Learn To Swim As A Family Activity

May 22, 2008 | Commentary



Richard O. Jones

When I was between 10 and 14 years old, I was rescued on three different occasions during the summer fun activity of swimming.  The public swimming pool was the place to be on hot summer days. It was hard for me to accept the fact that I couldn't swim like some of my friends; therefore, I would jump off the diving board on a dare. Boys are daring that way. Finally, I became an adult non-swimmer; however, I simply avoided getting in large bodies of water… until one summer day in 1980.

My wife and I, with our three children, rented a new three-bedroom apartment with a tennis court, playground, picnic area, Jacuzzi, and swimming pool. It was the perfect apartment complex for a young family. My wife was also a non-swimmer; therefore, we never entered the pool area as a family; nonetheless, young children occasionally played in the shallow end of the pool under the supervision of a part-time teenage lifeguard. The lifeguard, unfortunately, turned out to be a slacker and dozed-off while on duty with my 7-year-old in the water. I just happened to be coming home and passing the pool and noticed my daughter fighting desperately for her life in the deep end of the pool.

I yelled out to the lifeguard, who was out cold and didn't respond. Without giving it much thought, I jumped the fence and leaped into the pool. The huge splash doused the lifeguard and brought her to an awakened state. The lifeguard dived into the pool and retrieved my daughter while I was left in the middle of the pool now fighting desperately for my own survival.

As my daughter received compassionate attention I was being totally ignored. The motion drew the attention of my wife who came running and screaming. The next thing I knew, my wife had jumped into the pool to help me. Now the two of us were drowning. One of our neighbors ran to the pool area and grabbed the long rescue pole and extended it to my wife and pulled her to safety. The lifeguard tossed me a life preserver, which was attached to a rope, and pulled me into the shallow end. In all the excitement, my freshly rescued daughter had to be restrained from jumping back into the pool to rescue me.

The next day, I enrolled my entire family in the YMCA. We took swimming lessons until each of us were competent swimmers, which took over two years of weekly lessons. Three people almost died that summer day in 1980 all because I didn't learn to swim as a child and had not taken to effort to insist my family learned to swim.

Statistics show that Black people drown at a rate nearly seven times higher that whites. I recommend that all parents with dependent children learn to swim as a family endeavor… whether or not you have immediate access to a swimming pool.

Email: richardojones1@verizon.net


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