We’ve recently been transitioning more into something of a new stage in parenting, one in which our girls have increasingly more experiences without us present. Of course, as a homeschooling family, we’re still together quite a lot. However, they are growing in independence and sometimes spend time away from us.
For instance, now that Miranda can go off the diving board by herself, that’s what she really wants to spend her time doing at the pool. She could spend hours doing just that. Last week, on only the 2nd day she was allowed to jump off the diving board by herself, I watched her a few times, then took Madeleine CaiQun and Atticus to play, and then brought the younger two kids back to a closer area of the pool a bit later to check in. Miranda came over to us and talked excitedly about her diving board time but pointed one boy out to me – a boy who was probably 2-3 years older than she is, as were most of the kids in the diving board area – and said he wasn’t being very kind to her. But she still wanted to go back and jump some more. I told her she could always tell the lifeguard if anyone was being unkind to her, and she nodded and went back to the diving board line.
When it was almost time to go, I went over to tell her that she could do just a few more jumps, and then we’d need to start drying off to get ready to leave. As she jumped off the diving board, I heard the boy she’d pointed out earlier say quietly, “Yeah, jump a little closer to the side next time and maybe you’ll hit it.” I looked over at him, and another boy urged him, “Shhh! That’s her mom right there!”
I hesitated for a second, but there were no lifeguards within earshot, and there was no sign of who this boy’s parents might be, and I didn’t want to let it pass as if it was okay. I walked up to him and said, “Excuse me, are you being unkind to my daughter?” He seemed embarrassed and looked down at his feet. I said, “I’d appreciate it if you’d speak kindly to her,” to which he responded with a flustered, “Yes, ma’am.” I thanked him and continued to stand nearby while Miranda did her last couple jumps. He didn’t say anything else, but the boy who warned him about my presence later said, “That’s why I was telling you to be quiet! Now you got in trouble!”
As we were walking back to our chairs, I saw one of the lifeguards who’d taught Miranda’s last session of swimming lessons, and I brought it up to him and told him what Miranda had said and what I’d seen and that I’d talked to the boy, but I wasn’t sure who his parents were to mention it to them. If my child was being unkind to someone, especially a child 2 or 3 years their junior, I’d definitely want to hear about it, so I could follow up with them. He said he wasn’t sure who the boy’s parents were, but he’d keep an eye on him, because stuff like that definitely wasn’t cool, and they didn’t want to let it continue.
It was an odd experience for me. On the one hand, my kids need to learn to negotiate their interactions with other kids on their own. On the other hand, they need to know that I’ll stick up for them – and they’re still so young. I wish I’d known who the boy’s parents were, because my preference would have been to take it up with them and let them parent their child, but I didn’t know. And while this particular experience may not have been a huge deal…it could be the six-year-old and eight-year-old version of stuff that IS a big deal. I don’t want to stand by when people are being demeaned, whether those people are my children or others (but, honestly, especially when those people are my children!).
Later that night I talked about it with Miranda and asked her if she would have felt comfortable talking to the lifeguard about someone being unkind to her if it was a lifeguard she didn’t really know (as the one on duty in that area at the time had been), or if that would be too intimidating, and she said it would be too intimidating. Part of me wishes I’d done something different when she’d first told me about it, but I’m not sure how much I could have done, since I hadn’t actually heard or seen anything myself, and she didn’t give a lot of specifics about what was going on. And later, I thought I could have talked with both boys about how it shouldn’t matter whether another child’s mother is standing nearby – character is about treating other people well regardless of who sees – but that might have been overkill. I was glad that I did see something and said something and that I’d seen a lifeguard we knew and could run it by him.
But I do wonder how other parents negotiate these things. What say you, parents? Have you encountered similar situations? What have you done? What would you do in this scenario?