I discovered Infant Swimming Resource (ISR) about 3.5 years ago when a family member put her son in lessons. This was before I became a mom and I had a strong opinion about parenting, even though I had NO experience whatsoever. She proudly posted pictures and videos of her little guy and to be perfectly honest, I judged her.
It terrified me. I literally cried while watching the videos of her child who looked TERRIFIED in the water. At the time, I was very vocal that I could never do that to my child. Boy was I naive.
Now, let’s fast forward to last year. My son was a few months old and I began exploring the many swim lesson options in our area. As someone who loves the water, there was never any doubt in my mind that I wanted our son to get into swim lessons early on. We also have extended family that live on a lake and another with a pool which made the decision to do swim lessons all the more important. Most of what I found was mommy and baby classes that just got the baby familiar in the water. While that sounded fun, that wasn’t enough for me.
About one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger. For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.*
That’s when a video about ISR popped up on my Facebook feed and I decided to re-evaluate my stance from years ago and enrolled our little guy in the next session of lessons.
I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t scared. I had major anxiety leading up to our first lesson. I actually made my husband take the day off of work to be there with me because I didn’t think I could do it by myself.
The day finally came and I was a wreck. It was tremendously hard to hand my 9 month old son over to a complete stranger and trust that she would take care of my him and wouldn’t let anything happen to him, but after that first lesson I knew we would be okay. Our instructor was so gentle and caring. She took the time to let our son adjust to being in the water with her and she explained step-by-step what she would be doing and what we could expect.
Over the next 7 weeks, our son learned how to hold his breath, to float alone on his back, and how to maneuver in the water to get from a face down position onto his back and continue to float.
Before graduating, he was tested in different types of clothing. All his tests were done wearing a regular (non-swim) diaper and then in pajamas, everyday clothes, and then finally in a winter snow suit.
There were many tears over those 7 weeks, mine included, but I knew the pay-off was worth much more than the discomfort of seeing my child upset. This could potentially save his life someday and there is nothing that is more important than his safety. There were weeks that I felt defeated. Where he was struggling to master the skill and couldn’t seem to figure out what to do. Those were the worst weeks. It is terribly hard as a parent to watch your child struggle, but after talking to our instructor she kept me positive and showed me the little things he was doing daily to improve. Then the “AH HA” moment finally came and everything just fell into place and he did it all on his own. You are told as a parent and spectator to always keep an encouraging smile and tone because the child looks to you and if you are scared, they will be too, but that day I had tears in my eyes because I was so incredibly proud of our tiny human.
I can now confidently say that if for some reason he ended up in the water alone, he could “save himself” and float safely until someone found him.
While I understand how difficult it is for some people to watch the videos and even to consider putting their child through lessons, I feel, this is one of the best things we have done for our son. We have invested in him and his safety and to us there is nothing more important than that.
While he did graduate after 7 weeks, we are headed back for round 2. He will get a refresher on his breathing, floats, and maneuvering as well as start to learn how to safely swim to the side of the pool.
There are over 400 ISR trained instructors both in the United States and internationally. Click here to find one near you.
*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. [cited 2017 January 19]. Available from: URL: http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars.
Obviously, no child is ever drown-proof and adult supervision is incredibly important. ISR is meant to be a supplemental skill to increase a child’s ability to be safe in the water.