Thursday, 4 June 2009

Swimming in circles

This morning I feel numb. In truth I've been feeling like this for days, pretending everything is normal when really I just want to hide myself from the rest of the world and sit down and cry.

Everything's fine and I know that, which is why I don't understand my muddle. Likewise, I don't feel like blogging, but at the same time if I don't let these words flow out I'll drive myself mad.

So please forgive me while I use today's blog as my therapy couch.

I said everything's fine. It really is and for this I feel truly lucky.

But on Monday, something happened that I've not experienced before.

It was danger and the body-numbing effect that a parent experiences when it happens before their very eyes.

We'd been invited to a friend's house for an after-school swim, which was a happy occasion enjoyed by all on what was a beautiful sunny day. My eldest boy is a confident swimmer, where my youngest, who's almost five, needs buoyancy aids. He spent most of the time in the pool with armbands but towards the end he wanted to practice with floats instead - all in the shallow end, under my watchful eye.

Everything was fine until the announcement came that our host had served tea. Both boys got out of the pool along with the other children and we all walked to the spot near the poolside where I had left the towels, my youngest walking alongside me all the way, while the eldest approached from the other side.

As I reached for the towels to dry off my children, I heard a splash. My youngest boy who had been at my side had suddenly turned and jumped back into the pool to join a friend who hadn't yet climbed out.

But it was the deep end.

And with no bouyancy aid he soon began to struggle. There was no time to rely on hope that his attempts at the doggy-paddle would lead him back to the edge. Very quickly I could see him going under.

Fully clothed, I did what any other parent would do and jumped in. As I write, I can still feel the warmth of the water surrounding my own body, submerged below the surface. I can also feel the urgency of lifting him above the surface and the relief as a friend pulled him back to the poolside.

All over within seconds and all safe and sound.

I should be happy and relieved, and yes I am. We were lucky. My intrepid diver did not swallow the water and didn't suffer any breathing difficulties. My quick reactions made sure that didn't happen.

We are indeed both okay.

But despite this, my emotions have been swimming in circles ever since. Every day I wake up with images of him struggling to swim and very day I thank my lucky stars that I was there and that I dived in just in time. I relive both the panic and the relief. But I also tell myself off for turning around for what I know was just a split second. It reminds me what could have happened and that makes me feel numb. If I hadn't turned to get the towels, he wouldn't have jumped back in. If he'd kept his arm-bands on, he wouldn't have struggled. It all goes through my mind. Grateful and sorrowful feelings marching through my thoughts arm-in-arm.

Of course, while I remain immersed in my thoughts, pretending that everything is normal when it really isn't, he doesn't seem to be affected by the incident at all. He was the first to tell me off for jumping into a swimming pool with my clothes on. And when I pulled my mobile phone out of my jeans pocket, he told me I was silly to get it drenched in the water.

That phone is still drying out in the airing cupboard in the hope it will work again, a daily reminder of what happened.

I've since used it to explain that gadgets and belongings are replaceable, while precious human life is not. I think it's helped him to understand why people both young and old have to take care and the importance of protecting the fragility of life, our own as well as that of others.

This was one incident, that was over in a flash and thankfully had a happy ending. As a parent, I know there will be others and I will face those as they arise.

So having let these words fall from my fingers, I now feel better and can only thank you for being my virtual therapists and listening to my thoughts.

I now feel able to move on and in my muddly own way to be able to get on with those things that I've avoided over the last few days, while I've been immersed in my confused emotions. So while I tend to that ever-increasing list, I promise I'll be back soon to resume normal service.



neil said...

It might be a good thing, in retrospect, so long as you both can get over it. You can't be there every second of the day and you can't watch their every move. If he was struggling and realised he was in danger then he might have had just enough of a fright to be more careful in future.

I don't see you can blame yourself for looking away.

(I am not a parent)

Maisie said...

Mrs A,

As a mum I know exactly where you are coming from with this.

But; don't beat yourself up, you couldn't have foreseen that happening.
You did what any mum would have done and hopefully it will be a lesson learned on listening to "mum".

As for the phone take it apart and put into a container of rice and leave for a few days, I've heard from others that this works well.

getting stuff done said...

Ha welI cried just reading it. The other day our little boy got out of my parents house on his own. the road is really busy and he loves cars and has no road sense. Luckily he had gone up the garden and not towards the road. its just horrible. horrible.

now I understand my own mum and her fears. its a mum thing.

how many more times is this going to happen? how many near misses are there? as long as they are all misses.

Despairing said...

When I was 7, I decided to see what would happen if I put my arm-bands on my legs. As I hung upside down in the water with just my feet poking up above the surface, I remember thinking to myself "That's quite possibly the stupidest thing to die from". My parents weren't around (this was a 70s holiday camp, I had freedom all day every day!) and there was no lifeguard, so I had to struggle for survival by myself.

Did it put me off swimming? No. Did it give me a healthy regard for danger? Yes. Did it make me think through every action beforehand to avoid such stupidity in the future? Er, no.

Did I ever tell my parents? Did I hell! Even at that young an age, I appreciated that for some scrapes and scratches, ignorance is bliss as far as parents are concerned. Don't beat yourself up too much.

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Mrs Green said...

oh yikes (((HUGS)) that is scary and leaves you shaking for ages, long after the child is bouncing around as if nothing happened!

Thankfully you are all safe, so this is a learning experience and I agree with the others, you really shouldn't beat yourself up so much.

Kids fall, bounce, bleed and heal - if they didn't experience these things they wouldn't learn how to take care of themselves.

Unfortunately these incidences are an essential part of learning about life; no matter how strong our 'mother lion' tendencies ;).

He'll have learned something very valuable in those few seconds he was under the water - the best thing you can both do, is get back in the pool as soon as you can :)

much love,
Mrs G x

Sam said...

Mrs A,
More {{{{{hugs}}}}}. What a horrible experience.
But it's obviously not your fault - we can't watch our children every second of the day. All we can do is hope they learn from all their experiences, good or bad.

I'm glad your youngest has bounced back quickly and I hope you feel less shaky soon.

Karin said...

Perhaps you feel this way because you, like most of us, have managed to live a life where danger seemed remote and unrelated to you.

In some ways this could be similar to what happened to so many Americans after the events of 11 Sept 2001.* They believed they lived in a safe world protected from their enemies and when reality hit them, it came as a massive shock.

So, we don't really believe bad things can happen to our loved ones, even if we are aware of the possibility intellectually. When we are faced with the stark reality that bad things can happen to us our whole world view and even our self-image are badly shaken.

It will take time to recover from the shock, and maybe you will need to allow yourself some time for quiet reflection as you work out your new view of the world and gradually realise, that while it's not quite so safe as you had thought, it's not so dangerous as you might be thinking it is just now.

* I am not suggesting it is similar in every detail, but just the general idea.

Fr. Peter Doodes said...

Your son will have learned two things.

1. Check the depth before you jump in.

2. His mummy loves him and when there is trouble is there for him.

The shock that you still feel will soon go away Karen, but your little one will always remember what he has learnt.

Danda said...

OMG! Karen, what a scaring episode!

Don't feel guilty anymore, it was only an accident! I hope you're serene, now... Surely I cannot completely understand the worries of a mother, but I'm sure that your youngest will not discuss your love for him!

So, take a deep breath and think that all's gone!

Big hugs

Caeseria said...

More hugs, many hugs, multitudinous hugs!
I once handed my son, who had swallowing problems, a piece of orange. Turned around to do something, turned back, and saw him soundlessly gasping with his mouth open - airway TOTALLY blocked, he could not make a sound. I didn't know what the toddler Heimlich actually was, but by golly I invented one. For days afterwards, all I could think was what if I'd left the room??? He could have died. And it's not like he'd grabbed it without my knowledge, or that his problems were something we didn't know about yet - he had to have thickened liquids from birth, I intercepted cups from other people all the time to add thickener, but when he reached for my orange, I NEVER thought about how orange slices are full of thin juice. Totally my screw-up. I was shaking for days. But he was fine, after a good long while I was fine, and we all eventually got over it. The key word is "eventually".
You didn't do ANYTHING wrong, and in fact you did everything RIGHT. Be glad you can swim - I can't! I need to learn before MY daredevil goes off the deep end!
Hugs, hugs, hugs!
And yes, rice the cell phone.

Margaret's Ramblings said...

As a parent you can't live and stay sane by thinking about all the what ifs there are in life. Rejoice in the fact that you were there for him and it turned out well.

But I do hope he learnt one of life's lessons.

Take care



Thanks everyone for your support here, you've been fab. I'm feeling much better and the break from the Internet has done me the world of good.

Neil - thanks for your early comment. You're right. I think he'll understand better now why we have to take care. :-D

Thanks too Maisie - for some top advice and for the info about the phone. Hopefully it will start working soon. :-D

Getting stuff done - thanks so much for your support and welcome to the blog too. That sounds awful regarding your little boy. Scary, scary. Hope your panic has now settled too. I too now know how my mother used to feel. All I can say is ... my poor mum :-D

Oh Despairing - I know it must have been terrible at the time, but your description of the incident did make me's your great storytelling. I'm glad things worked out for you and I promise never to tell my little ones about the arm-bands on legs :-D

Thanks Mrs G - and you're right. The sooner we go back in the pool the better. At least he is raring to go already :-D

Thanks Sam for your support. I appreciate it. I'm feeling so much better. Just takes time and a few sensible words from some fabulous folk. :-D

Karin, you're right. Even if there's a surface awareness of danger, it's never real until you come face-to-face with it and it shakes your world. I can't even begin to know how those who have suffered worse consequences must feel, but it certainly increases your awareness and empathy. Thanks so much for your wise words and support. :-D

Thanks Peter - I suppose as a four year old boy, who doesn't want to talk about it it's hard to tell what he thinks. However, I am sure we'll talk about it more as he gets older....especially if he has children of his own :-D

Thanks Danda - would you believe, he is still telling me I shouldn't have jumped in with my mobile phone...cheeky boy! But he's right. At least it has served as a distraction I suppose. :-D

Thanks Caeseria - and what an awful experience for you too. It's horrible isn't it, when such things happen and you just keep reliving it and beating yourself up over it. A friend of mine recently had a terrible experience, when her eldest boy took the handbrake off whilst in the car. She ended up having to chase the car down the hill. Fortunately it was on private property and the car got stopped by a young tree. So much happens in this world, with so many near misses. I count myself lucky that mine too was a near miss. I ams so glad that the incident with the orange worked out okay in the end. Good luck with those swimming lessons. Hopefully you won't need to put into practice the rescue mission. :-D

Thanks Margaret - I think I have learned one of the key lessons in parenthood. I suppose we must be doing well as it's taken us almost 8 years, LOL. It looks like the worry never goes away either...especially as the kids grow older and move away. Oh hum...time to keep all those fingers crossed even more.

All your support has been very much appreciated thank you. It's time to get back to normal and get back on track. Time for a new blog post methinks. See you all very soon. Karen xxx

Jo Beaufoix said...

Oh sweetie I'm so sorry that must have been horrific. It could have happened to any of us, and you were there and he's fine, but there's no wonder you are numb. To see him struggle and keep seeing it in your head is horrific and I'd be just the same.

I suggest wine, chocolate and lots of hugs from that little man and also from your bigger man and your other grown up man. And when I see you next I'll be adding to that hug collection ok? Good. xx


Hi Jo - Thanks honey. I've been following our suggestions on the wine and chocolate as well as the hugs. I'm lucky to have some fabulous friends both nearby and online. You've all been great in helping me feel so much better. I can't wait to see you and collect that hug. Can't make it to the BMB meet-up this time but hopefully the next one. Feeling better already :-D

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