I’ve been waiting forever to write about our experience with Infant Swimming Resource lessons because I wanted to go through the whole shebang before I gave you my real, honest opinion. I got my first word of ISR when one of my best friends went through the school to become an instructor. And then, one of my long-time favorite bloggers (Whimsical September – hi Erica!!!) became a sort of ambassador of the program and it peaked my interest even more. I think I’d best describe my parenting style is laid back with a lot of organization. If you know me, you understand. But, there are three things I am very not laid back about – car safety, sleep safety, and water safety. I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you those three things scared me to death. By nature of my work and seeing children in the worst of circumstances, I am terrified of one of those three things taking one of my babies. So, when the opportunity to get ALL THREE kiddos in ISR arose, I jumped on it. And then, they received a first responder family scholarship so they could learn water survival skills without breaking the bank. Y’all, I get emotional just thinking about this experience and opportunity. I love these kids SO darn much and I genuinely believe this is one of the best parenting decisions we have made in their lives – not even a bit of exaggeration.
So, a big question I have heard is – what in the world is ISR? I’ve found myself explaining it to people by referencing those videos of babies falling in the pool and floating on their backs and crying until someone hears them. (See Youtube if you haven’t seen them before). Essentially, it is a water survival course that teaches kiddos 6 months to 6 years how to save themselves in the water. The goal of the program is to drown-proof kids. Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for kids ages 1-4, and most of the time this is with a parent present. I know I watch my kiddos like a hawk around water, but I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not perfect and accidents happen. So, why not add an extra layer of protection to supervision and teach them how to save themselves?
I had a lot of apprehensions and questions going into the program, which I laugh a little about now. These were centered around the logistics of the program, rather than the program itself. But, I’m sharing all of those with you, because I’m sure I’m not the only one dragging their feet when it comes to signing up.
- No more floaties. Y’all, we LOVE the pool. I entertain the kids with the pool. We have fun at the pool. I tire them out with the pool so they take naps. We just love the pool. But, taking three kids four and under to the pool without any floatation devices terrified me. I couldn’t fathom it. Essentially, once your kid is ISR training, floaties will revert their new skill. Floaties teach kids that being upright in the water is okay, but when the floatie is taken out of the equation, they sink in the upright position they normally feel so safe in. I was so worried that I would not be able to take these kids to the pool anymore because I couldn’t wrangle three non-swimmers by myself with only two arms. I’ll tell you, we’re at the pool every single chance we get. The part I wasn’t really realizing was that my three and four year old were truly learning how to swim – so they don’t need floaties anymore! We have more fun hanging out in the pool watching them float around and jump in and swim underwater than I ever did seeing them kick around in those puddle jumpers! I am going to be gifting those puppies to some families here in our neighborhood this summer because we will never go back!
- They’re already in swim lessons. Mitchell has been in American Red Cross Saturday Swim School for two years now, and Julia joined him about six months ago. These are 20 minute lessons every week. While they had fun being in a group and doing activities in the water, I can tell you they learned about diddly squat. Neither of them could float or swim. They learned a bob and blowing bubbles and that about sums it up. Not to knock these lessons, because they did have fun, but I want my kiddos to LEARN TO BE SAFE. I will 1000% say that ISR blows any ordinary kids swim lessons out of the water.
- The commitment. These lessons are no joke. They’re only 10 minutes a piece, but it’s 5 days a week for 6-8 weeks. That’s 30-40 trips to the pool and 90-120 lessons for me. The hubby is deployed to the other side of the world, so that leaves me to get them there every time. Being a full time working mom, it wasn’t easy putting in an 11 hour shift, picking them up from school, and making sure they got to their lesson every time. I had to change all three kids from school clothes to swimsuits, then to pajamas. I brought them to the pool when I was tired, sick, hungry, sweaty, and just wanted to go home and rest. But, we didn’t skip a single lesson. I cheered them on as much as I could between juggling the other kid before or after their lesson. I washed and dried and sometimes folded more towels than I could count. We actually made a little station in our laundry room with a stack of towels and a basket of swimsuits and none of these items even go upstairs because we used them so much. It was a BIG commitment. Right in the middle of deployment and preschool and work and summer fun – but it was SO worth it. I was a little sad that so many of our summer nights got soaked up with ISR – but y’all, MY KIDS CAN SAVE THEMSELVES IN WATER. It doesn’t get any worth it than that.
There are a lot of technical questions you may have and those are best directed for an instructor. I can’t answer all of these and I certainly couldn’t teach my kiddos to swim like they can now. But, I will tell you from an outsider looking in, our instructor stayed informed on the kids diets, sleep habits, urine/bowel movements, and overall health. She took notes about their lessons and progress everyday. She measured the temperature of the water, and the exhaustion of the kiddos throughout the lesson. There were a few days they ended early because of the temperature, their water intake, exhaustion level, etc. While a tiny bit of practical me was groaning because I drove across town and they only got a 6 minute lesson, I knew they were in capable and safe hands because the instructor clearly had the knowledge and training to recognize the limitations of each individual child. Being completely honest – during ISR we ate way too many Happy Meals. The kiddos got so used to Old McDonald’s (as they call it), they started requesting this on the way home. And a lot of nights, I agreed. One night I found myself going to a different Old McDonald’s because I was so afraid we’d have the same drive-thru lady and she’d judge me for feeding my kids fast food on back-to-back nights. We’d leave the house in the mornings at 5:30, and get home at 7:00 at night, so throwing the extra towels on the front lawn and plopping them down with chicken nuggets and french fries was too hard to say no to a lot of nights. But these were some of my favorite nights, because after their Happy Meals, they’d hop on their bikes in their swimsuits and ride around the cul-de-sac without a care in the world until 9:00 rolled around, the sun finally went down, and I couldn’t put off bedtime any longer.
We didn’t take very many baths. We counted on the chlorine to knock the daycare yucks off. I’d spray some detangler in the girls’ hair and call it good. I mean, they got at least one bath, six dunks in a chlorinated pool, three grassy sprinkler soaks, two sandy saltwater swims per week, plus a rain storm if we were lucky, so that’s good enough – right? We’re back on the (more) regular bath schedule now, but I did have a little mom guilt knowing they were skipping baths like it was cool.
But, I vividly remember the night I saw Julia truly succeed 100% on her own. She was thrown into the pool in a big ‘ol splash, and then she rolled over as calmly and naturally as could be and started floating. And when I say she was floating, she was completely by herself, arms and legs outstretched, with a big smile on her face and not a bit of challenge in her float at all. And then she took a big breath, rolled over under the water, and kicked herself to the stairs of the pool, with her eyes opened wide underwater, knowing exactly where she was going and what she was doing. I had literal tears in my eyes. At that point, Aubrey was still very much working on her float. Though Mitchell was excelling, I think part of me was “less impressed” because he is almost five and nearing normal swimming age. (Don’t get me wrong – INSANELY proud of his accomplishments, too!). But seeing that moment where it completely clicked for Julia – my little three year old middle child – blew me away.
And then, to see all of the kids doing these skills in their WINTER WARDROBE – blown away again. (They test out in real clothes, because how good is a survival skill when you can only do it in a swimsuit?)
So now what? While I am excited the commitment side of ISR has come to an end, I am sad they’ll be out of the pool so much. Of course, the plan for the rest of the summer is to just enjoy the weather and their new skills and walk ourselves down to our neighborhood pool as much as possible. Once that closes down for Labor Day, I’m not sure what we’ll do. I had a heart to heart with our beloved Mary about where to go from here. I am going to try to get them to test out of their Saturday Swim School group and bump up a few levels. My hope is that we can get them in a class that starts teaching them strokes and continues to develop their awesome new skills. My fear is that the lessons will contradict the ISR philosophy and teachings and I’ll have to pull them out for awhile to protect their new skills. Time will tell, and we’ll play it by ear. All I know is that there are not adequate words to describe how grateful I am for the ISR program and this amazing blessing that fell into our laps at the perfect time.
I WILL be recommending the ISR program to basically every person I know with small kids. If people think I’m the crazy girl that raves about ISR lessons and invites any person she meets to church, then so be it. I’ll claim it. And, if you’re local to Camp Lejeune area, I HIGHLY recommend Mary as an instructor and a friend. She is an amazing person through and through, and she has found an incredible gift in teaching ISR. I haven’t had experience with any other ISR instructors, but if they’re anything like Mary, you are in amazing hands. And also if you’re local to Camp Lejeune area, I was serious about that offer to go to church. I’m going to wrap this post up with a link below to my friend Erica’s review on ISR, because if you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe her! 😉 Happy swimming, friends!