It's Memorial Day today and I'm sitting at our pool looking around at the new group of lifeguards who watch the pool. The weather is great today and the pool is busier than usual because of the wonderful weather. The kids are off from school and their friends are all in the pool having fun.
How many times have you seen parents view the pool as a chance to socialize and not pay attention to their kids in the pool? I see it constantly. Just look around at how many young children are in the pool. Look to see if you can match up those parents in the shallow end with each child in the pool. Invariably, there will be parents sitting on a lounge chair reading or chatting away, thinking that the lifeguards will be there to watch their kids for them if the worst should happen.
Let's take a look at the lifeguards. These are typically young kids, some no more than teenagers. Depending on where you live, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, New York City, or Staten Island, lifeguards are required to take certain lifeguarding classes with a specified amount of time required for lifesaving. If they pass the final test, then they are qualified to lifeguard anywhere in the five boroughs of New York for a period of three years. Interestingly, in Nassau County, a lifeguard who takes the lifeguarding class must then take an additional and more rigorous lifeguarding exam to become qualified to be certified as a lifeguard in Nassau County. In addition, if you want to lifeguard at a Nassau County beach, I understand that the requirements for becoming a lifeguard are even more rigorous than for a pool.
Regardless of the qualifications and credentials of each lifeguard at your pool, it is still my opinion, that you, the parent, have an obligation to watch your own child at the pool. Why do I say this? Because the lifeguards get distracted during the day. Especially when it gets busy. I have seen many instances where the lifeguard was looking elsewhere and a child was in distress and having difficulty swimming. By the time the lifeguard recognized the problem, a parent jumped in to save the child.
Now, don't get me wrong- I think lifeguards do a great job. In fact, my eldest son is going to be a lifeguard this summer. However, as a parent, you can never entrust the safety of your child to someone who has a responsibility to oversee and protect many people in a pool. I believe that you must be ever-vigilant at poolside. Put aside your desire to socially interact, or do so while keeping a direct and close view of your child. Doing so, in my opinion, will minimize the risk of something bad happening while your child is swimming. Remember, lifeguards are not babysitters for your child in the pool. They react to people in distress. They do not take a pro-active role. It is the parent's job to be pro-active in watching their child.