Just looking

By Mir
November 11, 2008

As a parent I spend a lot of time watching my kids do stuff. Stuff that I drove them to, mostly. Piano, soccer, Tae Kwon Do, swimming, chorus, WHATEVER; the point is that it’s a typical part of my day to 1) get in the car, 2) drive the children somewhere, 3) sit there and watch them do something, and 4) get them back in the car and go home.

My life is pretty glamorous, I admit.

And I suppose that as they get older and the various STUFF they do takes longer periods of time, I may not stick around. I might just drop off and go on my merry way. (Where will I go? Home to eat bonbons, I hope! Or just across town to drop the other kid at something ELSE, more likely.) But as it stands right now, I usually hang around—along with a slew of other parents—and watch my kids do whatever they’re doing.

And up until recently, that wasn’t a problem.

I have to say that I don’t miss soccer one bit. I mean, the great outdoors are SWELL and all, but watching an entire game in a downpour or standing at a practice where the temperature is 40 degrees and the wind is whipping around just isn’t my idea of a good time.

And where we used to go for Tae Kwon Do, the waiting area was big enough to hold three adults comfortably. Which was fine, except that there were usually a dozen adults and five or six kids in there. Don’t miss that, either.

But swimming, AHHHHH, swimming means sitting in some plastic chairs on the pool deck, chatting with fellow moms, and occasionally commenting on how it is SO HOT in here, maybe we can just angle that fan a little bit this way. For an hour we sit there and watch our kids swim and discuss weighty world matters like which of our kids is the laziest, what we’ll be having for dinner, and—until recently—politics. It was actually sort of relaxing.


So, a couple of weeks ago the swim team coach—who is probably in college, but looks as though he’s about twelve—came over to those of us who typically sit and watch practice and told us that there’s a new rule going into effect: Parents are no longer allowed in the pool area, because it’s “a distraction.”

Yes, we’ve been banned from practice.

We all said okay, and then exchanged quizzical looks and raised eyebrows and I sort of forgot about it until the next practice, when I ran into a fellow mom lurking in the hallway. She’s the person I normally sit next to during practice—let’s call her DC—and we discussed our potential as distractions. We sit pretty far back from the pool itself, and we talk quietly, and none of our kids have ever seemed to pay the slightest attention to us. In fact, on the rare occasion when I feel the need to give Monkey a Mama Death Glare and execute a few hand signals that roughly translate to mean “Stop acting like a hyperactive porpoise and pay attention to the coach,” I’ve had a lot of trouble getting his attention.

In short, we were flummoxed. But we sat in the hallway, like the obedient folks we are.

Well, it turns out that one of the OTHER parents got her panties in a wad over this new decree. She confronted the coach to ask WHY she would no longer be allowed to observe. I applaud her chutzpah, especially as she brings the youngest child to the session and I don’t blame her for wanting to watch—her little girl can’t be more than 5 or 6.

As it was reported back to us by this mom, the coach became EXTREMELY flustered when questioned. He repeated, again, that the parents are a distraction, and this mom pointed out that she has NEVER seen ANY child pay the slightest attention to any of us. And then, apparently, he blurted out that DC and I sit there and talk about him.

It was at this point, in the retelling, that DC and I looked at each other and LOST OUR SHIT. I can’t recall who recovered from the laughing first; I think DC said something like, “What??” while I sputtered, “Yes, we’re just a couple of middle-aged moms, not watching our kids, no, we’re GOSSIPING ABOUT THE COACH because that’s how we roll!” The mom telling the story laughed along with us, and once our giggling died down a bit, she said that she’d told the coach “No, you’re mistaken, I sit with them every practice and you’ve never even been mentioned!”

“Well, one day I was demonstrating a stroke for the kids and they were LOOKING RIGHT AT ME,” he told her.

This, of course, set us off again. WE LOOKED AT HIM! While he was DEMONSTRATING SOMETHING! Clearly we are GIANT RUDE MEANIES. Who couldn’t possibly be observing a practice, but are instead saying unkind things about a young man who is brave enough to spend his free time taming a poolful of (let’s face it) fairly mediocre swimmers.

That’s just the sort of assholes we are.

By this point, DC and I weren’t sure what to do. Do we try to reassure the coach we think he’s great and we would never gossip about him? If so, what would be the suitable method for communicating that? (I’m thinking either a note in his locker, or a text message, right?) Do we tell the coach he’s an insecure weenie and he should stop taking it out on a couple of moms who really just want to watch our kids swim? Do we do nothing?

So far, we’ve done nothing. The woman who confronted him was given permission to return to the pool deck—possibly because she hinted that she was thinking of pulling her kids out if she couldn’t observe—but has stayed in the hallway with us because she thinks it’s “not fair” that we’ve been evicted.

Yet another mom heard this story and said she couldn’t believe it was true, so she went to talk to the program director, who assured her that the decision was a blanket one based on something that’s happening on one of the OTHER teams (sounds like an extreme case of helicopter parents), and that it has NOTHING to do with our group. Hmmmmm.

In the meantime, I feel sort of bad for the coach. I do. But I also really dislike sitting in the hallway. And it’s possible that whenever I see him OUTSIDE of the pool area, now, I stare a little. Maybe.


  1. Leandra

    Next time you see him you should make a cutting motion across your neck. Just to freak him out a little.

  2. Jenny

    Oh, or that thing where you point to him, and then point to your eyes, to signal that you’re onto him.

    That’s absolutely hi-larious. “They were looking at me!” Poor weenie.

  3. Ani

    As a parent who often stays and watches, and is about to put her child into swimming, I’m chuckling. I’ll be really careful never to look at the coach. :-)

  4. RuthWells


  5. The Other Leanne

    Hmmm…college kid, some pretty moms, I think we can all figure out what the “distraction” is. He wishes you were all looking at him, and he keeps looking at you to see if you are looking at him, and then he can’t concentrate on the drowning children in the pool!
    Do make kissy-lips when you see him.

  6. Rachel

    Oh no, not threatening gestures, try blowing him kisses & batting your eyelashes, followed by holding your hand like a phone to your ear while mouthing the words “call me”… that should freak him out! Oh wait, he is still your kid’s coach, never mind… I’m thinking of that song from a few years ago “Stacy’s mom” but changing the words to “Monkey’s mom has got it goin’ on”… Thanks for the smiles today, but sorry about your uncomfortable situation.

    Happy Veterans Day – thank one today!

    = )

  7. Bobbie

    I’d take that as a “see you in an hour” and I’d take off. Of course, my boys are now 15 and 17, and I haven’t had to sit thru a baseball/cross country/hockey practice in years!

  8. Barbara

    Awww, come on, Y’all. Let’s help Mir out here and prevent the couch for all the children (coach) involved. (Snicker.) Surely you are not intimidated from going to him yourself, Mir. Apologize for making him feel uncomfortable, sincerely ‘fess to not staring at him, and ask to be allowed back into the pool area. If he behaves like a weanie, go to his boss. You’re welcome!

  9. ~annie

    I need a drink! This reminded me of the time my daughter’s swim instructor was watching ME and I was totally clueless and a mutual friend wanted to set us up. Seeing as I was divorced and up until then hadn’t really dated anyone, thought “Why not?” But I’ll leave it at that. In short: Out in the hall might not be such a bad place. There’s something about swim instructors…

  10. Katie in MA

    Can we now call you and DC Swimfan #1 and Swimfan #2? A Dr. Seuss-inspired parody in three acts. Cat in the Hat meets Moms by the Pool. Your kids can provide the illustrations on 4×6 photo paper. Ready? Go!

  11. Half Assed Kitchen

    One of you was checking out his nineteen-year-old junk, weren’t you? And it made him the slightest bit uncomfortable? Admit. Admit!

  12. exile on mom street

    Tell the coach that you promise not to give him cooties if he lets you watch your kids again. You could even have Monkey administer a Cootie Shot.

    Do kids even do that anymore?

  13. Karen

    Being a girl’s softball coach (ages 9-11) and a CCD teacher (second grade kids), I have always been put off by those parents who sit there and watch the entire time. I feel like they are judging me or don’t have confidence in me. Of course, parents should be there for games, competitions, meets, etc. But I always thought kids learn better when their parents are not there.

  14. Heidi


  15. Lynn

    My first kid, I stayed. With the second, I didn’t stay.* My third is lucky if I bring the car to a complete stop.

    *I think I left them from second grade on up or earlier if I knew the coach.

    All kidding aside, I think it’s good for kids to develop relationships with adults outside of their parents.

    My daughter now teaches swimming and thinks that parents should not be on the pool deck. She thinks kids listen better to her when the parents are not there. She also doesn’t appreciate critism from parents who are not certified swim teachers. One time for the same day and class, she was told she was too strict by one parent and she allowed too much playtime by another.

  16. Jenni

    When I was a nanny, parents got banned from the gymnastics class the little boy I watched was in. One of the Mom’s freaked out and accused them of wanting privacy with the kids for unsavory reasons. The next week they not only let us back in, but had nice chairs and a cooler full of drinks for us.

    The same Mom is probably why we were banned in the first place. She would always gasp and flinch anytime the kids did anything that might result in any type of injury.

  17. Michelle

    OMG!! Too funny! Talk about insecurities!! I think parents have the right to stay and watch their kids. After all, aren’t we the ones paying for it?!! I understand distractions; however, it doesn’t appear to be the case here. What does he have to hide??? Is he the proverbial pedophile? I’m guessing not, but in this day and age their needs to be oversight. Damn, I sound like the government…

  18. tara

    If he was watching his class he wouldn’t have any reason to suspect you were talking about him. Parents aren’t allowed in the pool area where my kids took swimming either. I’m not sure why but they never were. Swimming is the only sport like that. Every other sport they’re recruiting parents as assistant coaches and they encourage you to be out on the field and helping out in anyway you can.

  19. Karen

    Seriously????? And he looks like he’s 12? Bwaahaaahaaa ahaaaa. Sad things is…you just can’t make stuff like this up. I’ll be laughing about this all day.

  20. Lucinda

    We stay during our kids’ swimming lessons but they are 5 and 7 and the lesson is only 30 minutes. Where would I go in that time before I had to turn around and come back? But I try very hard to ignore the lesson for the most part because I don’t want to interfere. I think there is something to be said for kids having time with other adults. But age needs to be a consideration.

    But for an hour? I’d probably be glad to have the excuse to leave. My husband wants to know exactly what happens at each lesson (he’s very involved) and I hate trying to remember what to tell him. LOL Guess I’m a slacker.

  21. getsheila

    Oh! So you are a distraction for THE COACH not the children. Well why didn’t he say so in the first place? Silly sausage.

  22. sheila

    Yeah, I think maybe HE was distracted by the moms, maybe HE had trouble concentrating on the kids. Huh, what a weird story. What a jerk!

  23. tuney

    I don’t like moms sitting in on my piano lessons, either. The kids are subconsciously thinking about impressing them, and yes, I am just a little paranoid, too. One of my moms works in the building where I teach, and will walk through on “business” while her daughter is on the bench. I ask her kid a question, and SHE answers from across the room and tells the kid, “You KNOW this. Why can’t you ANSWER?” I have had to remind her several times that her daughter is doing well, and that it’s bad form to interrupt. Gently, of course, but still.

    You are absolutely right, the coach is being silly, if that truly is his reason. But – he is young and you guys are intimidating, just by your presence. The irony is that now you ARE talking about the poor dude, and it’s his own darned fault. Heh.

  24. ikate

    As a former college-aged soccer and swim coach I venture to guess that this coach IS insecure – I know I sure was!! I hated it when parents stuck around, both because I always felt like I was under a microscope (even though I doubt I really was) and because even if you don’t realize it you being there is affecting your kid. They know you are there even if you aren’t focused on them and this changes their behavior.

    And now that I’m a parent I would LOVE to take the hour or so of kid-free time to head to Starbucks, run a quick errand or two or even sit in the hall and read, chat, knit, web surf on my iPhone, etc. But my girl is only 2 so swim lessons require I be in the water with her.

  25. ImpostorMom

    I’d have to say something I think, especially since one mom got “special” permission to return. It’s either blanket or not. you can’t pick and choose on your ridiculous and arbitrary rules.

  26. hokgardner

    A a former full-time swim coach, I understand the ban on parents on the deck. We had to institute it with our older swimmers’ practices because of one or two moms who just couldn’t let us do the coaching. It was unfair to the other parents who behaved, but in the end, a necessary thing.

    But banning parents because they might be talking about the coach – ridiculous!

  27. Chuck

    Want me to fly out there and slap him around for you? Just let me know, Mir.

    Listen *SLAP SLAP* if you know what’s good for you *SLAP SLAP* you’ll let those mothers back in *SLAP* to watch the practices *SLAP* you understand?

    (OK, maybe not really. But it does seem like a very poorly thought out decision, and I’d keep bugging the program director.)

  28. Randi

    See! This is just more proof that people are getting too damn sensitive! He’s a swimming coach – an athlete – he should have a bit more character!

  29. Tatiana

    Oh man, that’s really quite funny. Will he even talk to you now that he’s used your supposed behaviour as an excuse to ban all the parents? What if he’s like “BUT YOU WROTE ABOUT ME ON YOUR BLOG YOU CANNOT WATCH PRACTICE”? This situation is ripe with comedic potential!

  30. Megan

    I do wonder a leetle what those helicopter parents do when their kids are my kids’s age. Should I be staying at work with Child 1 (a bookstore – not a difficult task me thinks) and shouting encouragement? You LAT that Latte baby! Wait sweetie, is that three pumps of syrup or two? DID YOU SEE MY LITTLE SWEETIE SWIRL THAT CREAM? Ooh! Yeah!

    Maybe I’ll work on it a bit. I’m sure Child 1 is feeling under-mothered.

  31. Sheila

    I’m having the opposite problem with violin lessons. Be ye fair warned, those that are considering the Suzuki Violin Method for your offspring:

    they MAKE the parents STAY– AND PARTICIPATE!!

    I had no idea I was signing up for such torture. Perhaps if I affect an intimidating stare while the instructor is demonstrating something, I’ll get banned, too. Worth a try…

  32. Steph

    I vote for comments #1, #2, or #6… or you could mix them up a little?

    Or I would tell the coach you had heard that he felt like you were (blah blah blah) and you just wanted to let him know that you really appreciate (blah blah blah) and have never gossiped about him.

    Or enjoy a little bit of time to yourself.

    Still, I’m thinking #’s 1 2 or 6:)

  33. Lylah

    You definitely leave a note on his locker. It should say:

    “R U Mad at me? Check One… Yes___ No ____”

  34. bob

    you should be ashamed, you cougar, you.

  35. Deborah P

    Sounds like he was the one being distracted, as others have said, but now that the program director has banned all parents, for whatever reason, that may be the end of it. It may be policy across the board.

    In any event, if the coach is getting distracted from kids in a pool, that’s obviously NOT a good thing, so staying in the hallway is probably the safest option.

  36. Jennifer Suarez

    I didn’t read all the other comments, but this is my 2 cents.

    The swim coach has no right to tell you that you can’t watch your own children. Shouldn’t something like swim class have an open door policy? I’d be pretty pissed off if someone said I couldn’t watch my children if I wanted to. What are they hiding would be my retort.

    As far as the best way to address it… considering his age you may want to get a slip of paper and write something like:

    Do you like us? Can you forgive us. May we still watch our children swim.

    Yes or No

    Please circle one and return to me or one of my friends.


  37. Nancy

    MMMM – our local Y had a huge issue years ago when it was discovered that a camp coucelor had molested children on site. He was arrested and brought to trial for that and for molesting kids at a Catholic Church. It caused our church to have a rule that no adult is ever left alone with kids. Those folks should get their act together and ASK parents to observe for the safety of the kids.

  38. Krismom

    That’s too funny!!

    We are lucky in that our local pool has big giant glass windows and seating on either side and haven’t had that specific issue! I think I’m a bit of a reverse-helicopter – “Leave it to the experts!”

    This instructor sounds a little paranoid though…

    I say bring in a mini stereo playing Mrs.Robinson. :P

  39. StephLove

    Gosh, I thought the “Mom, she’s looking at me!” phase ended earlier than that. (We haven’t even entered it over here, but I remember my sister and I saying that to my mom.)

  40. Shalet

    I think you should simply direct the coach to your blog – then he’ll know you definitely aren’t talking about him!

  41. nil zed

    blanket rule imposed because of some severe helicopter parents??

    Don’t stand for it. Insist the director or whoever grow some and tell those parents they are a PITA, and if they pull their kids from the program, good riddance. If they won’t deal with the problem specifically, then all of you threaten to pull your kids from the program.

  42. Kelly

    I was a swim coach for 5 years (6 & under through masters (18+) but mostly high school kids. We had a blanket ban on parents, because for the little kids they were distracting. The kids were always trying to get their parent’s attention and not listening to the coaches. For the high school kids, we had a lot of problems with parents who’s whole life had revolved around their kid’s swimming, and they would question every move the coaches made after practice, along with the meet line ups. It was also hard on the coaches, because we always felts like we were being judged. Obviously, the master’s swimmers parents didn’t come to practice. It sounds like there were some helicopter parents, and the club instituted a blanket policy rather than trying to kick out certain parents and let certain ones in. Maybe you could suggest an age group limit on parents?

  43. Headless Mom

    I say go for the small, subtle raising of the eyebrow, with no other expression on your face.

    Keep him guessing.

  44. Krisco

    That is too funny. Except the hall is kind of a bummer.

    But it just goes to show (man, how old am I? like a 90-yr old man?) that people always think other people are talking or thinking about them, and the truth is – they rarely are.

  45. The FringeGirl

    Remind me not to put my kids in swim class. Very funny.

  46. daysgoby

    And you know if they let you back in the pool-room NOW you’ll all be distractions and the kids will all be ‘Looky MY Mom’ and ….

    well, when he does the full-body blush, you’ll know who the coach is thinking of, won’t you?

  47. Amy

    One thing not addressed in the comments is that I like to observe because I want to know what the coach is telling my kids so I can reinforce it later. Especially when I get the feeling that the kids are busy chatting with each other instead of listening to the coach.

    Usually, though, I just sit there and knit.

  48. Melody

    I’d go back in, turn the plastic chairs so that the coach can only see the back of your heads adn chat away.

    My kids start gymnastics next week and parents aren’t allowed in the room because the kids show off instead of paying attention, but parents can’t leave the premises (I don’t think) in case their child needs to go pee. Still, I can’t wait for my 45 minutes stuck in the hall with my book! Wheee!! I have twin 3 year olds.

  49. jennielynn

    Personally, I think you should send the coach an email with a link to this post. Something along the lines of: Wasn’t talking about you before, but we sure as hell are now!

    Or maybe point out that banning parents from observing opens them up to molestation accusations. But I’m bitchy that way.

  50. Denise

    As a high school coach, I encourage the parents to come in and watch for the last fifteen minutes of practice. It is an opportunity to show them what we have been working on, but it also leaves the majority of practice to me, without distraction.

  51. Aimee

    His nefarious plan to get the hot moms talking about him has worked! BWAHAHAHAHAHA!

    Seriously, though, I like Leandra’s idea.

  52. Astrogirl

    Admit it, you were totally checking him out…Rowr!

    Seriously though, these people (the coaching staff/administration) need to get their stories straight. Is it a blanket policy? Why is the one mom allowed in then (and yes, letting a mom of a 5-6yr old watch seems only proper) but no one else? Ugh.

    I’ve never been a fan of “blanket” policies (the fact that they let the mom of the 5-6yr old watch contradicts their claim that is is a blanket policy, actually) – punishing everyone because of 1 or 2 idiots. “But if we let YOU stay, we have to let EVERYONE stay!” is the lamest excuse. I know, why not grow a pair, coaching staff, and deal with the disruptive parents one-on-one? Then everyone else can go back to normalcy.

    I say that next time you see the Nervous Nellie, you quickly stop talking, as if he “caught you” talking about him, wave nervously, and repeatedly glance at him surreptitiously and speak in stage whispers. He’ll be a wreck in under 15 minutes :)

  53. Hip Mom's Guide

    Oh, that’s funny. Seriously, he needs to get over himself! I mean, maybe he was looking at YOU, right?

  54. Sara

    I really enjoyed reading about this. I’m currently 24 and I am both mom AND coach to both my older sons and the rest of their buddies on the soccer team. I never intended to coach but the first team my oldest was on was run by a coach that signed up ONLY to coach HIS son. His son, unfortunately, had NO desire to even play soccer! So instead of teaching his son some long term concepts (teamwork, commitment, trying new things, etc.) the coach decided that he should just quit! I was shocked! Especially when my other son was on a different team in a different age group and his coach just volunteered because he loved coaching.

    Then when the coach told all of us that he was quitting he asked for someone to take over and the rest of the parents that were there for that “meeting” (after practice random announcement) all had NO CLUE about soccer…like didn’t even know the rules!

    Ok, so I played soccer in high school, haven’t touched a ball in YEARS but I want this to be a good experience because it’s their (my sons’) first time ever playing. So I volunteered. Subsequent seasons lead me to have my younger son play “up” (older age group) so I could coach them both for fairness purposes, and has lead me to really have to figure out some boundaries. I mean, when I’m coaching and one of my sons is hurt and wants “mommy” I have to be “coach” to 8 other boys. How do I balance that?

    After my second season of coaching, other boys parents started requesting me as their sons coach. Then I found out I was pregnant with my 3rd son. So I had to tell the kids at their soccer banquet last fall that I couldn’t coach them anymore because all spring (first season of two this year) that I would be hugely pregnant and therefore unable to RUN!) and nobody looked like they even cared. :-(

    Of course I had parents “watching me” but I also felt kind of judged in a negative way like I wasn’t doing a good job. Well, it turned out that the next season, one of the parents who was at that meeting still plays competitive soccer and he volunteered to coach! And he was willing to coach both my kids on the same team! (allowing my younger son to “play up” is at the discretion of the coach) so the kids I was coaching were still mostly together and the parents that I felt were judging me were now sitting on the sidelines with me and we watched. We did talk about things and I kind of realized some things I COULD do better as a coach!

    Well, I wanted to coach this fall season but I was laid off, a full time student and juggling a 3 month old baby along with everything else. I signed the kids up and hoped for the best. Well, the same parent signed up to coach and agreed to take all the same kids. He asked for a “team mother” and I signed up for that job (armed with my new knowlegde of course!) and it was the best soccer season so far! I helped coach when he needed it, I gave him constructive feedback, I found the trophies for the team and planned the end of season party and EVERY single parent was very, very, VERY!!!! satisfied! I did good!

    It was such a different feeling from the first season when I coached to now….I guess you just got me to thinking…sorry this was SO LONG! Sometimes my brain spirals off into…..other things…..just a bit…..


    Good post!!

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