Cabin Stories II

We had lots of things to keep us busy that summer. There was a lake nearby where Mom would take us to swim on hot days. That meant getting 5 of us changed into swim suits, finding the swim toys, towels, and sunscreen and packing a chair for Mom. We would make sandwiches and Kool-Aide to take with us so we could make a day of it.

We loved going to the lake. There was a dock to jump off, lots of beach and the water was every temperature from cool and shaded to shallow and warm. There were other kids to play with, new games to invent and places to explore.

The lake life guard wasn't so glad to see us after the first few visits, sad to say. My little brother was most of the reason she dropped into a football blocker stance when she saw the car pull up.

I was a typical eldest helper girl. When we got there the other kids would break and run for the water but I would help Mom get the towels and such to the beach. I was supposed to keep an eye on all of them, as would Mom, but they were pretty quick.

Aboy would launch for the dock the minute the car door opened. He would run as fast as his short legs could go and shoot down the length of the dock to fly into the lake. This was acceptable behavior from most kids just getting out of a car after a long, hot ride. His problems were that he was just a little, skinny two-ish year old with no hips that couldn't swim.

Mom would turn from the trunk with an armload of beach paraphernalia to see Aboy's butt hanging in the breeze as his trucks shimmied to the ground while he ran. No problem there, he just stepped out of them and kept going. He was too far for her to catch now, even if she could try to reach speed by dropping all the stuff in her arms.

We both watched in resignation as he raced on down the board dock, passing laughing people all the way. There was no hesitation at the end of the wooden walk, he just kept running right into the air until gravity modestly covered him with water. Completely. The child sank like a rock!

The first few times this happened the life guard jumped right in after him and fished him out. He looked like a spastic frog, rubbing at his eyes, blinking, gasping for breath and crying. She brought him back to Mom, picking up his suit on the way, and depositing the crying child in her arms with his suit on his tummy.

The life guard would say something like, "I can see he is a quick one, you might want to watch him a little closer," while Mom shrank under all the "bad mother" thoughts that were being flung at her from every side of the beach that had seen the event. Not to mention her own thoughts of incompetence.

About our fourth time to the lake we had the problem solved. Mom put a draw string in the swim trunks and would tie them on tight before we left. Then, about a mile from the lake, she would have me put the new floats they came out with that little kids could wear on their arms on Aboy.

When the doors opened on the car I saw the life guard get down out of her stand and head toward the dock. Aboy achieved his usual rocket speed and went for the water. His little head was down and his arms were rocking from side to side but bent at the elbow to hold his floaties on.

The life guard stopped in shock. Aboy's suit stayed on, he cleared the end of the dock and jumped. His head popped up like a cork. He shook the water off his face and crowed his success then started "swimming" in a circle.

Mom and I carried the chair and towels to the beach and put them down in the shade. She dropped her beach robe on the chair, waded into the water and went to tow Aboy back to the shallow part of the lake in front of our stuff.

Now do take note here - While Aboy did get scolded for running off the dock, reminded the water was deep and he couldn't swim during the first dunkings, Mom didn't expect this to change anything.

We girls were all bigger, stronger, faster and more experienced than he was and this always caused a problem for him. He'd do anything to keep up with us! Mom didn't try to stop him from keeping up his way, she found a way to make his way work without getting him killed.

There were no laws enacted that made all children under 5 feet tall stay off the dock or anyone under three wear flotation vests at the lake. We were never barred from the beach. People expected kids to do dumb stuff and hired trained life guards to pull them out and do CPR on them. How else are they going to expand their abilities and become self confident adults?

There were kids who didn't grow up with me, they drowned, fell on the dock or dived and broke their necks, or had other accidents. Those of us that survived were able to deal with life better for our learning experiences. Maybe we weren't the fittest, but we learned to LEARN.

We learned wet docks are slippery, you should walk on them carefully, we learned to swim better, we learned that even keeping a three point stance in a tree you can fall on your butt, that your best isn't always good enough, that bad things happen sometimes for no reason. That a buddy system is best because usually one can run for help or a rope or tree branch to pull you back in with.

You can't keep everyone safe all the time, the system isn't built to accommodate it. It's supposed to be challenging to grow up so you have adults that know how to survive the variety of situations life throws at them.

Take your, "no riding in the back of an open pick up", seatbelt and helmet laws and shove 'em.

And, just to let you know I am not unaffected by the accidents of life, I will give you a heads up. Aboy did NOT grow up with us all the way. We lost him when he was 12. That story comes later.

I still believe we must have the option to experience life in the way we choose, not be legislated into being safe every minute of every day.

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