Yesterday while lifeguarding, I went over to the baby pool to clean off the drain covers, and noticed a father whose kids were in the pool chewing what looked like gum. Since he’s not a regular at our pool, and since sooner or later parents of preschoolers ordinarily get into the water, I told him politely that gum-chewing in the water isn’t allowed.
Him: It’s not gum. It’s a cookie.
Me: Same applies. No food or gum in the water.
Him: How come?
Daughter (looked to be five or six) in sing-songy “you’re-not-the-boss-of-me” voice: I chewed gum in the pool!
Me [ignoring her and replying to dad’s “How come?”]: A few reasons: First, you could choke on it. Second, if it comes out of your mouth, it gets stuck in the filtration system.
With over 30 years’ experience at this job, I didn’t wait for their assent, but instead just glided off. But here’s the thing: Everyone knows the “charming” sterotype of the “sassy Sabra” and “Israeli chutzpa”. But really, it’s not cute, nor is it charming. Questioning authority? Sure, if it’s a question of unfairness. Speaking out against discrimination or injustice? Absolutely. But arguing with the traffic cop simply to prove you’re no sucker, or he’s not the boss of you? Not admirable in the least. And the example of that snotty kid in the pool, or rather, her snotty parent, is precisely where this attitude begins.
What (mature) adult, when told by a lifeguard, “X is prohibited here” asks “How come?” Isn’t “No food or gum in the pool” self-explanatory? Or if not completely understandable, isn’t setting an example for one’s children of being a good citizen more valuable than challenging the lifeguard over something that doesn’t prevent you from enjoying your swim? Wasn’t I at least owed the father interjecting, “Susie, listen to the lifeguard. She’s explaining the rules to you.” But instead, the dad was more preoccupied with proving to himself that “I’m not the boss of him”.
PS: Later I saw the son, who looked to be two or three, peeing on the pavement. I said to the dad, “Hey. That’s what the bathroom is for.”
Dad: He just did it.
Me: So say something to him.
While I certainly wouldn’t berate a child of that age for not having full control over his bladder, would it hurt for the dad to say, “Hey, Buddy. Next time you have to go, tell me and we’ll try to make it to the bathroom”? Jeez. At least give your kid something to shoot for, other than producing the next trashy lowlife, or “Sassy Sabra”.