My kids and I headed to one of our favorite places last weekend, the Millennium Fountain in Chicago. After a week of blistering temperatures, the fountain was packed with kids (and adults) splashing with joyful abandon. The Fountain is brilliant in it’s design, huge slabs of rough granite with water running continuously over them with huge LED screens at either end that sprout and spray water. Totally safe water fun because how could you get in trouble in roughly 1/4 inch of running water?
Never underestimate the ingenuity of boys. I saw two boys, around 12 or 13, roughhousing in the water. The usual wrestling, arm locks and the slightly pained expression of the smaller boy that I associate with ‘is this fun or bullying?’. I watched for signs that it had crossed that fine line until I saw the much larger boy push the smaller boy’s face into the water. Yes, I did the embarrassing adult thing, ran across the fountain and said, ‘please don’t hold his head down, he can drown even in this much water.’ I got the ‘stupid adult who doesn’t recognize fun when she sees it’ look, but they stopped (and yes, the smaller boy looked relieved).
What was interesting was their next reaction. Once I was safely out of range they both experimented with putting their face in the water, as did a couple of other kids. Clearly the concept of drowning had never entered their head, especially in such a small amount of water, and they looked a bit startled and even concerned (as concerned as a 13-year old boy can ever look after an adult intervenes). A few of the adults looked surprised about how I had intervened as well. Stop bullying? Of course. Drowning? Really?????
We all learned something new that day. Obviously bullying deserves a zero tolerance policy on it’s own. But bullying, or just roughhousing, in and around water deserves immediate intervention. Better a boring and meddling adult than a dead child.