Marri Shark

My Little ISR Graduate

July 19, 2018, was one of my proudest moments yet. On this day, I beamed with satisfaction, watching my Marri, who was just shy of his first birthday graduate from his ISR (Infant Swim Rescue) course! While we may not have experienced all of the joys of parenting, for my husband and I, watching Marri take on his float with ease and seeing how he had grown so comfortable and content in the water was a feeling of immense joy. We knew that it was invaluable to ensure we were providing our baby boy with the gift of safety in the water versus a childhood of fear.

Beautiful Photo By  Lavish Moments Photography

Beautiful Photo By Lavish Moments Photography

Before you start sending the graduation cards filled with confetti—let’s rewind 23 days earlier to Marri’s first day of swim class. This moment is still very “fresh” as I was extremely nervous and unsure of how I would react to seeing my child temporarily struggle to learn a new skill set.

During his first swim lesson, I began my own self-analysis. It was hard to watch my baby discontent and it was equally as difficult to watch him acclimate, uncomfortably, to the newness of being in the water. As parents we want our kids to be resilient, problem solvers, capable of succeeding at a difficult task at the highest level. Yet, sometimes we do the opposite of contributing to their personal growth by coddling and overcompensating for them. We cater to their comforts to make them “content” because we want to make their lives “better” and give them everything they want and what we think they need.

During his lessons, although Marri did not experience prolonged discomfort, danger or distress; I felt extremely nervous and anxious. I reminded myself that the angst felt in that moment would be nothing compared to the agony or distress I would feel if my child encountered a body of water and was not equipped with the tools to save himself.


A child drowning is treacherous and mentally unbearable to comprehend, let alone for a family to experience. Sadly, the reality is over 4,000 children and infants suffer from drowning annually and it is the leading cause of accidental death for children under the age of four in the U.S. Drowning is not this loud, boisterous event that Hollywood has made it out to be. It is quiet and scary because any amount of time longer than 21 seconds of being submerged in the water can be fatal for children. Because we have a pool in our home, we felt responsible for making sure our son could swim or at least provide him with life-saving tools that could help his chances of survival should he ever unintentionally become exposed to a body of water.

The platform

Enter ISR Self-Rescue® (Infant Swimming Resource). This resource came in and changed our lives for the better.

A great component of ISR instruction is their knowledgeable and skilled instructors. Allison Hult, was our phenomenal ISR Self-Rescue® instructor who taught Marri and (helped Marri’s mommy), gain confidence while he was in the water. Allison is patient, kind, caring and a highly skilled instructor that does an excellent job helping the students and parents understand the process of learning their life-saving float and, as they grow older, swim-float-swim tactics for water safety. Having grown up around water her entire life, being in the water became second nature to her. She now teaches ISR full -time in South Florida and has an array of students from ages 6 months to 6 years old.

During our initial lesson, Allison could tell I was nervous. Once she placed Marri in the water, he cried a little, but she immediately hugged and soothed him which calmed Marri and his mommy. Her peaceful spirit gave both Marri, my now superstar floater, and his nervous mommy reassurance and comfort. His first lesson was all of eight minutes where she let him tread water and get comfortable in his new environment.

She did not submerge him underneath or force him to splash around. She just introduced him to what would be his new home every day for the next four weeks. Day one and lesson one was complete. For the next 23 days, as a family, we completed our 10-15 minutes of the first round of ISR Self-Rescue® lessons.

the process

Every time I documented one of my son’s lessons via social media, I immediately received feedback from friends, family, and strangers on how they were amazed at his progress. Although young children and young babies can technically submerge underwater for at least 21 seconds before being at risk of drowning, Allison never let him stay under longer than four seconds. One of his first lessons and the primary principles of ISR is breath control (not inhaling or aspirating water) and mastering a float. Allison reinforces to her students that whenever they are submerged in water, their float is their common safety mechanism and will keep them safe until rescued by their parent or guardian. This float ensures their mouth and nose stay above water, and they are receiving an adequate air supply and breathing until recovered.

the product

Beautiful Photo By  Lavish Moments Photography

Beautiful Photo By Lavish Moments Photography

What is ISR? Founded by Dr. Harvey Barnett, ISR has been saving lives for over 50 years and is now the global leader in survival swimming lessons for infants and young children. The mission of ISR is simple: To teach children skills to potentially save themselves if they find themselves in the water alone. Their motto is “Not One More Child Drowns” and they believe successful drowning prevention consists of preparation.

As parents we would not allow our child to ride in a car without a car seat so why do we allow our children to exist around water without providing life skills and training for them to save themselves?

ISR believes in a multi-layered approach to drowning prevention and listed below are additional safety measures to ensure your child is safe near the water:

1) Effective Supervision

2) Pool Fences

3) Alarms

4) Survival Swimming Lessons

5) CPR

Beautiful Photo By  Lavish Moments Photography

Beautiful Photo By Lavish Moments Photography

If an emergency happens, it is essential that parents and families are prepared. Learn to perform CPR on children and adults and remember to update those skills regularly. Watching Marri learn in these lessons not only forced my baby out of his comfort zone but it forced me outside of mine as well. There were many times when I saw him learning to float and mastering his breath control but, if he showed the slightest sign of frustration, I was ready to snatch him out of the water and cuddle away his agony. I would have been doing him a disservice because although swimming was new territory for him, he eventually mastered his technique and learned to love the water. We have to allow our children to step outside of their comfort zones so they can grow and develop skills that will lead them to greatness. I am a firm believer that without friction, there is no growth and as parents, we have to get past our own need to “protect” our children from discomfort and encourage them to push beyond their pain to grow and succeed. 

Beautiful Photo By  Lavish Moments Photography

Beautiful Photo By Lavish Moments Photography

View Marri's entire ISR Journey by watching our compilation video below. Thank you Allison for these amazing memories! 

Edited By Joy Davis