Public Pool Etiquette


Last Friday, my kids and I ventured out to the Inskip Pool for the first time in a long time. I made sure to pack all of the essentials — lunchtime snacks, dry clothes, pool toys — and I even brought a novel to read for all of the downtime I thought I would have. I was expecting a morning of quiet relaxation (at least, until the school bus packed with day-campers inevitably shows up — am I right?). What I didn’t think about was how much our day at the pool would be overshadowed by other people around us making, in my opinion, questionable choices. I started mentally compiling a list of pool etiquette that I wished our fellow swimmers would have the decency to follow.

What follows is nothing like the list of rules you’ll see posted at any given public pool, but I think it should be.

1. Keep your music to yourself.

As my two little guys splashed around in the kiddie pool area (neither of them have learned to swim yet, so the kiddie pool our lifesaver), an older woman came and sat down, putting her feet in the water. She had no children with her — she was just there for the atmosphere, apparently. She plugged in her little pink portable speaker to her cell phone and proceeded to treat us to 90 minutes of hits from the 1970s. Lucky us! Unbeknownst to her, not everyone is a huge fan of that era, and not everyone wants to listen to disco while they swim. If she is progressive enough to have her own smart phone and portable speaker, then she surely wouldn’t have a problem investing in some ear buds, right?

2. Keep your kids under control.

Soon to join us in the kiddie pool were two other moms with their combined four children. These moms were definitely the cool moms: they had their hair perfectly styled, and they were dressed in trendy swimwear and fancy footwear, toting along their own lounge chairs and drinks, and fanning themselves with bestselling novels that they were only pretending to read. I, on the other hand, was wearing my basic-black-don’t-look-at-me one piece with my hair in a bun, and I was sitting down in the 12-inch-deep water to avoid drowning in my own sweat. The cool moms kept their distance from their kids, chatting with each other and laughing and apparently not noticing that their children were terrorizing the kiddie pool. Since I was the one actually sitting in the water (other than aforementioned disco lady), I was forced into the awkward position of referring other children who were within earshot of their own parents, reminding them to share (since they were, after all, stealing and hoarding the pool toys that my children had brought) and to play nicely (as a boy who was much too old to even enjoy a kiddie pool splashed my almost-two-year old in the face, causing him to cry). Just because there is a lifeguard on duty doesn’t mean that you don’t have to watch your own children.

3. Keep your cool. 

On the other hand, some parents helicopter a little too closely to their children (or sometimes even my children!) and feel the need to micromanage everything that is happening in the pool. At one point, after the kiddie pool terrorists left, a pair of young brothers joined us and, of course, took an interest in our pool toys. We had plenty of toys to go around, so my boys generously shared with them, but my oldest (who just turned four) came over to me after a few minutes and tattled on one of the other boys who was repeatedly squirting him with a water gun that we had brought. “Well,” I said, “you have more than one squirt gun. Why don’t you just squirt him back?” With that, an epic squirt gun fight ensued, with much giggling and splashing and chasing. Both boys were clearly enjoying themselves, but the other boy’s mom felt the need to end the fight and force him to return the gun. Apparently, what looked fun to me looked aggressive and dangerous to her. Or maybe she just didn’t want him touching our toys? I’m not sure what her reasoning was, but during their intense whisper conversation I overheard her son explaining, “He was squirting me too!” as if he got caught doing something wrong. Some parents need to relax.  

4. Keep your clothes on.

We were just visiting the Inskip Pool, so I wasn’t really expecting the amount of graphic “oversharing” that we were treated to that day (even in the kiddie pool area!). I saw women who were bravely testing the limits of the elasticity of their swimsuit tops. I saw ladies who were de-strapping and unsnapping suits to avoid tan lines. I saw young boys stripping down to change into dry clothes after exiting the pool without bothering to retreat to a restroom. I saw couples involved in deep make-out sessions, with suspicious exploits going on beneath the surface of the water. What is the deal? We are not in Mexico on Spring Break! This is a community pool where families bring their young children. What is the motivation for acting raunchy at the Inskip Pool? The only attention you’re going to get is from the 14-year-old lifeguard on duty and the mothers averting their children’s eyes. I don’t know about your kids, but my boys like to point and shout “BOOBIES!” when they see them on display. Please don’t make pool day awkward. Keep it covered, and keep it behind closed doors.

5. Keep it sanitary.

Many of us have seen the viral video of a woman shaving her legs in a public pool in Florida, much to the horror of the other pool-goers. While I haven’t seen quite such a grotesque offense, there are still plenty of things going on in the pool that gross me out. People eat snacks and get their crumbs in the pool (or they let their children “wash” the Cheetos cheese off of their fingers in the water). There are always people who feel the need to excessively spit when they reemerge from underwater (sometimes only inches away from my face — “Oops! Didn’t see you there!”). There are people who smoke or vape too close to the water’s edge. I don’t think we even need to mention the young children (or adults?) who pee in the pool. Much as we wish that the chlorine content of the water would just magically fix everything, it’s still polite to be aware that the public pool is namely a public place shared with other people, and it is probably almost as intimate as bathing with absolute strangers. Just be aware of your surroundings and before you act, think, “Would I want to swim in here if I saw someone doing what I’m about to do?”

What is the most annoying/offensive thing that you’ve seen someone doing in the pool? I want to hear your stories!


  1. My son goes to Inskip with his Taekwondo class during the week but I have never been there, however we go to Springbrook every week, sometimes 2-3 times a week. It’s always clean, there’s a huge shallow end plus a separate kiddie pool, rarely there’s a kid or adult who doesn’t throw away trash, and on super crowded days there might be more kids getting away with some things but I’ve never really had or seen much of an issue. And I’m a social worker lol, I’m probably more paranoid. I don’t let my own son go in the kiddie pool because he’s 8 & he’ll just aggravate the little ones. I think there are always some who might choose bathing suits that maybe I myself wouldn’t choose but, that’s anywhere you go, and least of my worries these days.

  2. I was a little nervous to go to the Inskip Pool after reading this – we had planned on going this weekend since it was right down the road from us. I definitely prepared for the worst, but it was wonderful. We went right after noon today (Saturday) and stayed until 2. The kiddie pool wasn’t ever crowded and all the kids were really well behaved with parents monitoring them. The lifeguards had eyes everywhere and that made me feel so much better because I was busy watching my wild 3 year old making sure he wasn’t being crazy and my big kids (11 and 10) were off with my husband swimming in the big pool. We’re all really excited to go back 🙂 The only thing is that the changing areas don’t have curtains, but my daughter and I were able to change with holding up a towel for each other. There are also bathroom stalls for changing but it was just quicker to hold up the towel.

  3. I hate that I made it sound like a diatribe against the Inskip pool. It was more just meant to be a compilation of weird things that happen at pools in general. I’m glad you guys had a good experience! My boys had a blast despite all of the stuff that I kept noticing.

  4. To add to the parents watching their kids I would say also be present. I went to my friends neighborhood pool and some middles school boys were basically there on their own. (Their teenage sister was there too but really she isn’t going to actually watch her brother. The sister eventually left as well leaving them there with no one) The one boy would dunk his friend every time he got in the water. I was seriously afraid he might become so tired he would drown. Needless to say the one boy spent almost his entire time at the pool outside of the water just watching. I am glad for that reason I don’t have a neighborhood pool. I understand the thought that yes he is 12 or older maybe he can be in the pool by himself but really the answer should be no.

  5. Ugh! Squirt gun etiquette is the worst! Grandma insists on bringing major squirt guns for everyone and then I end up referreing when inevitably my kids shoots someone in the face and also gets shot in the face by other children as well. I don’t even want to bring them so I can avoid the conflict but then I have conflict with Grandma. #avoidingconflict lol


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