A stepmother took to Reddit to pose one big question: did she do wrong by her stepkids and partner? Recently, she explained, they all traveled together for the first time. It felt like a big step and she’s also been feeling “extra scrutiny” from the family lately.
At one point during the trip, they visited the swimming pool. Her partner said he was going to go upstairs to get his swimsuit and was gone for 40 minutes. The kids, who are 9 and 13, continued playing in the pool while their stepmother watched them. It was a small pool, she wrote, not deep — but didn’t have a lifeguard. Then, she had to pee. “I said jokingly to them ‘ok dudes, shallow end, no drowning!’ and went to the lobby bathroom for maybe 5 minutes, then came back to watch them,” she recounted.
This didn’t seem like a big deal at all to her but then, weeks later, the boys told their dad that she left them unattended in the pool. “I got pretty defensive when he brought it up, but perhaps I am the a-hole,” she wrote. “I grew up a latchkey kid in the 90s, and am often surprised at the lack of independence both boys demonstrate … neither of them walk to or from school a few blocks away, they can’t be left home alone for an hour to run errands, or go to the corner store by themselves … it seems odd to me. But I accept that I may be old and wrong.”
The Reddit user is struggling with whether or not she’s in the wrong here. On the one hand, she’s annoyed with the boys for telling on her. She’s also irked at her partner for disappearing for 40 minutes.
“[It’s not like] I left them in a burning car or something when I just had to pee,” she added. “They are 9 and 13 and both decent swimmers! Argh! But maybe I’m wrong. AITA?”
This is a tricky situation because obviously pool safety is very important. Drowning is the leading cause of injury death for U.S. children ages 1-4 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s also the third leading cause of unintentional injury death in children and adolescents ages 5-19. Every year, more than 2,000 children under the age of 5 are brought to hospital emergency rooms for submersion injuries, per The Pool Safety Foundation.
With that said, was it okay to leave a 9-year-old and a 13-year-old alone in a pool for a small amount of time? Many people argued that, because of their age and the fact that she was only gone for five minutes, she was not TA here. “Let’s be real here: neither of them are toddlers, one of them is a teenager,” a user commented. “It is not unreasonable for them to watch each other for a few minutes in a shallow pool while you use the bathroom. If the expectation is that they must always be supervised 100% of the time no matter what, then let your partner be responsible for supervising them.”
An overwhelming question remained — why was the dad gone for so long? And if he was so concerned about pool safety, should there have been a conversation before he disappeared?
“I have serious concerns about the Dad who disappears for ages with no discussion beforehand then goes mad because you needed the bathroom,” one person noted. “It is his responsibility to supervise the children and any expectation for you to do so should have clear expectations and boundaries in place. It sounds like he treated you like a babysitter, I hope this is not a pattern.”
There was definitely some confusing fine print here when it comes to her partner. For starters, why was she under scrutiny in the first place, leading up to the trip? That seems like such an odd pressure to put on her. Several commenters suggested that there are some fundamental issues underlying this family dynamic.
“You need to take some time to consider if you want a future with your partner raising dependent kids. The children and him were upset you took a bathroom break,” a user wrote. “The whole point of raising children is to guide them to be fully functional adults (at least to me). At 13 and 9, the kids could have problem solved if they didn’t feel safe and gotten out of the pool to wait. They didn’t, they passed the blame on to you. It’s not a pattern yet, but it could be.”
What do you think? Was it okay for her to leave her stepkids in the pool unattended?
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