Sometimes Silence is the Scariest Sound

Are you CPR and First-Aid Certified?

The children were squealing in delight as they arrived at our beach rental home, which included an in-ground swimming pool in the backyard. Four families with 10 children combined had waited for this day since booking the vacation home nearly six months ago (read Vacationing Family Style). We didn’t realize that within 10 minutes of arriving, we would be rattled by a heart-skipping experience.

As each family arrived the children quickly changed into their bathing suits and put on their floatees to jump in the swimming pool. An adult was in the pool with the children and the rest of the parents were standing on the side chatting ironically enough about safety precautions for the pool.

The last family arrived with two children in-tow – a 15-month-old and a three-year-old with an adventurous spirit. They opened the heavy gate to the pool and the Mom, who had the 15-month-old in her arms, immediately joined the conversation about safety measures for the pool, while the Dad parked the car. I happened to look down at that moment and noticed the three-year-old in the water. His head was submerged and he was moving his hands and feet in a doggy paddle motion. No one had seen him enter the pool. He didn’t make a splash or yell. He was silent, but moving. I called his name and jumped-in to pull him out of the water. He coughed a little and then grabbed for his mother without so much as a whimper.

No one was hurt, but we were all shaken. He had simply walked into the pool without hesitation. The excitement of seeing his friends in the swimming pool was too much for him. It didn’t matter to him that he couldn’t swim or the water was over his head.

The scary part was that this happened in the presence of more than five adults and no one saw him enter the water. The incident lasted less than a minute, but will be ingrained in the minds of the parents forever.

It was a warning and a wake-up call about the importance of not only water safety, but safety in general. Later on in the evening, the three-year-old’s mother and I talked about the incident and she confided in me as to how helpless a feeling it was to watch her son in that moment. She told me how unprepared she felt and said that all parents should take CPR as a requirement for giving birth.

And she is right. All parents and caregivers should be current in their CPR training. As a child care provider I receive CPR and First Aid training each year, but I still fear (as most people do) being placed in that situation. My only hope is that my training is so ingrained that instinct would take over and I would know without hesitation what to do in a moment of crisis. But, without proper training, what would most people do? Freeze? Call out for help to someone else?

After this close call, I feel a need to preach a little and encourage all parents and caregivers to take a few hours out of their schedule to learn CPR and First-Aid.

We were lucky that the incident was nothing more than a warning about what could happen. The three-year-old was back to splashing and playing in the water with his floatees on and under the watchful eyes of everyone that very afternoon. Are you willing to wait until the real thing happens to your child before getting prepared?

One local mother of five and nurse specializing in infection prevention and life safety, started a business called All Heart CPR Training. She offers many opportunities for parents to get the training they need. I personally love the CPR socials she throws. Mom groups and people throwing baby showers have been turning to her for unique and engaging ways to incorporate the training needed to save a life. Perhaps this could be your next idea for a “Girls Night In.”

Also, please read “Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning.” It is the most important thing I have ever read regarding water safety because it highlights the misperceptions people may have about what drowning looks like.

Do you know what to do in a crisis? Are you CPR and/or First Aid certified? Please join the discussion on the Tiny Steps Mommy Facebook page.


Nicole Dash is a writer, blogger and business owner who lives in the suburbs outside Washington, DC with her husband and four children. She started her career as a journalist and copy editor. She also managed public relations and corporate communications for a national franchise company, but in 2006 started a child care business. In 2012, she launched Tiny Steps Mommy, a lifestyle and parenting blog that quickly gained a following and connected her to an expansive group of women-owned businesses. In 2013, she started a digital marketing consulting business that focused on growing community in an authentic way. Through those connections she was inspired to open Play, Work or Dash, a coworking space that also offers onsite childcare up to three hours per day. It is where like-minded professionals pursue their business goals with the extra level of support parents desire; a place where you "bring your kids to work." She is an active member of the Washington, DC blogger community. She has been published on The Washington Post, Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Mamalode and Pop Sugar.




  1. I can relate to this. When Jack was about 4 he took a swim class at the rec center and afterwards we usually stayed to play in the water for a bit. I was sitting outside the pool since I did not have a bathing suit on when I noticed that he was underwater. He was in water he could stand in but somehow became submerged and could not figure out how to right himself and was kicking and paddling much like what you described. My heart leaped into my throat and I was about to jump fully clothed into the water when he finally figured out which was was up and lifted his head out of the water, coughing and crying. What an awful, helpless feeling I remember having. I became hyper-vigilant after that day and it wasn’t until my kids joined the swim team and became highly proficient swimmers that I finally felt comfortable taking my eyes away from them for more than a few seconds. Thanks for writing this and I’ll be sure to share it with others to spread the word.

  2. I am so sorry you had this experience and so happy it turned out ok and grateful you shared. Drowning has always been the fear, as a mother, that makes me wake up in the middle of the night. We too vacation family style and with pools out back and I can tell you that the stress level is almost not worth it! I realize that the lack of routine and novelty is such a hazard.

  3. Happy all turned out well for everyone, we had a similiar thing happen to us, we were at my brothers house in the Hamptons, sitting around the deck which goes completly around the inground pool. There must have been about 10 adults some in the pool some out on the deck, all of a sudden my sister-in-law screams, we saw my little 3 year old nephew had stepped off the side into the pool, feet down…. my brother had reached in and actually grabbed him by the hair, thankfully he had long hair. My brother was thankfully close by, the whole point is we were 10 adults and didnt see or hear anything.. very scary. Iam CPR certified and was at that the time but I dont want to every use it.

  4. I am very happy that the 3 year old is ok. This fear a parent has is universal. It doesnt matter where you come from, great parents want to keep the little ones as safe as possible. I worry everyday that a parent will have to experiance that hopelessness. I felt it before, and there is no other fear and regret like it.