I Watched My Kids Cry Through Swim Rescue Lessons -- But I Made Them Do It Anyway

by Erin Washington
Originally Published: 
A mother swimming with her kids in a pool
Erin Washington

We opened our pool yesterday. While part of me jumped with jubilation, another part of me cowered a bit.

I have two young kids. Two young, curious, adventurous, not-scared-of-much kids, who now have an uncovered body of water in their sightline — and whom I’m gonna have to have an eye on every second now that this pool is uncovered.

Courtesy of Erin Washington

But this summer, I have a little peace of mind: My kids completed ISR.

Last year, I researched Infant Swimming Rescue after my sister completed this program with her son. I watched videos of babies and toddlers being flipped into the water (because when you fall into a pool, you flip) and cringed. The babies were terrified. I could barely watch it. I quickly decided that this was not for me.

Months later, after bawling through two different interviews with devastated parents talking about their toddlers drowning in their pool, I decided to do a little research. Those videos, those devastated parents — they haunted me. But it was this particular testimony that sealed the decision:

ISR Review:

On January 3, 2013, I was participating in a mommy boot camp class at a local park. During the class, which takes place in an open soccer field, one of the other moms volunteered to watch Michael, my 15-month-old, and a few other babies while I went for a short jog. I was gone for no more than two minutes, and on my return I quickly noticed Michael was not where he should be. I instantly panicked and began looking all over for Michael. My heart just about stopped when I noticed the water rippling in a canal about twenty yards away. I ran over as fast as possible, fearing the worst, and pleading to let him be okay. What I saw was absolutely amazing. My 15 month little guy was floating in the middle of the canal. Doing EXACTLY what he was trained to do. He SAVED himself! I dove in, swam out and grabbed him. He was OKAY, shaken up of course and freezing as the water was quite cold, but he was PERFECT and ALIVE! I cannot put into words how deeply appreciative we are for our ISR classes and (our instructor’s) patience with Michael. We are forever indebted to the ISR program!

That was it. I decided to enroll both my baby and toddler in ISR.

Courtesy of Erin Washington

The program started with a certified instructor introducing my hesitant kids to the water and making them more comfortable- that’s it. After a few classes, the instructor started to teach my kids the ISR Self-Rescue Method. And they hated it.

Was it hard to watch them cry, looking up at me for rescue? SO hard. But we stayed with it. And after a couple of classes, neither of them cried. They gained confidence and even looked forward to their daily swim class.

Is it a commitment? Totally. The classes are ten minutes long (the typical attention span of a toddler), Monday through Friday and typically last around nine weeks (when the child masters the self-rescue skill).

Is it worth it? Absolutely. I can’t think of anything more important than teaching your kids a skill that will save their life if they ever find themselves alone in a body of water.

Things can happen so quickly. If your child will be around the pool this summer and especially if you have a pool in your backyard, I urge you to take a look at ISR and their mission of “Not one more child drowns.”

Lessons start for babies as young as six months old (as long as they can sit up, unassisted). I started my son at nine months old and he learned the skill in just a few weeks. My two-and-a-half-year-old daughter was obviously more aware and therefore a little more hesitant (I recommend starting as early as possible), but they both graduated the program after floating on their backs with no assistance, in full clothing and shoes, for two minutes. And there were no tears — just proud smiles.

Courtesy of Erin Washington

If you’re hesitant because you don’t want to see your child cry, I get it. That was me. But ultimately, I decided that hearing my babies cry (in a safe, monitored environment with a professional) was better than the alternative of never hearing them cry again.

For more information on ISR or find a certified instructor in your area, visit

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