07/16/2014 04:00 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Fourth Kid Cred

Heather Risinger

After bringing four children into the world, I don't think it's a stretch to say you kind of know what you're doing with the whole parenting thing. I don't claim to be a parenting expert, but most of the time I can say to myself, "I got this." After a while, it is difficult to listen to others tell you how or what you should be doing to raise them. With the first one, I was crazy. Admit it, so were you. As each one comes up the ranks you are simply more relaxed. What to do when you hit a road block? Uncharted territory is the worst for a seasoned parent.

This happened recently when my third child was having trouble swimming. We live in Southern California and we are in water all the time. I couldn't understand what the big deal was. I had already taught two kids to be completely water safe with no schools, classes or extra help. They are strong swimmers and love the water. Why is the third kid being so difficult? Why is he so attached to his float device? Why won't he just let go of this fear?

I completely subscribe to the idea that all children are different and what works for one doesn't always work for another. I respect their unique DNA, their individualism and that each one has their own timeline of physical and emotional development. Still, I was stumped. I tried every tool I had in my box and still, no progress. He refused to go in the water without his green monster "floatie."


I reached out to some ladies I know and love who work at a swim school in Arizona. They put their own babies in the water when they were just a couple of months old. When I first saw this, I thought they were nuts. They were dunking their babies under water and teaching them to swim barely out of the womb? Well, that turned in to toddlers that could swim and didn't need flotation devices. I thought it was time to seek their expertise, as it was clearly effective for all four of their kids.

I brought my then-4-year-old to them hoping their experience would break him of his fear. It did. After three short lessons he had mastered many things, and no longer needed his favorite "floatie." It was just that simple. A different approach was all that was needed, and now he is completely confident, water safe, and still going to swim class learning new skills each week. A year later, he doesn't even remember his little green monster.



While he was learning how to let go of his water issues, I had just had a new baby and he was 10 weeks old. There was a free baby class every morning at the same swim school. To say I was completely unsure was an understatement, but I jumped in the class with my tiny person, anyway. I was taken through a series of exercises and repetitive motions that are known to help infants learn survival skills from day one. By day three, the newbie was nearly floating on his own, and like a little baby fish, he was at home in the water.


A little over a year later, that same baby, masters the skills in his weekly swim class. He can float on his back with little help, can submerge under water and swim forward to the step and climb out. He may never need the help of a flotation device and has no fear of the water.


If someone told me four kids ago I would be dunking my infant under water and teaching him to swim, they would have received a chlorine spit take in the eye. This time around, I learned a valuable lesson. It seems I do know what I'm doing when it comes to this kid thing. If what I know doesn't work, then I try something new and out of my comfort zone and see what happens. The willingness to let go of what I thought I knew is key. Experiencing each child and each issue, individually, is a gift. What I know, for sure, is that there is value in opening these gifts one child at a time.