We all see those articles pop up as summer approaches on social media: it’s the stuff of mom nightmares. Ticks, bad sunscreen, dry drowning. On and on it goes.
It can be enough to make you crazy, but one of those warnings may have saved my family from a terrifying ordeal.
I once slowed my scroll to read an article that detailed what drowning does and does not look like. I learned some things, took note, and moved on. The next year, it was all coming back to me as I saw my 10 year old strong swimmer, oddly still out in the water.
We were living right outside of Virginia Beach near my husband’s station. We had family and friends in town, so we decided to take advantage of the neighboring base’s access to Chesapeake Bay. It was calmer than the beach for the several littles we had in tow, and perfect for Bay and his same-aged cousin to play ball. We fussed over the tent, got everyone sunscreened and situated. I had my youngest, a toddler, in the tent eating snacks, Jolee, 5, building sandcastles, and Baylor out in the water, waist-high, hitting a volleyball and cutting up with his guest.
My eyes were constantly bouncing from one little head to another. 1, 2, 3. Sand, shoreline, water.
I saw the ball fly over Bay’s head, and I saw him set out to get it. He was still in shallow water, nothing to worry about. My eyes bounced to Jo, carrying a bucket of water. I dusted some sand off of Elyn’s snack. I looked back out towards my son. He was swimming now, and the ball had drifted well out ahead of him.
My eyes stopped bouncing for a moment, and as they stayed on him, I watched Baylor stop.
He went from stretched out long across the water to straight up and down. I jumped up. There were people all around him, but he wasn’t reaching out. He wasn’t doing anything. I handed my toddler over to her aunt and ran past my middle baby, into the water. Maybe I’m being silly, I thought, but I was willing to look silly to be sure. Just a foot or so from where he was treading, my own feet had to come off the sand, the water now over my own head. He was moving very, very little, his bottom lip under the water. He reached his arm out to me, not even raising it to water level, and I pulled him to me.
He didn’t say anything to me on the way back to shore other than, “I couldn’t swim any more.”
It all happened so quickly. The water was calm. Baylor had taken lessons, passed lifeguard tests….he had been swimming well for years. He was just a minute from water shallow enough to touch down. He was just one yell for help away from the several adults around him in the bay. There were no big flashing “danger” signs. In our years at pools and the beach and swimming lessons, and even with a father in the Navy, none of this had been mentioned to us. It all looked so counter to what I’d always imagined.