Our family lives in the sunshine state. We have palm trees and beautiful weather a majority of the year (ironically as I type we are having a crazy lightening storm). With the white sand beaches and crystal blue waters comes a super scary statistic for parents. Florida has the highest unintentional drowning rate in the country for 1 to 4 year olds (source). We live in Hillsborough county that sadly has the 4th highest drowning rate in the state (source).
We have a pool in our backyard and my parents have a lake behind their home…so when it came to swim lessons for Lily it was a no brainer. Last summer when she was a year old my girlfriends and I did a group swim class where a lady came to one of our homes to teach. Lily has always loved water and did well with all of the class steps. With the changing of the seasons and because we don’t have a pool heater, we have stayed out our pool until 2 ½ months ago. Lily picked up her love for the pool in a snap, but to my shock she forgot a lot of the tips and steps we learned last summer.
Well duh Amy of course she did…she was only one.
Two weeks ago family pool time became sheer torture for Mike and me. We learned that our daughter is a bit of a dare devil and totally carefree. I don’t want to take away that spirit, but when it comes to jumping in the pool and sinking….we’re pulling the reins back. Lily started to jump from the steps and keep flapping her arms and legs until she started to go down…never turning her body back to the steps or wall. Mike and I would immediately grab her and push her back to the steps. At one point she continually forced her head into the water and let her arms and legs float up…the view was absolutely terrifying. She looked like a lifeless child. When we would pull her up she would force her head back down in the water before taking an adequate breath of air.
Even after choking down some water a few times she still wanted to keep going. I tried to take her around the pool singing “motor boat…motor boat…” to get her to kick her legs out, but she continued to keep her legs down in a vertical position which is the absolute worst. I competitively swam half of my life and I knew that the vertical swim position would lead a child to sink. I knew that I needed a stricter form of swim lessons for Lily. That’s why we chose ISR.
Monday was our first ISR swim class. Infant Swimming Resource is a particular kind of swim lesson that teaches self-rescue skills so babies, toddlers, and kids can save themselves. You can start your child as early as 6 months. ISR classes are one on one with a certified instructor. To learn more you can visit our teacher’s website for a little more information here.
After two classes I really don’t know why I kept Lily from taking these earlier. I heard horrible stories of strict teachers that scared children so bad that it scarred them. Most stories I heard were from someone who hadn’t placed their child in an ISR program and/or come to think of it had a child who didn’t know how to swim period. The stories were just scary. But the chance of my child drowning is scarier.
Listen I’m being honest…the classes are difficult to watch. No parent wants to see their child struggle to swim…and cry doing it. But I would rather struggle with this than struggle over the drowning of my child.
I would rather have a strict instructor give one on one lessons to my child on survival skills than another group swim class where we sing songs and really only get our kids comfortable with the pool and going under the water. Being comfortable with the water isn’t going to save my child…if anything it creates a bigger opportunity for my child to drown as they rush to get into the pool that they are so comfortable to be in.
Lily’s lessons are only 10 minutes and we go Monday to Friday so the repetition allows her to retain the information. The first two minutes of the first class were difficult. Lily’s teacher would sit her on the wall and gently place her in the water to get her to turn around and grab the side of the pool. Lily was kicking off the edge of the pool (one of the only things she remembered from the swim class last year) and swimming vertically into the pool, not swimming to the edge for safety. Because Mike and I were always there to grab her we had given her a handicap in a way. Lily thought that the teacher would just grab her like we did to save her. In the first 10 minutes Lily learned how to turn back to the wall and pull up on the side.
Yes she cried. Yes it was hard. BUT look at what she learned in 10 minutes. After I was drying Lily off the next tyke was getting in when I struck up a conversation with his mom. Her words struck me …”It was money well spent the first time I saw him turn over and float to safety”. She was right. Learning to swim won’t be easy to watch as a crazy mom who still struggles with post partum. But I know that the lessons will get better when Lily learns the self-rescue skills and builds her confidence back up.
Lily is like many kids and freaks out sometimes when I put her in her car seat to run some errands. Now do I just give in and say…”okay Lily stop crying honey, I will only attach the first harness so you can be more comfortable…” or “oh you don’t like the car seat? Okay here we can just put you in a booster…” HECK NO!!!!! That car seat is for her safety….just like these ISR lessons. Being a parent is hard and it ain’t easy. Sometimes teaching our children valuable life lessons isn’t going to be roses and rainbows. One day the lessons will get easier for Lily. Until then I will continue to take her and after we will get some frozen yogurt as her reward.
If anyone is thinking of ISR lessons and on the fence I don’t mind chatting about it! Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.