Last week, Bennie fell in the pool. Honest to God- she fell in the pool. I was right there beside her talking to two other friends by the pool and there was a little splash that amounted to an 18 month old in the pool. My heart still jumped in my throat and my eyes expanded past the size of saucers. Nothing will put any kind of fear in you like seeing a baby go head first into the pool without an intention behind it.
Before I could get down to her and do all those maternal things that one must do- she found the surface, was on her back and breathing. It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. I scooped her up and showered her with kisses as she started crying. She was safe, she was completely and totally safe- but it was one of those moments where I knew it did not matter how much money it cost, these classes we had been taking were worth every single penny.
Our children are always around a pool. Even if we did not have one in our backyard, my parents have a pool. My inlaws buy a redneck Rivera every summer and throw it out around September when it finally gets too cold. We go to the lake. We go to the beach. We have water babies.
ISR teaches children as young as six months how to survive if they fall in the water. A child Bennie's age, 18 months, actually learns how to swim. Ok, no- she is not swimming free style or perfecting her breast stroke. She is, however, holding her breath without a cue* and kicking her little feet under water before coming back up to the surface, flipping on her back and taking a breath before doing it again.
* (some classes teach parents to blow in their face before taking the baby under water- nothing wrong with that- but if she falls in, there won't be anyone there to cue her to hold her breath)
I have spoken to another swim "professional" and it was clear to me that she did not care for ISR and I asked her about it.
"I don't like the technique behind ISR; it teaches fear of the water."
While I disagreed with her statement that it teaches fear of water, shouldn't all kids have a healthy fear of something that is dangerous? Lots of things are fun- but almost all those things can also be dangerous. When we lived in DC- I taught LMC about cars and that she should have a healthy fear of them. Husband thought I was a little overzealous and told her all about snakes... so she could have a healthy fear of snakes.
LMC's biggest fear now? Bugs. Oh, and dogs. And trying new foods. That scary dragon monster with three heads on My Little Pony. She might even be afraid of potatoes for all I know.
Bennie has no fear of the water. Just this morning, I was in the water and she was on the edge. She looked at me, took a breath and stepped off the edge- landing on the bottom of the shallow end. It'll take your breath away to watch a baby do that. You'll want to grab her, hold her, protect her, and -- probably-- shake her, so she knows not to do it again. After landing at the bottom, she quickly kicked her way to the air that waited for her on the surface. Her nose crested first, as she spread her arms and legs to make a starfish.
She breathed, giggled, rolled onto her stomach and kicked over to me, ready for more.
As a wife of a Pediatric ICU doctor, I feel like sometimes we are stricter about some things than other families who don't see what Husband sees. We still cut LMC's grapes in half lengthwise. The Heimlich maneuver is something we have both perfected. We are hyper diligent about kindness to animals. There are no plastic bags in the house that can be caught by the wind of a fan. We are over-the-top about carseats, not necessarily buying the most expensive- but they are definitely the tightest. We have more CO2 detectors than I should admit to.
ISR was something that Husband was passionate about long before we had children. Now it is something we are investing both substantial time and money in for our youngest. It is not a guarantee to prevent drowning, but it gives Bennie a fighting chance to survive if the unthinkable happens. The water is a fun place to be- my happiest memories are on the lake, by the pool, or in the ocean. I want my children to be the same way and it not be a place of dread- or a place of fear.