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As the first-time mother of a toddler, I’m at that stage where I’m starting to identify the point at which bad behaviour in a child goes from “kids being kids” to “parents being irresponsible parents.” We’ve all experienced it, another child does something horrible to our child and though we try our best to be understanding, there are certain times when a line just has to be drawn.

I recently took my two-year-old son for a half-day by the pool. He can’t swim at all, so he waddles along the tiles with all his gear, armbands, sunhat, the lot. You can see from a mile away that he an absolute danger to himself.

As I was walking with him towards the pool, I noticed a boy, a year or two older, staring at him. When we got near the edge of the pool, the older boy marched up behind my son and promptly shoved him hard in the back with both hands, flinging him towards the water.

Luckily, he didn’t fall in, and he had armbands on so he would have been okay, but the issue I had was that this was clearly done with cruel intent. Who shoves a baby into a swimming pool??

And now, here comes the mother, slowly plodding towards us, not a care in the world, calling her son’s name in a half-assed attempt to get his attention. I looked at her shocked, expecting some sort of apology or understanding of the potential seriousness of what her child had just done. Instead, she looked straight at me and said with a shrug, “He’s only a kid” in a tone that was almost daring me to confront her about it.

Excuse me, lady? Your child just tried to throw a baby into a swimming pool and you’re giving me attitude because I’m not okay with that? Are you kidding me right now? If my son had done that to someone else, not only would the parent and child get an instant apology from both of us, but I would have gone Level 10 disciplinarian on him for even contemplating something so dangerous.

I watched as the mother meandered back to her group of friends in the pool, oblivious to how fast my heart was racing in my chest as they all wallowed in the water. I watched her as she held her son and kissed him on his forehead. A mother’s love. And now her son will grow up thinking that every time he launches a baby through the air, he will get a nice warm cuddle from mummy. Great job.

He's only a kid

Kids will be kids

Yes, kids will be kids, they are still learning right from wrong, and I appreciate that. But they can’t do it alone. They are looking to us for guidance, to teach them this whole right-from-wrong thing, and how we respond to their actions in situations like this is absolutely fundamental to that learning process.

In the park, when a little girl has a screaming meltdown because she snatched a toy from my son and now her dad is explaining to her that she has to give it back because you can’t take things without asking, that’s kids being kids, I don’t mind, and I always tell the parents not to worry on my behalf, I know how it is and they are still learning the intricacies of etiquette. But at least he has made the effort to guide her and find a lesson in there somewhere.

But wanting to shove a baby into deep water and acting on it with real purpose? That’s different. That, to me, is red flag behaviour. However, given that the mother chose to indirectly defend her son’s actions by implying that I was over-reacting, perhaps it’s no surprise.

It seems to me that sometimes it’s not “kids being kids”, it’s parents being irresponsible parents; too lazy or indifferent to put the work in. But if you’re too short-sighted to see that it’s easier to do the work now than when they’re grown, then good luck with that dysfunctional, problematic adult you’ve now got to deal with for the rest of your life, because he doesn’t give a shit about your forehead kisses.

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