More Adults…Less Safe

June 21st, 2014

Most of the time, my blog posts are pretty light-hearted, but something kind of scary happened today so I’m posting this as a Public Service Announcement for my fellow parents.

Be careful in group settings when you’re with your kids.  I am increasingly convinced that the more adults are present in any particular situation, the less safe it is for young kids.

It seems like it should be the opposite.  More grown-ups = more eyes to watch kids, right?


The truth is that when we’re in groups, we grown-ups tend to socialize.  We chat with each other and our attention wanders.  Each person also “shares” some of their mental kid-watching energy with the other adults, as we each assume that the others are also “on duty.”  The result is that we actually wind up paying LESS attention to our kids when there are more adults around.

We’re in West Virginia, celebrating the marriage of Josh’s youngest sister.  We all took a trip to New River Gorge and went wading in the river.  There were fourteen adults, two teens, and five young children all milling around on the shore.


None of the fourteen adults noticed when Buggie got into trouble in the water.  It was an unrelated guy in a kayak who pointed out that he was in distress.

Buggie had splashed out too deep and lost his footing.  He cannot swim yet on his own and was struggling to keep his head up.  He wasn’t calling for help, but his eyes were scared and he spluttered for quite a while, clinging to my chest after I grabbed him.  (And if you haven’t read the Super Scary Article about what drowning looks like in young children, take a moment to do so!)  I am absolutely convinced that he’d have gone under in another couple seconds.

How did no one see that?

It’s pretty easy, really.  I was in the water, just a couple feet from Buggie…but I was preoccupied with handing a thoroughly wet Little Bird out to her daddy to dry off.  He was focused on drying her.  Other adults were holding other kids, talking to white water rafters, chatting with each other, and taking pictures of the scenery.

In the midst of it, Buggie was in danger.

I’ve seen this happen before.  A couple years ago, we had friends over at our house.  In the midst of a room full of adults, their toddler son walked across the room and fell down the stairs.  He just marched across the room and through the open baby gate, then tumbled down.  No one recognized the danger until he was already falling.

Grown-ups get distracted when their sole focus isn’t on child-watching.  When you’re hanging out with a group, consider designating an adult to be in charge of kid-watching.  Or a couple adults if there are a lot of kids!  Officially – or at least verbally! – designating someone as responsible for keeping an eye out for danger can make a big difference.


3 responses to “More Adults…Less Safe”

  1. Jenny Tomkins says:

    Kate, that is SO true. I am very aware of the drowning thing. We have a pool at home here and I have said “no” to children under 5 precisely for that reason; as you know, it happens in an instant. Thank goodness Buggie is safe.

  2. Papu says:

    From my position on the shore, even when the stranger called out that there was a problem, it really wasn’t clear to me that Buggie was in distress. There seems to be no substitute for direct responsibility for supervising specific kiddos, regardless of the crowd.

  3. Cindi Frye says:

    Wow, how scary. The fact that he’s ok is tribute to God’s goodness. SO happy for all. Hugs.

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