Our friends left a little bit earlier than we did, so I enjoyed my own space on a chaise lounge as my kids continued to play that they were swimming in the ocean, evading giant octopuses or whatever they were doing that cracked them up. I'm really glad that they enjoy each other the way they do. In between the frustrating times they have with each other, there is some genuine camaraderie and admiration for one another. They're buds.
I saw that it was just about time to wrap things up so I gave a 5 minute warning, heads up, and went to gather our towels and bag and other going-to-the-pool detritus from near the fence where I had left it in the grass.
I saw four older boys, they were maybe 13 or so, kicking at the chain link fence about two feet up from the ground. They were near where I was headed and I think they thought I was coming over to them, because they seemed a little bit nervous looking over their shoulders as I approached. When I was fairly close, some of them sort of ran behind me, away, and I saw that the fence was on fire... What?!
An 18 inch by 6 inch fire was melting the coating on the metal fence and was feeding the flames that the kids had been trying to kick out. I could see even then that it was dying down--it wasn't going to progress.
I told the boys what I thought, "Oh! That is SO uncool!" A last stricken boy, looking me in the eye as his other friends had run away behind me, and so therefore is the bravest in my estimation, seemed paralyzed as I spoke.
Me: What did you use to light that?!
Stricken, panicked boy: Why?
Me, livid: Why?! WHY?! NO. What did you use to light that?!
Scared-out-of-his-mind-boy: A lighter. I won't do it again!
Me: You DON'T light fires! You just don't!!
I gathered up my things and went to a lifeguard to let them know that their fence was on fire and that those boys did it. She saw and went over to them. As she did, I pointed it all out to my kids who were bundling up in their towels and I quickly explained what a bad choice the kids had made and that they were foolish to play with a lighter like that. You don't light fires!
My kids were horrified. "They'll be in such trouble with their parents!" "What were they thinking?!"
I don't think the parents will ever know. I think the lifeguard, who was only slightly older than the pyro-boys, gave them a good talking to, but I don't think she took their pool passes or anything. The boys left as we were leaving and all avoided eye contact with me.
I know these boys were bored out of their minds. They were also all hyped up on each other's testosterone squirting out in between all of the acne and hearing each other's cracking voices. It's hard to manage all of that energy in ways that don't get you in trouble.
Still--YOU DON'T LIGHT FIRES AT THE COMMUNITY POOL!!
I felt a little like Barney Fife; kind of indignant and silly at the same time. "Not on my beat you kids! Oh no! You're not going to get away with it!" I also felt it was important for my kids to see that if you make bad choices, if you don't even think of the consequences something bad happens--always. And really, how'd that conversation go? Hey, let's take this lighter and light the fence on fire, in broad daylight, surrounded by little kids, parents and lifeguards! Yeah! That's a perfect idea! Totally doable--let's!! *high fives or terrorist fist jabs all around*
I know my kids are going to make all sorts of stupid choices too. I did...
As we were walking down the street home, I wanted to impress upon them that just because you get a wicked, cool, outrageous idea, like lighting the community pool fence on fire, that does NOT mean that you have to act on it!
Lesson learned... for now. *crosses fingers as I imagine the hormone onslaught/brain shut off to come in my kids*