When my children were younger, toddlers, I recall how much anxiety it caused me when we went to the lake, the ocean, or even the pool. I found myself watching not only my children, but others’ children too. My head was constantly moving back and forth, counting, “1…2…3…1…2…3…” as I made sure each head was above water. If I missed a single count, I was up out of my chair as quick as a flash of lightning. What comfort and enjoyment was there for me? None!
Not everyone is as attentive and most of us do get distracted easily. Such was the case with a couple whose child had drowned that prompted me to make some changes even when my children were just toddlers. Their child had drowned because they turned their head for what was just a moment in time only to be an eternal lifetime.
We hear about these types of tragic events all the time in the news. The most recent notable one that comes to mind is former US Olympic Ski Champion, Bode Miller and his wife, professional beach volleyball player, Morgan Beck, whose daughter, Emeline “Emmy”, died tragically on June 10, 2018 after wandering over to a neighbor’s pool.
These types of tragedies bring to mind something that is so ingrained, imbedded within me, that I find them so unnecessary.
“I’m not interested in protecting our children from the world around them. I’m interested in preparing them for it. For if I prepare them, I know that they will step up to the plate, make the right decision, and do the right thing in my absence no matter what it costs them.”
So what is the solution? How can we prevent these types of tragedies from happening? It’s much more simple than it is complicated.
Now, I don’t have any vested interest in ISR (Infant Swim Resource), bar one. It is my hope and prayer, that if this is a very preventable life saving strategy and technique, then you shouldn’t ignore it. You should take it.
I’ve heard every argument to the contrary teaching children at such a young age how to swim. Everything from their fine motor skills, to their inability to understand the concept of danger, to the process of teaching it has been called into question because “it’s very traumatic” to them. Indeed, it is difficult to watch the training while taking place. If you don’t have the stomach for it, perhaps you need to step aside and stay out of the way and out of the pool area. At the very least, if your child is predisposed to reach and scream for your help, you need to be absent from the process. But to answer the “it’s very traumatic to the child” objection, “so too is drowning”. “Would you rather have this conversation over a child who is alive or would you rather have this conversation over their casket?” Yes, that is as abrupt and as direct as it gets, and yes, I’ve actually said that to people before.
Children are so resilient and their brain is a giant sponge at such a young age. Starting at six months old, you can begin these exercises. Just ten minutes a day, every single day for 6-8 weeks, and your child will be ready to survive accidentally falling into a pool, a bathtub, or pond. They will learn to instinctively roll over, float, and systemically work their way over to the edge for help. Is it a substitute for adult supervision? Hardly. But if it buys you one minute to save their life, it’s worth a lifetime of minutes.
All of my children went through ISR. All of them swam like little fish before they were two years old. I had pictures of them, eyes wide open, underneath the water. The only drawback is that at two years old, my daughter had to go to the Emergency Room, and get nine stitches in her chin because she was running to the diving board, jumping off into the deep end of the pool, wash, rinse, and repeat. She slipped and fell and split her chin open on the edge of the diving board. I can recall demonstrating that I could pick up my son, throw him up into the air into the middle of the pool, and everyone watching in awe his reaction to it. He was comfortable in the water because he knew how to react to it. We prepared him for his world around him instead of trying to protect him from it. As a result, he knew what to do in our absence. He knew how to survive a fall into the pool.
We never left their sides at the pool. I did stop counting though because I wasn’t constantly watching in a state of fear anymore. We could enjoy the water. More importantly, we knew they could and do it with confidence.
But ISR doesn’t really teach a child how to swim. ISR teaches a child how to survive. After all, that is what we were after. This is a huge fundamental difference. Finally, The American Association of Pediatrics determined that children could safely take swim lessons as early as age 1 in 2010 after having declared for many decades, they should be over the age of four. The American Red Cross declares that children don’t become competent swimmers until age six-seven. There again, we’re not talking about swimming. We’re talking about survival.
I have personally known four different instructors of this program. All of them are very well trained and licensed by ISR to teach it. There is no substitute for parental supervision. However, it is definitely a life saver because it makes it more safe for a child giving them a fighting chance at survival because they instinctively know what to do. As Spring Break approaches, I would highly encourage you to check it out. For more information, please go check them out at www.infantswim.com.