So Safe That Kids Can’t Learn How to Swim

Readers iieynssskk
— This gets my goat! 

Dear Free-Range Kids: A friend of mine is looking for a pool where she can take 3 kids (age 4mos, 3yo, 5.5yo). The 5yo has just gotten confident in jumping from the edge, swimming to the side, hauling herself out, and doing it all over again (the swim lessons are working). The infant can’t even sit up by herself. The middle child is of the kamikaze sort.

Well, with the increasing skills, the crew is outgrowing the local wading pools (depth of 1 1/2 feet, size of a NY kitchen).

She’s polling FB friends:  “Where can I take all 3 kids–all the public pools have a 1:1 ratio requirement for children under age 7. Some have a rule you have to be within 2 feet of the child at all times in the water. “

Meaning: To get all three kids to a pool (a superhuman task in itself), she has to recruit TWO more adults to join her….only they can’t be mama friends with their own kids, or the ratio is still off.

At least one pool requires Mom to be IN A SWIMSUIT before the child even puts his toes in.

All of these pools have lifeguards.

I’m really, REALLY big on water safety, and was one of the “pro” people on those two spams that went around, the one about how drowning doesn’t look like drowning, and the other about the delayed dry drowning…. but geez.  How are kids supposed to learn to swim if you don’t let them swim? (and nevermind those 10-min hourly Adult Swim laps for mama while the kids all sit around the edge). I can see a lifeguard being overwhelmed if you brought in a whole school class, but — what’s a family with 4, 3 or even just TWO kids supposed to do? 

How can you be two feet from both the 2yo in the shallow end or the wading pool, and the 5yo jumping off the side?

Couldn’t they just up the entrance fees and add a couple of lifeguards so families could enjoy summer? This is all going on in Los Angeles and Glendale, Calif, and Altadena. – Miffed Mom

Miffed Mom — My guess is that no amount of lifeguards seems safe enough once you — or your insurance company — believe that every child needs a bodyguard. – L


136 Responses to So Safe That Kids Can’t Learn How to Swim

  1. Silver Fang July 17, 2014 at 8:52 am #

    Call me crazy, but what happened to just going to the beach?

  2. BL July 17, 2014 at 8:56 am #

    This sounds like something out of one of those DHMO spoofs.

  3. BMS July 17, 2014 at 8:59 am #

    Well, depending on where you are, there may not be beaches.

    We actually stopped going to our local pool because of their insane rules. You have to take a deep water swimming test to use the diving board. Ok, I guess I get that. But the problem is that there is very little space for kids to practice their swimming where they aren’t touching the ground. The pool is sloped, like a beach (it is built into the side of a lake – weird and hard to describe), so much of the water is ankle to waist height. Their rules mean that so many kids are crowded into the shallow end that there is barely room to move on a very hot day. Their deep water test is so stringent that even after my kids passed their boy scout swim test one of them failed the pool’s deep water test. It is set up seemingly so that the fewest people possible can actually be in the deep end. Ok, I guess that keeps kids safe, somehow, but it’s just a drag.

  4. E July 17, 2014 at 9:12 am #

    @Silver Fan, aside from the fact that his person could live somewhere where a beach is inconvenient, it’s also the last place children 3 and 5 should be learning to swim. Playing, splashing and getting wet? Sure. Actually practicing swimming like you can by jumping in and swimming to the side of a pool? No.

    I was surprised at how strict the rules at our Y have become (in comparison to 30 years ago when I worked a Y pool). At our Y, they have those rubberized life vests that kids can wear. This doesn’t help the kids that want to practice swimming though.

    I’d still suggest talking to a YMCA (aquatics director specifically) about their rules and explain the specific concerns. I would hope that your effort to be compliant but also reasonable would encourage them to clarify the rules and offer suggestions.

  5. brian July 17, 2014 at 9:23 am #

    None of the outdoor/summer pools that I know of in Northern NJ have such rules.

    At our lake/pool most of the parents are sitting chatting while the kids are playing in the water. There is a deep water test for older kids to use the other side of the pool but up to about 5ft is free reign.

    Funny note, they just added a sign regarding crossing the rope from deep to shallow. It reads “Do not cross the demarcation line.” I guess we take our SAT vocab prep right into the pool!

  6. Paul July 17, 2014 at 9:28 am #

    Fortunately our local Y is not so strict, because I don’t know what my wife would have done this summer. Our kids are almost exactly the same ages as the person who wrote in (our youngest is 9 months instead of 4), and she’s spent a good deal of the summer at the pool. Our 5-year old has gone from having to slightly cling to us to confidently going underwater and swimming on her own all in a month (this is a combo lessons and independent swim time).

  7. M. July 17, 2014 at 9:44 am #

    I’ve noticed some weird pool rules around where I live, too (Orlando, FL). At my community pool I have to be in the water with my son, who’s 3, unless he’s wearing a life jacket. I’m not sure at what age they can be in the water alone. That’s fine for me, since my kid can’t really swim yet, but both my sister and I were prolific swimmers by age 3, both of us having learned to swim by the time we were 2. my mom would’ve been super annoyed by this, since she cannot swim (part of the reason she got us lessons so young). It seems like the pools could trust that parents don’t actually WANT their kids to drown and wouldn’t let them in the water without close supervision until they were strong enough swimmers to handle it. This is Florida…a LOT of children learn to swim before their 2nd birthdays and these blanket rules don’t take into account any particular child’s strengths.U I was also at a different community pool recently that does not allow anyone under 14 to swim without adult supervision. 14! That seemed ridiculously old to me.

  8. K2 July 17, 2014 at 9:49 am #

    Fortunately, where we live we don’t have rules that are that strict. I think part of the reason is that the pools need a certain amount of people to stay in business and a substantial portion of that business is Mom’s and kids during the week while Dad is at work. They would also stand to lose the odd camp trip and other large groups. LA is crowded enough that there will still be enough people even if some are excluded. There are also a lot of private pools where I live and so the public ones can’t just exclude half of everybody quite so easily. I think kids really need to learn to swim in case they fall into a pool or other body of water later on and that this safety feature like some of the others discussed on this site does more overall harm than good, even if one unfortunate person drowns!

  9. Dirk July 17, 2014 at 9:50 am #

    YMCA has this. “Pike Class” and “Eel Class” are for 3 to 5 year olds depending on how well they already swim and does not require a parent to get in the water. Both Pike and Eel are for ages 3 years to 5 years 11 months. (Pike also has a parents included option if the parent wants to go that route but that clearly isn’t the case here.)

    I assume she’d be willing to pay for this because she says she would be willing to pay for more lifeguards at the pool they would use now? But this means the 4 month old doesn’t get to swim. But they could split their time between the Y and the local wading pools.

    I would also check with local universities and even high schools.

    Basically she wants to be able to hold the baby and watch the other two. So if lessons aren’t in the cards how about joining a swim club (Way more expensive than a public pool of course)?

    there are clearly solutions out there for this mom. But I do find it hard to believe that there ever was a public pool that let you in with a 4 month old 3 year old and 5 year old with only one adult.

  10. Andy July 17, 2014 at 9:52 am #

    I have never seen a pool with swim test. Pools and waterparks in Europe do not seem to police who can and who can not go to the deep water.

  11. Dirk July 17, 2014 at 9:53 am #

    Oh yeah, the beach. So if this is in the portion of CA as stated in the blog post here she is 30-60 minutes from a beach depending on where she wants to go…

  12. Steph July 17, 2014 at 9:59 am #

    None of the pools in my town (Northern Virginia) have such strict rules. We do have a rule, which is strictly enforced, that floatation devices are prohibited in the main pool except for something like a kickboard for exercise or a swim lesson. No vests or floaties or water wings for anyone under 16. I suspect they do this so parents still supervise their children who can’t swim, as opposed to just depending on inflatable armbands (and the lifeguard) to keep them from drowning.

    The other rules seem pretty reasonable to me. Children 13 and older, who have passed a swim test, can go to the pool w/o an adult. Supervisors for kids 5-7 must be at least 13; for kies 0-4 must be 18. Nothing about an adult:child ratio.

  13. E July 17, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    I’ve got no problem with “pool rules” that expect parents to be very nearby kids 2 and 3 years old. I don’t care how well they “swim” at that age, they are very small, can probably only stand in the very very shallowest of the main pool and any small thing (even getting bumped or impeded by other kids) could have them in a situation where they need assistance.

    We were recently watching old video of when our kids were that age. They were great “swimmers” (if you want to call it that), had no fear of the water but I would never have left their safety up to a lifeguard in a stand (although our Y does have a guard standing on the pool deck next to the shallow end).

    We used a flotation device to give them a little more freedom/flotation (a foam “turtle shell” or “bubble”) until their strength/skill improved. For whatever reason, our Y only has those available at the indoor pool to borrow, but has the full life vests at the outdoor.

  14. Katie July 17, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    This is interesting. I have a similar problem, even though there are no such rules at our neighborhood pool. How to go to the pool at all with a baby that needs to be held and a 6 y.o. who needs help from time to time? When you talk about community pools, are you talking Parks and Rec or HOA-maintained?

  15. E July 17, 2014 at 10:03 am #

    Actually my post (and thinking about the old foam bubble) made me think that the original poster should ask the pools she’s considering if the older child can wear an approved belted flotation device (some are a foam square). This give the kid a little more assistance, but encourages proper swim form (as opposed to a full vest or those evil arm floaties) if you can’t be a few feet away….and can provide a little help if they need to catch their breath.

  16. Donna July 17, 2014 at 10:04 am #

    None of these rules exist at any of the local pools I use. One will not allow any inflatables, including water wings and inner tubes, and one limits the size of the inflatables. No swim tests either. They do all have age limits of around 14 for when children can go unaccompanied though.

  17. E July 17, 2014 at 10:18 am #

    As mentioned, our YMCA has rules like this, but I’ll add that our local neighborhood pool does not. Then again, our local (expensive) neighborhood pool does not really conduct itself in a safe manner in my opinion. They let kids swim at the “side” of the diving pool which is something so foreign to me (especially when they have another whole pool who has a very long stretch of deep water into which you can jump). They also have very popular free kegs of beer twice a month (and guards have been seen drinking).

    It’s a much bigger facility and far more social, but the lifeguards seem to be there to keep kids from running and off the lane ropes, lol. And I say that as someone who had a kid work there for a few years.

    When I worked for a Y 30 years ago, we did not allow the floaties/water wings or rings/tubes either. Both good rules imo.

  18. NicoleK July 17, 2014 at 10:23 am #

    Does the pool not have swim classes? Sign them up for those.

  19. SKL July 17, 2014 at 10:25 am #

    I just didn’t bother taking my close-in-age kids to the pool until they were 3 and had had their first preschool swim lessons. However, I remember pitching a fit when they told me I couldn’t let my 5-year-olds, swimmers who were very comfortable in the water and could stand up in over half of the pool, swim without me in the water *until they were 10yo.* (They later amended this to 6yo.) So what I did was roll up my jeans and walk back and forth in the shallowest edge of the pool while my kids swam. Jerks.

    For this lady – perhaps this would work. Put the 3yo in swim lessons, and during the lesson time, let the 5yo play in the pool while holding the baby nearby. Chances are they aren’t going to strictly enforce the “arm’s length” rule on a 5.5yo who can swim.

  20. Rachele July 17, 2014 at 10:27 am #

    Those are some outrageous rules. I’ve been living in fantasyland, apparently, here in the midwest. My kids are 5 and 10, and both are on the swim team this year. There are no tests or child/adult ratios at the pool. My 5 year old is a little under the height requirement for the big water slides (about an inch short), but she went up to the top with her brother, to see if she could go down anyway. He vouched for her swimming ability and told the lifeguard she was on the team, so he let her go, but watched her. She did fine, so they let her do it again and again. When the guards changed stations the one coming down informed the next one that he might see a little blond girl in a rainbow swimming suit that seemed too small and he should just let her go. Woo! Reasonableness!

  21. Dirk July 17, 2014 at 10:41 am #

    It probably has to do with how many swimmers they might have in the pool at any one time. Also, maybe people were using the pool as a babysitter. Just dropping their 6 year olds off and going to work.

  22. LRothman July 17, 2014 at 11:04 am #

    Dirk: You said “But I do find it hard to believe that there ever was a public pool that let you in with a 4 month old 3 year old and 5 year old with only one adult.”
    I can assure you that there were plenty that did. In fact, our local pool would also let kids as young as 6 in without an adult.

  23. Papilio July 17, 2014 at 11:04 am #

    I haven’t been to a pool in years (mainly went there with my friend back in primary school (and yes we were under 14)), but are the chlorine damp and dito water really so much fun for a 4-month-old anyway?
    And maybe she has a friend with older kids?

    (Not to say that I agree with the rules, just working around them…)

  24. Wendy W July 17, 2014 at 11:06 am #

    I’m in central MN, lots of lakes, not so many pools.

    The next town over has a community center with indoor pool. their rules are: arm’s-reach for under 5’s; parent in the area for under 8’s; min 42″ and a swim test for the water slide. Pretty reasonable I think. Unfortunately I hate the place because the noise level inside is ear-shattering.

    At beaches the usual rule is simply no flotation devices when there is a lifeguard. We always use a beach w/o lifeguards, because floatation toys are the best part of lake swimming.

    For a pool with less restrictions, check your local health club. Ours has no lifeguards, and pretty much no rules, during open swim times.

  25. Renee July 17, 2014 at 11:17 am #

    I had this problem years ago. I literally couldn’t take my kids to the pool because of the parent:child ratio 🙁 WE also ran into this at our local zoo. They have a special room / play area for kids under 8…with a 2:1 child/parent ratio, my husband and I couldn’t even take our own children in there!

  26. Buffy July 17, 2014 at 11:18 am #

    Dirk, knock it off. We don’t need you doing internet research for us on every post.

    I think a 1:1 ratio is ridiculous, and it seems like any pool with that requirement wouldn’t be very well attended, unless I’m really underestimating the number of one-child families.

  27. Kimberly Herbert July 17, 2014 at 11:19 am #

    How strictly do they actually enforce the rules? I took my niece and nephew to my Y with similar rules. The guards never fussed when the kids were playing in the water. In part because we have a family rule – non-swimmers wear a proper US Coast Guard approved life jacket. They also had a beach entrance so no wading pool and kids on the slashpad did not have to have an adult right there.

    Also niece was able to pass the deep water test at 4. Once she had the wristband, I didn’t have to be next to her even though she was under 7.

    The thing about a USCG approved life jacket – kids can practice their strokes. We would take them off for the jump to me and swim to the side type thing. Both of our little fish were expert swimmers by 5. Able to both swim the length of the pool easily, and deal with many open water situations.

    There was one scary incident. A girl got mad at a boy. She walked up to him in the beach area. He was sitting. She grabbed him and forced him backwards. She slammed his head against the pool floor and held him there. I could see his eyes bugging out. I was pretty sure he was inhaling water. I yelled for a guard and knocked her off him.

    No one else saw it. When he came up sputtering and coughing up water he called her a bitch and swung at her. That everyone noticed. I had to physically shove the boy behind me and use the words Police attempted murder – before any of the adults would listen. After I told what I saw, a couple of mothers spoke up about “accidents” where this girl had hurt their kids at the pool. The boy’s Mom took him to his doctor to be checked out. The girl and her family got banned from the pool. I ran into the boy’s mom later. She said he was ok, but they had been told to watch him carefully for signs of a concussion and dry land drowning.

    Oh by the way – Adult swim has been found unconstitutional in some appeal court jurisdictions. It was being used to discourage families with kids from using the pools. I don’t know how they were doing that. Where I’ve seen it used. It has been crowded situations. Adult was used to pretty much clear the pool so the lifeguards could switch out, or have a break.

  28. Dirk July 17, 2014 at 11:22 am #

    Hey LRoth, I guess I grew up in a different era and different location. We had a pool right near us growing up and I would indeed go alone but I was closer to 9 or 10. But I don’t think I would have seen a 3 or 5 year old outside of the wading pool “alone” even if a parent was there. Now family members had pools and I remember being in 1st or 2nd grade and in the pool with the other kids and no one was “watching” us, at least not very well! But at the swim club yeah…I find it hard to believe (this was the 80s) that the person at the front desk would have let a mom in with 3 kids those ages and if they did they would have had to stay in the kiddy pool that was like 3 feet deep.

  29. Dirk July 17, 2014 at 11:23 am #

    The YMCA does have child only no parent required swimming classes for 3 through 5 years of age.

  30. SKL July 17, 2014 at 11:31 am #

    Any reason why the 4mo can’t sit in a baby seat (in a dry place) while Kid 1 is in lessons and Kid 2 is playing?

  31. Dirk July 17, 2014 at 11:42 am #

    Hi SKL,

    The YMCA can do you one better. Kid 1 and Kid 2 can take the same lessons with the same group. While mom plays with the baby out of the pool! Both the Pike and Eel groups would take her 3 and 5 year old.

  32. SKL July 17, 2014 at 11:46 am #

    Dirk, my kids’ swimming skill level was way different at age 3 than at age 5.5. Depends on the kids of course, but in my case I wouldn’t have put both ages in the same lessons. Though it might happen that they have lessons at the same time for different levels. I also notice that if your kids are in lessons, they tend to be lax about letting them swim independently after the lesson is over.

    Of course lessons don’t take the place of free pool play, but they can be a partial solution to the 1:1 ratio issue.

  33. SKL July 17, 2014 at 11:56 am #

    I should note that our pool does not have an adult-child ratio rule, nor have I heard of it around here. What they do say is that you are supposed to be within arm’s reach of your kid(s) through age 5. Which is not entirely impossible for tots / young preschoolers. I used to take both of my three-year-olds into water over their head to practice swimming. They were not always within arm’s lenth of me, but they were always close enough that I could get to them quickly if they were in any distress. In the shallow part of the pool (where they could stand up), I gave them much more space and eventually stopped going in the pool – until the lifeguards suddenly got militant when they were close to 6yo. :/

  34. Jen Haraway July 17, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

    This exact situation happened to me at a local pool a few years ago. My daughter was 4 or 5 and they required me to be within an arms reach from her at all times while she was in the water. There were plenty of lifeguards and she was mostly hanging in an area less than a foot deep. I wish they would have said something to me before I paid and went in. I would have turned around, went home and turned on the sprinkler.

  35. Maggie in VA July 17, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

    Wow, I would have had to drop our pool membership or put it in hold status if it had a 1:1 ratio like the one described. I have twins, and my husband doesn’t like going to the pool. Now, it is very difficult, and once my smaller twin was within a few feet of an adult swimmer who didn’t realize that one twin had gone out a bit too deep and was struggling. I swooped down and had the man pull him over to me. I can’t socialize with other adults or do anything but tend to the kids when we’re there. But the kids rarely let me do that anyway.

  36. SKL July 17, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

    I did tell the management that if they enforced a policy of everyone under 10 needing an adult in the water with them, they were going to lose membership like anything, starting with me that day. :/ But when they changed it to under 6, that was a little more bearable. At least the under 6 policy only caught a small number of people who were letting their kids play in the pool without an adult. I still think it’s overkill in the shallow part of the pool.

  37. Reziac July 17, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

    Shallow pools is precisely WHY as a kid, I never passed the beginner swim class test, which got inflicted on me 2 or 3 times before my mom gave up.

    In deep water, I was fine (I was never a great swimmer, but I could reliably get from point A to point B with no danger of drowning). But the moment my toe touched the shallow bottom on the kiddie pool where the test was given, I would stop swimming and stand up. I was 8 or 9 and it was pure reflex, I couldn’t help it. And stopping anywhere during the “swim across the pool test” was an automatic fail.

    If I’d been tested in the deep pool, where I swam all the time outside of class (and had been swimming in for at least a year before I ever saw a swim class), I’d have passed the test just fine.

    Back then, failing the swim test was NOT a reason to keep a kid out of the deep pool, but I imagine nowadays it would be.

  38. Craig Sauer July 17, 2014 at 2:01 pm #

    I’ve been taking my 3 kids (aged 4,4,and 2) to the pool at our local Jewish Community Center in Long Beach, CA. (You need not be Jewish to join.) They have lots of lifeguards who are very reasonable about kids getting to swim.) I’m frequently in the deep pool, holding the 2 year old, staying near one 4 year olds, while the other 4 year old confidently swims independently. No one has ever suggested this is unsafe.

  39. SKL July 17, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

    I agree, I think it is a reflex to stand up in a shallow pool, especially if you’re under any kind of stress.

    I know my kids can swim because they have been in pools that have no shallow part, and have swum in the ocean from a boat to the shore. In the shallow water, they play a lot but swim very little. That said, I think it’s good exercise for young kids to play in the shallow part of the pool. Better than sitting on their butts.

  40. Meagan July 17, 2014 at 2:09 pm #

    Our local pools (Bloomington, Indiana) don’t have parent:child ratios, which is great, because a lot of families have more than 2 kids, and many times Mom is at the pool during the day with the kids. We have 2 pools available through our local Parks & Rec, plus the Indiana University outdoor pool is open to the public. Park & Rec and IU both offer lessons. We also have 2 YMCAs, but I haven’t been to either for swimming, so I don’t know their rules. I know they offer lessons, too.

    Regarding sending the kids to swimming lessons, this mom likely does, but she wants to go to the pool to cool off and to practice *outside* of lesson times. Which is reasonable and something many, many parents do. We’ve never had an issue, with the pools trusting parents to know their children’s abilities.

    There are also options, with 3 possible pools, to find one that works well for circumstances. One pool has a wading pool with zero depth to about 2 feet set apart from the main pool, perfect if you only have young kids. Another has the zero depth area gradually leading into the main pool, but marked off with a rope. That one is great if you have an older child who wants to venture into swimmable depth and a younger one. The IU pool is all swimming pools, but the diving well, lap pool and training pool are separate.

  41. E July 17, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

    @Kimberly Hebert….you are saying that someone took a pool facility to court because of Adult Swim? I’m baffled by this. It’s used in every pool we’ve ever been to, some more frequently than others. It’s a small segment of each hour (or even less frequently depending) and I think it’s the smartest, nicest thing a pool can do for kids AND parents. It gives kids a chance to take a break, gives lifeguards a little respite (most pools still man the stations but can take a mental breather from the hoards in the pool), and thankfully allows adults to get in the pool w/o having kids getting in their way for a few minutes!

    I cannot imagine private facilities aren’t allowed to make their own rules.

    How on earth is that a constitutional issue? And how on earth is it dissuading families at all? Kids can still swim the VAST majority of the time. I must be missing something.

  42. E July 17, 2014 at 2:23 pm #

    Ok, I had to google the Adult Swim legality and it appears that under the Fair Housing Act, they are saying that you can’t “discriminate” against families with children in setting Adult Only Pool Times. This only applies to housing communities that include a pool with the HOA.

    It appears that it stemmed from a request to have Adult only timeslots (not hourly breaks) , but that to be legal to the letter it includes the hourly breaks. Talk about ridiculousness of regulation!

    Anyway – it shouldn’t effect private clubs or YMCAs or any other type of pool not tied in with an HOA.

  43. Andy July 17, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

    @E Denying someone right to do x is not “giving them the chance to take a break”. I know it is a nitpick, but I hate when “I do not want you to be here” is framed as “nicest thing you can for for him” or some kind of service. It has strong doublethink element into it. The nicest thing you can do for somebody is to allow him to be there when he wants and take break as he wants.

    Adults swim is done for the sake of people that are too precious to be in the same room as children. Lets not frame it as service to parents or kids.

  44. E July 17, 2014 at 2:51 pm #

    @Andy, I have spent more time at pools than anyone I know. My 3 older siblings were guards at our city/community pools when I was young. I lived in a town where I could ride my bike or walk to the pool every day. I paid my way thru college working at pools as a guard and a swim coach. We live in a neighborhood with a large private pool with 3 separate pools (one for swim team practice and meets and adults only the rest of the time). I was a pool rat and in some ways still am.

    I 100% believe that “adult swim” is in part to give kids a break. As we covered in another post, some kids DO live at the pool in the summer (whether or not it’s used as child care is a separate issue) and in some cases unsupervised. Kids DO get fatigued in the water. It encourages/allows kids to use the bathroom. And yes, it gives the adults (also patrons and the one who pay for the privilege) a chance to enjoy the pool without getting hit by a splash ball, a basketball (our pools have some deck mounted goals), or generally impeded by tons of kids.

    Our pools do NOT reduce the number of guards on duty during adult swims (though I imagine their brains ease into a different mode) so it’s no benefit to the working staff – they are doing the same thing anyway.

    I’m not sure about anyone else’s pool, but adult swims often result in the kids lining up along the diving well and Dads showing off their can openers and splashing the kids to their squealing delight. They also line up under a curve in the slide where water will spill over when someone big comes down.

    It’s not at ALL about people who are “too precious to be in the same room as children”….almost ALL of them are parents themselves!

    As far as the HOA/Fair Housing issue in regard to adult only hours….sure I guess some of those people don’t want to deal with kids. It seems a shame that they can’t work it out w/o threatening legal action, but I suppose their kids are “too precious” to be limited by any pool hours even if they’ve been ADDED to accommodate an adult request (one of the situations I read about). See…. if you want to label people and their motivations, it goes both ways.

  45. Donna July 17, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

    Andy – As a parent, I love adult swim!! It makes going home so much easier since my kid already has to get out of the pool. If I try to leave any other time, I get a long, drawn out begrudging exiting of the pool. It also ensures that my kid will get out of the pool and eat/drink at least occasionally if we are there all day. It is worth the cost of the ice cream that I get hit up for at the first adult swim every time we go to the pool.

    At my pool, the point of adult swim is definitely to give the life guards a break. They only have one, instead of the usual 3 or 4, guard on duty during adult swim.

    And since it is a grand total of 10 minutes out of every hour, I fail to see how it translates to “done for the sake of people that are too precious to be in the same room as children.” I don’t know anyone who pays to go to the pool for 10 minutes.

  46. Nadine July 17, 2014 at 3:39 pm #

    Last week i asked a six year old friend of my kid if she was allowed to swim in the deep pool and she turned out to be a better qualified swimmer then me. We have a exam system here and a lot of schools have the kids take swimlessons. I was told of quite firmly by her and i thought it very funny.

    Big change that i have noticed that where we used to have birthday parties at the pool it would just be us running around and having fun. Now the pool has special birthday party packages where the kids are run through all kinds of “cool” games for wich they have to sit in a row on the side shivering untill its their turn to do what they are told to do. It annoys my socks off. There is no actual play!!!

    But if i were you i would put that question to the management. Do they have a website or facebook? Are their already comments on there? What do other parents say in your community?

  47. Emily July 17, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

    My answer is the same as always–how do these pools expect the kids to automatically be able to swim, once they reach the magical age of X, when the ridiculous restrictions are lifted?

    Also, Nadine, is it possible to book a birthday party at your pool, and specifically say that you’d rather the kids have free swim than games? Is that expressly forbidden, or is it just that nobody’s ever requested it? If it’s the latter, all I can say is, if you never ask, the answer will always be no. It might still be no if you do ask, but then you’re no worse off than you were before.

  48. Emily July 17, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

    As a lifeguard, I can say that these rules seem unreasonable. My pool has a 1:5 adult to child ratio unless the kid can swim independently.

    Unfortunately, we still have to tell many parents that sitting fully clothed in a beach chair texting while their 4 year olds play in the water isn’t ok. That requirement, I think, isn’t unreasonable.

    My job is first to prevent situations that would require my skills from occurring. Your job is to watch your kids. On crowded days, the pool that I’m responsible for might have 40 kids in it. If you couldn’t manage 40 people’s kids all at once, then don’t put that onto a teenage lifeguard. (I argue that this is even more difficult than teaching; for my job, I have to be able to identify a drowning child and get to them within 20 seconds. That means that even when tell a kid not to [insert dangerous behavior], I have to be looking around at the other 39 kids.)

    Unfortunately, my pool didn’t even have the basic requirement that parents be in the water with their kids (who can’t swim) until a few years ago a 4 year old boy was found unconscious in the 3-ft deep part of a pool. Luckily he survived, but had his mother been in the water (she wasn’t), he would have been immediately rescued by her.

    An alternative for this woman, though, would be to go to a lake, or maybe a friend’s house who has a pool. (Or she might even find that some pools are more lenient than their policy suggests, depending on how crowded the pool is and how well her kids can swim)

  49. Sarah July 17, 2014 at 4:03 pm #

    If this is in Glendale I would try to meet up with anouther mommy friend at a apartment or condo complex that has a pool, if no aquaintences have a backyard pool. In so-cal there is a pool just about everywere. It can be hard with that many young ones and a baby to hold on to. Other than that raging waters has season passes, the kiddy waterpark area would keep the walking ones enertained for hours.

  50. E July 17, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

    Again, I’d advocate talking directly to the pool manager or aquatics director. I don’t think posting to a facebook page is going to get the kind of information you are seeking. Presenting yourself as a potential customer and patron that wants to understand the rules and options directly from the person responsible for enforcement is the best way to go.

    When I worked at a Y, we had lifeguards that might not enforce the no floatie rule (back then they were a HUGE thing, there are a lot more choices now for floatation assistance) while others of us didn’t mind at all.

    Being able to get the deal directly from the aquatics director’s mouth is going to help you if you are ever questioned. You can say that you’ve spoken directly to “whoever” and discussed what’s acceptable etc.

    You might find a pool that works for your needs or ones you want to avoid completely. That’s far more preferable than relying on word of mouth from other members (and I doubt that director level staff has FB duty to answer those specific questions).

  51. SKL July 17, 2014 at 5:10 pm #

    When I left my under-6s in the water and didn’t go in myself, I wasn’t sitting on a beach chair texting. I was walking around the pool, getting some exercise, making sure my kids weren’t acting foolish, and a couple times, even identifying a dangerous situation that the lifeguards missed. Like the time a swim coach was giving a lesson to 2-3 preschoolers, and while helping one learn a skill, failed to notice that another one had lost hold of her floatie board 4′ water. A couple times I dragged my own kid to the side when she was doing something stupid. All with my clothes on. I felt I was more useful watching from the edge of the pool than standing stupidly in the pool, and certainly more than if I had been swimming myself.

    I don’t understand why it makes sense for lifeguards to be high and dry, but it makes more sense for parents to be stuck in the water without the ability to move quickly. Of course if we’re talking about wee babies who don’t have the sense or ability to keep their heads out of the shallow water, that should be obvious enough to the parent without a formal rule. But a 4-5yo?

  52. H.J. July 17, 2014 at 5:36 pm #

    The merage jcc in irvine seems more laid-back about it…I’ve had a 3 y.o. And 5y.o. In the big pool together with me. Not sure of the rules, but no one has bothered us…they also have a toddler pool.

  53. CrazyCatLady July 17, 2014 at 8:46 pm #

    For those who are recommending the ocean off of CA…no. The ocean is a place to hop the waves when little, or a place to surf when older.

    My kids went to the ocean several times a week when those ages, but I can safely tell you, no, they got no practice swimming except one time when the waves were REALLY low for some reason. One time in 6 years. The ocean is a great place to cool off.

    What I did when my youngest was 3 and I had a 5 and 7 year old, was to find a neighbor with a pool and we made an agreement that one afternoon per week I could bring my kids to their pool so I could teach them to swim. I felt it was really stupid that though I had taught swimming lessons for many years, that I couldn’t actually teach my kids to swim in the local pool because they had rules about no toys in the pool. The owner of the pool had me sign a form saying that he would not be responsible if anything happened to my kids, which was fine by me.

  54. Celeste July 18, 2014 at 12:14 am #

    I live in LA and have successfully bypassed these rules by waiting outside for a few minutes until I see a couple adults walking in, then asking if they will enter with me and my 3 kids. Once we’re inside and having fun in the pool, the rules are never enforced. It’s only a matter of getting in. Every time I’ve done this, the strangers I’ve asked have smiled, shrugged & said, “sure!”

  55. sophiawright July 18, 2014 at 12:15 am #

    Make use of 8 ft diving board,children’s find it so comfortable

  56. Celeste July 18, 2014 at 12:27 am #

    One time we even walked in with a homeless woman who appeared to be entering the pool facilities so she could use the showers in the locker soon. I offered to pay her entrance fee if she would escort us in. The pool staff doesn’t give a hoot about who you come in with, so long as there’s an adult for every child. It’s pretty silly.

  57. Celeste July 18, 2014 at 12:34 am #

    Oh & btw you’re also not allowed to take a picture of your kid at the pool because apparently you might be a perv trying to snap pics of other kids in swimsuits.

  58. Shari July 18, 2014 at 12:48 am #

    Next there will be a rule that we can’t birth kids less than 7 years apart because how could we possibly tend them adequately?

    My Mom somehow managed to read whole novels poolside in a thick coating of tanning oil while we were young. I haven’t figured out how yet.

  59. Melinda Tripp July 18, 2014 at 12:51 am #

    Yikes! We have had our own pool for years I was unaware of the rules at public pools, , those ratio rules are out of touch with reality.

  60. Beth July 18, 2014 at 5:19 am #

    I hate to do this but….this article is from a site called The Spoof.

  61. Beth July 18, 2014 at 5:25 am #

    Sorry for the double post; it looked like my first had rejected.

  62. Andy July 18, 2014 at 6:04 am #

    @E Are you trying to convince me that the rule has no other purpose then micromanage other peoples breaks? I can understand pool guards need for break/cleaning etc, but I can not understand ease with which some people make/accept rules with no other purpose then to control what does not need to be controlled.

    @Donna Adult swim 10 minutes per hour seem genuinely weird. I have never seen a pool with such rule. I have seen pools that are for “swimmers only” and lanes only for fast swimmers. I have seen a “no noise” pool once, but then again, the ‘no noise” rule applied to everyone equally.

    It is not enough time to get exercise and the “do not clog swimming lane” rule would help there much more. It is not enough to just hang around and chat, older people up to that prefer to stay in pool for much longer. And as a parent I would find it annoying if I would have to organize our playing/stay around mandated breaks.

    Plus, the 18 years cut off does not make much sense, it is not like 17 years old would play with a ball or splashed much water. As far as I can tell, if they are annoying they are more annoying when out of pool then in the pool.

  63. Katie G July 18, 2014 at 6:12 am #

    EXACTLY!!! Very few flotation items actually allow for practice at real swimming. The only ones I can think of are kickboards and the backpack things that are only on the child’s back. Those I’m still not crazy about but I have seen them in use and they’re somewhat helpful for the earliest beginners (not babies just playing but preschoolers learning to swim.)

    Swimming is done horizontally and without contact. Swimming cannot be learned when someone is kept vertical by flotation devices. THAT point should be made in any communication and complaint that is submitted to any pool organization. It’s fact, no one can argue it, not opinion or convenience!

  64. Katie G July 18, 2014 at 6:16 am #

    Oh, and I always smile a bit at the Y name “pike” for the littlest ones, simply because that’s the opposite of the camp I went to. There, “pike” was the highest level!

  65. Donna July 18, 2014 at 7:03 am #

    Andy – All I can say is don’t come to my pool. The people who use it like it very much, including the 10 minute adult swim at the end of every hour. In fact, we’ve spent years fighting the university to keep the pool open despite there being many other public pools – that cost much less – to visit in town.

    You seem to be making a lot of assumptions about pools that you have never seen and don’t know the design, use or vibe of. Absolutely nothing you described in your comment comes close to even describing the pool we attend. It may describe the pool YOU use, but not the pool WE use.

    As I said, the 10 minute adult swim is to give the life guards a break. It saves the university from having to hire a 5th life guard to give breaks.

    And if you think that a 10 minute break for kids (kids being defined as under 15 or so, nobody checks ID) somehow mandates playing/staying, then you have a problem. I USE the 10 minute break to signal time to leave because it is easier than finding my kid in an Olympic size pool, trying to get her attention to tell her it is time to go and then waiting for her to get out of the pool. It is certainly not mandatory that we leave at that time.

  66. lollipoplover July 18, 2014 at 9:12 am #

    This could have been me 8 year ago.
    My daughter was weeks old when I parked her stroller in the shade under the lifeguard stand and introduced myself to the teenage lifeguard. She was also my 5 yo’s swim lesson teacher. Turns out, she is the daughter of an old swim team member of mine and loves kids. The rule at the time was any child with a flotation vest or swimmies had to have an adult with them in the water. So we didn’t use flotation devices. They learned to swim so much faster without them.

    Most of the lifeguards (I was one when I was a teen too) at our swim club are older swimmers on our swim team (and swim instructors) or older children of families that belong to the pool. Talk to them and tell them your situation. It is physically impossible to have octopus arms and enjoy swimming and offers no benefit to your kids. So don’t. You can supervise your kids from a bench and not in the pool.

  67. Jamie July 18, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    Our Y thankfully has pretty reasonable rules for the pools. Under 5 has to have someone in the water with them, except in the kiddie pool or the play tower thing. Over 5 as soon as you can pass the swim test you are allowed anywhere, deep end, diving boards, water slide, etc. over 5, but not passing the swim test has to stay in the shallow water unless with an adult, but if they’re just playing in the shallow end the parent doesn’t have to be in the water.

    I took my 7 year old nephew with us a few weeks ago and he started playing with some other kids his age. My 3 year old wanted to play too, but was just too little so we left my nephew in the big pool and went to the tower. My only real problem with the Y pools is that any unattended toys tend to get swiped quickly.

  68. derfel cadarn July 18, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

    Delayed dry drowning is only a subject for the weak of mind.

  69. Emily July 18, 2014 at 3:34 pm #

    >>Delayed dry drowning is only a subject for the weak of mind.<<

    No, delayed dry drowning is real, but the previous article about delayed dry drowning, made it sound as if it was guaranteed to happen just by accidentally swallowing a bit of pool water, when that simply isn't the case. I go swimming quite often, and sometimes, I accidentally swallow a bit of pool water, and I've lived to tell the tale. I swam a fair bit as a kid too, and I know I swallowed pool/lake/pond/ocean water then, and somehow, I managed to survive to adulthood. So, while it CAN happen, there's a difference between swallowing water and having it go into your lungs, and swallowing water and having it go into your stomach like normal. The first scenario is dangerous, of course, but the second scenario just isn't, and it's much more likely. It's a little gross, if it's pool water, or salt water, or lake water, or murky pond water, but it won't kill you. That's why that article was ridiculous.

    Anyway, on a funny side note, when I was six (summer of 1990), I attended a YMCA day camp that bused us to the camp location, that was a large public park with wooded areas, a pavilion, and a pond that we swam in. The pond had a beach, with sand, but it was very much a POND, and not a lake, and it was filled with all kinds of wildlife, including leeches. So, during swimming time, the counsellors had to stand by with a box of table salt, because at least one kid got attacked by a leech every day. The camp was eventually moved to a different location, that had a proper lake, but that was many years later. It never occurred to anyone to stop letting us swim in the pond, or to bus us back to the YMCA to use the pool, or anything of the sort–we swam at our own risk, and if someone got bitten, well, that was what the salt was for. This was all normal back then, but I can't imagine it happening now.

  70. Emily (lifeguard) July 18, 2014 at 5:02 pm #

    Original message: “I don’t understand why it makes sense for lifeguards to be high and dry, but it makes more sense for parents to be stuck in the water without the ability to move quickly. ”

    …So what you want is 7 lifeguards, one per each family, following their kids around so the parents can stay dry? That simply isn’t practical. I think you’re mistaken on the purpose of lifeguard. Lifeguards *are not* babysitters. Lifeguards are rule enforcement (for every family at once), first aid providers, and rescuers. In that order, too. The lifeguard first has to enforce rules so that the kids won’t get hurt or need to be rescued.

    Parents don’t need to be able to move quickly, because you should be with your child in the water already in case they start to *drown*. You will always, assuming you’re paying proper attention, reach your child faster from next to them in the water than outside, because being in the water eliminated the step of jumping into the water. That’s not to mention that a lifeguard has to be scanning the entire pool, so to expect them to notice your child individually struggling before you (who should be near them) do is unrealistic.

    A lifeguard’s job starts where your oversight fails. For example, failing to keep your children following facility rules makes the lifeguard step in. Failure to keep your kid from drowning makes the lifeguard step in. Care for your child is always primarily your responsibility, and to demand that a teenager (who isn’t individually contracted for you as a babysitter) take on that role is unreasonable.

    To ask that parents are responsible and watch their kids *who can’t swim independently* isn’t actually that much to ask. To ask that a lifeguard babysit your and 20 other children is too much to ask (not to mention we also “babysit” the parents; we still need to make sure you aren’t on the bottom suffering a heart attack).

    I also don’t understand why you don’t want to spend time with your kids, anyways. You’re taking a *family* outing the pool, and you’re part of the family. Why don’t parents want to be in the water playing with their kids (and teaching them how to swim)?

  71. Stacy July 18, 2014 at 5:15 pm #

    Our local pool would lose a lot of money with a 1:1 ratio requirement. There are also no rules about being in the water with children of any age. The only rules relate to the type of lifejackets, where they can be used (not in the deep end), and height requirements for the slides (but no height requirement for jumping off the diving board into the deep end). Parents of kids over age five are much more likely to be found on loungers than in the water, especially on weekdays, and parents of toddlers rarely stay within arm’s length. It does bother me a little that the lifeguards are constantly pulling kids out of the deep end, and the parents often let them right back in unsupervised. But I appreciate that parents are given the ability to choose for themselves how much supervision is needed.

  72. SOA July 18, 2014 at 7:53 pm #

    Wow that is really insane! Thank goodness our pool is nothing like that. We pay the membership fee to pay for the lifeguards to be on duty. There is no such rule about ratios or the kids being near you. I am one of the only moms that swim with my kids. Most moms sit on the chairs and play on their phones or talk or read or sun bathe the whole time. I actually like swimming so I get in.

    The rule at our pool is no swimming for kids during adult swim which is 10 minutes an hour and no lifeguards on duty (it is when they take their breaks) and that no kids are to be dropped off alone until they are 10 or 12 or 13 can’t remember the exact age. Teenagers are there by themselves all the time. Moms show up with multiple kids all the time. Moms don’t go in with the kids all the time.

    They also say the baby pool is swim at your own risk because the lifeguards won’t watch the baby pool as it is out of their line of sight. So parents are in charge of making sure their kids don’t drown in there.

    I think that is very reasonable. I would not even bother with pools with those rules. With twins how exactly can I ever achieve a 1:1 ratio? My husband works during the day and I don’t have family nearby to go places with me. Its nuts.

  73. SOA July 18, 2014 at 8:04 pm #

    I am really grateful for my pool right now. It is a neighborhood pool but you can buy a membership if you don’t live in that neighborhood (we don’t). They limit memberships to keep it from getting over crowded.

    If they did not allow flotation devices I would be screwed. My son with autism does not swim yet. He has a thing about it. He does like to float around though in his ring. Swimming lessons with him did not go so well. His brother was the same way until this summer and now he is learning to swim on his own with doggy paddle and is going without flotation devices but still sometimes likes to wear his ring or his arm floats. All the kids there use the puddle jumpers or arm floats or rings or the little baby floats where the baby sit in them and floats around.

    It is kinda stupid to me to be like you have to be a perfect swimmer before you get in the pool. Then how does anyone learn to swim exactly!!!?? I never learned to swim with formal lessons. But I did eventually learn on my own just from being in the pool with floats and finally got it. That is how my son has learned and eventually my other son will learn it that way too.

  74. Stacie July 18, 2014 at 10:00 pm #

    I always assumed “adult swim” was the park district’s way of getting kids out of the pool to spend money on the concessions.

  75. SOA July 18, 2014 at 10:26 pm #

    I have no prob with adult swim. It is probably for multiple reasons at our pool. It is so the lifeguards can have a break. It is also so they can open up the concession stand and sell ice creams and candy for a few minutes. The rest of the time it is closed. It is also so the adults can have a few minutes to swim without kids splashing them and getting in their way.

    Most of the adults at the pool are parents that are there with their kids anyway. I swim with my kids during all swim and usually get out with them and get them a snack or go get concessions while its adult swim. Some moms use that time to get in the pool and swim because they won’t swim when all the kids are in there. Some times we have a few adults that come without kids and they use adult swim to get in or swim a few laps. There is one lady that basically suntans the entire hour until adult swim and then goes and cools off during adult swim and then gets back out to suntan again till the next adult swim. She does this every time I see her.

    I never have a problem with it. One time I got in during adult swim and taunted my kids that I could get in and they couldn’t LOL.

    My kids are not thrilled they have to get out but they like I usually get them a few starburst to eat each adult swim.

  76. SOA July 18, 2014 at 10:32 pm #

    Now I guess the size of the pool and the amount of people swimming matters. For our small membership only pool we usually only have a limited number of people there. Most of the time it is like less than fifteen people total in the whole pool area. So one lifeguard can easily keep up with that many people.

    On weekends or during like 4th of July they bring in two lifeguards since they are more busy to watch everyone.

    So really I have full confidence the lifeguards can monitor all the swimmers safely. Parents still need to be aware of their kids but they don’t have to be in there with them or watching them every single second. The other parents and the lifeguards are backing you up too.

    But I guess if you go to a super super super crowded huge pool with 50 people and only 2 or 1 lifeguard or even no lifeguard, yeah then I could see maybe needing to be right there next to your kid in the pool. At least where we go, I don’t see that being necessary.

    Even when we swim in a hotel pool with no lifeguards sometimes I will sit at a table and watch them instead of being in there with them and my kids are not even good swimmers. But they have floats on and I am watching them so if they needed rescuing I could do so in like two seconds. Hotel pools are only a few feet deep anymore anyway so not hard to get them out if they get in trouble. Every hotel pool I have been to lately is 4 feet all the way across or something like that. They are never super deep.

    I would worry about getting my kid out of the 12 foot deep end of the community pool but that is why we have lifeguards on duty the whole time.

  77. Stacy July 18, 2014 at 11:26 pm #

    Our community pool has about ten lifeguard stands and each lifeguard scans a small area constantly. If they need a drink from their water bottles, someone covers their area. I would imagine the rules would be different with one or two lifeguards for a pool. I do think it’s important to take water seriously. I once pulled a toddler out when she stepped over her head in a hotel hot tub — her mom never noticed anything was wrong or moved from her chair even after the kid came up coughing. So as much as I’d like them to trust parental judgment, I understand the concern. But the 1:1 ratio and staying within 2 feet rules are extreme and completely impractical. A slight increase in fees and more lifeguards seems like a reasonable solution — how much business do they lose with those kind of rules?

  78. CrazyCatLady July 18, 2014 at 11:36 pm #

    I was a lifeguard in the late 80s to 90s, about 10 years. Most of the time I was guarding a backyard in ground up to 8 foot deep pool full of about 30 school age kids and two to 3 other teachers to help me.

    The teachers got in some, some just wanted to get tan. All helped me with watching. We only had one incident, where a non-swimmer jumped over the rope into the deep end and lost her hold on the rope. I was there quickly. Because I was trained to know what it looked like, I saw it before the other adults who were also watching.

    Even when I was at a community pool, we didn’t have one on one or one to three or anything like that. I think we DID have the rule that if the child was in a non-approved floatation device, that the parent should be in the water near the kid. If the kid was in an approved life jacket, they were fine to go the whole pool. If they were in water wings or a tube, the parent had to be nearby. But we also weren’t Nazis about it. We realized that people had more than one preschooler. But we also know those tubes tip over, wings can deflate or slip off. Which is why we wanted parents nearby. Approved lifejackets will flip a kid to face up in the water if they have an issue – very different than tubes or water wings.

  79. SKL July 19, 2014 at 12:29 am #

    @emily (lifeguard) I am talking about (a) kids under 6 who can swim, and (b) kids (not babies or tots) who are playing in shallow water that comes up to their chest or lower. Kids move. Multiple kids move in different directions. Not only is it difficult to stay right next to kids in the pool, it is not necessary for kids who are fully capable of keeping themselves alive in the pool.

    An observant parent of a normal kid can manage stupid behavior from the side of the pool at least as well as from inside the pool.

    As for why don’t I want to be in the pool with my kids, first of all, that is an obnoxious question. That’s not your business to ask or judge. But here’s a news flash: not everyone likes getting in the pool. Not everyone is in a condition to get in a pool on a given day. Not everyone has time for all the stuff women have to do before and after swimming. Another thing. When I was in the pool with my kids, they spent too much time clinging to me and not enough time moving around and creating their own games, which was the whole point of taking them to the pool. So once they no longer needed me to teach them to swim, I was out of there.

    As I said to the lifeguards who got militant when my youngest was not quite 6: if I *have* to get into a bathing suit and get wet every time my kids go swimming, my kids won’t be going swimming again until they are older. And I’ll cancel my membership, since the only reason I joined was so my kids could use the pool.

    We all know that people drown silently while in the immediate vicinity of their friends and family. I have also observed that when there is an adult near a kid in a pool, the lifeguards may not notice when the kid is in distress (like the time I mentioned with the swim instructor and all the lifeguards being oblivious that a non-swimmer was flailing in water way over her head). Maybe lifeguards can watch kids more effectively if there aren’t many adults in the shallow part of the pool.

  80. Donna July 19, 2014 at 9:15 am #

    Most of these comments make more appreciative of my local pool that has the attitude that “parents actually want to bring home alive all the children they came with and can be trusted to make their own decisions as to what is best for their children” so there are no rules as to parent/children interaction in the pool. Nor is there an excess of life guards. 3-4 for an olympic size pool that can have upwards of 100 kids on a busy weekend afternoon.

    And, yet, this pool has existed for 78 years without being a danger to the community. In my 32 years in town, NO person has ever drowned in the pool nor has there ever been a near drowning incident. Over the 7 years my family has been going regularly, I’ve never seen the life guards have to even leave their seats except to stretch.

    My pool interaction with my child has varied over the years. When she was little, she happily hung out in a life jacket and I was in and out of the pool as I wanted to get wet. Then at 4, she learned to swim, didn’t want to wear a life jacket anymore and yet couldn’t touch the bottom. I spent far more time in the pool that summer, particularly early on, as her swimming skills advanced. By 5, she was back to doing it all on her own, this time without a life jacket, and I was in and out as I wanted to get wet. Now I’m lucky if I even know where she is half the time, but she can also out swim me (and I’m not a bad swimmer).

  81. Beth July 19, 2014 at 5:05 pm #

    Off topic, but could we please stop dissing moms (and it IS predominantly moms) who “play on their phones” while their kids play, at any venue? I thought one of the tenets of free range is that kids don’t need adults hovering over them every second, every minute, or even every hour. If a mom has to go to the park, or pool, or wherever with her kids, and they are competent to play on their own, why shouldn’t she be able to sit where she wants and “play” on her phone, or read a book, or do a crossword puzzle? (During all of which I’m sure she would look up frequently and observe her kids at play….)

    Or is it just the phone that ticks people off, and reading or other activities would be looked on much more favorably? I’m genuinely curious.

  82. Emily July 19, 2014 at 5:10 pm #

    Another thought–since there was a (very) similar story on here last summer, about basically the same scenario at a different pool, at a YMCA somewhere (I think their rule was that kids under the age of 11 who didn’t pass the swimming test had to be in the shallow end, in a life jacket, within arm’s reach of an adult), is there a chance that this pool is doing this as a money-making scheme? Since the kids can’t practice swimming in any meaningful way during free swim, in order to BECOME swimmers, is it possible that the pool management wants to entice parents into enrolling their kids in swimming lessons, or, for the kids who are already enrolled in the beginning levels, to delay their advancement in said lessons, thereby forcing their parents to spend MORE money? That’s what a lot of people thought last summer, so I’m surprised that it didn’t come up here.

    By the way, our YMCA has that horrible “If you’re not within arm’s reach, you’ve gone too far” poster, with a photo of a boy around age five, panicking while standing in chest-deep water. I’ve asked the YMCA many times to replace it with a more positive poster (about teaching kids to swim/putting them in swimming lessons as the best means of water safety), and I’ve even volunteered to MAKE a more positive poster, but the answer has always been no……even when one mother interpreted “within arm’s reach” to mean “tread water right in front of the diving board while six-year-old son is jumping off.” This resulted in the boy almost landing on his mother, several times. I don’t know what supposed “danger” he was being “protected” from, because he was wearing a life jacket, as per his mother’s edict. When I pointed out this dangerous situation later, I was told that it was a “parenting decision.” I’m sure it would have been different if the boy actually had landed on his mother’s head.

  83. Emily July 19, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

    P.S., Just so we’re clear, I’ve been involved with this YMCA in one way or another (member, volunteer, or both) since I was a baby (volunteering started at twelve), so in that context, offering to make a poster for the pool wasn’t really overstepping.

  84. Emily July 19, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

    I agree with Beth. The “Dear Mom On The iPhone” open letter, berating a mom who dares to play on her iPhone while supervising her kids at the park, is one of the most saccharine pieces of sanctimommy drivel I’ve ever seen. My mom used to sit on a bench and read a book while my brother and I played at the park (pre-iPhones), and we grew up just fine. In fact, I think it’s better to let kids enjoy the park/pool/whatever on their own terms, rather than the parent’s terms, because kids are honestly more creative, and they often act out stories, or play complicated “tag” type games, on the equipment, rather than just playing on the equipment “normally.” I know that I used to do that stuff as a kid, but somewhere along the line, I forgot how. I don’t have kids, but I’ve worked with kids a fair bit in my time, and supervised them at playgrounds, and while I might swing on the swings, or do a cartwheel or two, I don’t understand the games they’re playing, and trying to participate would be awkward, so sometimes, supervising passively rather than trying to actively join in, actually gives the kids a better “free play” experience.

  85. SKL July 19, 2014 at 6:17 pm #

    Yes, I’ve seen that “dear mom on the iphone” thing too. Had a discussion about it on another site. Aside from the fact that kids don’t need parents to be up their butt every second, maybe the mom with the iphone is a working mom whose kids wouldn’t be at the park at all if she had to be chained to a computer in an office. I’ve used mine many times to have conference calls for work or nonprofits, monitor emails when a crisis is brewing, etc., while my kids play at the park. I’ve also brought my laptop to the park so I can work while they breathe fresh air. I really don’t give a damn who doesn’t like it.

    In the pool context with preschoolers, it’s a bit more iffy. But I’ve done the laptop thing there, too, once I felt my kids were reliable enough.

  86. SOA July 19, 2014 at 6:53 pm #

    Silver Fang: our closest actual beach is about 10 hours away so pools it is for us. Or the kinda gross fake lakeside beaches around here. I prefer pools.

    I went to a swim birthday party today and they did not allow any floaties or rings and you could only wear their life vests. So we did that. I did see a kid go down a few feet from me. He was on a lazy river tube and flipped over. He did not know how to swim and had no life jacket on. He was floundering and I kinda paused a second before helping him because I was not sure he was not going to recover and the lifeguard was right there. She ended up having to jump in and get him but then handed him to me and he clutched me for dear life while I walked him around the lazy river till I got to the place to get out.

    Then I told him to go get a life jacket and he acted like he was going to put it on but his mom runs over and says he won’t wear it and that is why she wants him to stay out of the lazy river. My brain kinda broke with that logic. So you know your son can’t swim and you were not only not watching him but also did not make him wear a life vest? She had no idea he had even gone under and been saved by the lifeguard. I guess she was wondering why some crazy lady was carrying him around then?

    So yes, apparently some parents are freaking stupid and don’t pay any attention to their kids and make sure they are safe in pools. Which I already knew that. There are always going to be some parents that suck at their job. Let’s be honest.

    But luckily the lifeguard and I were there to save the day. I knew mine could not swim well and made mine wear a life vest and kept an eye on them.

  87. SOA July 19, 2014 at 7:01 pm #

    As far as the mom on the phone thing. Moderation is key as always. I don’t mind a mom chatting poolside or reading a book or taking a nap or playing on her phone. IF she knows her kids can handle themselves. If she is clueless that her kid just went under the water and had to be pulled out by a lifeguard for example in my story above, maybe she should pay a bit more attention.

    I am capable of doing the above things sometimes but I still keep an eye on the kids as far as what they need.

    I have had too many encounters with kids that were throwing sand in other kids faces or stealing my kids toys or harassing me to push them on the swing and their parents are totally unaware this is going on because they are on their phone or running their mouth to someone or reading a book etc. That is not cool.

    So if your kid is being well behaved and safe, ignore them away. Don’t bother me at all. But if they are acting like hellions or doing something unsafe, you need to be paying more attention.

  88. Jen (P.) July 19, 2014 at 8:59 pm #

    “Or is it just the phone that ticks people off, and reading or other activities would be looked on much more favorably? I’m genuinely curious.”

    At the risk of going off topic, I’ll go on record as saying it seems to be the phone that ticks people off – in this situation and others. I doubt the sanctimommies would have their knickers in such a twist over a mom reading a book (despite the fact that she could very well be reading a book on her phone or iPad). Same with a kid playing on a phone in a restaurant vs. reading a book in that scenario. People view it differently when electronics are involved.

  89. Emily (lifeguard) July 19, 2014 at 11:21 pm #

    I mean, my pool says kids *who cannot swim* need a parent in the water. If you kid can swim, then by all means read or stand outside of the water. (Btw, I find it equally obnoxious whether parents are reading, texting, or talking with their back turned. All of those activities mean they aren’t paying due attention). I would be surprised at a pool that says that even kids who can swim need constant supervision, and I agree that that’s too far. (I also think the 1:1 ration is stupid).

    We also do accommodate elderly grandparents or guardians who are otherwise incapable of being in the water with young children; they can simply pull a chair up to the water’s edge and supervise. More than likely, even a physically able mom who is standing on the edge attentively won’t have a problem, or we’ll just ask her to keep her kids in the shallow area.

    Kids who are practicing for the swim test with the parent standing by *in the deep pool* get special allowance to practice, but the parent needs to be right there in case they need help.

    The part with the kid drowning next to the parent: I’ve seen kids pulled out from next to their parents. But after my pool instated the parent-in-the-water-with-kids-who-cant-swim, our rescue rate went down from about 7 per month to 2 per month (or less). That’s not because our standard of protection went down, but because safety went up. We trusted parents to make their own guidelines until a kid went under and ended up with a broken rib from CPR, and we were sued for doing our job (as its the parents responsibility to watch their kids, there was no case).

    Also, at least for my pool, the height requirement for the water slide is set by the manufacturer, and it is state law to follow that guideline.

    Side note to SKL: my question was literal and genuine. It wasn’t meant to judge. I do not understand why moms don’t want to swim with their kids. I mean, kids are great and cute. As a woman, swimming in a pool isn’t a terrible enough ordeal that I mind it. And if you hate swimming…why a pool and not the park/sprinkler?

  90. Emily July 19, 2014 at 11:55 pm #

    @Lifeguard Emily–

    Swimming is great, but sometimes, for whatever reason, you don’t want to do it EVERY DAY, and sometimes, parents don’t want to swim when their kids do. Maybe it’s a bit chilly out, and the pool in question is an outdoor pool. Maybe you just came from the hairdresser, and you want to keep your hair nice for a little while. Maybe you have a headache, or a cold, or an earache, or a sunburn that makes wearing a bathing suit painful, or….any number of things that’d preclude swimming, but not necessarily preclude hanging out on the pool deck. Or, maybe you’ve just been swimming with the kids all week, and you’re sick of swimming now, and you’re at the best part of your book, or you just unlocked a new chapter in Candy Crush Saga. Or, maybe the kids WANT to swim without a parent hovering over them and watching their every move, and since they’re strong swimmers, they don’t need that level of supervision for safety reasons. Anyway, I’m not a parent, but I am a fairly regular swimmer, and even I have times when I can’t swim (like last winter, when I had a horrible cold), or don’t want to swim, or would rather do something else. So, with all that in mind, I don’t think that choosing not to swim with (water-competent) children, is a rejection of said children. Usually, kids who are old enough to be strong swimmers, are also old enough to want and need some independence while playing, and so, a parent on the pool deck of a lifeguarded pool, would be enough supervision for them. Also, I think people are forgetting that the norm used to be for the kids to walk or bike to the pool by themselves, swim, and then walk or bike back home. My mom told me that she started doing this when she was only five or six years old, in the 1950’s, and it was only the toddlers and preschoolers whose parents accompanied them to the pool. So, my point is, when did it become appropriate to treat school-aged kids the way people used to treat toddlers?

  91. SKL July 20, 2014 at 1:36 am #

    “I do not understand why moms don’t want to swim with their kids. I mean, kids are great and cute. As a woman, swimming in a pool isn’t a terrible enough ordeal that I mind it. And if you hate swimming…why a pool and not the park/sprinkler?”

    If you genuinely want to understand, then here ya go.

    – Some women feel fat and ugly in a swimsuit.
    – Some women feel self-conscious about showing that much skin or they don’t want to shave that often or whatever.
    – When you have a skin condition, injury, sunburn, etc., swimming is not such a grand idea.
    – Many women have complicated hair and don’t want to have to mess with it every time their kid goes swimming.
    – Having to help two young kids in the changing room is enough without the mom having to shower and change as well.
    – Standing around in the pool is boring. Playing pool tag gets old. If you have to stay close to a young kid playing in the pool, then you can’t swim, unless you are a midget. Beyond the first few hours of joyous family pool time, it’s a complete waste of time. Might as well get some actual exercise walking, or use your brain reading, or something productive.

    Why the pool instead of the park? Because where I live, the weather is cold and wet for half of the year. The park is a lot less fun than the [indoor] pool. And also, water safety. Letting kids spend time in the pool gets them more comfortable and competent around water. Being able to swim and be safe around water is an important life skill in my opinion. So I work it into my kids’ schedule, but as an adult I’m beyond all that.

    You say you don’t have kids. Check back with me when your kids have been swimmers for a year or so.

  92. Andy July 20, 2014 at 3:48 am #

    “I do not understand why moms don’t want to swim with their kids. I mean, kids are great and cute. As a woman, swimming in a pool isn’t a terrible enough ordeal that I mind it. And if you hate swimming…why a pool and not the park/sprinkler?”

    As far as parent is concerned, swimming in a pool with small kids and sitting in a park/sprinkler is kind of similar thing – except that pool is more tiring. You hang around the water, you are not really swimming nor doing laps nor relaxing in an adult way.

    The pool thing is done for kids sake, it makes big difference for them. They get to swim and exercise and it is awesome for them.

    Contrary of what some seem to think, kids often love doing their own things. Parent is an authority (or should be) and plying with authority is not the same as playing with equals only. When a friend says “knock it off” the kid may or may not stop. When a parent says “knock it off” the kid has to stop or else trouble. It is different.

    Also, many parents spend a lot of time with their kids. The cute great moment you see is less exceptional for them, they vent through exactly same cute moment five times this week and eleven times last week. I’m not even sure it would be healthy for children if parents would be overwhelmed by cuteness on daily basis.

  93. lollipoplover July 20, 2014 at 8:48 am #

    On swimming with kids:

    I love to swim.
    I do laps all the time in the adult lap pool (they only allow kids with an adult). Sometimes I take the kids to do laps too but they’d rather play with their friends at the kids pool.
    See how that works?

    Honestly, that’s why we come to our pool…so the kids can play. Yes, when they were little I did the pool time to teach them floating and encourage them to push themselves underwater. I cringe at the memory of getting my bathing suit top pulled off by my daughter. I also remember with embarrassment my daughter begging me to let her play the “leg game” where she swims underwater between my legs and I make the space smaller and smaller. Her yelling “Your leg whiskers are scratching me!” and announcing to the whole pool that yes, I needed to shave my legs. Ah, good times.

    I always admired and longed to be the mom who could read a good book while the kids entertained themselves in the water. I am that mom now. It’s a dream come true. I’ve read some awesome books so far this summer (just finished the new Jennifer Weiner book, All Fall Down. Very good.)I’ve even had lengthy phone conversations with people I promised to catch up with when things slowed down. I may have taken a short nap last week. But this is summer, don’t I get to relax too??

    I don’t think of my role as their mother to be providing 24/7 security detail and that water is this deadly danger they need 1:1 ratios to stop mass drownings. We are at a public pool, with lifeguards, friends and other parents I know. I actually have confidence that if one of my kids saw someone having trouble in the water, they would intervene to rescue. They are all strong swimmers-it’s a great life skill to teach them. So I will enjoy my book, catch up with some friends, and nod approvingly in the direction of my happy kids. So far, it’s been a great summer!

  94. Donna July 20, 2014 at 9:33 am #

    Emily (lifeguard) – If you were truthfully doing 7 rescues a month (or even 2), there is clearly something wrong with the population you are serving/the lifeguards serving the population that cannot be extrapolated out to the general population. My pool has no regulations and averages a grand total of ZERO rescues a month.

    As for why parents don’t swim with their kids:

    – Kids are far more likely to grab onto mom rather than learning to swim, learning how to get themselves out of trouble and learning how to manage their own limits if mom is right there all the time.
    – Kids actually like to play with other kids, not their mothers 24/7.
    – The adults aren’t actually swimming. They are standing around in a pack of young children (because, again, children like to play with each other) getting sunburned while getting water constantly splashed in the face. It is mind-numbing boring and not particularly pleasant.
    – The first time your child jumps off the side of the pool is great and cute. Long before the 6,000th time (which is likely the same day as the 1st time), it has completely lost the great and cute appeal and is now just rather annoying (because each time they do it if you are really within arms reach, you get splashed in the face).
    – People seem to have a decreasing affinity for playing in the water as they age. I can remember not wanting to get out of the water as a child. Now, while I still enjoy swimming and cooling off, I am not as enamored with it. I’m not going to spend hours doing hand stands and flips any more. I’m happy to jump in, cool off and get right back out again.

    As for why the pool and not the park:

    Ever been to Georgia in the summer? Parks are useless during most of the day. By 11am, it is too hot to exist outside and the playground equipment is too hot to use. Even kids just stand around looking miserable mid-day. The only outside place that is comfortable is near a body of water.

  95. SOA July 20, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    My brain must be broken. I am like the opposite of you parents. The one time I do pay attention to my kids well all day is when we spend that two hours at the pool. At home I ignore them a lot and expect them to entertain themselves. At the pool is when I actually play with them and interact with them the most that entire day.

    After about 2 hours of it I am tired but by then they are typically ready to go home too. I talk to them while we float around. I work with one son on him learning to swim. I play with them a bit. We eat snacks together during adult swim. If I need a break from them I swim down to the deep end and tread water for a bit.

    I love being in the water. It is the only way I can stand being outside in the summer. It is too freaking hot to be outside and not be in water. We don’t go to the playground in the summer here. The slides are so hot it will burn off your skin by about noon around here. Playgrounds are a spring fall thing around here. Winter when it is too cold to play outside we go to indoor play places. Summer is water play.

    So I am not up there reading a book while my kids play because that is too freaking hot. I am in the water because it feels good and I am lazy so that is about the only exercise I am getting. Our pool is not that crowded so I have room to float, tread water, swim around some, etc.

  96. Donna July 20, 2014 at 10:30 am #

    Dolly – I am also frequently in the pool because it is too hot to be out of the pool, but I am not within an arms length of my child … or even in close proximity. She is playing with her friends and I am either swimming or hanging out in the deeper water (away from all the splashing preschoolers) talking to mine. I may race or play with my kid for a little while here and there, but she would rather play with her friends than me most of the time.

    But if none of my friends are at the pool, I do enjoy moving a lounge chair into the shade to read a book or take a nap.

  97. Emily July 20, 2014 at 10:49 am #

    I agree with Donna–I love to swim, but when I go to the pool/beach/whatever, I want to do some proper swimming, and get some exercise. Standing around with screaming, splashing kids isn’t my idea of fun. Also, I’m not wild about this “direct supervision under X age,” thing, because, what if the child learns how to swim well enough to be allowed full access to the pool/swimming area before the magical age of X, despite all of the rules and restrictions that seem to be bent on preventing this? Suppose little Poseidon takes swimming lessons, and is deemed safe to swim in the deep end, and use the diving board, slide, et cetera, at the age of five, or six, but the cut-off age for swimming without an adult within arm’s reach, is seven? That seems like a rather poor incentive–I mean, imagine being that age, and being told, “When you can pass the swimming test and earn your green band, you can swim independently anywhere in the pool,” and then working hard to earn that green band, only to find out that no, you need a parent rightnexttoyou until you’re seven. To a kid that age, that’s an eternity. When I was a kid at summer camp, we used the red, yellow, and green band system, but so many people got green, that we only needed actual bands for those who got red or yellow. This went strictly by swimming ability, and not by age, so it was entirely possible to have younger kids who only needed to be lifeguarded, and older kids who needed to be watched one-on-one. Teasing over swimming ability was strictly forbidden, and anyone who got red or yellow was welcome to retake the test at any time, so the system worked well, and I don’t remember anyone ever drowning.

  98. SKL July 20, 2014 at 11:01 am #

    My city only has an indoor pool, so I don’t have the issue of being too hot/sunny outside of the pool. (Though it does get warm in there, at least there is no glaring sun.) I walk around the pool instead of in it, because I happen to prefer walking, among other reasons. Isn’t it nice that as free adults we get to choose?

    I long for the days when I can leave the pool area all together and go up to the grown-up exercise area or take a yoga class while my kids swim. Maybe this fall, when they start swim team?

    FTR if I had a non-swimmer I would spend some time in the water encouraging her to practice swimming skills.

    Another thing – I have 2 kids so I can tell them to watch out for each other. Part of their swimming classes has included basics of how to help another person in distress. And again, I do look over at them frequently enough to make sure they aren’t doing something stupid. Though now that they are 7 they are getting more responsible. I can see why they made 8 the cutoff age for being alone at the pools when I was a kid. Not that we didn’t have horseplay, but kids do have a little more sense at that age.

  99. Amanda Matthews July 20, 2014 at 11:34 am #

    “I can assure you that there were plenty that did. In fact, our local pool would also let kids as young as 6 in without an adult.”

    I remember going to the pool at 11 without an adult, with my friend who was 10, and at times her younger sister who was 6 – and no adult. And we didn’t watch the 6 year old (she was not allowed to go without a parent until she could swim). Adult swim was not every hour, it was for I think 30 minutes, maybe an hour in the middle of the day, and that would be the point that everyone under 18 would buy lunch. So I really think adult swim was more about getting the kids to stop swimming long enough to buy food from them than anything else.

    Anyway: Rules aside, I just don’t see how it’s physically possible to take a beginner swimmer, a non-swimmer and a baby that can’t even sit up all to the pool by yourself. Swimming can be learned before walking so I don’t doubt that all these kids can learn to swim. But they haven’t yet so I just don’t see how it’s possible, even if she finds a pool or body of water without an adult to child ratio rule.

    I think that this year she should put the kids in swim lessons and/or go swimming only after her partner gets off work. Then next year – when at least 2 of the kids can swim – she can fight the battle, if a battle is necessary, and actually have a chance of winning (“I want to take these 3 kids that CAN SWIM into the pool” is a battle with a chance of winning.)

    As a former lifeguard – and now a parent – I don’t think parents should be required to be in the water with their kids nor that there should be adult to child ratios. I think kids should learn to swim. Once a kid can swim I would have no problem with the parent being on the side of the pool or not there at all. I think it’s more dangerous to assume that the parent to child ratio keeps anyone safe. If I were to go somewhere with a parent to child ratio I would likely take my brother – an adult who can not swim at all and who can’t even stand to put his face in the water. He isn’t going to be saving anyone. And though I wouldn’t task him with watching a child that can’t swim, I would hope lifeguards are just as much on alert as if there were no adult in there with one of my kids (and if lifeguards are saying they aren’t, that’s very distressing to me – just another reason to vote with my money and not go to pools with parent to child ratios).

    “I do not understand why moms don’t want to swim with their kids. I mean, kids are great and cute. As a woman, swimming in a pool isn’t a terrible enough ordeal that I mind it. And if you hate swimming…why a pool and not the park/sprinkler?”

    I want my kids to be able to swim, which is why not the park/sprinkler. I may not like the other kids there – the novelty of their cuteness wears off quickly. Nevermind the fact that if I try to play with/talk to them I get the pedophile stink eye. And I have other things I want and need to do. Swimming all day isn’t fun nor feasible for an adult like it is for a kid. And though I love to swim, many parents don’t but their kids DO – a kid should not be limited by what their parents like to do.

    “Your job is to watch your kids.”

    Nope – as a parent, my job is to parent, not to supervise – I’m not a supervisor. Parenting does mean ensuring they can swim before I let them do so without an adult that can, and that they know the pool rules and will follow them; but it does NOT mean constantly watching them until they are 10/18/whatever age others deem acceptable.

  100. Donna July 20, 2014 at 11:42 am #

    SKL – I can’t speak for all swim teams, but my daughter’s certainly doesn’t expect parents to hang around. In fact, parents are barred from going inside the fence surrounding the pool during practice (it is a chain-link fence so you can watch from outside if you want). And the swim team begins at age 5 and requires nothing more than being able to doggie paddle across the narrow end of the pool to join so has some (a lot really) very new swimmers – none of whom get one-on-one supervision.

  101. Emily July 20, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

    @Amanda Matthews–All good points, but sometimes, “take the kids swimming with your partner, when he or she is available” doesn’t work. The 1:1 adult-to-child supervision ratio rule unfairly punishes single parents with more than one child, parents of more than one child where there is another parent, but he or she is deployed in the military, two parents with opposite work shifts, and all kinds of other “non-traditional” family situations, that mean that, for the majority of the time, there’s only one parent in the picture. For (another) example, I live in Ontario, and there’s a woman I know from the gym whose husband lives in British Columbia. She has a five-year-old and a seven-year-old. One of my colleagues is a straight-up single mother, with a six-year-old and a nine-year-old. Now, the gym that we belong to (and where I teach yoga) has a pool, but it’s an “adult only” gym (different from the YMCA, long story). However, there are plenty of other pools in the area that don’t have the 1:1 supervision rule, and that’s a good thing, because if that rule was in place here, then there’d be a lot of kids who’d hardly ever get to participate in free swim, which would make it harder for them to learn to swim (even with lessons, because a lot of kids and parents use free swim to practice skills learned in lessons), which would directly undermine the goal of true water safety. “Water safety” doesn’t mean having all the kids under a certain age, or swimming level, or both of the above, confined to the shallow end, or immobilized in life jackets, or tethered to an adult, it means actually giving kids the tools to learn to swim.

  102. Stacy July 20, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

    “As far as the mom on the phone thing. Moderation is key as always. I don’t mind a mom chatting poolside or reading a book or taking a nap or playing on her phone. IF she knows her kids can handle themselves. If she is clueless that her kid just went under the water and had to be pulled out by a lifeguard for example in my story above, maybe she should pay a bit more attention.”

    Exactly. Although I do swim and splash around in the water, we spend a lot of time at the pool, sometimes when the water is too chilly for me. (We live in a state where it can be 65 degrees on a summer afternoon.) I sometimes read a book or chat on my flipphone when my six-year-old is in the sand or the very shallow end. I glance over frequently to check on her. I also sometimes swim laps or go down the slides myself, while she watches from the edge. My older kids are good swimmers and do not require supervision, although I have them warn me when they’re going down the plunge slide that can cause even adults problems.

    I only have a problem with moms who are appear to be so addicted to their phones (or napping/reading/etc.) that they are leaving supervision of their young kids totally to the teenage lifeguards when it’s not appropriate for their children’s age or swimming level. Just to cite one example from this summer, I watched a young boy be pulled out by lifeguards. They tracked down his mom, who walked over to sign some forms and went right back to her seat and phone, while he went right back into the deep end. Smartphones seem to create more issues like this because of their addictive nature.

  103. Donna July 20, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

    Amanda Matthews – You can take these 3 kids to the pool by putting the infant either napping in the shade or in a baby float, the nonswimming kamikaze in a life jacket and keeping them all fairly near. Or many other ways that I am sure a parent of 3 young children has thought through. She certainly isn’t going to be playing with her phone in the shade, but more difficult problems have been conquered by parents for generations. I know single mothers with 3 and 4 kids who manage everything just fine all by themselves. Necessity and desire are the mother of invention. Just because someone else can’t imagine it, doesn’t mean that someone who is in the situation can’t do it very easily.

  104. Stacy July 20, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

    “Emily (lifeguard) – If you were truthfully doing 7 rescues a month (or even 2), there is clearly something wrong with the population you are serving/the lifeguards serving the population that cannot be extrapolated out to the general population. My pool has no regulations and averages a grand total of ZERO rescues a month.”

    This may be why I’m more likely to be concerned about total lack of supervision by parents who misjudge their kids’ abilities — We go to the pool often for an hour or two. I witness a rescue on about half our visits. Once, I saw four rescues in one afternoon and only one was questionably necessary. We have a plunge slide that causes teenage boys to need rescuing. My daughter says you have to hold your breath at just the right moment — I’m too much of a wimp to try it. We also have a diving board with no height restriction and a zero-depth entry shallow end that turns too deep for my six-year-old BEFORE the rope marking off the deep end. Part of the problem may also be that we have less than three months of comfortable outdoor swimming weather. Although we’re regulars, some families swim just one day all summer and kids are not aware of their abilities.

  105. SKL July 20, 2014 at 3:10 pm #

    I would be curious to hear how the mom in the OP proposed to do this logistically. I am not saying it can’t be done. I’m a single mom with two kids very close in age, so I know all about the ability of moms to make things happen. But frankly, I would rather wait until the kids are a little older. I just personally don’t see it justifying the trouble. I’d try to arrange opportunities for the older ones to swim, but the baby could wait until a later date.

  106. SOA July 20, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

    I am not always arms length from my kids at the pool for sure. That is stupid. Now if the kids cannot swim and there is no lifeguard present, that is a good policy. At hotel pools I pay way more attention because there is no lifeguard. I still don’t stay arms length though but I am usually right on the side of the pool watching like a hawk or in the pool watching like a hawk.

    With that scenario with the three kids the way to handle that is life jackets or puddle jumpers or something for the older kids and then a little baby float for the infant and then get in there with all of them. See it at my pool every day. All the moms come in with large numbers of kids of various ages and abilities.

    Age is nothing but a number with swimming. Mine are 7 and I see 5 year olds out swim them. It should be more ability based.

    What is a plunge slide? Just a regular pool slide or something different? Just curious?

    If I had to bring their father with them every time we went anywhere we would never get to do anything. My husband works and when he does not work he stays home. He does not like crowds. He is pretty anti social. He hates being outside. He whines a lot if he comes with us. I just leave his butt at home and we go it alone. I am super mom in that regard. So any place that insists me and my kids cannot handle it alone would not be somewhere that gets our business. I am almost always alone with my kids. I also don’t have family nearby that will do that stuff with me every day.

  107. Andy July 20, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

    @SKL It is possible that she wanted to pair with another parent with one kid. Watching two reasonably behaved swimming kids of the same age is possible and so is watching baby and toddler in shallow kiddy pool. It all depends on how exactly the pool looks like. If the kids pool is parent friendly, then you do not need 1:1 ratio of adults and kids.

    That ratio makes all kinds of arrangements impossible. One adult and three kids of those ages seem hard to me, especially since wants the oldest to go to deep water. However, two adults and four kids seem much easier.

  108. Andy July 20, 2014 at 4:22 pm #

    Seven rescues per month seems a lot to me too. There are lakes full of swimming people with no lifeguards at all and we do not see seven deaths per month.

    On the other hand, it never occurred to me to rely on lifeguard with safety of my children in pool. I always took it as primary my job and lifeguard being there as an additional backup if I fail. I treat lifeguarded pools the same way as lakes without guards. If I would watch the kid in lake without guard, then it is probably good idea to watch them in pool with one.

    I mean, they are trained, mean well and all that, but they are human. The pool is big/crowded, drownings silent, lifeguarding boring most of the time (maybe not in 7 actions per month pool, but rates seems to be different here). People drowned in lifeguarded pools too.

  109. SKL July 20, 2014 at 4:23 pm #

    Keep in mind that some pools don’t allow life preservers or floaties (except when used during paid swim lessons). Mine does not. I agree with that policy in general. I assume there are work-arounds for special cases if you ask the staff. Though if the pool has any number of kids in it, I’m not sure I’d feel that secure having my infant floating around in there, regardless of what she’s floating in. Some other kid could tip her over. Besides, I am too cheap to buy a life preserver that is only going to be used for a very limited time. 😛

    In our rec center, it’s all one pool with nothing physically preventing kids from going into the deep end. One half of the pool goes gradually from 0″ to about 3.5′ (?), and the other half goes from there up to about 5.5′. You can ask a compliant 5.5yo swimmer to stay in the shallow side of the pool, but a 3yo “kamikaze” non-swimmer is going to need to be followed around.

    Of course it would be a different deal if there was a really shallow pool separate from the deep water.

    Just curious – is my pool the only one where on-site childcare is available? I believe kids have to be at least 6mo, but then you can leave them up to 2 hours while you do your thing at the rec center. I’ve never used it, but I probably would in the situation described in the OP. (After 2 more mos.)

  110. Donna July 20, 2014 at 5:03 pm #

    I find it very interesting that so many here are constantly saying that parents know best about their children and are insulted when someone dares to question their abilities, but now are all about questioning this woman about how she could possibly manage 3 young children at the pool. My guess is that if she is actively looking for a pool, she actually has a plan.

    While nothing inflatable is allowed in the pool, my pool provides life jackets, noodles, kick boards and even has a couple baby floating things. Babies are in the pool all the time and, even the little kids understand to be careful around them. I’ve seen a few get splashed and not be happy about it, but I’ve yet to see one dumped out even on the busiest of days. There are plenty of parents who somehow manage to juggle older kids and infants at the pool.

    Is this going to be the most optimal experience for learning to swim for any of the children? No. Is it possible to have 3 young children in a pool and have them all cool off and have fun? Absolutely in a pool not mired down by a bunch of stupid rules made by people who think they know better than the parents what the parents can handle.

  111. Donna July 20, 2014 at 5:22 pm #

    SKL – The YMCA has a pool and a babysitting service. I don’t know the rules as I’ve never used it.

    However, the vast majority of kids around here swim in seasonal outdoor, free-standing pools, not multi-faceted rec centers like the Y. Either the several public pools or neighborhood pools or swim clubs or the university pool that I usually use. There is no babysitting at any of those.

    Based on the amount of babies that I see enjoying our pool, I can’t imagine why you would want to shut them out either. I suppose if you were actively wanting to teach an older child to swim, it would make sense, but otherwise, why can’t they splash too?

  112. lollipoplover July 20, 2014 at 6:00 pm #

    Do any pools still do the deep water band test?
    Ours does every day.
    It’s a badge of honor for a kid to pass and wear the band. It lets the lifeguards know the kids who are strong swimmers and limits the slides and deep end to those wearing a band.
    I encouraged my kids to take the band test at the start of every season (starting at age 4) as I want to know that they have the ability to tread water for 3 minutes-an important skill to have in case of emergency- and if they didn’t pass the test, we worked on their stamina so that they did on the second try. They also had to swim 2 laps, one on their back, one on their front.

    I was a lifeguard for 6 years and only had 2 rescues during my *career* at a large public pool. One was a kid wearing floaties when he jumped in and lost one and sank with one arm sticking out. He didn’t even try to swim…just waited there, helplessly. The other was a choking child- the gumball from the bottom of a snow cone. One of the biggest safety issues as a lifeguard is blind spots. Floats (including baby floats) obstruct the view and create shadows that make it hard to see. I cannot for the life of me see why they would be allowed in crowded pools as they are a genuine safety hazard. Teaching kids to swim is one of the most important safety skills we can give them.

  113. SKL July 20, 2014 at 6:04 pm #

    Donna, I wasn’t picking on this lady’s choice, I was just curious. Am I not allowed to be curious?

    As far as why I would use the daycare, I am focused on the whole parent alone with kamikaze non-swimming 3yo. Of course I don’t know this child but the term kamikaze suggests a high need for supervision. Personally, as I’ve mentioned before on this site, I tend to worry about tots around water. Too easy for bad stuff to happen. I personally would not want to take my eyes off that child around deep water until he was either more mature or a swimmer or both. Call me crazy, that’s what I’m comfortable with.

    As for the daycare. The lady said her infant could not even sit up yet. Not old enough to splash except with Mom holding the baby. Personally if I had to choose, I would rather spend the time teaching the 3yo swimming / water safety skills than bouncing a wee infant in the pool. I am also not crazy about the idea of dipping a wee baby in bleach water. Just a personal preference. No judgment on those who would choose differently. The reason I brought up the daycare question was that I was truly curious as to how common it is for this to be an option. Which I think is what I said in the first place. I think it’s nice to have more choices.

  114. SKL July 20, 2014 at 6:19 pm #

    lollipoplover, our pool does not do swim tests as far as I know. Then again, kids usually hang out in the more shallow parts of the pool because it’s more fun (it has squirty/splashing features that kids like). The pool is designed so nobody is ever very far from the side. So the danger to a kid who is tall enough to stand up on the shallow side is pretty minimal.

  115. E July 20, 2014 at 6:48 pm #

    I have’t ready the “mom on the iphone” thing that been referred to, but I think I understand the bias. How often do you see people holding a phone while driving? How often are you behind someone at a traffic light that doesn’t go when the light turns green because they are staring at their phone? How many times have you seen people check out at a grocery store while on the phone? How often have you held a door open for someone at a store and they proceed thru while talking and don’t even bother to make eye contact , let alone say “thanks”?

    Does that mean every Mom at a pool engrossed in her phone is a neglectful parent? Nope. But people do some pretty stupid stuff in the name of spending time with their phones. You can’t really sub a book in for the examples above…but there is something about a phone that has serious draw.

  116. Donna July 20, 2014 at 7:29 pm #

    SKL – Personally, I can’t imagine anything more unpleasant than taking 3 young children to a pool. In fact, I can’t imagine much more unpleasant than taking 3 young children anywhere. There is definitely a reason that I didn’t have 3 children. But I am not everybody and my personal preferences are completely irrelevant to this discussion.

    It does sound very judgmental when you start questioning people and inserting your own personal preferences into a discussion for absolutely no reason. The mother wasn’t asking for opinions as to whether this was a good idea. She clearly wants to do it and was lamenting pool rules.

  117. SKL July 20, 2014 at 7:59 pm #

    Donna, again, I was just curious as to how she planned to do it. What is so terrible about that? Calm down. Remember that I have some experience with logistical baby / toddler difficulties so maybe I find it an interesting subject.

    Everyone posts their personal preferences on this site all the time. Now all of a sudden it’s judgmental and out of place? I thought it was just making conversation. You are in the wrong if you read “I would personally prefer for myself” to equal “everyone else should.” There is plenty of room for individual differences on FRK so I don’t see why I should have to tiptoe around them.

  118. SKL July 20, 2014 at 8:05 pm #

    E, the iphone post that we’re talking about was addressed to a mom at the park, allowing her kids to play while she looked at her phone. Clearly it would be different if the setting was driving down the freeway or even at a pool (depending on the kids’ ages).

  119. Beth July 20, 2014 at 8:13 pm #

    But E, none of those things you mention (cell phone use in the car, rudeness at the grocery store, etc.) were what I was referring to in my original post. I was specifically talking about moms who go to the park with their children-and then get chastised by other mothers for benign neglect while “playing” on her phone. As long as the kids are playing and not causing problems, why should it matter to anyone how she uses her free time?

  120. Beth July 20, 2014 at 8:18 pm #

    Just found this response to the Mom on the Iphone post; I had not seen it before.

    And now I’ve probably officially hijacked this thread…..

  121. Stacy July 20, 2014 at 8:37 pm #

    “What is a plunge slide? Just a regular pool slide or something different? Just curious?”

    We also call it a drop slide. It’s a slide that is nearly vertical and is designed to send the person underwater very quickly in a 13 feet deep area. My husband tried it exactly once. My daughter loves it but says you have to hold your breath at the right moment and not panic when you find yourself underwater and not sure which way is up. They ask kids if they’re good swimmers before they go down, but obviously some overestimate their abilities. Usually rescues just involve pulling out a flailing/panicking kid but there have been some resuscitations over the years.

  122. SOA July 21, 2014 at 1:01 am #

    That plunge slide sounds crazy. Never seen or heard of one of those before. I would try it but probably would not like it. I am off to see if I can find a youtube video of one.

  123. SOA July 21, 2014 at 1:17 am #

    is this a plunge slide like you were talking about?

  124. Stacy July 21, 2014 at 8:46 am #


    is this a plunge slide like you were talking about?”

    Basically yes. Our slide is a little bit longer with a little shorter drop after the slide. My older daughter loved it from the moment she was finally tall enough.

    Re the OP, I don’t think it would be too difficult, absent the crazy rules, to keep the baby in a sling or napping in the stroller at the edge of the pool while mom sits where she can see both bigger kids or wades in to cool off. I’m too used to moms with two, three, even five kids under age seven taking them everywhere.

  125. E July 21, 2014 at 10:11 am #

    @Beth, SKL….right that’s why I specifically used the word “bias”. Because people see other people putting their phones before basic common courtesy and/or safety, they presume people using them are unsafe and discourteous. It’s a human reaction to people exhibiting behaviors we find bothersome…the next time you see someone with their nose into their phones…you might presume it’s one of “those” people.

    I’m not saying it’s right or fair or accurate, I’m just saying that smart phones have created a lot of people that can’t seem to be separated from their phones for more than a few moments. Is there another portable device (book, newspaper, ??) where you observe people so attached to them every single day?

    Sure it’s stereotyping..but that’s why I used the term “bias”.

  126. SOA July 21, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

    Cool I have never seen a plunge slide before or anything like that. It looks fun but definitely for fearless people and good swimmers only. I would probably hold my breath the whole time.

  127. Amanda Matthews July 22, 2014 at 3:40 pm #


    Which is why I said, teach the kids to swim this year, and then fight a battle against ratios next year. Even if she defeat the ratios, she can not physically, safely, take 3 non-swimmers into water that is over their heads. Two maybe, but unless she has 3 arms…

    “I know single mothers with 3 and 4 kids who manage everything just fine all by themselves. ”

    Yep, those magical single mothers who can be in 4 or 5 places at once. They can be at work and at the pool helping their kids keep their heads above water at the same time. @@ I’ve been a single parent. I didn’t have a partner helping me, but I still needed help. No one can raise a kid completely on their own. The help may come from neighbors, friends, paid babysitters etc. if not family or a partner but it comes from somewhere.

    In past generations, they TAUGHT THE KIDS TO SWIM. I don’t understand why anyone is against that.

  128. Emily July 22, 2014 at 4:47 pm #

    @Amanda Matthews–Nobody’s against teaching kids to swim. I’m all for it, and so is the mom in the letter, as she clearly mentions that her five-year-old has been taking swimming lessons. However, swimming lessons don’t work all by themselves; you need independent practice outside of those lessons as well, just like you’d do with, say, piano lessons–except for the minor detail that being bad at the piano doesn’t cause drowning; whereas failing to develop competence in the water can. The 1:1 and within-arms-length rules at ALL the pools in the letter writer’s area make that independent practice impossible for anyone under the age of seven. That takes us back to the title of this thread–the rules are literally “so safe that kids can’t learn to swim,” which impedes true water safety in the long run.

  129. Amanda Matthews July 22, 2014 at 5:23 pm #

    Good lord.

    Take the kids 1 at a time and leave the rest with a babysitter then.

  130. Michelle July 23, 2014 at 12:30 am #

    Hello, All! I’m the friend with the 3 kids that was written about here. I wanted to clarify the problem: at the public pools within a 30min radius of my house, I am not permitted to even pay and enter with my 3 children on my own due to their ages. I was on the East Coast recently and went to two different public pools in two different towns where we entered with no problem. I am happy to play in the water with and near all 3 of my kids (baby loooves the water), but there is a 1:1 to ratio in my city, so I can’t. We can go to the wading pools, but they have a maximum depth of 18″, so obviously neither kids can learn to swim in that or enjoy a pool. Both my older kids are in swim lessons, and the instructors recommend that I have them practice between lessons, but i can’t take them to a pool to practice! I do like the idea of approaching the aquatics instructor at the local Y to see of they have a solution. When i posted on Facebook to see if any of my local friends had an answer, I did find one place 55 mins from my house that, with parking, would cost $26.50 (plus gas!) each time I wanted to go. I found it odd that I can’t take my own kids and supervise them in the pool for recreation. I want them to use the skills they learn in lessons and enjoy the play of unstructured swimming.

  131. Harold K July 24, 2014 at 6:01 pm #

    Can’t you all see it? This is society’s way of limiting the population. One kid, one parent! How stupid is that?

  132. Emily July 24, 2014 at 10:14 pm #

    Another thing that I just thought of now–at all the pools in Michelle (OP’s) area, children have to be within arm’s reach of an adult in the pool until they’re seven years old, regardless of swimming ability. I’ve been reading up about the rules of various pools, and a lot of them have that rule in common, and even go as far as to say that “underage” kids who pass the deep water band test still have to be within arm’s reach of an adult in the deep end. Anyway, with the arm’s-reach-of-an-adult thing in effect until the magical age of seven, I’m sure some kids won’t WANT to let go and swim on their own when they turn seven, because they’ve been indoctrinated all their lives with the idea that swimming is a scary, dangerous thing, that can only be done with Mom, Dad, or another adult RIGHT THERE. That kind of thinking is going to hold them back in swimming lessons, hold them back from enjoying free swim, and kill their confidence, making it harder for them to progress to the higher swimming levels, that teach vital water safety skills, such as swimming longer distances, treading water, swimming with clothes on, and doing rescues. I think the conflicting definitions of “water safety” come down to two basic, but opposing concepts–short-term “water safety” (involving life jackets, excessive adult supervision, and making sure nobody ever goes out of their depth), is based on fear, whereas true water safety (i.e., teaching kids and adults the skills needed to be safe and help others in and around the water, and giving opportunities to practice), is based on empowerment. So, while it may be necessary to have age restrictions, or to do band tests in order to keep kids who can’t swim yet out of the deep end, even the littlest kids, or the lowest band level, should be given some scope to actually learn swimming skills, such as floating unassisted on the back or stomach (impossible in a life jacket), propelling themselves through the water while floating (almost impossible with the “arm’s reach” rule), but more than that, pools should be encouraging parents to bring their kids to swim, so they learn, rather than making rules that make it harder. When that happens, families will just give up on the whole thing, so it becomes harder for the kids to grow up to be water-competent, and it’s also lost revenue for the pool. Nobody wins, except the insurance companies, but not really, because if the pool goes out of business for lack of attendance, there’s nothing left for them to insure.

  133. Dan July 26, 2014 at 9:49 am #

    Here in the UK my local pool has these rules. Anyone under 16 must have an adult present (they don’t have to be in the water and there is no rule for how many kids one adult can supervise)
    For under 5s there needs to be an adult in the pool and I think the ratio is 1:4 but not totally sure

  134. Emily July 26, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

    @Dan–That’s funny, because, as Dolly/SOA wisely said, with water safety and swimming ability, age is just a number. None of the pools I frequented in my youth had a blanket rule of “mandatory adult supervision for anyone under sixteen,” and even if they did, it’d be kind of ironic, because you don’t magically become a competent swimmer on your eighteenth birthday. I was a better swimmer than my dad by the time I was twelve or so, and I got my Bronze Medallion at thirteen, my Bronze Cross at fourteen, and I once had to save my brother from drowning in the middle of the lake at the cottage when he was having chest pains while swimming (I was also fourteen when that happened–sometime in between Bronze Medallion and Bronze Cross). Anyway, after that incident, the family rule shifted from “Kids can’t swim without adult supervision” to “Male family members can’t swim without female supervision,” because my mom and I are strong swimmers, but my dad and my brother aren’t. So, under your pool’s rules, if my family decided to go swimming there when I was a kid/young teenager, I would have likely been cast in a “supervisory” role for my dad and my brother, despite the age restrictions.

  135. Beth July 29, 2014 at 10:00 pm #

    I agree that pool rules should take individual abilities into account rather than strict age rules regarding PFDs. I will say, however, that I disagree somewhat with the assumption that because (obviously) parents don’t want their kids to drown they will supervise them adequately. Drowning is a particular phenomenon about which many people have assumptions that are seriously flawed. The result of this is that roughly one-half of young children who drown do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. Approximately one-fifth of children who drown do so at a pool with lifeguards on duty. I volunteer on our community HOA board, and was strongly in favor of recommending that any child who did not pass a swim test at our guarded pool (swimming across the shallow end, in a horizontal position and unassisted, and jumping in and swimming back to the side unassisted) be considered a “non-swimmer” and either have an adult nearby in the water with him/her or wear a PFD. I agree that a 1:1 ratio is unrealistic for many families; by the same token, parents or babysitters sitting on lounge chairs reading or chatting while their non-swimmers struggle to keep their heads above water is an accident waiting to happen. So many worries really are overblown – a young child drowning is not one of them, IMO. Lifeguards simply cannot watch each child at a busy pool and know his/her swimming abilities well enough to prevent the silent tragedy of drowning. Former lifeguard speaking, maybe showing my weak spot when it comes to worry-free parenting. 🙂 I am oh so careful at the pool with my little ones.