This is a story that I pitched to an editor the other day. She said, “Yes, that is nuts. But it’s also from June.” To which I replied, “Touché. And yet I still must write about it.”
I discovered a little article in the New York Times about something called Infant Survival Swim Training (ISST). I know, it already sounds a little ominous, huh? Generally when you pair “infant” with “survival” you make people nervous. Then you add the word “training,” and you make people confused. The only word in there that is not terrifying is “swim.”
In ISST, what you do is — and I am going to try to put this delicately — drop a child between the ages of six months and six years in a pool and let them kinda drown, because their natural instinct is to eventually flip over and float on their backs. The babies are motivated by graham crackers and breathing.
The classes are held five days a week for only ten minutes at a time, and go for five or six weeks. That seems like a lot of drowning to learn a “natural response.” Also, parents are allowed to sit next to the pool but are not allowed to interfere with the lesson.
Nope. No no no no no. Negative. Not even close to being interested in this. As someone who saw her son start to drown in a pool last year, I cannot imagine subjecting a baby to the kind of fear that comes with not being able to breathe and refusing to help them. The ISST method is careful not to guarantee that your baby won’t drown, however. As they say on one Infant Self-Rescue site:
ISR believes pool fences, supervision, and pool alarms are important parts of a necessary multi-layered approach to drowning prevention. However, traditional lines of defense break down…Children are curious, capable, and have an uncanny ability to overcome obstacles like pool fences; at ISR we take that ability and teach them skills to potentially save themselves if they find themselves in the water alone.
Now, this is not to say that accidents don’t happen because they do, but if your six-month-old “finds themselves in the water alone,” you done fucked up. How about for the first year or two of their lives, you just don’t let your kid out of your sight when you’re near water? Or you can pretend to drown them a bunch. To conquer a fear, you must look it square in the eye…little baby.
Here are some other great ideas inspired by this method of swim training:
1. Infant Touch No More Training
The goal of these classes is to teach your child what they can touch and what they can’t. For example, we’ll let your child touch an open flame just long enough to learn that they never want to do that again. We’ll also give them a fork and then leave them in a room with an open socket (but don’t worry, medics will be there to revive them if necessary.) And a small prick of the finger with a steak knife will keep your toddler away from your knife drawer.
Infant Touch No More Training: Because Pain Is Nature’s Teacher.
2. Toddler Traffic Safety And Speed Training
Never worry about walking through parking lots again after taking our toddler traffic safety program. Our team of professional drivers go no faster than five miles per hour in your child’s first lesson, giving them plenty of time to learn how to run or roll out of the way. As the classes progress our cars go faster, and so does your child. By the end of the program your child will have their eyes and ears trained to sense an approaching car and run like their lives depend on it. Which they do.
Toddler Traffic Safety And Speed Training: Where Speed Plus Fear Equals Safety
3. Prevent SIDS With Blanket Battle Training
Parents often worry about their newborns getting caught under a blanket and being unable to breathe. With our Blanket Battle Training, we will teach your child to view blankets as the enemy. Bring your baby and a blanket you don’t mind seeing set on fire, and we’ll give you back one blanket-obliterating baby.
Blanket Battle Training: Tonight, Blanket, We Finish This.
4. Fearless With Fido: Pet Safety Training
Most parents are concerned about strange dogs hurting their curious toddlers. Well, the key to avoiding confrontation with dogs is to determine who the alpha is quickly and decisively. Our Alpha Baby pilot program did not go as planned, so we have course-corrected and now employ the Submissive Baby method. When a dog comes within five yards of your child, we will teach them to honor their instinct to lie down on their backs and urinate.
Fearless With Fido: It Won’t Even Be Worth That Dog’s Time