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Poolside panic leads to family fight and blame, SIL too scared to save drowning 2yo.

Poolside panic leads to family fight and blame, SIL too scared to save drowning 2yo.


"AITA for screaming at my SIL when she wouldn’t save my drowning kid because of her trauma?"


I (30F) have one daughter ‘Heather’ (2F) with my husband. My brother (36M) is married to my sil ‘Kelly’ (37F). She has one son from an ex (12M) and one daughter ‘Sadie’ (3F) with my brother. We’ve never been super close, but before all this we had a good relationship overall and I liked her.

Kelly has a fear of going into water. When she was 6 she was at a family bbq and began to drown in the pool. There were so many kids splashing around in the water the adults just thought she was playing or something like that. She lost consciousness and came very close to dying. She got into therapy and has since allowed her son and Sadie to learn how to swim.

When Sadie was 1-2 years old she’d only allow it as long as her son or my brother were right next to her. Now she’s seems fairly laid back over having her kids in the water even without strict supervision. This was surprising to me but it’s her life so I never commented.

A few months ago she and my brother even told me she was doing exposure therapy and slowly learning to not let her fears control her. She’s even had a small swim lesson and was feeling fairly calm walking around in a shallow pool.

Every Thanksgiving and Christmas we go to visit my parents in their retirement neighborhood in Florida. Kelly has told me all about her past in the time we’ve spent together there for the holidays. It has a nice community pool with a recreation center. There’s only a lifeguard on duty Saturday, but the rec center has employees at the front desk if you go inside.

While we were there for Thanksgiving the weather channel predicted only one day would be nice enough for the kids to swim. My SIL, brother, husband and I were planning to take them in the late afternoon (grandparents were busy with some other event that day).

I fell and sprained my ankle. My husband said he’d drive me to an urgent care. I didn’t want my daughter to miss the pool outing so I said I’d allow her to go with my brother's family. My brother and nephew promised to be by her side the whole time.

My brother and nephew apparently wanted to play ping pong on the table that was in the recreation center. Sadie and Heather were still splashing in the shallow 3-feet end of the pool with Kelly watching in a lounge chair.

She said they could go because she’d keep an eye on the girls and go get them if they get into any trouble. Kelly had put Heather in a pool tube around her waist to float. Somehow Heather flipped over and was stuck upside down in the water.

She began to kick and panic so Sadie got scared and started to cry. Kelly noticed and also started to freak out. She began to scream at Sadie to get her out or flip her back over. Sadie tried at first but wasn’t strong enough and couldn’t get a good grip. Plus she was scared and confused from her mother’s yelling.

I know she has a legitimate trauma so I understand why that would scare her and would’ve been fine with her not jumping in herself. I wouldn’t be so upset if she then had the common sense to run into the rec center to grab ANYONE else to save my daughter. It was the next building over if she had ran inside to ask for help everything would’ve turned out a lot better.

I have no idea what was going on in this woman’s head but she grabbed a pool net to try and get Heather out. This would’ve made sense if she had used it to guide my daughter to a place she could grab her out but it seemed that she tried to carry my daughter in the net and when she didn’t fit she moved to a different strategy that looked like just awkwardly smacking her.

This moved Heather to the deeper part of the pool. She never seemed all that stupid to me so I don’t know why she tried to save my daughter in the most inefficient way possible.

Eventually a rec center employee heard her panicking and ran outside. He gave her cpr and she threw up a lot of a water. They called an ambulance and my husband and I met everyone at the hospital.

Heather had a lot of bruises on her lower half. I asked what happened and Kelly told me about the pool net and everything. Plus how she hadn’t immediately gotten someone else. I was so angry I yelled at the boys and her. How she could see my daughter dying and not do anything?

The first thing she said was literally “well I kept yelling at Sadie to help her”. This really ticked me off, she was blaming all this on her toddler. I know everyone makes mistakes but seriously? When I asked her why she didn’t sprint for help right away. She said she was overwhelmed and that I shouldn’t attack her because my kid couldn’t swim to save herself.

The pool tube was around her waste was trapping her upside down. This set me off. I was and still am disgusted with my brother but her words made me break and lose it.

I started to scream at her how pathetic she was and that she was just as bad as her family members who let her drown. I kept yelling until she started to sob and security made us stop. My husband and I were so upset we demanded to see the rec centers footage from the pool security camera and we saw exactly what happened.

After we went back home I sent a short text to Kelly that I was sorry for losing my cool. I was completely out of line and blamed the wrong person to deal with it all. She sent back a paragraph saying I’m a psycho B for blaming her for her own trauma response. She even said maybe it would’ve been better for my daughter to die than have a mom like me. Obviously I haven’t contacted her or my brother since.

My parents began to yell at me when I yelled at Kelly so I haven’t spoken to them much either. For Christmas we aren’t joining them this year. My husband fully agrees with me.

My best friend and her family live a few hours away so don’t see her as often as I’d like. Since it’s just us for Christmas she offered to have us stay at her nice house so my daughter can play with her kids. A couple days ago we stayed up drinking wine and talking. She knew about it but I told her all the details for the first time.

After I was done she asked if she could give me a bit of advice. I was curious what she wanted to say so I said yes. She said what Kelly said was awful and she went way too far especially with her text about my daughter.

Plus it was stupid that her first thought was to yell at her toddler daughter to do something. Kelly could’ve handled it all way better with a calm start. Of course though she was panicking in an awful so she couldn’t think as clearly.

I’m furious with my brother as well. I was so upset and was yelling at him too. It was what my SIL said that really hurt and set me off. I was so panicked and wasn’t thinking straight. I will never let my brother watch Heather while I’m busy doing something ever again.

She said she understood why I felt so angry in the hospital, but I shouldn’t have had such an emotional reaction or at least should’ve found time to eventually sit down in person and apologize for my outburst. It was a stressful situation for everyone. The mean things Kelly said after were wrong.

I should’ve sat down face to face to discuss all of our feeling and give both her and I the chance to apologize for what we said to each other. I’m feeling a lot more guilty now. I lashed out and she lashed out in turn. I talked to my husband about it, but he’s still furious with them and says we don’t owe them anything. I miss my niece and nephew. AITA?

Here were the top rated comments from readers:


NTA. Kelly should not be allowed to watch anybody's kids.


The brother was the one who promised OP that he would be with her daughter every second. Then, he left 2 non swimmers, in the water, with an aquaphobic adult. Had brother done what he stated he would do. There would be no problem. He is the AH here.


NTA. Though honestly I would be equally if not more mad at my brother. He committed to watching your daughter and then left her in the hands of someone not equipped to do so. If her trauma is still that strong she should not be in any way responsible for watching kids in swimming situations.

And for her to say your daughter would be better off dead is unforgivable in my opinion. You tried to apologize for your (understandable) emotional reaction. It’s on her her to apologize for her actions and the awful things she said now.


NTA - As soon as I had read my daughter was better off dead I would have done 2 things: One told her maybe her daughter would be better off if she (Kelly) would have died because clearly she isn't worth shit at watching or keeping a kid alive, and two I would have blocked and gone NC. I don't even have children but that would be absolutely unforgivable for me.


I’m gonna say NTA because no one should have left her alone with the kids at the pool but it’s especially on her because she knows her trauma and how much she has progressed. She should have made her husband or a someone who can swim be with her.

From the go this was unsafe. At 2, no child should be more than a arms length away from the adult who can swim. She should have never let this situation happen. You both said bad things but she was the responsible adult who messed up originally.

So, do you think the OP was being too harsh regarding her sister-in-law's actions or was this all completely unacceptable?

Sources: Reddit
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