I had been thinking for the past few weeks that it would be really great to take Ronan to the YMCA pool. He loves to swim, and since it’s gotten colder, we haven’t been getting in the water. (Who am I kidding? We have barely swam despite living at the lake in MONTHS.)
Anyhow. I called the Y and found out the first 3 swims at the pool are free. I decided to pack up the kids and go while Brock stayed home. Just as we were about to leave, Ruby started fussing and rubbing her eyes; instead of taking her, I left her with Brock who put her down for a nap.
Ronan and I got to the pool and changed into our suits. He was very excited and kept saying, “Poo! Poo!” (Yeah, he meant pool.) We swam around for a while when I realized that I had left our towels in the car. It kind of put a damper on my level of fun – all I could think about was how cold we were going to be. I started trying to stay mostly out of the water because I had nothing to dry off with. Ronan had a life jacket on and is a very confident swimmer, so I let him float around the pool playing.
I was standing in the near side of the shallow pool, and Ronan was about 5 feet away from me. He was floating on his back and swimming very well. He turned and kicked his way to the far side of the pool where he started trying to climb out. One of the lifeguards went over and pulled him out of the pool, took his hand, and walked him around to me. I laughed and said, “Thanks.” He looked pissed and said, “When he’s wearing a lifejacket, he has to be within arms reach.”
“Oh. Sorry,” I replied.
I took his hand and lead him out of the pool feeling like a terrible parent, even though it was quite clear that Ronan was a very strong swimmer and had no trouble turning from front to back, and didn’t get upset when he submerged. We walked into the changing room and started getting dressed. I stripped Ronan quickly, dried him off with my sweater, and put on his underwear and pants. He wasn’t dry enough to put a shirt on yet, so I turned and started pulling my pants on. I heard his footsteps walk away and watched him as he walked into one of the bathroom stalls. I reached down to put on my bra, and heard the door to the pool open. Since Ronan was in the bathroom stall, I waited to hear someone enter the locker room.
I waited about 3 seconds before I thought, “Maybe Ronan ran out there.” He wasn’t in the bathroom stall as I walked by. I went out on to the pool deck and didn’t see him anywhere. I turned and went back into the dressing room and yelled his name. No answer. Back out to the pool deck where I notice his little head barely above water half way to the deep end, and VERY much over his height. He was holding on to the wall and pulling himself deeper and deeper.
As I ran towards him, I saw the lifeguards on the opposite side of the pool, pointing at him and yelling at him to stop, get out.
When I reached him, he looked up at me, smiled, and let go of the wall. I grabbed his hand just as the top of his head sank below the water. I yanked him out of the pool and yelled, “ARE YOU SERIOUS, RONAN?”
I made him walk to the car in his soaking wet clothes. I had no towel, no extra change of clothes, and nothing to put on him. He kept saying, “Cold. Co-co-co-cold!” to which I replied, “Yeah, I bet you wish you hadn’t jumped in the water with your clothes on, huh?”
When we got in the car, I wrapped him in the towel I had forgotten, buckled him into his car seat and began driving home. It was dead silent. No radio, no talking, no little boy babble from the back seat.
Finally, I said, very quietly, “Ronan… you could have drowned. You could have died!… You could have gotten very, very hurt,” I was trying to find something to say to a two year old in a manner that he would understand.
A very quiet, very hesitant, “…kay,” made its way up from the back.
“Mama isn’t mad at you, Ronan. Mama was very, very scared. Mama yelled because she was scared.”
“You can’t jump in the pool, buddy. You can’t do that. You just can’t.” At this point, I was crying. My adrenaline had started to wear off, and I was more upset than I realized.
“…sah-ee baba.” (Sorry, mama.)
All in the same moment, I felt like a terrible mother, and like everyone at the pool must be talking about us, and lucky that things didn’t turn out worse, and angry that the lifeguards had let him get so far into the pool, and like the luckiest mom in the world that I have such a sweet, serious, loving little boy.