Parenting by the Poolside: Part 2

Right around this time last year, I wrote a post called Parenting by the Poolside. Even though my readership was relatively small, it touched a nerve in a quite a few people. I really wrote it because of my frustration with parents who use the pool as an alternative to TV or video games. In other words, parenting by proxy.

I’ll take you to the pool so it seems like we’re doing something as a family but really I’m going to sit and read a book or magazine, or text and talk, or crack open a can of beer and yell at you if you block my tanning rays.

This is what I wrote about last year. My observations at our community pool. I actually live in a nice neighborhood with a really nice pool. I usually look forward to going and yet the same things happen year after year.

Today was the second time at the pool for me this year. I went on Friday and Evan fell in love with the water all over again. Gone were his 3 year old fears of the water which were replaced by confidence. Well, as much confidence as floaties can give you.

As we were sitting outside today in the sweltering heat and humidity (yes, it’s already arrived in the Carolinas), I asked Evan, on a whim, if he’d like to go to the pool with me. He hesitated about 0.3 seconds and said YES YES YES. It was late in the day and I was hoping to hit the pool just as the holiday weekend crowds were leaving.



He's my little sardine.

We arrived a little after 5pm. The water was chilly and a touch cloudy from the day’s activities but lots of room to play in the water. I did the middle-aged mom thing and slowly and gently got in the water so as not to totally shock my delicate and aging body.

Once I’m in, look out. I’m like a fish. Or a mermaid. I love the water and play to the point of exhaustion (or hunger). Others kids notice and somehow I become a magnet for them. They want to show me every little trick they can do in the water. I smile and nod and say “Wow!” and secretly hope their parents will come and show them some attention.

Today, I had a particularly needy child all over me. We were in the shallow end and Evan and I were playing. She kept joining in and inserting herself right in the middle of our fun. I tried to be polite and encouraging. She even started grabbing on to me like a child would grab her mother.



The shallow end, AKA the kid magnet.

That’s when I finally looked around for some sign of her parents. She was a darker child and I saw no darker parents. I made no assumptions, though, so I asked her if her mommy was there.

She said,”No, we walked here by ourselves” (referring to her two brothers).

I repeated her, “So neither your mommy or your daddy is here?”

“No,” she replied. That’s when her brother jumped in.

“We have a babysitter at home. But I’m in charge here. I’m 8 years old. Well, I’m 7 but I’m almost 8!”

I was flabbergasted. I needed more details. “What is your babysitter doing?”

His reply: “She’s watching TV or she’s on the computer.”

I had a situation here. I was trying to think of what to do. We have pool attendants who are supposed to monitor the comings and goings of the residents. You weren’t supposed to be there without a guardian if you were under the age of sixteen. And even at sixteen, you could only be there unsupervised if your parents signed a special permission slip.

Once I practically woke the pool attendants up and peeled them away from their cell phone games, I told them what was going on. Their first reaction was how in the world the kids made it past them unsupervised. Hmmmm. I can only guess.

After they gave me a CYA response, they looked at me realizing the seriousness of the situation and said “What should we do?” I’m thinking that the pool management company or somebody should have some sort of procedure for this kind of thing. But apparently not.

I suggested they pull the children (there were three siblings) out of the pool and confirm what I had told them. And then perhaps try to call their parents. If I were out for the evening and knew my babysitter had sent my three children under the age of eight to the swimming pool by themselves and had them walk along a busy road to get there, I would have freaked out.

As the story unfolded, I had a clearer and sadder picture of the reality these children must be living in. They didn’t know their parents’ phone number. As it turns out, their father lives in Ohio. They live with their mother who is away for four days in Florida while they have a 13 year old babysitter “watching” them.

Let’s break down everything that is so horribly wrong with this situation:

  • The mother has gone to Florida for 4 days over Memorial Day weekend. I’m assuming it’s not a business trip.
  • The mother has entrusted the care of her 3 minor children to a 13 year old girl (which may even violate some laws).
  • The 13 year old girl clearly doesn’t have the comprehension of how to properly supervise children. She told them to go to the pool by themselves because she didn’t want to get wet.
  • Even if she did accompany them, a 13 year old isn’t old enough to be considered adequate supervision for children (including herself).
  • The three children walked a fair distance crossing a busy road to get to the pool.
  • The three children were swimming in a pool with no adult supervision (our pool does NOT have lifeguards).

The sad part is I feel like a rat fink. These children were so proud to tell me that they walked to the pool by themselves. They were well-behaved at the pool. They clearly wanted attention. A lot of it. I wanted them to stay and enjoy the pool. But I kept thinking about @IlinaP’s recent post about drowning.

Kids need supervision. They need someone looking out for them. I couldn’t be that person and the last thing I wanted was for anything to happen to any of them. I wanted to run over as they were being escorted home and tell them I’m sorry and that I wished things were different.

And I do wish they were different, in many many ways. I can only hope that the mother has a bit of a wake up call when she returns. But somehow, I doubt it.

  • Hines-Sight Blog

    What a terrible situation!  You did the right thing.  I know that I sometimes am writing on the computer, and tell my five year old to go play, and that sounds horrible, but when I hear stories like you just told, I realize that my children have it well.   That story is unbelievable!

    • Anonymous

      Hey, we all send our kids off to play but only in environments where we know they are safe. I’m not saying your eyes need to be on your kids 24/7 but this is certainly an extreme case.

  • Anonymous

    Fadra, you did the right thing.  I feel for the boy who said, “I’m in charge here.”  He has to grow up too fast.  I wonder if a call to social services would be in order.

    • Lisa

      I couldn’t agree more Sarah.

    • Anonymous

      I’m thinking about it. And I wonder at what point the kids will stop being kids and become angry, bitter, and resentful. So sad.

  • Rachel

    OMG! That kind of thing pisses me off! Children deserve to be the top priority of the parents… What ended up happening with them? Did they go back to the 13 yr old babysitter (who I would hardly trust for a couple hours much less a weekend)?

    • Anonymous

      Yes. The pool attendant (thankfully) walked them home. I was worried they would just send them on their way. But as far as I know, yes, they went back to the 13 year old babysitter. I can only hope it was a temporary situation.

  • Nichole

    That is unbelievable! I’m so glad you were there and present enough to know there was something amiss and to act on it. 

    • Anonymous

      I called my husband and actually acted at his urging. Sometimes common sense leaves me and someone has to slap it back into me.

  • Making It Work Mom

    Your story is awful – yes.  Unbelievable – no.  Unfortunately for some people children get in the way of their life.  Even with all the horrible stories out there about things that happen to childre left alone – think alot of housefires- people still do stupid things.

    You absolutely did the right thing, but unfortunately I think in that family with that mom you will always be the “bad guy”.

    • Anonymous

      I’m totally okay with being the bad guy in the eyes of the mom. I’m just always trying to think of what’s best for the kids. Would it be better for them to be taken away from their mom? I really don’t know. I just didn’t want anything to happen to them.

  • Jana Anthoine

    Oh wow. Just wow. What a terrible situation. 

    • Anonymous

      I know, right? It’s sad.

  • Lisa G Theall

    You did the right thing Fadra and I hope the people that run the pool visit the mom when she returns from her trip on what happened. Honestly I think I might have even reported this to police as the Mom needs to be taught a lesson. I do beleive that would be abandomnet!! As a Mother that would do anything in the world to have my son Mason back who died due to prematurity 2 days after he was born…I don’t have sympathy for these kind of so called parents It would make my day to get to play with my 2 boys in the pool. I could go on..but I won’t! This really fires me up too! Single moms have tough jobs but that’s no excuse to leave your children that way..its selfish and its the children who suffer. You are a wonderful Mom Fadra and I admire you!

    • Anonymous

      Awww, Lisa. I know your heart still breaks. Why does it seem that the people who can easily have children don’t always treasure the gifts they have? Selfishness. That’s my answer.

  • Angie

    Glad you were there to do the right thing for those kids in the absence of anyone who could or would.  I’m literally astounded when I hear stories like these and sadly, I hear them too frequently these days.  I was in total shock when I went with a friend to pick up his 14 year old daughter from his ex’s house only to find she had been left alone with a plumber working INSIDE the house … can you imagine?  Kudos to you for taking action on behalf of those kids safety!  Have a great holiday weekend.

    • Anonymous

      I’m always astounded to hear these stories. I’m even more astounded to witness them. I just wish I could have had a one on one with the mom. Seriously.

  • Leigh Ann

    That’s so sad, but you definitely did the right thing. I’m afraid too many people would not have asked the questions you did and would have just walked away because “it’s not their problem.” But you’re right — I doubt there will be any wake up calls.

    On a lighter note, my in-laws live in NC, and I LOVE seeing pictures of it. I can’t wait to go visit again. :)

    • Anonymous

      It’s soooo much easier to walk away. But nobody ever said doing the right thing was easy. I think about that all the time.

      My house is for sale here in NC so if you’re looking to relocate, let me know :)

  • Walmartgourmet

    Wow! I will totally fess up to be the mom reading the book, but my kids are 9 & 12 and like to act like they don’t know me!

    But everything about this situation makes me cringe. You absolutely did the right thing. I would have been tempted to call child services. I honestly hope someone does.

    • Anonymous

      Okay, my son is 4. And I’m just now enjoying the fact that he can go into the shallow end of the pool without me. I still sit right by with my eyes glued to him and he has his floaties on but it’s nice to have a tiny sminge of independence.

      I hope when he is 9 or 12, I’ll have the freedom to read at the pool a little. But even then, I know I’ll look up every now and then to make sure they are both in my view. I’m sure you do the same. No judgment :)

  • Joy F.G.

    Thank goodness you were there. It is horrible and inconceivable what could have happened if someone with significantly less moral fibre had discovered those children were in a public place by themselves. Also, without any real lifeguards present at the pool, there are just too many variables stacked against those kids’ safety. You’ll be the bad guy for a bit because that may be how the mother will react, but those children will know and what you did will stick with them. They did nothing wrong and I should hope that was made clear to them, they did what any kid would do: Happily go to the pool on a warm day. It just really sucks you were put in that position (especially within your own community where it  opens the door for you to run into them again).

    The Starbucks at the mall here has always been a magnet for careless (and far too trusting) parents to drop off their kids for babysitting purposes. This kind of thing happens far too much.

    • Anonymous

      Argh, yes! They just thought it would be fun to go swimming. I don’t blame them! I wouldn’t want to be stuck inside with a babysitter that watched TV or played on the computer. But I would feel awful if something happened to them. It was kind of a no-win situation.

  • Liz Henry

    You did the right thing! I had a situation like this just a few weeks ago. A teenager left a 3 and a 5 year old home alone all day. I called the police and the children were taken away by Child Protective Services. It was clear to me that this wasn’t the first time it had happened (or the last). I wrote about the children on my blog twice because I felt guilty that stepping into THEIR lives for 10 seconds had life-changing consequences. I found out that their parents were in jail and the family they were staying with were only loosely related. No five year old should ever fear the police or try and hold their door shut when they try to enter. It was one of the hardest, quick decisions I ever made. Whatever the outcome of this, you did what was right. 

  • Liz Henry

    You did the right thing! I had a situation like this just a few weeks ago. A teenager left a 3 and a 5 year old home alone all day. I called the police and the children were taken away by Child Protective Services. It was clear to me that this wasn’t the first time it had happened (or the last). I wrote about the children on my blog twice because I felt guilty that stepping into THEIR lives for 10 seconds had life-changing consequences. I found out that their parents were in jail and the family they were staying with were only loosely related. No five year old should ever fear the police or try and hold their door shut when they try to enter. It was one of the hardest, quick decisions I ever made. Whatever the outcome of this, you did what was right. 

    • Anonymous

      WOW!! A 3 and 5 year old?? I can’t even imagine. I just can’t. You absolutely did the right thing. Without a doubt. The problem is that we don’t always have a system that looks after a child’s best interest. In theory they do but in reality it doesn’t always work that way. And at that age, those kids just want their mommy and daddy no matter how they treat them. I hope the children find better circumstances.

  • Ash

    Holy cow. You completely did the correct thing, but I understand your sadness. Hopefully, more than just a butt chewing for the 13-year-old comes out of this.

    That mother. I mean, that woman who just happened to give birth to three children. I’d like to have a few minutes alone in the pool with her.

    • Anonymous

      You said it. My first thought was that the parents must be out to dinner and they unknowingly hired an incompetent babysitter. I thought the parents would be appalled and would want to know. I was really sad when I found out the whole situation was intentional. Yeah, I’d like to take into the pool too.

    • Anonymous

      You said it. My first thought was that the parents must be out to dinner and they unknowingly hired an incompetent babysitter. I thought the parents would be appalled and would want to know. I was really sad when I found out the whole situation was intentional. Yeah, I’d like to take into the pool too.

  • Stephanie Killey

    That is hard.  I feel so bad for the kids and yet seeing kids playing unsupervised is unfortunately not unusual.

    • Anonymous

      It’s not unusual but for us, it’s against pool rules and in this case, against the law (I think!)

  • Tina @ Life Without Pink

    Fadra you did the right thing. This is a horrible situation and one of my biggest fears. We knew someone’s 2 yr old son that drowned, so you can’t take these things lightly. It’s sad the situation these children were left in. I agree with Sarah – he has to grow up way too quickly.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t know if you read Ilina’s post about a 5 year old that drowned last summer. He was in the middle of a pool for a private family party and drowned right in the middle of them all. I just didn’t want anything to happen to them.

  • Dianna Kennedy

    I’m flabbergasted on one hand, but on the other, I’m not entirely surprised. We used to ave a water park here in town,and I swear to you, parents would drop their children off for the day and leave. Scary, scary stuff

    • Anonymous

      I’m not surprised either. I’ve seen plenty of places that *should* be more diligent about adult supervision and instead it becomes just a babysitting service.

  • Amandaregas

    No, the right thing wasn’t done unless someone called 911 to report neglected children. Children can not be abandoned for days, or even a day. Telling teenage lifeguards was not the last step, they have no idea. I’m sorry, but God knows what happens to them other times.

    • Anonymous

      It took me a couple of days to do the right thing. I did call child protective services and gave them all the information I knew. I hope something changes or at the very least, they’ll have their eye on this mom.

  • Elizabeth Flora Ross

    That is just SO disturbing! I honestly think it is a situation that warrants a call to Child Protective Services. Children should not be left to supervise children, especially in an overnight situation. You were absolutely right to do what you did; something bad could have happened to them at the pool. And something bad could happen to them at home, too! That is absolutely neglect!

    As far as kids begging for some attention, I had a very similar experience at the pool yesterday. There was a large group having a party, and the adults were paying no attention to what the kids were doing. Two little girls attached themselves to me and wanted me to play with them. They followed me around everywhere and would not leave me alone. I was supervising my two year old daughter in the water. I didn’t have time to play with them. And they were too old to want to include her in their games. They seemed so sweet, and I did the best I could. I felt badly for them. I was about to ask where their parents were when their mom yelled at them (without even looking in their direction) that it was time to leave.

    Last week, I was at the park with my daughter, and two small girls were playing on the playground alone. Their mom was in her minivan on her cell phone. She would periodically roll down the window to yell at them. I was amazed. Children not only require supervision in certain situations, they need INTERACTION!!!

    • Anonymous

      So you’ve experienced the same thing I have. I think it’s a testament to the fact that you are a good, fun, attentive mom and those girls recognize that. But I’m disgusted by the park situation. I don’t know why. I seen similar plenty of times. Ugh. And I did actually end up calling CPS.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, that’s really awful. Yet, probably happens a lot. :(

    • Anonymous

      I see plenty of unsupervised children everywhere I go. I just truly home their situation isn’t as bad at this one.

  • Sandi Thompson

    That is child endangerment in my opinion. IF you know who the parent is and where they live, I would call child protective services. That mom needs a wake up call big time, before something happens to one of her children.
    Who in their right mind would leave even a very mature 13 year old for four days with their small children??? 
    I do NOT understand some people.

    • Anonymous

      I didn’t know all the details but I DID called CPS and tell them everything I knew. I hope some good can come out of it.

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  • Anonymous

    Sometimes I am the mom reading a magazine, sometimes I am the mom in the pool. I don’t know how you get to the place where you’re the mom who leaves your kids with a 13 year old. Especially an incompetent 13 year old. Child Protective Services needs to be checking up on that family.

    • Anonymous

      There’s a big difference between reading a magazine while you’re independent children play and being a mom who’s too busy to be bothered even looking at her kids. I did call CPS and hope something good can come out of it.

  • From Tracie

    The children were really good kids, and I can understand their pride for being so grown up and doing it on their own. That being said, there is no excuse for children that age being placed in the position of being grown up, because they aren’t. 

    This is clearly a situation where CPS should have been called. It isn’t just about the pool and the busy road (which is SO dangerous!) but also about having a 13 year old babysitting for four days while the mother is out of town. This is child neglect. It is possible to report anonymously if you wish, but it should be reported. 

    • Anonymous

      I agree, I agree, I agree. And I did report it to CPS last Tuesday. I hope at least they’ll keep an eye on the family.

      • From Tracie

        I am SO glad that you did that! 

        you rock! 

  • Alexandria Campbell

    That is a really sad & bizarre story. What kind of mother would think it was ok to leave her kids for days with a 13 year old? 

    • Anonymous

      I remember babysitting when I was 13. It certainly wasn’t overnight and I can tell you that know what I know now, I would have NEVER hired me!

  • Zohar

    I would have gone ballistic over the attendant (fake ballistic, just to scare them).

    My kids are not allowed to play in front of the house, we have a big, closed in back yard which they can roam. If they play in front of ANY house (including their friends) they get punished.

    When it comes to pools we are very strict with the kids.

    “Drowning is the leading cause of death for infants and young children in 18 states and, nationally, ranks 2nd only to automobile accidents, claiming lives of approximately 4,000 children each year and leaving another12,000 with some form of permanent brain damage.”

    If you know the mother I would certainly say something. If anything would happen to those kids you’ll never forgive yourself. Better yet, take a page from our household and make your husband say something :)

    • Anonymous

      I’m pretty tough with my son too. He always has to stay within eyesight outside and he’s not allowed outside by himself yet.

      I did actually call the authorities to report the situation and I know they will look into it.

  • MommyLisa

    I used to be a lifeguard and teach swimming lessons.  I totally worked THREE YEARS to get my child.  This freaks me out on so many levels.  Its good to call CPS on this mother.

    • Anonymous

      I did call CPS. And we talked to the Community Manager and talked about the pool management. Definitely lots of people at fault here.

  • Teresa

    I don’t even know where to begin. I too, am a child magnet. I HATE when someone else’s kid glues to me at a park, but I can’t be mean about it. What an awkward situation. It has ruined many one on one moments with my children. You are very brave and I admire that you cared enough to speak up for these “orphans”. I feel so bad for them, with no attention from parents. You did the right thing. Even if they can’t be in pool, maybe you saved them from getting hit by a car or drowning. This is just so sad.

    • Anonymous

      I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels conflicted about being a child magnet. I love kids but it does often ruin the time we have with our own kids. It all comes down to parenting. Wish we could regulate parenting!

  • Kristi

    You can imagine my thoughts as I read your post today. I was there hours before and also noticed the same slack teen attendants.

    I’ve always had a problem with the idea of a pool its size without life guards. Tragedy can happen quickly when you mix children (or adults for that matter) and water.

    To think that any mother would leave her kids in the care of a 13 year old and be hundreds of miles away is unfathomable to me and wish CPS had been notified (not necessarily by you).
    I’m glad you did speak up so that maybe the teen attendants will be a bit more vigilant about watching who comes in the gates.

    • Anonymous

      I remember the logic a few years ago when they switched from lifeguards to attendants. It was expensive and they said people dropped their kids off treating the lifeguards like babysitters. Well, at least they knew CPR.

      We made some phone calls (including to CPS) and we’re hoping some changes get made.

  • Heather O’Brien Webb

    That’s awful! I don’t let my kids out of my sight at a park… much less a pool! I can’t imagine. And leaving them alone with a 13-year-old? For 4 days? There’s so much wrong with that… it’s infuriating! You did the right thing and those kids are lucky to have happened upon you.

    • Anonymous

      Me too! My son is always in my sight and if I look down for a sec and he disappears from my eyesight, I tend to freak out a little. 

  • Coma Girl

    You absolutely did the right thing. If something were to (God forbid) happen to one of those children, people would be saying “why didn’t anyone do something?” And at least you did.

    Those poor children!

    • Anonymous

      I just feel sorry for them. I’m sure they didn’t really understand they were even doing anything wrong!

  • Cari

    Thank God it was YOU, another Mom, who was there. It could have easily been a child molester. I wonder sometimes what some parents are thinking… or if they even are.  Kudos to you, Fadra. I’d have done the same thing you did. 

    • Anonymous

      Thank you for your comment. I haven’t seen the kids back at the pool and I
      did end up calling CPS. Poor kids :(

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