I have been thinking a lot lately about drowning. I know that’s usually a hot topic at the beginning of summer, but humor me. It’s Southeast Texas, and swimming pools are probably getting plenty of air time already. Every year we hear about accidental drownings of children who were unsupervised just long enough find themselves the subject of a fatal tragedy.
One of the reasons I think about this so much, despite the fact that we don’t have a swimming pool, is that not a single one of these accidental deaths was anticipated. That seems obvious, but knowing that thousands of parents were devastated in the previous months by something that was preventable causes me to wonder what I can learn from their experiences so that my family never becomes a part of the statistics.
Swimming pools aside, my thoughts center more on bathtub safety. I had a dream a couple of months ago that scared the bujeebeez out of me. The scene of the dream began with me in a section of the house separate from the bathroom where I was gathering towels to take to the bathroom where my daughter was bathing. I thought to myself, “Why am I getting towels when Emma is bathing in another room? Who is watching her?” I returned to the bathroom to find that her head was fully submerged in a head-sized bathroom drain that sunk beneath the level of the tub bottom ( …keep in mind that this was a dream, and that details aren’t always super accurate… I don’t have a drain like that). I began to panic because her head was stuck in the drain, but there was water in the tub. The only way to save her was the remove the water, but the only way to remove the water was to free her head from the drain.
I woke up sweating.
The dream was terrible, but, I thought to myself, I don’t know why I would have this dream. We have a very strict Zero Tolerance Policy of bathtub safety in our home. Emma isn’t in any danger.
Though I could not foresee any danger for my child, I decided to take the dream as a warning for both children and beef up my diligence. The images were stuck in my mind continuously. Not two weeks after the dream I found my Emma teetering on her stomach, shirtless, over the edge of our tall garden tub with her hands on the floor of the tub and her feet in the air, totally stuck and calling for help. She had knocked a book off the edge of the tub while going to the potty and was trying to retrieve it.
If there had been water in the tub, she would have drowned. Period. It was time to revisit our rules.
The Brown Family Zero Tolerance Policy is as follows:
1. Absolutely never, under any circumstances, leave the bathroom when the tub water is turned on, the plug is secure, or there is water in the tub.
2. Absolutely never, under any circumstances, leave “just for a moment” to grab a towel.
3. Absolutely never, under any circumstances, leave standing water in the tub if any humans in the house are mobile and not an adult. My husband and I draw baths for each other sometimes. We make sure no kids are in the room and lock the door. We have a key to the bathroom in our room, and the inconvenience is okay. No life is worth the risk of thinking, “Oh, she won’t go in there anyway…” Kids have a way of surprising us.
4. Absolutely never, under any circumstances, leave the bathroom door opened and unattended. It may be paranoid, but the last thing I want to find is my little curious adventurer drowned in the toilet. Yes, it is possible. Yes, my current rug rat is obsessed with pulling up on the toilet. I also don’t want my curious toddler to get lost in her imagination and start a game of bathing with herself, her toys, or, Heaven forbid, her little brother. Thankfully, she is old enough to teach. I monitor her time spent in the bathroom more these days because she is potty training.
The most important part of this for me is the constant reminder to myself every time I think that I can walk away for a moment. “She’s almost 3, after all. He’s old enough to sit up during his baths. What are the odds he’ll fall in the 10 seconds it takes to run and grab a towel?” These are thoughts I STILL have. Seconds are all it takes. But, you know what? Consistently remembering that ZERO TOLERANCE means ZERO TOLERANCE has so far been an effective strategy for keeping my children safe.
While this system works for our family, not all of these tips might work for yours. I suggest having a conversation with your spouse, partner or even your children’s grandparents and identifying your family’s specific needs. Then, come up with a plan that works for you.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have oodles of information about Unintentional Drowning. Significant numbers of victims died in unpreventable ways, but here, in our little homes, we can keep our babies safe. We can prevent unintentional drownings.