"Skyler*! Quit it! You're not in swimming lessons! You'll do swimming lessons when you're older."
I turned around to see a woman scolding a toddler who had the audacity to be climbing down the bleachers. Hmm, I thought. Well, maybe in some way she's trying to placate him with future fulfillment since he obviously wants to get in the pool but can't right now, though he does not appear old enough to have the cognitive abilities to understand what she's saying, much less comprehend getting to swim a few years from now.
It only got worse. Sitting with the mom and toddler was another little boy who appeared to be the same age, a little girl a year or two older, and a man. Then horror of horrors, the first little boy pushed a train he was playing with off the edge of one bleacher and onto the platform below. "Skyler! You drop that again, you're gonna go sit in the van with Dad!" An older boy nearby picked up the train and handed it back. "Say thank you," the mom prompted. "Say thank you!"
Good God, can that child even talk?
On and on: "Don't stand up! Don't drop that! Sit still!"
Do you people realize that you're at a swimming pool and not a monastery? And have you noticed what age your children are? I think your standards of decorum might be a tad extreme.
My son finished his lesson and came over to the bleachers. I was toweling him off when the dad said to the little girl, "Tammy! Take off your sandals the right way! Can you listen to me for a change?"
There's a right and wrong way to take off sandals?
I was relieved to get out of there. My judgment as a passing stranger sitting next to these people for about fifteen minutes is that these parents are unhappy people themselves, but I have to wonder, would they talk to co-workers or other adults this way? Even adults they didn't like?
They enrolled one of their children in swimming lessons, so it seems that they're at least trying to do something right, yet where do they get the idea that there's no need to treat their children with some basic human respect? Are they afraid of losing their position as the Authority of the Household if the children are viewed as full human beings and given any autonomy?
If this is how they talk to their children in public, how do they talk to them at home? Do I have an obligation as someone witnessing powerless individuals essentially being bullied? And by the people who are supposed to nurture and protect them? I felt sick for those kids. I certainly wanted to intervene, but didn't know what to say or do.
Swimming lessons go on for another week and a half.
*Names were changed