Fear of Drowning: My Unrelenting Parenting Anxiety

Sheri Reed
toddler, pool, safety, parent worry, anxiety

Photo by cafemama

When my oldest son was three years old, he jumped into the deep end of a swimming pool behind an older cousin. He did not know how to swim.

There were several adults around (including me), and he was yanked out in minutes, if not seconds (by me). However, since that day, I have unrelenting pool and drowning fears, complete with heart palpitations and palm-sweating anxiety.

When my unable-to-swim toddler jumped into the pool that day, I don't know what it was exactly that gave me the post-traumatic stress from which I still suffer when we're around pools — a) the disbelief that my child had jumped fearlessly and without thought into the deep pool, b) the fact that I didn't see it happen, or c) how his life flashed before my eyes.

More than anything, I think it was the powerlessness behind all of the above. It was the first tangible moment in which I was struck with my complete powerlessness as a parent. It was the second I realized without a doubt that a) I cannot control the actions of my child, b) even when present, I cannot protect my child from every danger in the midst, and c) my child could die.

Since then, my son has had swimming lessons every summer, but we still hadn't gotten to any level of real comfort when it came to swimming pool safety. I still fret every time we're invited to a party or event poolside. Thankfully, this is the first year he is actually swimming and, I think, pool safe, meaning he could swim to the side if he fell in. It feels so good to see him swimming across the pool almost entirely without assistance. It gives me great relief.

Unfortunately, the anxiety hasn't gone anywhere. When he or his little brother are in the pool, even with several adults, I still can't seem to shake the unreasonable fear. What I'm afraid of, though, is it's not really a fear of drowning. It's a fear my child's mortality, covered up by a fear of drowning.

I know there's nothing a mother can do about that fear, but I'm working on taming it down and loosening up a little around pools. I mean, obviously, fear is a real and necessary feeling. It's what keeps us safe. However, this kind is intrusive and possibly even unhealthy for my son to be around. How's he supposed to get comfortable in the pool with me cringing alongside it? So, yeah, I'm working on it. Some days are better than others.

Do you have any unreasonable parenting fears? Things you're incredibly fearful about even if they're not even truly that dangerous to your toddler?

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