This is an excerpt from my book “186 Days: The Marvelous Adventures of the Fabulous Nolens” about our time in England with three small children. Most of the book is humorous, but there are some serious-er bits. Like this one.
Sunday, December 3, 2006
My Heart Almost Failed Me
Yesterday we took the kids swimming at the Rivermead Leisure Centre. They have a big indoor pool called The Lagoon that’s lots of fun. It has a huge slide – three or four stories tall – and the big kids rode down it with Steve a few times each. Julie and I just watched from the shallows.
The main pool is fan-shaped with the narrow end being deeper (about 1.5 meters) and the wide end being very shallow with small steps for little kids to sit on. Julie could sit on the top two steps without the water coming up to her armpits. She liked crawling along the step with the water lapping her tummy.
They had big floaty raft-things that the kids could lie on. They were about three inches thick and very stable – they were very stiff and didn’t bend. We would haul the kids out to sea during the wave times, hang on to their rafts, and ride the waves with them.
On either side of the main pool are two smaller pools. One is the landing area for the slide, and the other is a baby pool. Both smaller pools share walls with the larger body of water. Between wave times, we went to the baby pool area. Steve and I were sitting in the water with our backs to the main pool watching the kids play. Caleb was on the slide in the baby pool and Audrey was on the ramp that connected the smaller pool to the big pool. She had a little kick board and was using it to slide down the ramp. As Julie and I splashed, I heard Steve scolding Caleb for jumping off the slide. I looked up, doing a quick “kid check.” Jules was with me, Steve had Caleb, but I couldn’t see Audrey.
My heart stopped. I interrupted Steve’s lecture. “WHERE’S AUDREY?”
Caleb said, “She’s over there,” and pointed behind us to the big pool. I stood up (while holding Julie) and saw her just on the other side of the baby pool. She was flailing around under the water. We were about four feet higher up than she was, plus there was a three-foot railing separating the pools. I saw that there were at least three grownups within four feet of Audrey and I shouted, “Hey! Hey! Somebody grab that girl!” Before I got the last word out, Steve had clambered over the rail, jumped in, and pulled Audrey to the surface.
The five of us went to the shallow water and Steve and I took turns holding Audrey. She sputtered just a little and cried a lot. Turns out, her little kick board got away from her and she went after it, not realizing that, away from the baby pool, the water got deep . We ended up staying 45 more minutes and she had fun.
I was disgusted by:
1 – the lifeguards. Not only did they not see this happening, they didn’t take action when it was brought very loudly to their attention by a crazy American woman yelling, “Hey! Hey! Somebody grab that girl!” Nor did they come over to check on her after Steve hauled her out.
2 – the adults who were so busy chatting that they didn’t see her when she was flailing around. Then they just froze where they stood when I yelled at them to grab her.
3 – myself for not being diligent in watching her.
Steve managed to slice his big toe during his rescue mission. It bled a lot. But that’s a little price to pay for the life of our daughter.
I still get the yucky pit-in-my-stomach feeling thinking about it. I know these times come when you have children, these life-and-death situations. I hate these moments. I think this is the closest we’ve come to death. Granted, we were still a bit away from it and I do think somebody would have seen her, but still.
I have to stop writing now because I’m getting sick to my stomach. It disturbed me that much.