Have you guys ever heard of Infant Swimming Resource? It's this organization that teaches kids under the age of 4-ish life saving techniques if they fall in the water. For a kid Sam's age, she is supposed to get to the surface, float and catch her breath, and then swim to safety. For a kid Charlie's age, at that time 8 months old, she was supposed to get to the surface and float until someone came to save her.
Last year, I was mean and awful and made poor K take my kids every day for 6 weeks to classes. Every. Day. For Six. Weeks. It was an hour drive away, they had to leave before 8am. Every. Day. For Six. Weeks.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, thought I was INSANE. Gas had gone over $3 a gallon. The lessons were NOT cheap, and no one had really heard of it before, save for one friend on facebook. (She lived in Arizona, where the weather is nice all the time and pools are literally everywhere you turn.) My friends thought it was mean, and borderline violent, although I thought that was just a tad extreme. The kids were never in danger, and were not in the water for more than 10 minutes a day. They were held, and then gently let go, and then taught how to save themselves. It was the kindest way to show them how to save their own lives. We live in Indiana, with frequent trips to Michigan. Where 9 months out of the year you can't go in the water outside. And that is why I did it...my in-laws cottage was 20 feet was from the water.
After about 4 weeks, our instructor and K and I noticed that Charlie was not doing well. She was screaming every time she got near the water and once she pulled on her ear. ONCE. She wasn't herself. So we took her to the doctor and sure enough, damn kid had swimmer's ear. Which meant that she was done. No more lessons for her. She could not be submerged under water and so that was that. You have to be fucking kidding me. What a damn waste.
Over the last year, we have occasionally tried to get Sam to show off her skills. Really, we just wanted to see if it worked. If she fell in the water, could she save herself, rather than sink to the bottom like most kids would. The results were mixed, she LOVES to swim. She puts her face down and kicks her legs and swims underwater like a champ. The thing is, after 4 seconds of swimming, she is supposed to flip over and float and catch her breath. You know, breathe. So she doesn't drown. That is the part she HATES. She does NOT like to float, and getting her to do it is a fight.
I always just sort of thought that Charlie was a lost cause. She had done the skills, sort of, that first month. But it was always a traumatic experience, (oh...wait...) and there was lots of screaming, and she didn't really ALWAYS do what she was supposed to do. Which was...if she fell in the water, get to the surface, flip on her back, and float.
The thing about Charlie is that she is a daredevil. She had no regard for her personal safety. I know, she is 1, right? Shouldn't she know that the lake could kill her and leaping from a shopping cart could seriously injure her if I am not paying attention?? Sam was never like that. She was always careful, and when she walks down the pier, she goes right down the middle, not teetering on the edge like some Evil Knievel with a death wish. SHE never threw herself at me just counting on the fact that I would catch her. From any height.
So last night, while I was sitting by the lake, drinking a Bud Light after an extremely long day of hunched over my desk staring at small numbers on my computer monitor, I watched my girls on the pier. Sam sat fishing with Workaholic, while Charlie wandered around, checking out what they were doing. And then apparently got bored.
She turned away from them and started back toward the shore. She is a perfectly capable walker, she can run in a straight line and everything. She only trips and falls occasionally. But for some reason, she literally walked right off the edge of the pier. Into the water.
Cue my scream. I was a good 40 feet away, and Workaholic was 5. In the 1 or 2 seconds it took him to leap off of the pier and into water up to his chest, something incredible and magical and fantastic happened.
She floated. SHE FRIGGIN' FLOATED.
Our little Charlie was submerged, rose to the surface, flipped onto her back, and was calmly floating when her father splashed in next to her. He actually put his arms underneath her and looked up at me with a smile for a split moment before rescuing her.
SHE SAVED HERSELF.
And then she started screaming. Now THAT's my Charlie.
I have never been so proud of that little daredevil in my whole life.
Those lessons were worth every early morning, every scream, every trip to the gas station. Every damn penny.