Public Swimming Pool Etiquette

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Public Pool & unsupervised kids

Oct 2007

I swim laps at a public pool & sometimes see 2 very young kids who seem to be attached to the lifeguards. Usually the same kids, but the last time wondered if it was a different set. I've always seen an older boy (max 6-7yr) & girl (4-5 max). Of course lifeguards pay attention to them & they RUN around the pool area, kicking balls and chasing, & go in & out of the office. I wrote to the aquatics director, who sounded like he wanted to take care of the problem. But the ''resolution'' was that he determined that the kids didn't belong to the lifeguards, but to a patron who was swimming laps, and so he told his staff that the kids have to sit at the picnic table. I thought about it & still can't think of a way that it's ok, either from a parent's or city resident's perspective. The kids are there for minimum an hour (I'm in the pool longer than most others & theyre there before & after me). I can't imagine a little kid can sit still, unsupervised, for that length of time & I can't imagine that a lifeguard won't have to deal with them (e.g., the little one needs to pee, girl goes into the men\x92s bathroom, they ''forget'' to stay at the table, or they fight). And though an emergency is unlikely, I can't think of a good outcome--including lawsuits, which residents would ultimately pay for. There is NO POSTED POLICY about kids, other than for free swimming: 7 & under must be w/ responsible person 13 or older (and this violates that). I'd love to bring my kids to the pool for free babysitting too, but it doesn't make sense to me, and I can't imagine anyone doing it w/o knowing the lifeguards. The aquatics director was offended that I questioned the wisdom/safety of allowing kids at the pool unsupervised. I think if the kids are really ok unsupervised, then they could either be on the playground right outside the pool, or if they really are capable of sitting quietly for an hour unsupervised, they\x92d also be ok right outside the pool fence in view of the pool. The director took personal offense at these ideas & was hostile to my concerns. I\x92m thinking about safety/liability, both for kids (who the lifeguards are hired to protect). Also, it seems discriminatory if only these kids are allowed in pool area while the parent swims. It\x92s not like I\x92d want to do it (not safe), but if we\x92re offering that service, I think we should offer it to everybody. Clearly. And make the rules clear. (And who enforces?) I love kids & am very familiar w/ challenges of balancing kids w/ exercise for mom So give me your opinion: Am I overreacting? Or should I refer this to the city attorney? janet

Let it go. You've told the pool supervisor and he's come up with what he believes is a reasonable solution. Who knows what that other parents' life situation is -- you seem to be assuming that it is a two parent family. Better the kids hang out by the picnic table, than outside the gate, where anyone could wander off with them. Be glad you have someone to take care of your children when you swim, and leave this family be. a lap swimmer

You asked at the end of your post if you were over reacting. I'd have to say, yes. Frankly, you sound a bit jealous, even though you'd never consider leaving your kids unattended while you swim. While I agree it sound like someone is getting a perk (not you), I can't see how it is affecting you, or why it is any of your business. The kids don't jump into the lane you're doing laps in, and it doesn't sound like you're going to need the assistance of the lifeguard, so what would it hurt to ''live and let live''? Just a thought. live and let live

I agree, the situation with the kids seems fraught with potential liability problems. You've already tried reasoning with the aqauatics director; I'd write to the city atty. anon

I've found that there are some parents who are very safety-conscious to the point of being overprotective and possibly stifling their children's development, and then there are other parents who are so nonchalant about safety as to maybe endanger their children's lives, and of course there is a huge spectrum of parents in between. The latter type bothers me if the parents are not thinking about their actions or lack thereof, but I know lots of people who believe in the Continuum Concept (aka TCC--look up the book by Jean Liedloff) and as a result feel that their children should be trusted to take care of themselves to the extent possible and any overly protective parenting behavior would be to the kids' detriment. At one time I was a worry-wart parent and as a result of discussions with friends who raise their children according to TCC I have become much more laissez-faire with my kids and I think they are much happier as a result. Anyway, I guess my point is, if it bothers you this much, why not talk to the parent? Their answer might surprise you, or they may just be open to your suggestions. I have just as much trouble with confrontation as the next person (probably more) but I just have to think what I would want if it were me--to have a fellow parent come up to me and question my parenting style, or have the city attorney do so (and possibly call CPS or some other awful thing that can happen when the government gets involved)? --anon

MYOB I'm a lap swimmer in public pools also, so I speak from many years of pool experience. The presence of the kids isn't interfering with your ability to swim and you don't know what the situation really is. It's none of your business. The aquatic director has been informed. Stop obsessing about it and focus on your swimming. Check out Pacific Masters swimming website for new workouts to break up your routine and get your focus on the workout instead of these kids. (and no, these aren't my kids) myob

OK, this parent is taking advantage of the situation. You (and most of us) have better manners than that. I don't think people are in harm's way, as most folks who show up for lap swim time at a pool are pretty good swimmers. Yes, it's annoying. It's ok to mention it to management, but call the city attorney? That is a bit much! It's not healthy to focus so much energy on someone else's cluelessness. And, I would hope the city attorney has more pressing issues to deal with than this! ignore it

In my opinion, you should alert the city attorney. I completely agree with you. I wouldn't consider the free babysiting or the special treatment the parents are getting from the pool staff an issue, but I agree that it would be horrible is there was an accident and someone needed the lifeguard's help, but the lifeguard misses it because s/he is distracted babysitting instead. I know that if my children were using the pool, I would not only want the lifeguard's undivided attention to the pool, I would expect it. I would probably not allow my children to use the pool if I knew there was no lifeguard on duty, so the fact that they have a lifeguard who is doing double duty is misleading to the pool users and a liability. anon

Yes, you're over-reacting. Let it go. They're not your kids. Based on your post, they don't appear to be harming you or your kids. I see parenting that I don't agree with in a variety of settings. But, at the end of the day, it's not really any of my business. Forgive my bluntness, but I have to wonder why you are fixated on this issue. Let it go and worry about parenting and supervising your own kids as you see fit. Anon

I'm the original poster, and I'd like to clarify, based on the ''MYOB'' responses. I did not pass any judgment on the parenting style or choices of those who choose to leave their kids unsupervised at a pool. I did not make any assumptions about whether this was a one- or two-parent family, and I didn't even consider that relevant. (For the record, I have seen 2 parents both swimming at the same time when the kids are unsupervised.) I wasn't trying to get the city attorney or CPS after the parent. I thought the city atty might make a suggestion to the aquatics director. I am most concerned, as I said, about the safety of the kids, and the safety of the other swimmers, and the liability of the city. My concern for myself was only as a city resident who would be among those who'd pay for that liability, and I was wondering if I should take some action--more in the sense that I see an accident waiting to happen and I have an opportunity to prevent it. I'm not asking for ways to spend my time, and I'm not asking for help with my focus. My concern was that the aquatics director is leaving those kids and city residents vulnerable to a serious accident. I was secondarily concerned about the appearance of favorable treatment. And no, I'm not jealous. I wouldn't leave my kids there. But other parents may want to leave their kids w/ the lifeguards, and it's unclear at what point the lifeguards say no. 2 kids? 14 kids? Kids who have to be reminded to sit still?

I do appreciate the straightforward, nonjudgemental responses on both sides of the question, which is what I was looking for and what this list is so great for. I was asking a question. There is a huge difference between asking a question and ''obsessing'' about it. We don't need to mindlessly throw out negative judgements of people who post questions. And those thoughtless responses to my question were mild compared to the nastiness I've seen in response to some other questions. Some of them make me embarrassed to be part of this list, and I feel so sorry for the person who posted the question.

Please be thoughtful in your responses, and consider how you and the other person would feel if you were saying those things face-to-face, possibly to your neighbor or colleague. Is it necessary to be so nasty? It is a little ironic that some of the flippant ''MYOB'' responses seem to relish digging into other people's business. It's enough to say ''I wouldn't worry about it'' w/o imagining some negative motivation of the poster. Many thanks to the thoughtful folks.

Our regular babysitter recently suffered the tragedy of her 14 year old son drowning at Roberts Regional Park during a ''supervised'' field trip by his Oakland public school. It seems to have been an incident of bullying gone horribly over the edge.

Pools are inherently dangerous places, and effective adult supervision, on multiple levels is required. My kids are good swimmers, but I always am there keeping an eye out, if not actually in the water.

Having been close to a family that has suffered this kind of tragedy, I would urge everyone to err on the side of caution. Dan