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People Can Not Breathe Water · 8 February 2008

Breathing is an important part of life. From experience, I have found that it is one of life’s essentials. Breathing water, however, is a different story. Again, through experience, I have found it to be painful and embarrassing.


Everybody has experienced drinking a glass of water and having it go down the wrong pipe. Whenever it happens to me, coughing and sputtering ensue and others often ask questions of concern as I try to catch my breath. I often wonder why I do such things and then I remember watching my children trying to breathe the bath water when they were toddlers.


It might seem obvious but people can not breathe water. I found this out while watching my sons take baths when they were little. They liked to swim around and splash and wash and splash and every now and then, they liked to try to breathe the water. Even then, they knew that water is good to drink (although bath water might be a little questionable, especially when a two-year old is in or has been in the tub). And they knew that it was fun to splash even if Dad and Mom got mad. But while watching them in the bath, I figured out why they used to think water is good to breathe.


When I think of my children’s attempts at breathing bath water, I often wondered if they were just trying to relive their youth. Or rather, their time in the womb. Before they were born, in the comfort of their perpetual baths, they actually did breathe liquid. As two- and four-year olds, perhaps they actually remembered this experience and tried to relive it again as we adults often try to relive our childhoods by playing the games of basketball or football or kick the can. We often pay for our reminiscing with sore muscles or thrown-out backs. My kids, when reliving the womb liquid breathing experience, just had coughing bouts. But they were still ready to try breathing that bath water again. And again. And again. As I gave more thought to the matter (while watching them cough and sputter), I used to think that two-year old children reminiscing about the womb was a ridiculous thought. Surely, there was another reason for them trying to breathe bath water.


When Thing 2 was only two, I looked to him to find the answer to why children try to breathe bath water. He was and still is curious about everything. My wife says that he is our little engineer. As a tot, he was always trying to figure out cause and effect. Pour water on the floor and it gets wet. Play in the puddle and I get wet. Look up at Mom while playing in the puddle and I do not get in trouble. Cause and effect. So naturally, given his personality, Thing 2 would want to find out what the effect of breathing water was. Unfortunately, back then he did not always remember the outcome of his experiments and so he had to try and repeat the results. Or if he was truly following the scientific method, then he had to determine whether his results were indeed conclusive by trying the experiment again and again to make sure that the outcome was the same each time. I think that at the very least, he determined that breathing water makes a person cough and sputter. But I let him try the experiment as many times as he wanted to see if some other result would happen. The results were the same each and every time.


I am not sure whether my children tried to breathe bath water because they were trying to recreate the conditions in the womb or they were just making sure that they could not breathe water the day after they had tried it before or they were just trying to repeat their scientific experiments. The reason still does not really matter. I just know that when I watched repeated water-breathing incidents I came to the ultimate conclusion that people should not breathe water. Bathing or any type. Even so, one day as I raise a glass of water to my lips, I will probably try breathing it instead of drinking it. I will probably sputter and cough. And I will be more than a little embarrassed.

© 2008 Michael T. Miyoshi

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