I became a father last year. In between the debates about proper discipline, bed times, and circumcision pros and cons, my wife and I agreed on one thing: Our son will learn how to swim, and soon.
It amazes me how parents who will take the time to teach a kid how to ride a bike or throw a football will not insist on swim lessons. You see, it is highly unlikely that one’s life will depend upon the ability to fly a kite or bake a perfect cookie or any of the other skills that parents often deem essential.
But knowing how to stay afloat is crucial. For grim evidence, I refer to a recent story out of Oregon. Four members of a Latino family — representing three generations — drowned in a single accident. None of the family members knew how to swim.
While extreme in its heartbreaking intensity, the tragedy is not an isolated incident. Many Hispanics do not have access to water-safety classes, equipment, and other resources that will keep them safe in the water. And too many Latino parents view swimming as a luxury, or as unimportant to daily living, or as something that white kids in suburbs do.
But keep this in mind: Children, in particular those who cannot swim, face a higher risk of drowning. And only about 40 percent of Latino children can swim, compared to about 60 percent of white children.
Many of my family members cannot swim and/or are actively terrified of the water. I taught myself how to swim when I was a kid, because I loved jumping into lakes so much (it was a phase). But let’s face it, taking swimming lessons is better.
In the Oregon town where the tragedy occurred, local officials are reaching out to the Latino community to emphasize the importance of water safety. And a nearby facility will host family swim lessons, offering financial assistance for those who need it.
So when summer comes around again, do yourself and your kids a favor. Hit the water and dog-paddle for all you are worth.