Children aged 1-4 are most likely to drown in a residential pool, owned by a family member or close acquaintance, while being supervised by one or both parents. (Statistics courtesy of the Center for Disease Control-Division of Injury Prevention).
I personally like to think that I am immune to things like this. I like to believe that I am a responsible, careful parent, and therefore, bad things can't happen to my child. However, I have seen enough stories on the news to know that drowning doesn't just happen to irresponsible or careless parents. It happens to responsible parents all the time, and it only takes a moment for the unthinkable to happen!
Our new house does not have a pool, but Brian's parents bought our old house, and thus, inherited our pool. Reid spends a lot of time over at their house, and for our family, it was essential that Reid learn how to swim early. In mid-June, we enrolled Reid in infant swim survival lessons. The goal of this type of lesson is not to merely acclimate infants/toddlers/preschoolers to the water, but to teach them how to survive should they ever fall in. These lessons are typically for kids between 6 months and 6 years of age. My understanding is that the skill set acquired varies depending upon age (i.e., babies and toddlers learn how to float and breathe, and the older kiddos learn more actual swimming skills in addition to the floating.)
As a parent, is it very difficult to watch your child go through these lessons. Mom and dad are not in the pool for the lesson-just the child and the instructor. Also, your child is allowed to struggle in the water for a few seconds at a time as a part of the learning process. I'll be honest---I almost couldn't take Reid back after the first couple of days. We were BOTH so traumatized. We stuck with it, and after 4 1/2 weeks of lessons, Reid has officially graduated from swim school! His final exam consisted of going in the pool in a regular diaper, clothes and shoes. The instructor set him on the edge of the pool and gently pushed him in. He demonstrated the ability to get back up to the water's surface, roll over on his back and float. He would then turn over and "swim" a short distance before floating/breathing some more. He was able to find the steps and get out on his own at the end.
I must take a moment to brag like the proud mom that I am--Reid was a natural. He impressed the instructor and other parents with his swimming/floating skills from day one. At 16 months of age, he was actually able to move beyond learning to turn over on his back to breathe, and he learned to swim a little and to find the step and get out on his own. We'll definitely chalk his athletic prowess up to the McFarland side of the family. As a child, Brian held multiple swim records at the YMCA in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. (I'm actually informed by certain sources that Brian STILL holds certain swim records in Oklahoma. Apparently records are kept online so people can go back and check these things 20 years later. I digress.) Brian's brother Mark swam in college and he currently coaches high school swimming in New York.
I have included pictures and video clips of our little Aqua Baby below. I'd just like to hop back on my soap box to say a couple of more things:
1) These lessons do not "drown-proof" your child. They are merely one layer of protection and should be used in conjunction with adult supervision and barriers to pool access.
2) This type of training is so important for little kiddos who regularly spend time around the water. You can find more information at the following websites:
- www.infantswim.com (The Infant Swim Resource home page)
- aquatykestx.com (The website of our local swim instructor, Cindy Clark)
This is Reid's "help me, mommy" face--made frequently during the course of our lessons.
Reid learning to float on his back with Cindy.
Reid floating on his own like a pro.
Reid with Cindy on graduation day--so proud!
Video #1: Reid during his second or third week of lessons working on floating and swimming to the step.
Video #2: Last day of lessons I was asked to join Reid in the pool so Cindy could teach me how to continue working with him. (Disclaimers: I am 8 months pregnant. I am a whale. Also, I'm allowed to be in the pool while on bedrest--Reid is pretty darn near weightless while under water. No enormous pregnant women nor unborn children were harmed during the making of this video.)
Video #3: Reid floats over to steps, turns over and gets out of the pool on his own.