The Gallaghers’ in-ground backyard pool shimmers in the summer afternoon light, offering a welcome respite from Charlottesville’s August heat. A child-proof, gated safety fence keeps Caitlin and Sean’s two young children, Amelia (4) and Brendan (2) from venturing into the water alone. Managing a safe environment in and around the family pool has been an ongoing activity for the Gallaghers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, drowning is the number two cause of accidental death in children ages 1 to 14. The Gallaghers mitigate the safety risks through various measures. There is the aforementioned, automatically latching gate, for one. Also, constant vigilant adult supervision is essential: one child per adult.
Perhaps the most important part of the family’s safety regimen is teaching water safety to their children. “Both kids have gone to these lessons through Morgan Swim School,” explains Caitlin. “Their focus [at the school] is to teach kids how to save themselves if they’ve fallen in the water. The test at the end of [the program] is they have your child jump into the water fully clothed with their shoes on and everything, and come up and float on their back.” Amelia and Brendan also take swim lessons year round through ACAC, and a private instructor comes to their home once a week during the summer.
One recommendation made by safety experts that the Gallaghers do not employ is an in-water alarm system to detect when there is a disturbance, such as a child falling in. “We have frogs that go into our pool all of the time,” Caitlin says, laughing. “So, [an in-water alarm] would be going off constantly! [We have] a special cover for the filters that has a little ramp that [the frogs] can use to climb out.”
Besides the frog ramps, another feature of the Gallaghers’ pool is that the water is treated with saline, which softens the water and is much gentler on sensitive skin than chlorine. Caitlin, the owner of Snip-Its, a children’s salon in the Hollymead Town Center, points out another benefit of the salt-water solution: It doesn’t bleach (or tint) hair!
The Gallaghers’ pool gets used every day, sometimes several times a day. And because it is so accessible to their home, the enjoyment of the water can be spontaneous.
“All of my friends say, ‘Oh, we went to the pool today.’ And they’re packing their snacks, and their drink cups, and their towels, and their change of clothes, and their diapers, and their wipes—you know, like, everything and the kitchen sink!” says Caitlin. “And you feel like since you’ve done all this you have to stay for at least four hours or something crazy like that. It’s just nice that we can jump out in the pool for 14 minutes, or if it’s late after dinner and the kids still want to go for a quick swim, O.K., we can still do it because it takes five minutes to put on suits and go out there.”
How refreshing!—Christy Baker
A retractable clothesline from Meadowbrook Hardware ($21.39) helps keep damp towels and swimsuits from piling up. Use it indoors or out, through the summer and beyond! For a sweet and practical touch, clip on these colorful sparrow-shaped clothespins, available through amazon.com ($13.99- $21 for 16 clips).—C.B.