Krystal and I always knew that water safety was important to us. Although we don’t have a pool at home, living in the Coastal Bend means water is always nearby which means danger comes as a package deal. With parents and friends as paramedics and firefighters, we have heard too many horror stories to take water safety lightly.
We put Amelia in Aqua-Tots as soon as we could, at 4 months old. At the age of 2.5 years old, she had no fear or hesitancy of the water but could neither float nor swim unassisted. Her skills consisted of holding her breath and reaching for the wall. Which was great, but in the pool she needed to be in the arms of an adult 100% of the time regardless of if she was wearing a life jacket or floaty. When she was a baby we just wanted an activity to do with her on the weekends, but as she got older and was doing the same activities her four-month-old peers were, we decided she needed something more advanced.
I found Infant Self-Rescue through a fellow mama on the Coastal Bend Mom Collective by watching her Instagram stories for the day. This peaked my interest and prompted me to do more research on what exactly Infant Self-Rescue was.
Infant Self-Rescue’s core conviction is that the child is the most important part of a drowning prevention strategy and our over 300,000 ISR graduates and 800 documented survival stories are proof that children can save themselves. Children are curious, capable, and have an uncanny ability to overcome obstacles like pool fences; at ISR we take that ability and teach them skills to potentially save themselves if they find themselves in the water alone.
What got my attention was that it was putting the power in the child’s hands. It was giving them the opportunity to develop a skill to save themselves if the other safeties that we have in place fail. I can say I will keep my eye on my child at the beach or pool 100% percent of the time but the reality is that it is impossible and I am human!
I searched for an instructor through their website and found Mrs. Merritt and enrolled in her next session. Let me preface by saying this is a learning curve for not just the child but the parent as well. I cannot tell you the level of thoroughness that the Infant Self-Rescue organization went through to check Amelia’s medical history and ensure that they had a well-rounded perspective of our daughter to create an environment that was safe and beneficial to her.
I want to warn you that this is a course to prevent drowning. It is sometimes uncomfortable to watch. Your child does not drown nor are they ever in any danger of drowning. Their instructor is there to ensure they do not get too tired and are learning in a safe environment. But the bottom line is your child will struggle; they will cough and spit, and they may even cry. Amelia cried every lesson for the entire first 6 weeks and then for 2 weeks of her refresher. There was so much crying before and during her lesson, we considered withdrawing her. Mrs. Merritt told us to stick with it and one day, like a light switch, she was laughing, smiling, and wanting to go to swim class. Although I do not want my daughter to cry, despite her tears, she was floating and if she was screaming, then she was breathing.
Here are a few tips that may catch you by surprise as you consider making this investment.
- It isn’t cheap. We paid around $85 a month for traditional swim lessons for a once-a-week lesson. You can expect over $100 a week. BUT can you put a price tag on your child’s life? I can honestly say we got more out of 1 day of ISR than we got in 4 Saturdays of traditional swim lessons.
- It is an individual, 10-minute lesson, 5 days a week for 6 weeks. This is a HUGE time commitment. As a working mom, I get it. Those 6 weeks were exhausting, from picking her up from daycare, getting changed, bath, dinner, washing the towels, rinse and repeat.
- READ the handbook. There is an excessive amount of literature to go through prior to attending lessons. READ. IT. You being ill-informed will only delay your child.
- Hand-in-hand with the above, don’t send just anyone to take your child to ISR lessons. Educate them and make sure they can emotionally handle the lesson. As I said above, there are moments when it is not easy to watch, but I can attest that it will be worth it.
Your child will have a lesson in winter and summer clothes. The reality is that your child (probably) will not fall into a pool in their swim suit. These clothes add extra weight that your child needs to be able to hold up and float with.
- It is not a one-and-done type of accomplishment. Your child’s body changes and thus their ability to manipulate it does as well. Keeping skills fresh and present in our child’s ever-growing mind is important. We just completed our first refresher about 7 months after our initial lessons and will most likely return once more before the year is out. I want to ensure that Amelia is confident in her skills and abilities and doesn’t get rusty. Usually, refreshers are 2-3 week long, but we made it 4 weeks to really solidify her skills.
The life lessons Infant Self-Rescue taught her safety aside were excellent. She learned that sometimes we have to do things that scare us and then conquer them. Now, her confidence is OFF THE CHARTS at the pool (probably a little too confident). She is swimming, jumping in, floating, and absolutely in love with the water. We still keep our other safeties in place though the water is still a dangerous place. We are always within arms reach in the pool with her, but floaties are no more because she has the skill to save herself and she has the skills to have fun in the water.