By the time I was six I had fallen off a dock into a lake twice, and gotten pulled under at the ocean once. My mother was vigilent on the docks, but I might have fared better if she had kept hold of my hand. I was a toddler at the time. I have no memory of those events, only that she bragged off and on through out my childhood about having to save me several times. Even then I wondered why she hadn’t been careful enough to keep me on the docks. She was an intrepid swimmer and talked about swimming in hurricane size waves at her parents’ summer home in New Jersey. That I eventually developed a fear of the water pained her.
The “Pulled under at the ocean” was when my grandmother sent me to the Point Pleasant, NJ beach in my 12 year old brother’s charge. I must have been five or six. that was probably considered okay at the time, but now would be grounds for neglect. I remember playing by the ropes designed to be held against the under tow. I liked the feeling of the waves pulling at me and let go of the rope. My brother saw me go under, but wasn’t close enough to save me. A man felt me being pulled passed his legs and saved me. That night, my brother consumed with guilt, I guess, then threw me off a rowboat into the shallow Manisquan River thinking that would teach me to swim. It didn’t, he and his friends laughed at my panicked efforts before telling me I could stand. I think the shame was as much part of the thereafter fear of the water that lasted for years. I made myself learn to swim in college, but can still panic but only if water gets in my eyes. I swim with goggles. I love the water and have made sure my sons learned to swim early and well. It is a great way to exercise and be with nature. But absolute vigilance by a careful adult is a must. Here is a link that all those parenting or caring for children need to read.