Sat by the kids pool on holiday last week, I found myself with the question: when do we cross over from being judgemental mums to being concerned parents with a touch of common sense and decency.
Picture the scene: kids pool, gloriously shallow and perfect for the kids to wade in whilst parents sit around the outside and watch whilst reading a book and sipping something tasty. Me, sitting on the lounger with one eye on the kids and one eye reading a book for the ﬁrst time during the day in forever, basically living my best life in the sunshine. The dulcet tones of my seven year old broke the peace, across the pool and in full ear shot of 90% of parents who were either in the pool or on the loungers trying to grab a rest. “Mummmmm, Oscar (name changed on the oﬀ chance anyone from that holiday ever reads this post… which they won’t, but ya know) just said f you to me. He keeps doing that ﬁnger thing you told me never to do! The one that isn’t a peace sign!” Heads swing to look at Reuben, a relative silence settles over the pool. Do I tell him not to tattle-tail? Well, yes, no one likes a dickhead and if you’re that kid that tells on everyone then you really are going to end up left out. That wasn’t the only thing the collective pool community seemed to be waiting for as the tell-tail told his story – the parents of “Oscar” were sat IN the pool. Were they going to say anything? Perhaps explain to their child, who could be heard loud and clear shouting “Fuck you” at various intervals and had ﬂicked the v’s more times than I could count (and was indeed doing it as Reuben shouted over in his outrage).
The truth? No, they hardly looked up from lounging in the pool (which was meant for small children and adults playing with them, not as a proverbial water bed for the slovenly and ignorant to splay out and block oﬀ with their full body length), despite hearing two other people tell their own children over the course of the hour we were playing to stay away from “Oscar” because he had hurt them or was being a blatant shit (which all kids are at times – not sorry), they never did more than a simple “Oscar don’t do that love” or not even that just “Oscar… come here” only to be totally ignored and subsequently return to lounging and their conversations, forgetting what issue they had intended to raise with their child.
After the child squirted Toby in the eye with his squirt gun and made him cry, I found it really diﬃcult to stop my judgey pants from riding up my arse and turning me into a pious cow who couldn’t help but sit in total judgement of these people. How could you actively ignore your child in a swimming pool, a child that couldn’t be more than 5/6? Why would you want your child swearing in a pool and have absolutely nothing to say about it? Who would allow a child to hurt other children and STILL have no reprimand for them? As we were leaving the pool I noticed that “Oscar” wasn’t there anymore, his mum was walking back from the bar with a cocktail in hand and I couldn’t help but overhear her (no really, they were stationed on the loungers behind us) declare to her partner “I’ve left Oscar down there. At least he can’t upset nobody down there. He’ll be alright.” To clarify, this was the deep (1.2m, but too deep for Toby who was about the same height) pool with a small children’s play area. I hope there was another adult with him but to be honest I’m not sure. The lifeguards were there I suppose. This child wasn’t a stranger to me either, the night before he had been playing in the play area with the boys, parents both in the bar – which I didn’t judge as the area is secure, it wouldn’t work for me but that is me and it’s not the same for everyone – and he came to chat to me a few times, left his drink and cash (a whopping 2 EURO) on the table, asking Adam and I to look after it instead of going in to his parents. Upon reﬂection this just seems like a really sad caption to the boy’s holiday.
I couldn’t help but question though, because I will not lie, I absolutely 100% was judging these parents and not in a kind way, was it fair to judge? To think ill of them? Who am I to whisper to Adam that it’s so inappropriate to ignore your child and behave irresponsibly? I know we all relax a bit more on holiday, our kids get away with more, we care less about the things that would drive us barmy at home but at what point does it become a case of being another concerned adult as opposed to being a judgemental twat? As someone who can’t abide mum shaming, parental judging, I ﬁnd myself at odds when I can’t help but be judgemental. I always try to look for the reason – is this child perhaps special needs and that is why they are playing rough? Maybe they are just heavy handed and mum is stepping in to correct them but missed it this time – she’s on holiday too, let her catch a break. Perhaps the child is acting out and having a tough time, maybe dad is struggling to cope and that’s why they are acting ambivalent at the bar… there are a bajillion reasons that “bad” behaviour occurs, so it’s important not to be judgemental but to be honest sometimes it’s damn near impossible when you see a scenario like this… so at what point does it become less judgmental asshole sat at the side of the pool wishing your child wouldn’t keep ﬂicking the v’s at mine and calling him a fucking dickhead and more about an expectation of social etiquette and basic decency, plus a concern for a child who frankly doesn’t seem to be a priority from the outside looking in? Is there ever an excuse for behaving so around a child? I don’t know, but what I do know is that as much as I tried, I couldn’t help but judge and I will spend a lot of my time wondering if “Oscar” is enjoying his holiday or looking for someone else’s table to pop change on and lashing out at children in the pool whilst his parents slurp cocktails.