Recently, there was a post written by a mom that has been circulating social media, meant to be a tongue-in-cheek letter to lifeguards, stating that now that her kids were at least 8-years-old and could swim, she was off duty. And she made sure to say that those lifeguards better be on point. It was sent to me by a friend who is both a lifeguard and a mother of an 8-year-old. Her quote:
“Do NOT count me in the “Moms of 8-Year-Olds Everywhere.” Newsflash: We are there to SAVE your (child’s) life in an emergency, not babysit so you can check out on your parenting responsibilities. This letter is meant to be tongue in cheek, but the humor is lost when you consider the statistics for child drowning deaths.”
My reaction, also as a mom of an 8-year-old, was the same. I see what the writer was trying to do. We have all felt the joy that comes from having your kid reach the stage when he can get in the water on his own. To be able to touch the bottom, pass the swim test, and in general enjoy the whole pool without parent participation. I am the first one to admit, I enjoy the pool much more from the lounge chair. I am not a helicopter parent. But by no means does that mean I am checking out of my parental responsibilities. I still know where my kid is in the pool at all times. I read a page, find the kid. Repeat. I need those lifeguards to be there in an emergency situation for sure, but I have never expected them to babysit.
And as much as I am assuming that the post writer was just trying to be funny, it was so incredibly tone deaf and inappropriate. Why?
This attitude is unfair to other parents:
I have spent 13 years being the attentive pool parent to dozens of other kids whose parents have checked out. While I am sitting on the side of the pool watching and playing with my kids, there are parents who have decided someone else can watch. Every day without fail I was surrounded by kids who wanted someone to “look at me!” or to play with my kids’ toys, most of which disappeared never to be seen again. I was once in the pool at our gym with my daughter when she was in preschool. A 5-year-old girl came up, took my daughter’s toy and started to tell me all about how she just took her first swim lesson. After a few minutes, I asked her if she was there with someone. She said, “Yes, my mom.” “Where is your mom?” I asked. She said, “Inside doing yoga. She said I could play here until she was done.” Now this gym had a state of the art babysitting area free to members so there was no excuse for sending your kid out to the pool unaccompanied. As I left a short time later, I informed the lifeguard on duty that this kid was alone. I have my own kids to watch, I don’t have time for yours.
This attitude is unfair to lifeguards:
Most lifeguards are high school or college kids. They are well trained but they are young, many working their first job. They are balancing work, school and life. Please don’t make their job harder. Please don’t add to an already huge responsibility they face at work everyday: Keeping everyone alive.
This attitude is dangerous:
Lifeguards as a rule are well trained and good at their job. But they are human. They make mistakes. Pools can be understaffed. Or they are having a really bad day, like the lifeguard I once caught taking a nap at the top of a water slide at an amusement park. (His day went from bad to worse.) I will always be thankful for lifeguards. But I will always be a second set of eyes. I only have two children to watch. They have hundreds. Don’t believe me? Here is a quote from the experts:
“Misconception 3: If there is a lifeguard present, I don’t need to worry as much about actively supervising my child in and around water.
A lifeguard’s job is to enforce pool rules, scan, rescue and resuscitate, not keep an eye on any specific child.
FINDING: More than half of the parents surveyed think that when present, a lifeguard is the main person responsible for their child’s supervision.
TIP: Be alert and responsible for your child when he/she is in or around water. If you are socializing, like at a pool party, assign a Water Watcher so everyone is clear who is watching the kids at any given time.”
~Taken from the Water Safety Press Release from safekids.org. Complete information found HERE.
So, rejoice in your freedom. Enjoy your celebrity magazine. Sip an adult beverage if you so desire. But you are never completely off the clock if you are a parent. Your children are ultimately your responsibility.
For more information on water safety, check out our recent blog post HERE.