infant swimming

People have certain basic skills they need to acquire. The ability to feed yourself, clean yourself and shelter yourself are obvious. Past this come a whole list of “really ought to acquire” skills: understanding money, literacy and so on. However, living in New York for more than a  decade I noticed that two skills were often never acquired by many city people: driving and swimming. The driving is easy enough to understand: if you’ve ever visited New York or a similar big city you’d know that driving your own car is more expensive (parking, tolls, insurance) and public transportation makes it very easy to get anywhere without driving. Swimming can just be attributed to the cold weather and the lack of nearby pools for learning to swim.

But starting from an early age, Bubelah and I have taken pains to make sure that both of our children are not only able to swim for recreational purposes, but able to “rescue” themselves if they fall in water unexpectedly. With Little Buddy we started when he was less than 1 year old, and with Pumpkin we started just after she was 1. The necessity for the training moved from a mild concern to an urgent one when we moved to Florida. You can’t go 100 feet without seeing a pond or a pool or some other body of water – let alone the fact that we’re in an oceanfront town.

We signed both of our kids up for the Infant Swimming Resource, and to get an idea of what that was like, watch this video (if you’re a parent, it’s fairly amazing).

You might think that’s some kind of trick, but my son (a little older than 3 when he took the course) and daughter (a little more than 1 year old at the time) could do exactly the same, even in full clothes with shoes on. It’s a shocking thing to observe – in a good way. I still wouldn’t trust either of them to spend even 1 minute unattended around a pond, but it does give me the confidence that they wouldn’t panic if they did fall in water someday, which – in the minute it might take me to reach them – they wouldn’t do something that would result in drowning.

No parent (or spouse or friend or anything else) wants to contemplate the mortality of their loved ones. Jan commented on my post about making time for details about my lack of a will:

No WILLLLLLL?????? and you have children? This is really bad. Just jump on line and go to a simple legal site and download one. In fact- write one yourself and take it to your next party. Line up four people to sign that they saw you sign it. Do the details later. Appoint guardianship! Do it- TODAY!

Jan was of course right. Just like it was difficult to talk about why a survival swimming course for our children was necessary (because we don’t want them to drown), it was difficult to talk about how our children’s lives should be handled if we died before they were at least young adults. After I had written about not having a will, though, I realized it was time for us to answer the ugly questions finally – it was irresponsible parenting to teach children to swim but not worry about what would happen if they were thrown in the water, figuratively speaking, by their parents’ deaths.

Infant swimming is a good metaphor for many of the life skills we want for those we love to acquire, and for many of the actions we can take on their behalf to give them the ability to react in a crisis. We teach kids to recite their names and address from the time they can talk in case they are lost. We teach them to survive falling in a pond. We set up wills to protect them (frankly) against the system. So many of these actions are small, but they require asking yourself “what’s the worst that can happen” – and being honest with yourself about the answers.

Note:  This month, ISR has been selected to compete in the Pepsi® Refresh Project.  ISR needs daily votes for FLOAT during the month of August to “Help Eliminate Childhood Drowning” at this link

Voting opened Sunday, August 1st, and is open for just one month! ISR supporters can vote daily to help provide ISR lessons to families in need. The Pepsi projects with the most votes receive the grants.  If you feel so inclined, please vote to help a worthy cause:  stopping childhood drowning.

3 Replies to “infant swimming”

  1. Steve,

    I just heard a report about a group of teenagers who drowned in Louisiana. Not one in the group knew how to swim. If even just one had taken a class like your kids did, maybe the tragedy could have been averted. My kids learned to swim at an early age. There’s a program called Water Babies in my area that teaches the same skills.

    1. @Corporate Barbarian: I know, Bubelah and I were discussing that case, too. I believe the adults who were there didn’t know how to swim, either. It is a tragedy, and (mostly) a preventable one. It’s really not necessary to learn a butterfly stroke or anything like that, but everyone should be taught at least how to float on their back, do a rudimentary dog paddle and get comfortable being underwater. Obviously that wouldn’t save you if there were other problems (cold water or strong currents or whatever) but it would hopefully give you the skills to survive falling in a pond. Very sad.

  2. I recall dreading swimming lessons as a child and never really enjoying going to the pool. I also had this teacher in school that made everyone jump of the high dive. Oh yeah! That was great for someone like myself who wasn’t a strong swimmer.

    Now, I love watching my kids learning how to swim and having fun in the pool. Maybe it’s the teacher, warmer water, or a little of both. It’s also a huge confidence boost for my kids as they watch themselves improve each day.

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