It feels like the last truly summery day of summer and I suggest a post-dinner trip to the aquatic center. Once we arrive, it’s clear that every other family within a 20-mile radius has had the same idea: the kiddie pool teems with froth and squeals, splashes and shrieks.

Most of the parents lounge poolside, chatting with one another while their older children attack each other in the water. JB and I reluctantly submerge ourselves and settle into the task of keeping an eye on Dylan while ducking flying water toys, thrashing kicks, and careening inflatables.

Everywhere I look there is a wet blonde head, churning movement, a flash of goofily-colored swim trunks. Riley calls from a few feet away to look at him, look at him. I wipe stinging chlorine from my eyes after a little girl practices her kicking next to me. Dylan is giggling and bouncing around and sometimes he slips off his feet but catches himself, flailing back upwards.

Then, suddenly, he falls and can’t push himself up. He is, for a brief and utterly horrifying moment, immobile: his legs dangling down and slightly behind him, his upper body floating, his face in the water.

In Suzanne Finnamore’s Otherwise Engaged, she refers to what her friend Jill calls a Grand Klong: a sudden rush of shit to the heart. “A Grand Klong is when you look in your rearview mirror and you see the police car.”

Your child, floating facedown in a pool, is most definitely a Grand Klong.

I scramble to my feet, scraping against the concrete steps and peeling a strip of skin off my back, and yank Dylan up and out. He splutters and briefly rubs a fist against his eye, then laughs and squirms, eager to get back down.

He’s off again, happy and upright, and I’m sagged against the side of the pool, chest hammering. I shake my head at JB, who looks back at me and grimly nods. Parenthood. Jesus.

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Mimi
13 years ago

That’s happened to both of my boys before. And it happens so fast. Terrifying.

Molly
Molly
13 years ago

Makes my heart race. A couple weeks ago I saw my 2 year old step off the pool steps he was playing on…and those couple seconds before I got to him to put him back on the step felt like an eternity. But then I think about all the ‘risky’ things we used to do as kids and wow – my mom must have had so many of those moments!

Erin
Erin
13 years ago

I have been woken up at night from a deep sleep with a feeling of terror that my son is drowning. I had a similar experience this summer at a beach where my 2 year old was about waist deep when he fell face first. I watched everything go down and ran into the water to pull him out. He was under for maybe 5 seconds but I can’t get the image of my baby floating face down and inch worming in a panicked swim-type movement out of my head. My heart is pounding again just thinking about it. I don’t think I will ever forget that moment on a beach in June for as long as I live.

samantha jo Campen
13 years ago

Thinking about any child, especially mine, floating face down like that makes me want to vomit.

Kristen
13 years ago

I had one of those back when my daughter was 10 months old and she was on my bed. She rolled one way when I was on the other side, folding laundry and I caught her by her ankle before she hit the hardwood floor head first. She laughed. I had a heart attack.

Pete
Pete
13 years ago

I oldest was riding his ATC by a drainage ditch full of water when it slid in an rolled on top of him. I had that ‘Grand Klong’ moment when I ran and jumped in to pull the bike off of him and get him out. I didn’t notice until he was out that I had put a nail through my foot when I jumped in. I was proud he got back on the bike and rode home.

Lena
13 years ago

Ah, the (f-ing scary) moments that define parenthood. I recently wrote about my own Grand Klong moment: http://www.taooftwins.com/2010/06/mothers-intuition.html

Emily
Emily
13 years ago

That happened to my 2 year old a few weeks ago…I felt like I was moving in slow motion as I reached down to pull her up. She was underwater 5 seconds tops. Nothing more terrifying in the world.

Mika
Mika
13 years ago

Yup, happened to my daughter right around the same age. And it’s so fast! I was there within seconds but I felt like I aged a year. More frightening to me, it’s so quiet. This article has great advice on what drowning really looks like (hint: there’s no huge splashing, waving arms or cries for help). http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/196538.php
Grand Kong indeed! Great term.

Guinness74
13 years ago

My daughter’s just over 15 months now and I’ve arrived too late after she tumbled off the edge of the bed and my wife caught her by the head as she came off the changing table in her room. I think this is just standard for parenting…we do everything we can to make sure they’re safe and in the wake of that all it takes is a split second. It’s heart-wrenching…and now I need to make a call to my mother for staying out late at night when I was in high school.

Jessica V
13 years ago

Oh! I know that feeling all too well…last summer my 4 year old drifted into water that was too deep, while my head was turned for just a moment. I looked up when a friend started stammering that something was wrong, to see that he was totally submerged with just his fingers sticking out of the water. He was under for maybe 3 seconds total, but it took years off my life.

This summer, we are using it as a safety learning experience…”remember when I sank Mommy?”

Oye.

Glad your little guy is ok.

Stephanie
Stephanie
13 years ago

OK..I had the same thing happen two days ago. Now I’m looking into a puddle jumpers swim vest. They look awesome. Check out amazon.com

Janet
Janet
13 years ago

let me tell you a story about the time I had to knock my (then 2 year old daughter) off her feet with my purse to keep her from running out into a (busy) street after a balloon. We were at a birthday party and one of the balloons broke free from the table decorations…my daughter took of running after it and before I knew what was happening she was about 20 paces ahead of me at a full run. I knew I was not going to be able to catch her before she darted out between parked cars to into the street. All I could do was pitch my purse at her like a bowling ball and hope to knock her down long enough to be able to catch her…PHEW, that was a GRAND KLONG moment. She’s 21 years old now…

Lisa May
13 years ago

I’m having small heart attacks reading all of the comments here. And remembering the time my 12 month old daughter slipped under in the bathtub. I was right there and had her up in a second or so, but I saw (and can still see) her terrified expression while she was under water. It makes me grip her a little tighter whenever we’re at the pool.

Janet – I’m so impressed you thought to knock your daughter down. Smart. Moments like that and Pete’s ability to lift an ATV while impaling his foot on a nail put me in awe of the raw power of adrenaline and fear we parents live on just about every day.

Lisa
Lisa
13 years ago

Yep. Been there. Holy hell, it’s a terrifying mili-second…

New Momma
New Momma
13 years ago

Hi!

I am a first time (young) mom of a 10 month old baby girl. I pretty much have spent the last almost year trying to balance parenthood, loving a little person so much I want to rip my own heart out, and being a ‘normal’ person. I love all things mommy related and I don’t even know if you read these comments but I just want you to know that I appreciate the sense of humor you bring to what could otherwise be a very depressing lifestyle (parenthood). Thank you for what you share, and Rock on Momma!

katie.
13 years ago

holy hell. that happened to us at the beach a couple weeks ago and i could not MOVE. i saw it happen and started yelling but could not move my body to get up and grab her. it’s still haunting me. why didn’t i get up???

Anne
Anne
13 years ago

God…this is really salient to me right now because one of my daughter’s friends at daycare drowned earlier this month in a relative’s pool while the family was on vacation. It was a complete accident, but of course that is no comfort to his parents…

Since I heard that news, I’ve been trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy–I know I can’t wrap my kids in cotton wool, but god, how I would love to…

Redbecca
Redbecca
13 years ago

I know that moment. Ugh! It was so bad the last time (fell down carpeted steps – I was behind him so I couldn’t do anything until he stopped otherwise I might step on him) I had to sit down afterwards and shake for about 5 minutes. Jebus! Parenthood, indeed.

Caroline
Caroline
13 years ago

My turn.

My son, then 3 years old, and I were spending an afternoon in San Francisco near the Pier. There is wide sidewalk with these large square concrete blocks. Essentially, great fun to climb up and jump down. So we’re walking along, I’m a few steps ahead of him, he’s climbing up and down, up and down. During this time my son was in LOVE with Thomas the Train. At some point one of the SF street cars came by and I heard him say “TRAIN!” when I turned around he was in the middle of the street walking toward the street car. Lump in throat, stomach dropped to feet, heart stopped beating….

Jamie
13 years ago

I like to call this the SYP moment – as in “shit your pants.” I had one with my nephew a year or two back, and seriously think I aged about 5 years in that 30 seconds. And it wasn’t even my child! Gah.

Suzanne
13 years ago

Almost the same thing happened to me a few weeks ago, in a fucking inflatable kiddie pool. I looked up for one second and BAM, my 15 month old is face down in a foot of water, not moving. I pulled him up and he was totally unfazed – apparently kids come with enough natural survival instinct that they hold their breath when they go under – but I had to go change my pants.

MRW
MRW
13 years ago

Oh Jesus, those moments. I never appreciated just how much adrenalin a body can produce in an instant before I had kids and how hard it would be to pull myself together afterwards. Probably should call my mom and apologize to her for my teen years now…

jonniker
13 years ago

That is definitely a grand klong. And I love that you use it. Petite klong is a part of our couples lexicon, along with my pregnancy, which was always referred to as The Time of Real Butter.

Oh, Suzanne Finnamore. I love you.

Joe
Joe
13 years ago

About a month ago after dinner, our kids raced outside to join their friends in the cul-de-sac. What I didn’t know is that the neighbors had a visitor with a great big German Shepard not on a leash. The noise from my 3.5 year old son’s toy lawnmower must have freaked the dog out, and it went after my boy. I was a hundreed feet away and helpless watching from the doorway.

The dog came within a foot of my son’s face, teeth bared and barking. I don’t know what stopped it from an all out attack. We think the fact that he didn’t run saved him. You can’t get there fast enough.

He shook for a good half hour after that.
A month later and he still can’t be around a dog unless we’re holding him.

And all the owner said was… “She’s never done that before.”

Gena
Gena
13 years ago

Yes, Parenthood. Jesus. Amen. It is somewhat terrifying all the time.

I’m glad all is okay.

H
H
13 years ago

You know what happens to me during a Grand Klong? Grand Freeze Up. You don’t even want to know how many times I’ve been involved in serious and scary incidents and all I could do was panic. Kudos to you for being able to act!

mommymagic
mommymagic
13 years ago

Before kids I would freeze anytime something would happen that required immediate action. That has all changed post kids.

My 2 year old stepped off the step at the pool and he was fully under for a few seconds max. Definite Grand Klong

Amanda
13 years ago

Reading these comments makes my heart pound recalling my own moment, like yours, at a swimming pool with my then 18 months old.

I saw her face down in the kiddie pool from about 20 feet away, and literally flew, leaping over other kids, nearly walking on water to yank her up. It was like time stood still and life was in slow-mo, but I was in fast foward.

I sort of felt like I moved like Twilight vampire!

Kelsey
13 years ago

That happened to us this summer, IN LAKE MICHIGAN. I looked up to realize my husband had his back turned to my son (who is only slightly younger than Dylan) who was entirely under the water! It felt like several minutes (which was probably only 1.3 seconds) that I was watching waves roll over his head.

Grand Klong indeed.

Glad everyone is okay.

Em
Em
13 years ago

I too am having small heart attacks with each comment I read. I find it helps to imagine the Indiana Jones theme music while I read them though.

My most memorable Grand Klong was also in a pool where I was alone with my 4 year old (at the time) and my 2 year old on my hip. The four year old could reach. The water was about chest high and she bounced around on her tippy toes until she bounced to where the slope to the deep end started. Then she couldn’t reach anymore and she couldn’t swim. So she very quietly bounced, panicked (mad blinking, gasping, searching), breathed, submerged, bounced, panicked, breathed, submerged until I could get to her while still hanging onto the 2 year old who could neither reach NOR swim. It took about 5-10 seconds but it felt like running in water (because it was).

Even Indiana Jones can’t help me remember that without holding my own breath.

Mama Ritchie
13 years ago

Parenting is NOT for the weak.

Megan
Megan
13 years ago

Oh mannnn. You are awesome, Linda!

My personal Grand Klong was with my mom. (That sounds explicit.) We were swimming at the beach a few summers ago and we’d gone a little too far out in the water. I decided to head back towards shore but as soon as I realized it was getting harder to pull myself in, my mom realized too and totally panicked. She started gasping, slipping under the water, and I saved her life. It sounds silly but man, I saved her effing life. My mom is a big girl but I grabbed her body and told her not to panic, and I just hauled her into shore and…dude. I’ve always wondered if those situations are instinctive and mine totally was — I didn’t think about it for a second, I just reacted. Hopefully when I have kids this will work the same way…but if they want to just skip alllll the Grand Klong moments, that would be totally fine with me!

Stacy
13 years ago

Side note about one of your side notes: I love the mention of the recipe from Allrecipes.com. I work there and love it. So yay!

Ann
Ann
13 years ago

“Parenthood. Jesus” That really should be the motto. I had a close call in June. Tommy and I were standing in a huge community pool- ankle deep. I got distracted with people watching (parent fail) for like 2 seconds and when I looked down at the baby he was face down in the water!!!!!! He was totally fine but I near had a coronary of epic proportions.

el-e-e
13 years ago

Hate to add my own story to all these but it happened to me, too, this summer. I had a complete emotional breakdown after the kid in queston was toweled off and back to playing, and out of earshot.

Jeamette
13 years ago

“Parenthood.Jesus” You said it perfectly!

Deb
Deb
13 years ago

My Grand Klong moment was a bit different, but just as terrifying. We were staying in a beach house in NC and my husband was supposed to take our 2.5 year old to the beach, but instead I find him laying on the bed when I get out of the shower. Where’s the little one? I ask. My husband doesn’t know, but is sure he’s fine. He’s around here somewhere. I call his name, nothing. Start running around the house looking, nothing. He is not in the house and there is a HUGE, INGROUND POOL (plus the ocean) right outside our door. I have no idea how long he’s been missing. My heart was in my throat as I go outside and start screaming. Finally I hear his voice and find him wandering around next to the pool. I have NEVER been so relieved in my entire life. I think I cried for like 6 hours after that, I was so, so happy and relieved that that is how the story ended. I have tears running down my face just thinking about it now.

erin
13 years ago

Is it still a Grand Klong when it’s your child but in the care of someone else? My father-in-law was holding my then 2yr old in the pool. My FIL cannot hear all that well and he also is a little absent-minded. I was NOT in the pool and was watching him walk around with my daughter when I looked away, looked back at them and see my daughter completely underwater, arms flailing, while my FIL is completely clueless, still holding her. He had lowered his arms a little too far and had no idea (she was facing away from him) that she was even underwater. I was yelling GET HER UP! GET HER UP! and he just stood there, saying huh? It was only a few seconds and he realized what was happening. My daughter just turned 7 and I still refuse to let her go in the pool with her grandfather if she cannot touch the bottom.

sheilah
sheilah
13 years ago

We had just moved to Tucson. My son was not even walking yet but one of the first questions his new pediatrician asked was, “…do you have a pool?” “No,” we answered. “Good,” she said.

Parenthood is not for the fainthearted…

natasha
natasha
13 years ago

I just read your post today after a while.. i was mad at my husband and needed something to cheer me up.. that’s what i save your blog posts for.. just wanted to let you know 10 mins down the line I’m smiling and not mad at him anymore, and even willing to admit he may have been fair..lol.thanks for very very well written posts

Kacey
13 years ago

A couple weeks ago I had to give my 2 yo the Heimlich after he swallowed a quarter and a dime. The look on his face as he struggled for breath…I agree “parenthood.Jesus.”

Mel T.
13 years ago

Sweet Jesus, this brings back all my Grand Klongs to date. Scary how many involve water. When my oldest was 4 years old and SHE COULD SWIM she was practicing going off the diving board over and over. I said time to go, you’re tired. “No, Mom, just one more!” So on the “one more” dive, she jumped in, swam to the top, looked me right in the eye with panic and then sank to the bottom of the 12ft deep end. I handed my 1yo to my best friend and dove in clothes and all to get her. Afterwards, the acne-ridden lifeguard (who didn’t see anything amiss until we were climbing out of the pool) said, “You gonna get those?” and pointed to my sunglasses sitting at the bottom of the pool. The look I gave him must have said, “Back off, dumbass, before I kill you with my bare hands,” because he went in and got them for me. Aaaaaaand, now I need a drink.

telegirl
telegirl
13 years ago

All these stories. Same thing happened to us with our 3 year old in the kiddie pool. Scared us to death; luckily my husband and I were close by for it. He just tipped forward and couldn’t get his footing back. I loved Janet’s story. Your rescue was amazingly creative. Not sure I would have had my wits about me think that through and actually do it.

Jen
Jen
13 years ago

God, these comments have me holding my breath today. It just takes a moment. Holy cow.

Janet
Janet
13 years ago

Telegirl & Lisa – I now you both totally would have done the same thing under the same circumstances.:-) It’s amazing what mothers will do to save their babies. We would give our own lives to save our children. In this case I only had to give up my purse (thank goodness).

JR
JR
13 years ago

Terrifying isn’t it – these moments with our babies…

My babies, now 9 and 12, are on a weeklong trip of camping and motels and long hours in the car…and I cannot help by envision them in some car crash and even imagine the phone call & the shock of learning of the accident…AND THEY ARE JUST FINE! EATING MARSHMALLOWS!

And yet, I still worry about it – anyone else do that???

Anonymous
Anonymous
13 years ago

Em, what your daughter experienced is called Instinctive Drowning Response and is something even trained lifeguards don’t know about. I experienced exactly this phenomenon three times as a child (I was and still am a terrible swimmer) and I could never explain why I never called for help. I’ve been a trained as a First Responder since 1992 and even though I’ve taken numerous water rescue courses from several different organizations, this was never, ever taught. We learned only about “active drowning” also called “distressed drowning” which is the flailing, shouting drowning you see on TV and “passive drowning” which is when the victim is unconscious. About 10% of kids who die of drowning do so while an unknowing parent is looking right at them, not understanding that they are experiencing IDR and are moments from death. This article talks about IDR, EVERYONE who is ever around water should read it.
http://mariovittone.com/2010/05/154/

Sarah
13 years ago

Ugh. What a horrifying feeling. My first Grand Klong moment was at an airport where I was watching my son play one moment and the next he was nowhere to be seen. Terrifying. (the little bugger was hiding just out of sight…could have killed him but I was too busy hugging him).

Parenthood has major sucking moments.

Autism Mom Rising
13 years ago

Yoykes. I just blogged about a similiar incident we had at our local public pool. These things are truly terrifying.