Accidental Drowning

I don’t usually post about my marital spats, but this one continues to be a source of frustration. Normally my husband is the more protective parent. He’s around the kids less and therefore less familiar with their physical abilities. On this issue, however, he is completely blasé.

His father just bought a house. It’s an awesome house. V even has her own bedroom. How cool is that? The downside is that it has a huge swimming pool. My father-in-law specifically wanted a pool for the kids, but our kids are 2 years and 6 months so it will be a long time until they can actually swim with any skill. Until then it is simply a hazard.

The pool was build prior to 2007, and as such it does not conform to California Swimming Pool Safety Act standards. The pool is enclosed within the fenced yard, but that is all. No pool cover. No fence around the pool itself. Nothing. The pool is literally right outside the back door.

The first thing I voiced concern about was access to the yard. V can open doors, and could easily just traipse out there. They got a safety latch for the top of the door, but this is only as good as the people remembering to use it. Pool safety code requires latches that automatically lock.

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The back door actually has two smaller doors on either side of it. Technically they are “windows,” but they have no screens and open like a door. They are each about a foot wide so V could easily get out that way. Nothing has yet to be done about this.

Despite my concerns, V ended up spending five days with the grandparents at their house over Christmas. Now they want to have her for a full week in the summer. Summer means outdoors a lot, playing in the yard, next to a 10 foot pool with no fencing.

My biggest concern is my father-in-law. He’s disabled and essentially confined to one of those motorized carts. His muscles are slowly calcifying so he basically has no strength to walk more than a few steps. Stairs, even a single low-rise stair, is impossible. His grip is extremely weak. What I’m basically saying is that he can’t swim. If V is outside with him and she accidentally falls into the pool, she’s fucked. He would most likely dive in and attempt to rescue her and just die in the process. “Disabled Grandfather Drowns Trying to Save Granddaughter, Who also Drowned” is not a headline I care to read. He cannot, and should not, be considered a “supervising” adult around the pool.

When I try to discuss my concerns with my husband he brushes me off as if I’m being irrational. I gave him several What If scenarios that could easily occur, and he shot back with “What if there’s an earthquake and the roof collapses? What if she runs into the street and gets hit by a car? What if she’s in a car accident?” The problem with this is that he’s comparing completely different issues. It’s not like I won’t let her go to the beach because I’m afraid she’ll get eaten by a shark. Stuff like that is extremely rare and also not really preventable. Earthquakes are not preventable. Drowning totally is. Not only that, but it is the most common cause of accidental death for children age 1-4, and household pools are the most common cause. Here are some other facts (Source):

  • More than half of drownings among children ages 1 to 4 are pool-related.
  • Among children ages 4 and under, there are approximately 300 residential swimming pool drownings each year. More than half of these drownings occur in the child’s home pool, and one-third occur at the homes of friends, neighbors or relatives.
  • Most children who drown in swimming pools were last seen in the home, had been missing from sight for less than five minutes and were in the care of one or both parents at the time of the drowning.
  • Installation of four-sided isolation fencing could prevent 50 to 90 percent of childhood residential swimming pool drownings and near-drownings.

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One of the misconceptions about drowning is that you’ll hear a child cry out in alarm, or a splash. This is not the case. Most drownings are quick and quiet. The kid falls in, sinks to the bottom and by the time they are found it is too late. Distraction is a big culprit:

Constant “active” supervision by responsible adults is the first (and most critical) step to child drowning prevention. A child should never be left unattended. Any person charged with the critical duty of watching children in the water should be free from distraction, know how to swim well and be trained in rescue techniques. Source.

Parents might be reading a book, talking on the phone, texting, or talking with another adult at the time. Whatever the cause, a simple lapse like this can cause a child’s death. This is why fencing is so crucial. I want V to be able to play in the backyard without worrying about having an adult 100% focused on her at all times, because no one is that god damned focused.

My husband is normally a very rational person. He’s rational to a fault. If you send him a funny internet story he will look it up on Snopes and tell you it’s wrong. He fact checks the hell out of things. He does his research. So why is my husband so stubborn on this issue when he’s typically the more safety-conscious? He has a knee-jerk, irrational attitude with all things regarding his father. So instead of listening to my concerns, he insists I have some sort of vendetta against his father/stepmom and that I just don’t want them to have V for a week. He thinks I’m using this as an excuse to keep her away from them.

It probably started because they’ve been asking to have her overnight since she was extremely young and I’ve usually been hesitant. None of the other grandparents have ever asked to have her overnight, let alone for an extended period (all the grandparents live 400 miles away from us). Most of them probably see her as being too young for such things. That said, V routinely spends a night or two with grandparents in their hotel when they are visiting us, and has stayed a few nights with various grandparents when we are visiting them. However, my husband and his father have always pushed me to allow V to stay for extended periods since I stopped breastfeeding at 15 months or so. Many parents are uncomfortable with this even when their kids are much, much older. When I’ve voiced concerns over V being too young, me not being ready or her not being ready, my husband has taken it as a personal attack against his father. It’s disturbing to say the least. He sees the pool as an “excuse” rather than a very real and valid concern.

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