We go to my wife’s family cottage as often as we can in the summer. It’s a two hour drive from our home and I’m not a fan of heat or laying on the beach, but this place will hold so many grounding memories for Avery when she’s older. Her two little cousins join us there and the kids all frolic on the beach all day.
This weekend my sister-in-law and I were watching our collective three small children at the beach. We didn’t have a life jacket on Avery because the water was freezing still and we didn’t anticipate that she’d be in the water, but her older cousin was like a fish and we couldn’t get him out of the water. Avery was standing in the shallow surf, filling a watering can with water. I was sitting in a beach chair under an umbrella, watching. All of a sudden she started moving out into the water after her cousin. Within a few steps she was waist deep, and the waves knocked her over. She was face down in the water and couldn’t get her footing. Within a half a second I was in the water with my shoes and clothes on (like I said, we didn’t anticipate that anyone would brave going in the icy water this weekend). I grabbed Avery and puller her over my shoulder. She barely coughed, hadn’t ingested any water, and was only a little surprised. I don’t think I was breathing. I was trying to play it cool because I didn’t want to traumatize her, but I was feeling pretty traumatized myself. The image of my baby laying face down in the icy, wavy water, struggling to get her feet under her, was too much for me. The image kept popping into my mind for the rest of the weekend. It was terrifying.
We take water safety very seriously, and would never take our eyes off of the kids near the water. Avery is in swimming lessons every winter. We normally have a rule that they have to wear floaty devices of some kind if they’re even going to be dipping a toe in the water, but we weren’t prepared for this to be a swimming day. I shouldn’t have let her stand in the surf without a life jacket on. Thank goodness I was watching so closely.
At one point before she fell in the water my sister-in-law suggested that I could head inside for a bathroom break and that she’d watch the kids. But I looked at her dealing with her 10 month old baby in the sand and watching her 3 year old wild child in the water and I didn’t feel comfortable adding another small child to her list of little people to watch and protect. I’m so glad I didn’t leave the beach. If the baby had been fussing or the 3 year old had taken off running down the beach, there may not have been someone there to grab my child from the waves. It makes me nauseous to think about.