Thank you, thank you, thank you, American Academy of Pediatrics! At LAST you have recommended that children aged 1 to 4 years old should receive swimming lessons. Why does this make me so happy? Because now millions of parents will feel confident that they can and should teach their young kiddies to swim, rather than worry that it is not developmentally appropriate, or flat-out not possible. This is a big deal, too; as Sabriya Rice's CNN article reminds us, "Drowning is the second-leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 19, according to the AAP report. New data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commissions finds children between the ages of 1 and 2 represent 47 percent of submersion injuries and 53 percent of fatalities for children younger than 15." These are heartbreaking numbers. As summer approaches quickly, so do the inevitable sad reports of child drowning deaths, and the terrible losses suffered by their devastated families.

There are two personal reasons I feel so strongly about this issue. I wrote here previously about my own water misadventure, which happened with many members of my own family right there in the pool with me. It is obviously something I never forgot, and something that I never wanted my own children to ever go through: the sick, terrifying feeling that you are drowning, and you don't know how to save yourself. I was determined to find the best way for them to learn how to protect themselves in the water at the age where it was most likely that they would find trouble -- the toddler/preschool years. I had no illusions at all about "drown-proofing." Anyone, even the strongest swimmer, can get in trouble fast in the water. But, dammit, I wanted to up their odds. I wanted to give them something that would at least buy them a few seconds or minutes in the water, often just long enough for someone to notice and come to their rescue. And I did find something and it WORKS: Infant Swimming Resource. I implore all you parents to at least take some time and read what their site has to say, because I can back it all up from what I have seen from two kids that successfully went through ISR's complete program.

Imagine this: seeing your 2-year-old get into a pool for the very first time, and a few weeks later is able, completely on his own, be able to swim a short distance face down in the water, flip over and float to rest and get air, flip over to swim again, and repeat the process until he makes it to the side of the pool and can reach the side. Now imagine seeing him do that in the pool dressed in full winter gear, including boots and gloves and a snowsuit, because that was the final water test.

It is impossible to tell you what that feeling was like as a parent to see this happen, what seemed unimaginably impossible before, to two of your own kids. My pride was off-the-charts, and my gratitude to ISR and our instructor Cindy Asay, boundless.

I will also tell you this: ISR is intense. This is not your "group lessons at the community pool blowing bubbles in the water for 30 minutes." All ISR lessons are one-on-one with the instructor -- no other kids or parents are allowed in the pool. The lessons are 5 days a week for several weeks in a row, and are expensive. Your kid is definitely not always going to be very damn happy about the process -- sometimes they will cry, not want to do it, swallow too much pool water and puke (which is why there's a strict no-eating-before-lessons rule, heh), and you as the parent cannot waver. You have to watch them struggle at times and allow the instructor to work. That said, I cannot imagine a more fun, kind, enthusiastic, and motivational person than we had in Ms. Asay, dressed in her wetsuit, day in and day out, with all kinds of children coming to her, one 10-minute lesson after another, year after year. She is why my kids are waterbugs; damn, you can't even get Mr12 out of a pool or the ocean, he loves it so much.

I also know that ISR had lasting results. There have been a few times over the years I have seen my boys play a little too much in the deep end of the pool, or go out a little far into the Gulf in some rough waves, and start to falter. Both of them, every time, automatically remembered to stop struggling and to allow themselves to float up on their backs to calm down and breathe before swimming to a safer spot. This is the critical advantage to ISR. It is not focused on learning new strokes or playing fun games in the water with floaties to make you feel pretend-safe. It is about safety and thinking what do you do when it is only you in the water and you are in trouble, and yes, even babies can learn this. I would even recommend ISR for older children who have already been through traditional swimming lessons, or even teen or adult non-swimmers, that's how much I think of the program.

So. The problem with the new AAP recommendation is there is a huge lack of any swimming lessons for very young children. People will be looking for lessons now who previously did not, and they won't come up with much, or lessons that are ineffective for that age group. It is my hope that with the increased demand from families that more good people like Cindy Asay will train to become ISR instructors and then be able to find good facilities that will allow ISR lessons -- often an issue. If you already have an ISR instructor in your area, please try to take advantage of that. I know it is hard to make that time commitment. I know it will take a bite out of your budget. It's worth it.