Part 1: The Ocean.
I did not intend to start Coastal Parenting on a heavy note, but last night I saw a news story about Heidi Klum, and how she had to pull her son out of the ocean. This got me thinking about the two times I have also had to pull my children from the water. As a Coastal Parent, or any parent for that matter, it is so important that you never, ever, ever take your eyes off your children when they are in or around the water. My two bigger kids started swimming lessons when they were infants. Before I lived at the beach, I already knew the importance of teaching a child to swim. I believe it is a survival skill every child must have. Strong swimmers take on a different meaning when you live on an island. A strong swimmer in my community is the 8 year old on the swim team that wins the gold medal in the 100 yard freestyle. Those are not my children. Mine can pass the deep water test at the pool. They can swim from one side of the deep end to the other, they can tread water for 60 seconds and they can retrieve a dive stick from the deepest part of the pool.
The first time I had to save one of my children, it was my son, and was one of the scariest days of my life. He was still little, maybe 3 and we were on what the locals refer to as Toll Beach on the Northern most point of Ocean City, New Jersey. (A bit of background, before we moved to South Carolina, we would spend our summers in Ocean City, living with my sister who has been a local there since 1992) Toll Beach is an unguarded beach, so therefore you do not need a beach tag, (another post, beach tags suck) so we were frequent visitors to Toll Beach, our kids were still to little to be in the Ocean, and Toll Beach gets an awesome tidal pool every summer that I came to refer to as Mother Nature’s baby Pool.
This was a chilly day, before the season really got underway and we were in sweatpants and sweatshirts allowing the kids to play in the sand and look for shells. My now six year old was an infant and we were walking along the water line, she on my hip and my son about ankle deep, pants rolled up. Well he stepped out a little too deep, and the ocean floor dropped off. One second the water was nipping at the bottom of the rolled up pants, and the next he was underwater on his way out to sea. I ran into the ocean, baby still on my hip and was able to grab his arm, I pulled him up and he sputtered and I could see the fear in his face. And just like that the all mighty ocean grabbed him right out of my hand, and he was off again.
Seeing your child face down in a cold ocean being pulled away from you is the scariest feeling in the world. My husband who had at this point gotten up and was on his way down to help looked up and saw my son in my grasp. Seeing that, he relaxed his pace a little. He had not noticed that he had slipped away again. I think I threw the baby at him and jumped in to reach my son. I got him, we were both soaked, freezing and in tears.
I can’t let my brain go to the what could have been. This incident almost 5 years ago at this point, opened my naive, new parent eyes to the dangers of the water, and the respect everyone must have for her. She is a power not to be taken lightly. With a keen eye, and a careful mind, the ocean can be enjoyed endlessly. But in the blink of an eye, or the distraction of the mind, she can change your life forever. I do not fear the ocean, she brings peace and balance to my life, but I have taught my children to respect her, we have a lovely relationship with her, but if she is getting nasty or angry, or even when she is calm and angelic, I do not let myself get distracted by the birds, or the tourists. My eyes, and my mind are constantly on my kids.
- Heidi Klum saves son from from drowning (foxnews.com)