No Concept of Danger – #2

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I love swimming.
I grew up learning how to swim. I think I was only a few months old when my Mom first put me in my Nana’s pool. I’m a pretty decent swimmer, considering.

When I had kids, I decided that I they also should learn how to swim. It was important to me. It wasn’t until after my kids were diagnosed with Autism, we moved 2,000 miles away and we were at the beach, that I realized just how thankful I was that I tried so hard to teach my kids to swim.

Justin was about 8 months old when we started putting him in the pool. Tyler was about the same age. In the summers, we spent every day for a few hours a day in the pool. The kids got really good at it considering! When they were 4 and 5 we moved 2,000 miles away… and pretty close to the beach.

They LOVED it.

They loved the waves. They loved the sand. Tyler was always more interested in the sand. He didn’t like the saltwater getting in his mouth and didn’t like the waves when he was trying to swim, so he never went out very far. Justin on the other hand, he loved walking out as far as he could go before I stopped him. Bobbing around in the waves. “Body surfing”.

The currents would take him farther and farther down the beach, but after a while, he was getting really good about figuring out how far he could go out into the ocean before he couldn’t touch any more.

I was huge, and pregnant at the time. We were at the beach for the 4th day in a row, when I asked their Dad to keep an eye on Justin so I didn’t have to walk all the way down the beach and into the water this time.

I did it last time after all.

Justin kept getting farther and farther. Finally I told him, “you really need to go get him. I’m scared he’s going to end up getting pulled out too far and it’s going to take us too long to get to him”.  “I’ll go in a second. He doesn’t look too far out.” he said.

I’m watching him intently. Something in my gut is telling me something is wrong. I can’t hear him over the waves… so if he’s yelling I can’t hear him anyway.  He doesn’t know to wave his arms if he needs help. I just see him bobbing.

My heart starts racing. I can feel it. Something isn’t right. “You need to go now. I don’t think he can touch.”

But before he got off the back of the truck, I jumped down and I just start running. I’m not going to wait for him to go. I can’t. Something is wrong. I know it is. I’m trying to run as fast as I can. But this huge belly is slowing me down.

The closer I get to him, the more I can see. Every so often his head goes under the water. He can’t touch!

I start praying. “Lord, please just let me get to him in time! Please. Please. Please.” I feel like I’m going to start crying. I bite the inside of my cheek… I can’t see if I’m crying and I need to get to him as fast as I can.

I run into the water, pushing hard on the ground with my feet. Trying to push through the water as fast and as hard as I can. You don’t realize how hard it is to walk through water with waves pushing you back until you need to do it quickly.

I get closer and I can hear him crying and screaming. I can see his face twisted in fear. Begging me to help him.

“Please let me get him in time. Please. Please. PLEASE.” I push back my tears again. I could never live with myself if I don’t make it in time. My soul would die.

I finally get to him. He clings to me for dear life, and I realize I can’t touch either. I can’t position him the way I was taught for “rescuing” someone. I’m treading water, trying to hold up my very pregnant self, and my 80lb kid. I’m already tired from running and from pushing against the water to get to him.

I lean forward and kick with everything I have. I try to paddle with one arm. After a few seconds… I realize I’m not getting anywhere.

I scream at the top of my lungs, “HELP!!!! HELP!!!!” Their Dad is walking down the beach towards us with Tyler. He’s still too far away. I scream again “HELP!!!!”.

He can’t hear us. I’m barely keeping us above the water. All I can think is, we’re going to die. My baby, who I’ve never met is going to die. Justin is going to die… I’m going to die. I can’t reach, and he’s not going to get to us soon enough. And I’m getting more and more tired fighting against the waves trying to pull us out farther.

I push Justin up and let myself sink to see how far away the ground is. I can’t find it. I come up for air. I’m barely keeping us both up.

No one is going to save you. You are the only person who can save you.

So I start kicking, with every last bit of energy that I have. I pull the water behind me with my arm. I don’t even look. I close my eyes and kick as hard as I can. Holding Justin up above the water while I sink lower.

Finally I feel the sand brush against my toes.
It’s working!

I kick harder.
Finally I get my footing and push off the ground, through the water until Justin can reach and he can walk out by himself.

I did it. I got us out. I finally get out of the water and sit on the sand. “Thank you Lord.”

Their Dad asks me “Are you okay?”

“I was screaming for you. I was screaming for help.”

“I didn’t even hear you.”

“Take the kids back to the truck. I’ll be there in a second.”

From that moment on, Justin was only allowed out to a certain distance, and was only allowed down the beach so far. Which, for a few weeks, HE didn’t want to go out past his knees. But eventually, he forgot about what happened, and tried to go farther. He wasn’t happy about the restrictions… but it was obvious, that he still doesn’t really understand, and it might be a long time until he does.

That day more than any other, I was thankful for all the practice we had with him learning to swim. It wasn’t until a month later that I could close my eyes to fall asleep without seeing his terrified face and end up bawling my eyes out over what could have happened to him… to me… to Jax.

I remember that day every time I think to let my guard down. That I think that he’s finally understanding “danger”. But until he can tell me “Mom, I understand”… I won’t make that mistake again.

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