The day I realized being on a swim team finally paid off… and a reminder that I’m not nearly as in shape as I used to be.
You know the saying that a parent would be amazed at what they can do if their child is in danger? I’ve heard stories about how a mother has lifted a car off her child and other outlandish tales of strength and courage trials to save ones children. Honestly I’ve never researched whether or not these events truly took place or if they simply are just tales. I have always felt the motherly instinct that if there was trouble for my children that my adrenaline would kick in and help give me a boost I may need. Of course most mothers will admit they would do anything for their children, that’s a given.
It is often that our children will test our patience but thankfully it is not often that our ability as a parent to protect them will be tested.
During our recent family vacation aboard the Disney Dream cruise ship we spent a day at Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island. We started the morning by snorkeling the crystal clear waters. The kids and I love the beach. We love to swim but I admit this summer was busy and I never got a chance to be in the water until this trip. That means I have not swam in at least a year.
As you may know, Gabby has Cerebral Palsy – right sided hemiplegic. She still loves to play in the water, do flips, go under and attempt to swim. She can kick her legs and move her left arm pretty well but her right side is fairly stiff and it takes a lot of concentration for her to move it in the direction she wants.
While snorkeling we wore small vests that kept us afloat. They were not life jackets by any means but Gabby was able to enjoy the activity to its entirety. The only issue was I had to help her along at times by swimming while pulling her. A very small price to pay to see her experience something so special with our family. Needless to say after an hour of snorkeling with a 95 lb. child in tow I was pretty worn out.
As I tried to muster the strength to get up and climb down onto the sand to help Noah with his castle I realized Gabby was starting to float further out. Just as I’m telling T it looks like she is getting too far away she points out that she is turning around. Gabby put her left hand into the water and swished the tube to turn. We watched and anticipated the outcome of which direction she would start floating. I still wasn’t comfortable so I told T to head out and pull Gabby back in.
Although Gabby was surrounded by people and Disney had life guards on duty I knew she was venturing into waters above her head that she had no business being in. As T started walking out into the water the tide was going out. The ocean was quickly pulling Gabby further away. Once T reached above the waist deep waters and was still no where near Gabby my nerves kicked up a notch. As T is turning around to tell me she needs a float to use for herself to go get Gabby and that she didn’t feel she was a strong enough swimmer to catch her, my swimsuit cover was already flying off.
In a matter of seconds it took me to dive into the ocean Gabby’s float had already crossed the rope out of the family swimming area into the snorkeling waters. The area no floats are allowed in and you must be wearing your yellow snorkeling vest to be allowed across, neither of which rule was Gabby following at this time.
Gabby wasn’t in a panic. She was merely floating along and I’m not even sure she realized she was going too far. There was a few times I could see her try to turn but her feet didn’t reach the water so there wasn’t much she could do. I assume no one tried to stop her because they didn’t realize she was in trouble.
I swam hard. I swam fast. I did the breast stroke, the butterfly stroke and when my body started to cramp I flipped over and did the back stroke. I pulled out every trick I learned in the years of being on a swim team. But I was also slapped with a hard reality that those years of being on a swim team have long since ended and not only have I not swam like that in years, I’m out of shape. I couldn’t even remember the last time I stretched. And I was sore. I couldn’t catch her. I couldn’t touch in the deep waters so I just kept swimming.
Gabby now reached the rope at the end of the snorkeling area. On the other side of the rope was the no admittance zone. I don’t know why Disney sectioned off that part of the ocean, I probably don’t even want to know why they deemed it unsafe to swim, float or snorkel that far out.
As I’m now swimming in the no swim zone without my snorkeling gear trying hard and fast to catch Gabby I hear the life guard start to call out to her telling her she needs to go back. He is instructing her to use both hands to paddle her float back away from the rope. My anxiety peaks at this point and my adrenaline kicks up because my biggest fear is that she will attempt to do what he says and fall in, over her head, when she can’t swim.
I yelled to the life guard that I was on my way to get her. Obviously anyone who took a second to look around could see me swimming full speed through the ocean making a beeline directly towards her. There were not many people doing the breast stroke across the ocean while relaxing on their vacation.
She had traveled roughly a quarter of a mile. I swam a quarter of a mile to get her. I swam back a quarter of a mile towing her on the float. In a matter of seconds she was pulled away.
I’m sure the life guard would have jumped in and helped out if he felt there was a need or a real case of danger. Once he saw me headed to get her I only assume he realized I had the situation under control and his best interest would be to continue to man his post. Gabby was still safely atop the float and I was not outwardly struggling to reach her.
On the inside however, I was dying. My body cramped. I was mentally exhausted from being scared and panicked plus being angry I couldn’t make it even faster. Being a mother no matter the speed I would have been able to swim it would never have been fast enough as long as she wasn’t close enough to grab. I wanted to be right there right then.
During my swim my teen retrieved another float and came out to the first rope to wait for us. Her first words to me were “How did you get to her so fast? I had no idea you were capable of swimming that fast. I couldn’t do it“. My initial response was that I didn’t think it was fast enough, I need more practice and now everyone is going to learn to swim better. The kids are taking lessons.
Tapanga would not have drown. She is able to swim, she just panicked out there and isn’t confident enough to work towards the endurance of going the distance to help someone else.
I learned a hard lesson – sometimes just having an eye on your child is not enough. Gabby and I talked about what happened after we made it safely back to shore and she assured me she never planned to get off the float. She knew she couldn’t touch. She also wasn’t scared and didn’t feel she was in danger. She trusted me to get her if she couldn’t get back. I’m glad she had faith in me even when I was down on myself.
The rest of the day we relaxed and had fun spending quality family time together. We all look forward to our next beach day, I will just do things a little differently.
Have you ever been scared for your child? Has your motherly instincts kicked in or your courage been tested?