We had an experience at the pool last week that was, well we will say interesting. It seems these things always happen in front of my highly curious 8 year old son who doesn’t let things slip past him. There was a mom at the pool with her 3 kids nearby to us. I am not one to judge, I have had bad days and lost my temper a little too quickly with my kids before and they have been known to catch an attitude before, but this was tough to watch. Her son was going just below the surface and making a gagging noise and kept getting the attention of everyone around including the lifeguard, to sound like he was drowning. Every time he saw people looking, he would burst out laughing. His mom had enough and said if you do that again, you are getting out of the pool. That’s when things took a turn.
The boy yells at him mom “So what, I’m not listening to you” and my eyebrows raised from behind my shades. They go back and forth for a solid 3 minutes and it goes from 7 minutes sitting out, to 14, 21 and so on up to 49. I was first confused by the 7 minute increments but I continued to pretend to mind my business nosily. It ended with him getting out of the pool and telling her to shut up already and he was tired and that’s why he was getting out. Within 5 minutes, he was back in the pool and it seemed all was well with them. I noticed and really hoped that my son didn’t, not so lucky.
In his, never quiet voice; he asks me “I thought that boy had to sit out 49 minutes, why is he swimming again?” Well what do I tell him? Do I tell him that she’s tired of fighting that fight with her kids, that she’s worn down, or that she lets them do whatever they want? No, we know those aren’t the best things to say to a kid that likes to repeat everything. I told him that we need to mind our own business and that we would discuss it later. Whew, bought myself some time for a well-thought response. Like most parents, I forgot until it got brought up.
I try to have honest conversations with my son, he is extremely logical and though he doesn’t always like what is going on, he seems to understand and put the new information into future decisions. My daughter is not on that level of thinking at all, so for the time being, it is just man to man. I have to give some kind of spin to things, but I want him to be as well-prepared for the real world as possible. I decided it was time for one of those distraction-free conversations.
I told him that parents all do things differently. He knows that when I give him an ultimatum that I mean it and I will follow through. Not all parents are the same way and sometimes people have bad days. Maybe she realized that she lost her temper too quickly, she talked to him and calmed him down and said that he could swim again (I was there and this was not the case at all). We talked about the language that the boy used to his mom and how that was not appropriate talk to anyone, especially to an adult and if he said that to his mom or me, we would be in the car on our way home before he finished. I explained differences in parenting styles and how differently children respond and privileges that they get. He knows that some of his friends don’t have TVs, others can’t ever play on a phone or iPad while he gets limited time and others can be on them all day long if they want. There is no right or wrong way of doing things as a parent as long as the kids are not hurt and no laws are being broken. We should not judge others and allow them their own space to parent as they feel is necessary.
I know that I am guilty of judging parents from time to time when their kids are going crazy in public and then also been on the other side. I remember trying to eat out after the kids were stuck in a car for a few hours and it was complete pandemonium! I know that we were getting looks from other restaurant goers that evening. We need to remember that even though we don’t agree with how someone else is treating their kids or how they allow their kids to treat them, we never know what is really going on in their life and we should not judge. Sometimes we just need to see a smile and get a few minutes to ourselves to regain composure and get back to the plan. Raise up our fellow parents, don’t look down on them.
Stay strong out there dads, however you choose to be a dad!