During high school and college, I spent 6 years as a lifeguard, swim instructor, and diving coach. On hot summer days, perched on my elevated chair, I helped ensure the physical safety of thousands of children. When I became a parent myself, I realized the importance of protecting children spiritually, not just physically.
Amidst the morass and mediocrity of our current Post-Christian culture, we parents have to step-up to the plate, and be our children’s lifeguard in an imperative way. Now! We need to protect their innocence and Faith which is in deadly peril! The best kind of lifeguard doesn’t wait until someone is drowning in the deep end, but rather with rules and nurturing boundaries helps young swimmers gain a respect for the water, and shows them how to enjoy it responsibly.
I wish I had a lot of dramatic stories to tell from my days as a lifeguard, but aside from nurturing outstanding athletes (including a state champion), my time was relatively uneventful. In contrast, there was a one young man, whom you have all heard of, who was a lifeguard for a similar amount of time. On 77 occasions, he was called upon to rescue swimmers in peril. That man was former U.S. President Ronald Reagan.
I didn’t even have one rescue! In fact, I didn’t even jump into the pool once to help someone. I didn’t need to. I was a whistleblower. Yes, I was THAT lifeguard who constantly yelled at the kids, “No running!” I was the one who made sure kids didn’t horse around under the diving board (this was in the day when pools had 3-meter high diving boards).
No one drowned on my watch. No one was injured on my watch. No one needed rescuing. A lifeguard’s job is largely preventative. If swimmers learn safe habits, they are less likely to get into trouble.
When I look around me today, I see so many young people spiritually drowning; it breaks my heart. Young people are being carried out by the rip tides of drugs and alcohol. They are having trouble keeping their heads above water amidst a flood of pornography. They belly flop when it’s finally time for them to live on their own.
Of course we should rescue our children when they are in dire need, but if only they had proper preventative training, many tears and heartaches would be spared. Parents, we need to take our jobs more seriously! By learning safe and virtuous habits when they are young, our children won’t need rescuing later in life.
And this is my appeal to you. Mount your lifeguard stands and watch what is going on in your kids’ lives! Be a whistleblower! Don’t be afraid to set boundaries! True love is not letting your kids do whatever they want to do.
The world is a wonderful place. God created it and it is good. We want our kids to enjoy everything the world has to offer, but they need to understand that the world can be a dangerous place as well. Just like children need a respect for the water, they need a respect for the world and all the people in it.
In order for children to gain that respect for the world, their interactions need to be supervised. Just as a lifeguard would need to supervise a swimmer, likewise parents need to supervise their children. It’s not just a matter of quality time, but also a matter of quantity of time. Supervising, not as a passive observer, but as an active instructor.
In my personal experience, I found homeschooling to be the best way to be an active “parent lifeguard”. Being a parent lifeguard isn’t a matter of only physical safety, but also—more importantly—it is a matter of spiritual safety. Even when I had my son in school, I made sure that I talked to him every night about everything that happened to him in school that day—even the mundane stuff.
The most important thing is to cultivate a close trusting relationship with your child. Teachers in school can look out for the physical safety of your child, but being a spiritual lifeguard is not in their job description. That is your job as a parent lifeguard.