By Mike Willis
From the day that I found out that I was going to be a father, I immediately began imagining all of the ways that I would help my little man-cub explore the world. Like many new fathers, I was eager for him to experience his first adventures of the many to come.
I will never forget how long it seemed to take for him to come “of age” to tag along on a fishing trip. After three grueling years, the only thing that he had caught was a cold. So, like any impatient parent, I began pushing the limits.
In the picture above, you can see my son at a local pond. It was a perfect day for fishing, and I was a proud dad. As much as I love that picture, it still almost brings tears to my eyes as I reflect upon what happened moments after it was taken.
Like most young boys, my son became a little restless. He wanted to try fishing in another spot. I watched him bounce with excitement as he circled the water’s perimeter. I was lagging behind as I carried our fishing gear and shouted the usual “don’t get too close.”
As you may be guessing, that is when my worst dreams came true. He stepped a little too close to a steep embankment and plunged face-first into the cold northwest water. I don’t even remember ditching my gear as I raced towards my son, who was now bobbing face down in the pond. I was terrorized by the fear of realizing that I had failed to protect him.
In the mere seconds it took to run to him, my mind raced through the lifetime’s worth of lessons all warning to never let kids near water without a life jacket. My ignorant pride allowed me to believe that I was somehow raising my boy to be tough by not “coddling” him every step of the way.
I was panic-stricken as I watched my tough little boy frantically fighting to get his head out of the water. As I leapt off of the embankment, I landed about waist deep and yanked him up by his shirt into my arms.
I will never forget the terrifying sight of his big eyes full of fear. I immediately laid him over my arm and thumped him on his back. After the second or third blow, he coughed up the water and began crying hysterically.
I thanked God for not allowing my son to fall victim to my stupidity, and I began to sprint for the truck. The water was cold, and I knew that he needed a change of clothes.
Once I got him changed into anything and everything that I could find, I ran the truck’s heat wide open, trying to head off any onset of hypothermia. I was torn between wanting to hold him to comfort him and wanting to run him to the hospital. He appeared fine, but I was too freaked out not to have someone tell me that he was okay.
While my son’s fear faded and my panic subsided, I was suddenly hit with an overwhelming wave of exhaustion. My arms and legs felt as though they were filled with sand.
The drive took about 30 minutes, and we arrived at the urgent care facility. After a quick checkup from the doctor, I was finally put at ease and told that everything was going to be alright. I think that the doctor could see on my face that I had learned my lesson because he graciously spared me the crappy parent speech.
While I still have trouble talking about what happened that day, I hope that I may be able to encourage a new parent to avoid this terrible mistake. I hope that this story may serve as a reminder to ALWAYS put life jackets on your kids when they are near water.
This preventable accident happened unbelievably fast and risked everything. So, if you are as impatient as I am and feel the need to push the limits with your little boy or girl, take the necessary precautions.
When making memories, be sure to make good ones!