Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

The leading cause of death for children ages 1 through 4 is drowning.

Not lead poisoning. Not an allergy or hot cars or too much screen time. Nothing on the heart-breaking list of childhood diseases and disabilities.

Drowning. A completely preventable accident is the number one killer of young children.

Why isn’t anyone talking about this?

Why does my pediatrician talk to me about iron levels, healthy eating, and growth charts, but never utters a word about water safety? The American Academy of Pediatrics tip-toes around the issue as well, claiming that parents need to use their best judgment in when to offer swim lessons for children ages 1 to 4. They are correct in stating that not every child will be developmentally ready to swim, and individual characteristics should be taken into consideration. I also buy their recommendations that children younger than 1 not be introduced to formal swim lessons, but after that is probably fine.

But hello? There is nothing telling me how to protect my child from drowning, other than a fancy-worded “watch your kids.”

Fair enough. Supervision is obvious. Prevention methods like fences and alarms are obvious. But honestly, it only takes 30 seconds of not knowing exactly where your child is. No parent is perfect, because we all have the fault of being human.

I’m not saying toss your child into a pool at 6 months old, or 18 months old, or 3 years old. The last thing we want to do is traumatize our kids by dunking them in cold water if its clearly not something they enjoy. But damn, can we at least have a conversation?

My daughter is two, and for months we have been talking about safety. Hallie knows that we only cross the road with mommy or daddy and we always look for cars. We talk about wearing seatbelts in the car to stay safe. We talk about wearing sun lotion to prevent a sunburn. We talk about stranger danger and staying close in grocery stores and other public areas. But we’ve never talked about water.

Recently, we introduced Hallie to a Tiny Tots swim class that is more exploration than anything, not really swim lessons, but still. Hallie doesn’t need introduced, because she loves the pool, but it’s a great conversation starter.

Now, when we talk about safety in the car we also talk about safety in the pool. Hallie is being reminded constantly that she should never, EVER, go near water without mommy or daddy. This includes lakes, rivers, or any other water, including her bath and kiddie pool. Hallie thought for a moment and looked at me: “Puddles, too?” Yes. Exactly. Puddles are water, and if Hallie doesn’t go near a puddle without permission until she is a teenager, I’d rather that than risk her drowning.

Hallie asked me today if she could jump in a puddle. I know that sounds ridiculous and some people will call it helicopter parenting. However, she is in the midst of learning a critical safety concept, and I won’t generalize drowning. At two years old, no water is safe. Not without mommy or daddy. And yes, I let her jump in that puddle.

Introduce water when your child is ready, but never hesitate to have the conversation. Water safety is just as important as every other bit of parenting rules that are thrown at us, if not more. Something that is 100 percent preventable shouldn’t be killing our kids, and talking about it is the only thing that will change that statistic.