And just like that my 8 year old doesn’t need a life jacket anymore. I didn’t know if this day would ever come. It wasn’t just about learning how to swim, it was also about being able to listen, to come when I called to him, and knowing not to swim out of everyone’s reasonable reach, including his own.
Not needing a life jacket at a lake or swimming pool takes so many life skills beyond being able to keep your head above water. It’s knowing when to swim to shore, recognizing when your body wants a break, and knowing what to do with that. It’s also understanding stranger danger and doing things as a sibling to be a team player so mom can keep track of you and your siblings.
I will remember for the rest of my life the first time I took my 2 diapered little boys to a lake by myself. I had unbuckled my oldest who had autism, I had set him down next to me and while I was unbuckling his little brother he tore off for the water. He was so quick and even though I snatched up his baby brother and high tailed it after him, Mr. L had got into the water and was headed out to sea. Ok not actually “Sea”, because it was Lake Michigan.
But by the time I reached Mr. L he could no longer touch the bottom of the lake and he didn’t care. He was still heading out on his adventure and was pretty upset when on tip toes, with baby Mr. C on my hip, I dragged him back to shore. This was especially stressful because we didn’t own life jackets, couldn’t afford life jackets, and I wasn’t a big fan of aquatic life- like fish… So I could “swim”, but I wasn’t certified as a life guard or anything.
Long story short, my inlaws gave my kids life jackets, and I have been chasing my kids all over the beach for years. So the other day when Mr. L asked for me to help him take his life jacket off and then he was good for the 2 hours we were at the beach, about staying close and coming back when called was amazing!
Mr. L swam, dived, relaxed, went back to shore and took breaks. If someone had told me 2 years ago that I would have a trip to the beach that looked like that, I would have smiled and thought to myself, “Yeah, sure. But I’m not betting anything on it”. I will say, that my husband was able to be there as a back up if I needed help bringing Mr. L back to land. But it went so well, that the next time I take the kids to the beach by myself, I might just be putting my 2 younger ones in life jackets. And that sounds pretty cool to me 😏
Ps. I recognize the importance of life jackets. Mr. L will still be wearing one if he gets on a boat, and I don’t mind bringing his along and putting him in it if I feel the need for it. We are not deep water swimmers, just up close to shore type, water players.