounds like a full on experience. You’re right. It can feel like an eternity. We just have to be patient and not push her ๐Ÿ™‚ x

  16. Druimรฉ@SnippetsandSpirits
    June 16, 2015 at 11:53 pm (4 years ago)

    Oh my goodness my heart was breaking reading this poor baby smiley. I don’t think I could have not gone to her when she was upset. With baby steps it sounds like she will be back to being a water baby soon. Your a strong Mamma follow your instincts and Smiley’s too ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Mummy, Wife, Me
      June 17, 2015 at 9:53 pm (3 years ago)

      Thanks Druime. Great advice. Yep, it was REALLY hard not going to her ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Lisa
    June 17, 2015 at 1:26 am (4 years ago)

    How scary Renee. Glad everything was ok. My sister is a swimming teacher & their number one rule is never have your back to the class, even if completing individual skills with the kids.
    My kids have started swimming lessons at a young age (6-12mths) and we have a couple of mishaps. One my two year jumped in without waiting for me to get in the pool but he came back up spluttering and coughing. The other one was earlier in the year when my 5 year old hit his head on the edge of the pool & cut it on the concrete. Off to emergency we go. Blood everywhere.
    It will take time to get her back in the pool but worth the perseverance. xxx

    • Mummy, Wife, Me
      June 17, 2015 at 9:54 pm (3 years ago)

      OMG Lisa, that is full on. What a fright for everyone! I love that rule of never turning your back on a class. Very important x

  18. Lucy @ Bake Play Smile
    June 17, 2015 at 8:26 am (4 years ago)

    Oh I’m so glad she’s ok. How great that she’s still getting in the pool though… even if she is a little unsure now!

    • Mummy, Wife, Me
      June 17, 2015 at 9:55 pm (3 years ago)

      She’s a tough cookie, Lucy. That’s for sure x

  19. Nicole@ The Builders Wife
    June 17, 2015 at 11:07 am (4 years ago)

    Goodness Renee, that is so very scary. We had an incident like this with my youngest when he was only little, he just simply slipped of the edge of the pool and sunk to the bottom. We were so lucky that one of the other children in the pool noticed him and swam down to get him. It was truly one of my worst moments as a parent. I remember thinking, that I just couldn’t believe just how silent it was. Truly horrifying. I am so glad that Smiley is ok, I hope she is able to work through her fear quickly. xxx

    • Mummy, Wife, Me
      June 17, 2015 at 9:56 pm (3 years ago)

      Oh my Gosh, Nicole! That is so scary and gut wrenching. Thank God he was okay xx

  20. Tash @ Gift Grapevine
    June 18, 2015 at 4:01 pm (3 years ago)

    I know exactly how you feel Renee – that way you described Smiley’s scare was what happened to Mr TT earlier this year. He too was playing class clown and was waiting in the pool with his floaties on (all kids in his class wear floaties but the teacher takes them off for one-on-one time). He was supposed to hold onto the edge but he somehow managed to slip his floaties off and push away ever so slightly from the edge. He dropped straight down, submerged briefly and dropped again. I ran to the lane and grabbed his arm and the other teacher in the next lane did the same. His own teacher was 10 metres down the pool with another child. She came up and gave him a stern talking to. We were all shocked. He hasn’t played up like that since and luckily the experience didn’t scare him. It’s amazing how things can all happen so quickly. Kids thinks they are invincible! So happy to hear Smiley is getting back into the pool and enjoying herself (love Smiley’s Peppa Pig goggles too!).

  21. Cam @ Gen-Y Mum
    June 19, 2015 at 9:59 am (3 years ago)

    Angels were watching her that day.
    Must’ve been so scary for everyone. Glad to hear it was just a scare.

  22. EssentiallyJess
    June 19, 2015 at 2:49 pm (3 years ago)

    Oh Renee! That would have been awful for both of you!
    Last year Ava went backwards while on a noodle, and even though the water was shallow enough for her to stand, she kept trying to pull herself up and couldn’t do it. It was a split-second, but it was awful. I hope she is ok with it all soon. It’s not fun for either for you if she’s struggling.

  23. Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid
    June 20, 2015 at 7:38 am (3 years ago)

    How terrifying for all of you. I completely get how scared Smiley is, even as an adult I would be reluctant to go back in the water after such a traumatic experience. I guess it’s all still fresh in her mind, but with your support, I’m sure she’ll get back into the swing, or should I say swim, of things!

  24. Angie @ The Little Mumma
    June 20, 2015 at 12:00 pm (3 years ago)

    Oh, god, this is the stuff of nightmares! I am often struck by how one lifeguard is sufficient to monitor a busy public pool – I couldn’t think of a worse job, to be honest. I find taking my 3 to the pool stressful because keeping an eye on all of them constantly is impossible.

    I’m not sure about the lessons. I know that my 3-year-old stopped participating in her lessons recently so we’ve taken her out but will continue to take her to the pool for fun. This might be an idea for you? To build Smiley’s confidence back up on her own terms.

    Good luck! It’s definitely tricky. xx

  25. Fashionista
    June 22, 2015 at 10:56 am (3 years ago)

    Don’t feel guilty about the bribery! As Amy says, it is a tool in our arsenal. When Miss16 was about 2yo she started to play up a treat at swimming lessons (after having been doing lessons since 6 months, onset of the terrible twos) and the bribe I used was that if she didn’t go to swimming lessons, she wouldn’t be able to swim in our pool at home. It only took once not being able to swim at home and she got the message.

    You can never be too vigilant with children around water. I’m sure you will both recover from your fright and your little mermaid will be back soon.

  26. Nadia @ City Mum ~ Rural Life
    June 23, 2015 at 8:59 pm (3 years ago)

    Oh my! What a fright! I don’t blame her for needing some time to become confident again in the water. I remember being 14 and going snorkelling with my parents on the Great Barrier Reef. I got spooked by some jellyfish and breathed in water through my snorkel. It took me a while (realistically probably only a matter of seconds but felt like forever) to get back to the surface and calm myself… but I’ve not been deep water snorkelling since. It’s a fine line isn’t it? Knowing how far to push them to continue… or give them a break and come back to it at a later date. I wish I had an answer for you. We have a dam on our property that isn’t fenced (it would be impractical to do so). So both our children have to learn to swim. I can’t take any chances.


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