October 2, 2012

Our Little Fish

For the month of September Mr. Finn was enrolled in survival swim lessons through the Infant Swimming Resource (ISR). Every day I took him to a 10 minute lesson where in four weeks he learned how to hold his breath under water, how to float for an indefinite amount of time, how to turn from his belly to his back, and how to right himself from numerous positions/falls in the water and get to a floating position.

It was amazing to see the transformation. He wasn't crazy about the lessons, but got more and more relaxed each week. The lessons are only 10 minutes each time so as not to fatigue the baby. And last Friday, our little fish graduated! We will need to practice his skills from time to time and he should take a refresher course and next season he can begin to learning how to swim more instead of just the survival aspects of it. I honestly don't know if I would have even thought about these lessons at such a young age had we not lost Cale. I think that my exposure to tragedy has just opened my eyes to so many things. The instructor who taught Finn (they only teach one child at a time - it's not a group lesson), got certified and teaches babies and young kids how to swim as several years ago she lost twins at 23 months old when they both drown at an at-home daycare (when a different provider than normal was watching them and fell asleep). Her kids woke up from their nap and wandered outside and through an unsecured gate. When the provider woke up, she found them both in the pool. I read about her kids and my heart just broke into a million pieces. Then I learned that they died on June 13th, Finley's birthday, and that they would have turned two on June 26th (two days before Cale's birthday). It is just an unfathomably sad story and as I told her when I first met her, I think it's amazing that she is taking her tragedy and doing so much good with it. She has taught hundreds of kids since her twins passing and who knows- she could have potentially saved another child from drowning as a result. 

So now that I've just yanked at your heart strings, let me share some pictures of our little fish with you.

His first week was the toughest for him and he was the fussiest then. This was when he started learning to float and was figuring out that when going under water he needed to hold his breath:

The second week incorporated more rolling from his belly to his back, and re-establishing that good floating position by himself. As you can see in this video, she isn't holding on to him, but rather letting him feel that water moving under him and figuring out how to float:

Sometimes while floating, Finn would feel the water come up against his cheek and would hold his breath thinking he was going under water. It's amazing how quickly they learn that under water = hold breath. Sometimes when we was above water it would take him a second to figure out it was safe to breathe again.

The third week involved more flips and "falls" - where she would simulate him falling into the pool from the side (by walking him in the water, flipping him in the water, and having him fall backward in the water):

The fourth week reviewed everything, but each day added more clothes and a regular diaper. The regular diaper can add a lot of weight:

Sick. This thing was like a Chipotle Burrito. Just massive.

I'm so heavy with all this stuff on!

 And by the end of the fourth week he was swimming in full winter clothes and shoes:

Floating in full clothes:

Adjusting to all the weight when flipped backwards:

On the last day I got in the pool with Finn and his instructor walked me through some of the techniques that Miles and I can do to help him practice his skills. He was just in his swim diaper for that class and I filmed this video which I think does a good job capturing how he flips over to his belly and starts to float again after being face down:

 So, there you have it. We are so proud of our little ISR graduate:
Plump tummy full of extra water and air.

If you want any more info on what the program was like for us, I'd be happy to share.


  1. We have thought about doing this for Finn and Eli this fall. Does she do them year round?? What a horribly sad story, but I'm glad you shared it. It is terrifying...but makes you want to be smart and prepare your children!

  2. awwww ok so I know I’m not a Mom, but I can only imagine this must have been a little hard for you. I mean- trust me, I’m SUPER proud cause I can already tell he’s going to be a PHENOMENAL swimmer, but he seems none to pleased about getting throw in a pool .... it broke my heart a little bit hehe... but DEFINITELY great techniques... and he’s a freaking fish! he’s awesome!

    Love it- if/when I ever get blessed with children, it’s definitely something I’ll do with them!

  3. My heart stopped watching these clips. Especially the second clip when she lifted him out of the pool only to plop him in, fully submerged, and it was completely hands off as he floated to the surface. And I think I gasped in unison with you!

    After it was all said and done, did he enjoy himself? Do you think it gave him a good relationship with the water, and will increase his likability towards the water?

    It looks terribly horrifying to watch as a mother... but completely worth it for his safety.

    1. Oh yes there were many times I just wanted to jump in the water after him! Especially the times he'd swallow a bunch of water and be coughing while still trying to figure out the floating thing. But I could see a change in him by the end of the first week! He never loved the classes - he was always forced to do something he didn't want to do, but that's the point - to get them out of their comfort zone and teach them how to relax and figure it out. But in the long run, especially once he's better at actual swimming, I think he will love going to the pool. He still loves the water though - loves bath time, and even after the end of a lesson, he'd try to reach his hand in the pool and splash the water.

      So while it was scary, it was just one of those things that you feel good about knowing it's just making them as safe as possible. :)

  4. I need to get in gear and find a local instructor. Love seeing Finn show his skills! :)

  5. Wow, that's incredible!

    Your boy is so freakin' cute!

  6. I was watching YouTube videos of this during the summer with Peter when we were trying to get the kids excited to learn how to swim, and we both thought it was crazy! But awesome, too. I just didn't know it was a fully developed national program, looks like there's one like 5 minutes from us! I would love to sign little E up.

    What an incredibly tragic story, what your instructor is doing is amazing. We will be praying for her!

  7. That's awesome! Water safety is so important, but I didn't know you could start so early. I must get started on some research to find someone in my area!

    Thanks for sharing and good job, Finn!!

  8. What a trooper! You as well!!
    I remember going to a private home in GA that my friends kids took swim lessons in. All the lil 2 year olds were crying but they knew that they had to plop in the water, swim to the wall and then pull themselves out! Never have I seen so many screaming 2 year olds listening to insruction!
    It is amazing how early you can start and how they get the hang of it!
    I love that they do it with clothes on too! Our kids will def be getting lessons!

  9. I'm stunned!

    Not only because I'm so sad to hear about the loss of that instructor's twins, but also because your Finn rocked that! I'm surprised in a very good way to see that he was so incredible.

    I had no idea these lessons even existed. They're pretty far from my house ... sigh. We'll be starting B on lessons as soon as we're back in town again from our travels.

  10. That instructor is amazing. I'm not sure I could work with other people's kids after enduring a loss like that. What a gift. Finn is amazing too! I will definitely be looking into this...

  11. This really is awesome. He really is a little survival swimmer! I've never heard of anything like this, and I think it's brilliant.