Monday, May 03, 2010

To Whom It May Concern:

This afternoon, I was at the YMCA for my older son’s swimming lessons. Afterward, I let my boys play in the zero entry pool area. My youngest son, Pigpen, is 22 months old and is just learning to get comfortable in the water. He was playing in about 4 inches of water and fell forward on his hands, as he had already done several times before. I was on the side of the pool with my shoes off and was helping him as needed. He had successfully learned to push himself up out of the water and was gaining a good deal of confidence as he played. This was the first time he had been in the pool since last summer.

This particular time that he fell forward, I was watching him push himself back up with his hands once more. Out of nowhere, a swimming instructor raced across the pool, grabbed him by one arm and yanked him from the floor to as high as her head, and clasped him hard to her body. First, this maneuver could have easily dislocated his shoulder. I have never seen a child snatched so violently by the arm and I feel fortunate that he was not injured or bruised. Second, she scared Pigpen to death. He had just gained confidence in the water and was terrified by this experience. He screamed and cried, refusing to go back in the water. Third, this dramatic display was completely unnecessary. He was pushing himself up, and I was standing right there. It appeared that her intent was to “save” a child from drowning and appear heroic, when in fact she horrified several parents and children who were watching.

I worked for the YMCA for many years. This lifeguard did not in any way represent what the YMCA stands for. I have observed this lifeguard before while my son was in swimming lessons and wondered why she works at the YMCA because the attitude she projects is that of daily misery. She always has a scowl on her face and appears to be shivering in pain and dreading the next lesson she has to teach. I don’t know her name, but after today’s incident I do not want my sons to take swimming lessons with her.

My hope is that this incident will be addressed with the lifeguard. My family has just joined the YMCA this week, and this was not a great way to begin our membership. I’m not sure how to go about getting my child comfortable in the water again, and I’m a little apprehensive to take him back into the splash area.

I’m aware that safety is always first and that she had no way of knowing that I was his mother standing there. However, a more appropriate intervention would have been to lift him up from under his arms, or reach out and hold his hand if he needed help up. Flinging a baby 5 feet through the air by one limb is not a technique that I remember learning in my lifeguard training.
I would appreciate a follow up phone call regarding this incident.

Thank you,

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