Life On The Beach: Trouble in August
Why August can be the most dangerous month in the water
2011 City of Madison Aquatics Staff
As a lifeguard, one of my favorite things to hear a parent say is, “Don’t move, just wait right here.” Not only does the ignorance of it make me giggle, it provides me with that tingle of adrenaline knowing that I’ll shortly be jumping off my chair and into freezing cold water to save a child’s life. Sweet. Except for the fact that it is now August, the nights are cooling off and I’ll most likely be wearing my red sweat suit comparable to that of Santa’s. That, paired with the fact that this was a completely preventable situation, really makes my day.
August is known among lifeguards as the most dangerous month. Parents start to get comfortable and allow their children more independence in the water. Over the past two months, they have built up enough courage to leave their child alone, to let them sit on the side of deep water and wade into the shallows. Parents want to take a quick lap assuming that their child will listen when she’s instructed to wait by the side. This, my faithful audience, is not the case. Question: when you tell a little tike not to do something, what are the chances they’ll do it anyway? Answer: Pretty darn good.
Aside from the growing confidence in parents, children have also become braver. In June, he wouldn’t even look at the deep end. July came and he could paddle around as long as he was close to a rope for the occasional break. Now that it’s August, time is running out to prove himself to the cute girl in the polka dot bikini. He swims out, can’t touch, there’s no rope and now I’m in the water. Through all of her years of experience in Wisconsin Dells and in Madison, Whitney Henrique, city of Madison aquatic supervisor, has experienced more drownings in August than in any other month. She reminds the lifeguard staff of this fact every time we start to get tired and slouch in our chairs.
Did you catch that? Despite what I’ve said, it’s not all the parents’ fault. Lifeguards have been out in the sun for hour after hour, day after day for the past couple months. We’re getting tired, we’re getting slack with the rules. The whistle, once loud and proud, has lost its sharp tweet. Lets work together to make sure Madison doesn’t suffer the same statistics this August. We’ll keep our energy levels pumped and you keep your kids where they’re comfortable. I’d rather not go home soaking wet for something so preventable.