When we're able to afford a nice vacation, my wife and I usually go somewhere tropical. Stop - I know what you're thinking already. "Y'all live in Houston, how much more tropical do you need?"
Well let me rephrase that. We usually go somewhere tropical with nice beaches. And boats. And invariably I end up jumping off that boat into deep water for a swim or to snorkel.
The first time it happened she thought I was crazy, and I didn't understand her reaction. I've been swimming since forever and am quite comfortable in the water, whether it's a pool or the ocean. She on the other hand didn't know how to swim and would not get near the water with anything less than a lifejacket on and a couple of lifeguards on standby. After a summer of swim lessons a few years back, she's much more comfortable now, but I've discovered there are a lot more people out there like her.
Especially Black folks. I learned to swim when I was in the 1st grade, but for various reasons, too many of our kids don't learn to swim early in life. That puts a damper on water borne activities for a lifetime, but that's not the worst of it however. From the excellent Black Gives Back blog:
Not long ago, I read a study that stated nearly 60% of black children ages 6-16 can't swim. Various reasons I've seen cited are historical and cultural factors, such as the lack of swimming pools in urban communities and lower income families not being able to afford swimming lessons. In addition, studies show that Black children drown at a rate almost three times the overall rate.
That's some kind of disparity, and I'm willing to bet that almost all of those drowning deaths could be prevented by ensuring that kids know how to swim and practice proper water safety. There have already been at least two drowning deaths of children here in Houston so far this summer. Thankfully, there are several initiatives coming on line that help to address this need, some of which are highlighted in this post and in this article.
My daughter is not the best swimmer, yet, but she will be because we are making her do it. Same goes for the nieces and nephews. Lessons can be expensive, but I think you have to weigh it against the costs of not providing them. Teach them while they're young.
It's shouldn't really even be a question.