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‘Free-Range’ Mom Sparks Drama After Her Relaxed Parenting Style Nearly Gets Her Daughter Killed

By Eve Livesey/Getty Images

Family get togethers can create wonderful memories. But they can also lead to drama and hurt feelings.

That’s what happened to one woman when her extended family enjoyed a beach vacation together. After a blowout, she turned to the Am I The A**hole (AITA) subReddit to ask if she did the right thing.

Redditor skihale asked:

“AITA for telling my aunt that her photography isn’t more important than her daughters safety?”

The Original Poster (OP) explained:

“My family is fortunate enough to vacation with each other at the beach every June.”

“I am the oldest of the cousins. There’s me (27 f[emale]), my brother (25 m[ale]), and our cousins who are brothers James & Brody, and then my aunt’s daughter Belle (going into 3rd grade).”

“Belle is the sweetest child and we adore her. It’s fun building sandcastles.”

“But this was the first year that Belle truly had a mind of her own. Her parents are free-range and the word ‘No’ doesn’t exist in their vocabulary. But that’s fine because she’s not my child, so I don’t get involved more than that.”

After some time in the waves, the family turned to another activity.

“Anyway, my family has a Bocce tournament every year on the beach.”

“And my Aunt LOVES taking photos of all our family activities. Whatever photo she could possibly take, she was taking it. It’s never been an issue until this year.”

“This year, the waves were BIG at the beach. I mean, you could surf.”

“Her parents don’t like Belle going out really far in the water for various reasons. But that doesn’t stop the rest of us cousins.”

“My brother, Brody, James and I, always go out in the water, up to our shoulders because we’re big enough to handle the waves and judge the current. We don’t leave Belle out because she has her boogie board with her parents.”

But not everyone was enthralled by a Bocce ball game.

“While we were all watching the Bocce tournament, Belle gets it in her head that because all the ‘big kids’ went out in the deep water that she can too. She took off running to the water by herself and I look at my aunt and tell her that Belle’s going to try to go out deep.”

The OP saw reason for concern…

“My Aunt brushes me off and says that Belle will be fine. But I knew better, so I asked James to run after her with me because he’s faster.”

…even if her aunt—Belle’s mom—didn’t.

“By the time James gets to her, she’s over her head and the tide is dragging her out. By the time he gets a good grip on her, he’s up to his shoulders and struggles to get her back in. By the time I reach them, we both have to help her back to dry sand.”

“Belle was fine, she’d been able to keep her head above water until James got there, but it could have been really bad. Like really bad.”

The fear the OP felt quickly turned to anger.

“By the time I make it back to my aunt, I’m screaming. Red in the face RAGE, telling her that she should be ashamed of herself and that her daughter was lucky to be alive. I went OFF. Yelling through tears.”

Her aunt was understanding…

“Belle didn’t hear me, but the rest of the family did. My aunt took it in stride, gave me a hug and went to check on Belle. I think she knew that I needed to get it out or else I was only going to build resentment against her.”

…but the rest of the family…

“However, the rest of my family told me that I was disrespectful and that I should apologize. My brother and my Aunt are the only ones who don’t think so.”

“It was a scary situation, and it’s not like I outright said she was a bad mom.”

“But my other family and my aunt’s husband has stopped talking to me all together after we left for home.”

“I’m afraid that this is going to affect being able to see Belle in the future.”

“AITA for telling my aunt that her photography isn’t more important than her daughter’s life?”

The OP clarified why they spoke to their aunt, who is a blood relative, and not her aunt’s husband:

“I’m closest to my aunt by blood and I don’t speak to any of the family who have married in like that. She’s the one I deal with on matters.”

“She’s the one I told about Belle running down to the water and she ignored it. Her husband was playing Bocce and [cousin] James had his hands free.”

“[Aunt’s husband is] a parent but he’s just there.”

“At that moment, her husband wasn’t upset that I yelled at her and not him. He’s mad that I yelled at her, and by default him, at all.”

“He thinks I was disrespecting them and calling them bad parents. You can’t reason with a jerk like that.”

“My cousins are all upset that their parents are being so awful about it. They agree that it was the right thing to do.”

Redditors were then asked to weigh in by telling the OP they were:

  • NTA – Not The A**hole
  • YTA – You’re The A**hole
  • NAH – No A**holes here
  • ESH – Everyone Sucks Here

While two Redditors thought there were no a**holes in the situation…

“To be honest I’m feeling like there’s NAH but holy cow the MOST Non-AH person is your Aunt, who from what it sounds like, listened to you accuse her of a VERY serious negligent action (which would put most anybody in a defensive position), and thanked you for it not only afterwards but RIGHT THEN as well.”

“It sounds like she learned from your experience and is grateful you took initiative to look after your cousin. From what you’ve described, it also doesn’t sound like she ever said ‘I’m too busy taking pictures right now’, but instead made a more conscious parenting choice to let her child run around without feeling watched at a family event.”

“For the folks saying your Aunt is ‘neglecting’ or ‘abusing’ her child… I just don’t think so. My and all my friends parents let me do all sorts of dumb stuff when we were kids, including letting us go off and play by ourselves near beaches when the littlest of us could have gotten in serious trouble.”

“It doesn’t mean they didn’t love us or wouldn’t care if we were hurt, it’s just letting children grow and explore their boundaries.” ~ TurnDownForPuns

“NAH, this is really between you and your family rather than the aunt.”

“The aunt was an asshole, but seems to have got the message. The family says you were too rough.”

“Maybe you could have delivered the same message with 80% anger, and had the same effect, but in no way are you an asshole for going all out.”

“I understand the family being upset seeing someone so angry.” ~ fordiddlesticks

…everyone else said OP was not the a**hole and felt the family was out of line.

“NTA – Someone needs to slap both parents upside the head with a clue or hold their heads underwater.”

“I have done the same thing to strangers at the beach. Another time I nearly punched my sister’s [mother-in-law] and [sister-in-law] in the face at a pool party, I had just pulled one unsupervised child out of the pool, plopped him in his very angry Mom’s now wet lap with the announcement he fell of the steps and was drowning.”

“I turned around and saw another poor swimmer fall off a float and get stuck under the float. I was trying to get back to the pool and they thought it was funny to block my path.”

“I yelled ‘Child’s Name’ is drowning someone grab her get the fuck out of my way. They turned pale and scrambled out of my way.”

“I was actually surprised the two kids didn’t suffer dry land drowning because I’m pretty sure they both breathed in water.”

“When we were kids my Mom (from an Island) set the open water rules for the extended family. Now I do, probably plus a cousin who just moved here is a certified surfguard back home.”

“Big groups around water are dangerous because everyone assumes someone is watching the kids/non-swimmers.” ~ TexasTeacher

“NTA obviously. I’m surprised that anyone else thought this was inappropriate. She could have died if it weren’t for your quick actions. They should all be grateful to you.” ~ wryebreadpoet

“Absolutely NTA. You and James saved her life. I am flabbergasted that the child’s relatives are upset with you.” ~ cherralily

“In some families the yelling at someone is always the greater sin than the actual thing they’re yelling about. Because you Caused A Scene.”

“Oh, the things I’ve been scolded for causing a scene about. Someone sexually harassing me… telling a toddler not to throw rocks at another toddler… I’m going to stop listing things because it’s too depressing.” ~ Foreign_Astronaut

“NTA you warned her her child was going out and she chose to ignore it. What if you hadn’t noticed that she went running off?” ~ nonanonaye

“NTA. Just reading this gave me anxiety. I’m pretty easy going with most things when it comes to my daughter, but deep water is not one of them.”

“It takes seconds to drown. If she had gone under while everyone was still on the beach, the amount of time it would take to get her and pull her back in could have made the outcome of the situation very different.” ~ rmariehor

Luckily things did not turn out as badly as they could have. Hopefully the rest of the family will see what the OP’s aunt realized.

The important thing is Belle is alive and well.

Amelia Mavis Christnot

Written by Amelia Mavis Christnot

Amelia Christnot is an Oglala Lakota, Kanien'kehá:ka and Metis Navy brat who settled in the wilds of Northern Maine. She considers herself another proud Maineiac. Her picture is from 1984 for purely Orwellian reasons.