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Shattered Boundaries

One of the stories reminded me of one of my own, which occurred some years ago at my daughter’s christening.

Among the guests were a couple – let’s call them Suzie and Alan – who we’d met through a mutual friend. For a while we were very close (we thought) and then contact suddenly dropped off; Suzie and Alan were (and still are) fabulously wealthy and we later discovered they had a habit of befriending ‘poorer’ couples, treating them like pet projects to be spoiled and shown a glimpse of the high life before dropping them for someone else.

At this time, the ‘friendship’ was cooling but we hadn’t yet realized why; we still considered them close enough to invite to what was a very special occasion for us. I have to say I was rather stunned when Suzie arrived wearing a very short, very tight, very low-cut fluorescent lime-green halter-neck dress that she’d borrowed from her then-17-year-old daughter…. (Suzie at that time being in her early 40s. She still dresses like a teenager now and has obvious issues about aging.)

However, I digress…..

After our daughter’s baptism at our local church, we held a celebration party at home.

Suzie and Alan had a younger child, Ross, then aged around three. Now, I know toddlers can be clumsy. And perhaps I should have been more careful about putting some of my knick-knacks and ornaments out of reach, but the party was supposed to be confined to the dining room/conservatory/garden areas and not our lounge. But Ross wanted to go in the lounge, so Suzie took him. (I was unaware of this as I was in the garden with other guests.)

Among my ornaments was a little crystal pot with a lid. I have no idea of its monetary value but it was special to me because it belonged to my grandmother; I have fond memories of her using it to store little treasures for me to discover when I visited her as a child. These might be nothing more than pretty buttons, acorns or sweets – it didn’t matter, it was ‘Nana and B’s special treasure pot’. Since my grandmother developed Alzheimer’s, things that remind me of happy times together are even more precious.

So – Ross is in the lounge (unknown to me). Suddenly we hear screaming; I rush inside and find Suzie and Ross next to, you’ve guessed it, my crystal pot which is in pieces on the floor. (Ross is fine and only screaming because his mother won’t let him play with the glass.)

“Oh no – my Nan’s treasure-pot,” I say, wanting to burst into tears.

Suzie’s response? Not “I’m sorry” or “Was it valuable?” or anything similar.

Simply: “Well, these things happen. No harm done – didn’t look like it was worth much.”

More than you will ever know or understand, Suzie. 0925-12

I get very disgusted with parents who do not rear their children to be decent human beings.  They are doing them no favors catering to every demand to go here, see that, touch this, gimme it.

Children need to be taught boundaries with other people’s possessions.   If you do not own it or plan to purchase it, don’t touch it until you get permission.   I routinely asked my kids while in a store and they were handling merchandise, “Do you own it?  Are you intending to own it? Then get your grubby paws off of someone else’s property.”  That meant no playing with toys in the toy department, picking up bags of candy, or pushing video game buttons.    If they were caught touching things they had business putting a finger on, the reaction was one of stern questioning, “Why did you think you had a right to her/his things?”     I do believe the genesis of thievery is the belief that everyone else’s stuff is actually your stuff for the taking.

{ 52 comments… add one }
  • Cherry September 27, 2012, 5:22 am

    What a horrible woman. If you were quite obviously upset about the broken pot, to dismiss the situation as “no harm done” because something didn’t look to have much material worth is cruelly callous.

    I’ve had a few experiences with people who look down their nose at anyone they see as “poorer”. If I received a snide comment, I took to replying “There’s a big difference between price and value, you know.”

  • Margo September 27, 2012, 5:37 am

    Suzie’s comment was way out of line/ ‘No harm done’ would only have been appropriate if (say) Ross had dropped the jar but Suzie had caught it and it was undamaged. And even then it would only be appropriate if she had said something such as “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have let Ross touch that. But luckily I caught it so no harm done (except maybe to everyone’s nerves)”

    It’s not her call to make, as to how valuable, or important something was. She should have apologised. If it was obvious that guests weren’t suppsoed to be n that room she gets further black marks for going in and taking her 3 year year old into the room, and she was rude not to have supervised her child better in the first place. Yes, a 3 year old can be a handful, but if you are in someone else’s home you have a responsiblity to take extra care.

    She should have apologised and offered to replace it. (and in her place, if you had then said that it wasn’t replacable because it was of sentimental, not montary value, I would have apologised some more and probably have sent you a card and a small gift such as flowers or choclates, as a further apology.)

    I don’t see that her clothing choices are relevant, however.

  • Bint September 27, 2012, 6:29 am

    “Actually, it was priceless. That’s why I’ve been keeping people out of the lounge.”

    She cannot replace it but don’t let her get away with pretending it was worthless. What a cow.

  • Spuck September 27, 2012, 6:34 am

    I disagree with telling any stranger to pick up an item unless you see they are really rough housing or going to damage. Items in stores are presented the way they are so they can be picked up and considered. Now a child in a glass store is generally not a customer but you can never be sure. I considered glass items when I was young for my grandmothers. Regular stores or game stores are defiantly even more complicated. They set up console displays for the full purpose of being played, and if a child is reading the back of a candy package or game, you can’t know if they have to funds to buy it. It can be a dangerous assumption to do so.

    That said I agree with keeping a kid of items in a house because that is all private.

  • Agania September 27, 2012, 6:45 am

    OP, I know this doesn’t excuse but remember that memories are indestructible. Yes, the pot was special to you, but your memories of Nan will still remain. I’m so glad these ‘friends’ have dropped you before more damage (literally) was done.

  • Lo September 27, 2012, 6:46 am

    It’s stories like this that me reluctant to host children. We have already “cat-proofed” the house so they cannot get into cabinets and still they persist in trying. Toddlers are about a million times worse. I spent many of my weekends looking after a toddler cousin when I was teen I know exactly what grabby little danger-magnets they can be. My solution would be to make it really clear to guests that any place that wasn’t meant for them (like your lounge) was off-limits in the nicest way possible. And especially for children because it wasn’t child-proofed and because it could be dangerous for them. Having said that I would also have taken the precuation of moving anything valuable to a high shelf. No, you shouldn’t have to do it, but if something is that valuable there’s no such thing as too much caution.

    Your friends response was awful. You are supposed to apologize profusely when your child breaks something, no matter how valuable it “looks”. It’s not the child’s fault for being a toddler, it’s hers for taking him into the room and not properly supervising. I would be absolutely furious with that woman.

  • Miss Marie September 27, 2012, 7:11 am

    I’m interested to know how OP responded to the “didn’t look like it was worth much” comment. I can’t imagine what I would say in that situation.

  • Erin September 27, 2012, 7:31 am

    I have a friend who tells her daughter “Look with your eyes, not with your hands.” It’s very effective without being harsh.

  • gramma dishes September 27, 2012, 8:32 am

    “No harm done — it doesn’t look like it was worth much.”

    Isn’t it sad that there are people in the world who equate ‘worth’ with money? Yes, harm WAS done. Grandma’s glass treasure pot was worth far more than probably anything the person who spoke those words would ever have.

    Maybe it didn’t cost much. Maybe it wouldn’t have brought much on the auction block if it were sold. But the memories that little bowl contained were priceless. All the money in the world could not replace that.

    And of course it also cost a friendship — which clearly really wasn’t “worth much”.

  • DGS September 27, 2012, 8:47 am

    Certainly, Susie’s behavior was atrocious, and she is responsible, along with her husband for rearing a decent human being, and of course, Susie was out of line in taking the child into a place he was not supposed to be in without the OP’s permission. However, while the onus of teaching her son not to grab other people’s posessions, Ross was a three-year-old behaving like a three-year-old: he sees something shiny, and he is going to make a beeline for it and try to play with it. The blame is not on a young child for behaving like a young child (at three, he is not developmentally capable of restraining himself when he sees a shiny object within reach), but on his mother Susie for not reacting immediately with forbidding him from touching it, much less being in a room he was not supposed to be in. I don’t see where Admin noticed the genesis of thievery, although certainly, if Susie and Alan continue to not restrain their children, Ross is headed down that path. Teaching respect for other people’s possessions starts early, but it’s on the parents to constantly reinforce that, especially for such a young child.

  • Coralreef September 27, 2012, 8:57 am

    Parents who don’t keep their kid’s grubby little hands off my stuff are a major irritant to me. I just want to grab them, shake them (the parents, not the kids) and yell “What were you thinking?!?”

    OP, I’m so sorry that your Nana’s treasure was broken. Even more so by the complete lack of empathy and disregard the mother showed. Money does not buy class and manners.

    I did pretty much the same thing as the Admin with my own kids. “Look with your eyes, not your hands.” “That’s not yours.” “We haven’t bought it, so it belongs to the store people.” Repeat and enforce it a few times and it becomes a fact of life and you get compliments on well behaved kids.

  • LadyLelan September 27, 2012, 8:59 am

    Suzie’s behavior was absolutely unacceptable, to me.

    I do not know how you handled it at the time, OP, but I feel for you, as I understand how some objects can be very precious. I have very few things from my mother, some may seem devoid of value to some people, but they still are totally invaluable to me.

    I just hope you have been able to make Suzie understand that her behavior and comment were totally inappropriate. Had I been you, I wonder whether I would have asked her to leave my house on the spot.

    My sincerest thoughts for you and your family, OP.

  • Hemi September 27, 2012, 9:00 am

    OP, I am so sorry that Ross broke your Nan’s treasure pot. My grandmother also had Alzheimer’s and has since passed on. She helped me make a quilt for my dolls when I was 8 and now, 30 years later, I still love that quilt and would not take anything in the world for it.

    Suzie and Alan are the kind of people and parents that think because they have money, they and their children do not have to follow the rules of society and basic, human morals. They are afraid to correct, discipline or tell their child “no” because it will “stifle their creativity” or some other hogwash. The children grow up being just as horrible and entitled.

    My sister is similiar to Suzie (though not fabulously wealthy). She gives my nephew everything he wants and caters to all his demands. It’s like he’s the adult and she is the child. He’s a bossy, demanding little thing and of course, his mother thinks he does no wrong and that no one should correct him or say a thing about his behavior. Sorry, but when you come to *my* house and you don’t take charge of *your* children, then I will and they will be treated just like my children. As you can imagine, nephew doesn’t visit aunt Hemi’s house very much.

    I sincerely hope you threw them out of your house and asked them to never return. You know you are better off without frenemies like that.

  • just4kicks September 27, 2012, 9:00 am

    My response to my kids in a store or someone else’s home is an oldie but a goodie. “Look with your EYES not with your HANDS, please.

  • Gee September 27, 2012, 9:23 am

    OP, I’m so sorry you lost something of such great sentimental value.

    I really hate when parents won’t teach their kids to keep their hands to themselves. I expect my son to respect other people’s property, and he has Asperger’s syndrome. If my kid can do it, then so can anyone else’s. My MIL has lots of little breakable knick-knacks that are within a toddler’s reach that don’t get packed away when we come visit. My son has never broken one of them, because we’ve taught him boundries.

  • Lapis Lazuli September 27, 2012, 9:23 am

    @Margo- since Suzie was attending a baptism, I think the clothing choice is relevant. People have the right to dress however they want, but if you are attending a church function, especially for something such as a baptism, more modest clothing would be appropriate. I’ve been to quite a few baptisms and church functions and I have never, ever seen any of the ladies wearing a very short, very tight, very low-cut fluorescent lime-green halter-neck dress.

    IMO, there is a difference between your right to dress however you want and being respectful of your hosts and the event you are attending.

  • Stepmomster September 27, 2012, 9:41 am

    She would be a jerk, and her children will treat her with the disregard she has taught them later in life. She will be eternally frustrated with all the things they break, lose, or generally do not care for because they will always get more.

  • Jones September 27, 2012, 9:42 am

    My DH’s great aunt has a TON of knick-knacks in her home. Not just on shelves, but on window sills and side tables. I’d say 9 out of 10 are easily breakable (glass or porcelin) and the other one is still breakable, it just might bounce first. His great aunt hosted a family party, a reunion of sorts, some time back, for all extendeds. I hadn’t ever visited her before, but MIL had, and didn’t warn us about the knick-knacks. I spent the whole party grabbing and pulling my 1 year old away from window sills and low tables, and we left early. You know what? He didn’t break one single thing due to my parenting. THAT is “no harm done”. Something breaking is “harm done.”

    That being said, if the great aunt had layed her party out in such a way that we were to be in only one area of the home, I would never have taken my child into a different area of the home. That your ex friend did take her son somewhere they weren’t supposed to be is a big enough violation, plus the fact that she then was responsible for something that belonged to you breaking. Yes, she was responsible, not the child.

    Maybe she didn’t want to bend over in her tiny dress and take the item from her son? 😉

  • Yvaine September 27, 2012, 9:52 am

    Spuck, she’s talking about her own kids and what she said to them in stores, not what she said as a shop employee to child customers.

  • Enna September 27, 2012, 9:53 am

    Children can be very fast sometimes and can do damage before a parent has a chance to stop them. I was round a friend’s house once and a dad was holding his baby/toddler and the child grabbed my glasses. The dad’s face was a picture, mine must have bene as well – he did apologise but he managed to intervene before my glasses were broken.

    However if Susie wasn’t incontrol e.g. if she could’ve stopped Ross but didn’t becasue she wasn’t thinking that is inexcusable parenting. What ever happened Susie should replace the the item – I would if I was Susie. I wonder if the OP has house and contents insurance?

    If I ever have children I will watch them like a hawk to make sure that they don’t do any damage – espcecially if there is a glass item within their reach – in fact if I saw them “eye” it up, if the host was in the room I would ask if I could move the item so it was out of reach. Or if the room was out of bounds move the child out of the room.

  • Bint September 27, 2012, 10:17 am

    “I don’t see that her clothing choices are relevant, however.”

    I think they are. She came to a child’s christening dressed in an utterly inappropriate way. You don’t wear low-cut, short, tight dresses that reveal everything to a religious occasion; this is another etiquette faux pas and matches the rest of Suzie’s attitude.

  • Lucky September 27, 2012, 11:27 am

    My mother calls children like this “messers” because they mess with other peoples’ things. She likes kids but can’t stand messers, and we were raised not to touch anything in someone else’s home. If a the child is too young to understand “don’t touch” then the guest should ask the hostess which rooms are available, and shouldn’t go wandering around the house. Sheesh. What a clod!

  • raven September 27, 2012, 1:21 pm

    Such a sad story. My heart goes out to OP – losing something special is always a heartbreak. OP’s ex-friend sounds like someone you’d be glad to be rid off. Too bad it cost OP something special first.

    Parents, please stop catering to your child’s every whim!

  • Ghra September 27, 2012, 1:28 pm

    Suzie sounds dreadful and I’m glad you’re rid of her. Having said that, I’ve never heard of “poorer” people having a “conservatory” or a “lounge”. Is this a regular home and colorful language to describe a living room or den and an enclosed porch?

  • Angel September 27, 2012, 1:34 pm

    I think this story is the perfect argument for keeping occasions like that SMALL and FAMILY only. Although family can be every bit as horrible, you are stuck with them for life. Friends like that obviously come and go. I have my own kids to worry about–don’t want someone else’s brats in my house LOL

  • Puzzled September 27, 2012, 2:04 pm

    Oh my, I think I just came to a realization about why I was dropped by a “friend.” I was a pet project.

    As far as the child is concerned, I taught my daughter to keep her hands behind her back when we went into stores. She is 17 years old, and I still catch her doing this sometimes.

  • Cat September 27, 2012, 3:15 pm

    A fine example that having money does not bestow anything more than the ability to buy things on a person. She basically told you that your possessions are no more than junk.. I wonder how she would have felt if you had destroyed something of hers and shrugged it off with, “Oh well, you can certainly afford to buy another one.”?
    My cousin once took her six year old daughter into my bedroom so she could go through all my drawers, closet, and personal items. Her excuse was, “Oh, she is just so curious at this stage.”
    That was years ago and she no longer speaks to her daughter because she is centered only on herself and cares nothing for other people. I wonder where she learned to be like that?

  • Mabel September 27, 2012, 3:28 pm

    Erin September 27, 2012 at 7:31 am
    I have a friend who tells her daughter “Look with your eyes, not with your hands.” It’s very effective without being harsh.

    Oh this is PERFECT. I’m going to borrow this if I ever have a kid (although it’s not looking likely at this point). If I do, I promise I will teach him/her to behave so he/she doesn’t end up on E-hell. 🙂

  • Cerys September 27, 2012, 3:59 pm

    I just told my husband about this post. He said, ‘yeah – headbutts to the nose at that point’. I reminded him that this was a site devoted to etiquette … but some part of me agreed with him. Suzie sounds like a thoroughly unpleasant, presumptuous and irresponsible person. Maybe one day she’ll find a headbutt directed her way. It would be wrong – yet oddly and ironically appropriate.

  • Another Alice September 27, 2012, 5:12 pm

    From the moment the child starts walking – or heck, even before they walk and can just grab at things – the parent should be doing a gentle, “No,” and moving their hand away. It isn’t even a question of, “Should I ask if it’s okay that they play with such and such?” It’s simply an innate, “I know this is not mine, and therefore I cannot touch it.” And it isn’t even that kids just don’t know not to touch things that aren’t theirs; many people believe that it’s always okay to ask if you can have something. Frankly, I often even find asking obnoxious, to be honest. I recall a story on here about a woman who was asked by a complete stranger’s child on the bus if she could play with her expensive phone. Um, what? The same thing happened to me when I received roses for my birthday at a restaurant; a stranger came up with his child and asked if she could have one! I cannot believe the gall.

    I do understand that children can be quick, but again, common sense: If someone asks you to stay in a room, you do so. If they ask you not to touch something, you don’t. If you cannot abide by this, then you keep your children home. Suzie’s reaction was ridiculous, and I agree that the OP should be thankful she is not in her life any more.

  • Daisy September 27, 2012, 6:06 pm

    This story reminds me of the quote from Oscar Wilde: “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

  • Serenity September 27, 2012, 7:07 pm

    You are clearly better off without these “friends” who have no respect for other’s personal property.
    On a side note though, while her choice of clothing for the christening was clearly inappropriate ( for ANY age in that setting), to say she clearly had “issues with aging” due to her wardrobe in general, is not necessarily true. I still dress what some people would consider younger for my age, but it’s because it’s what I like. I am very petite for starters, and have a hard time finding things in the women’s section that fit properly, so I shop in the junior’s section. When I do look in the women’s section, I am usually disappointed in what I find style wise. Even as a teenager, I remember looking at 40 something women then, and wondering if there was a law that you had to start wearing polyester pants at a certain age, lol. anyway, that touches a nerve with me because I had a friend who constantly judged people by what SHE thought they should be wearing at a certain age. After listening to her butcher and say unkind, bitter words about women she didn’t know on several different occasions (who looked GREAT in what they had on), I came to the conclusion that she was just jealous because at her much younger age, she still wouldn’t look as good as the older women if she dressed in that type of clothing.
    Anyway, long off topic rant 😉 I’m overtired today, and I ramble when that happens.
    But yes, she sounds awful, and I’m sorry you lost your special treasure box. As someone who has very few things from her family, I can empathize with how that must have hurt to see that broken.

  • Emmy September 27, 2012, 7:24 pm

    Suzie made so many etiquette blunders here. First Suzie takes her son into a room that is essentially off limits to the party guests. Then she doesn’t watch her son carefully and allows him to break an object. Lastly, she has the gall to not even apologize or inquire about what her son broke, instead she just insults OP by saying it wasn’t worth much. I hope the OP didn’t hold back for the sake of making Suzie feel comfortable, I hope she let Suzie know the real value of what had been broken. I’m so sorry for the OP. I think when planning to invite guests, the host has to plan for the potential stupid and entitled guest. It shouldn’t have to be this way, but it will help hosts protect themselves against losses like this.

  • German Shepherd September 27, 2012, 8:45 pm

    A big hug to the OP. What an upsetting story 🙁

    I absolutely hate parents like Susie. I have relatives who allow their children to damage others’ property and then they have the audacity to get mad when you object to their child ruining your stuff. Needless to say, I’m not fond of them and their children. They can stay out of my house and out of my sight until they learn to respect others.

  • Sugaryfun September 27, 2012, 10:31 pm

    Yes, I completely agree that children need to be taught boundaries when it comes to other people’s things! I know a few adults who were apparently never taught this and think it’s fine to “borrow” things without permission, handle things or help themselves to other people’s food.

    If I saw a parent act that way I would think they were trying to stop their child from being upset at having broken the thing if they were particularly sensitive and tended to beat themselves up about their mistakes, but this kid clearly wasn’t upset about that (and probably didn’t even understand what they had done, three year olds are only just learning empathy) so it was badly handled by the parent. I’m sorry OP that the mother was so thoughtless about something precious to you. 🙁

  • Mechtilde September 28, 2012, 4:33 am

    @ Ghra, I don’t know if the OP lives in Britain, but here a lounge is another word for a living/sitting room (so where the couch etc are and you spend most of your time). A conservatory is usually an extension to a house which has glass walls and roof. A lot of people have had them put on their houses so that they can enjoy the garden (or have an extra room) without having to worry about the rain!

  • Angela September 28, 2012, 5:44 am

    I taught my daughter to “touch softly” when she was little. It was very effective and made it easier to not touch at all when that was necessary.

  • Mrs. Lovett September 28, 2012, 8:39 am

    @ Ghra, in addition to what Mechtilde said, it may also be that OP was considered poorer by Suzie’s standards. This may mean that OP makes a comfortable living and is able to afford a nice home with many rooms, but perhaps Suzie and her family live on a large estate and consider OP to be poorer. That’s simply my interpretation.

    @ OP, like everyone above, I am simply galled that this woman was so frightfully insensitive to the sentimental value of your treasure. I know that if I broke a friend’s knick-knack that she’d just bought for a quarter at a flea market, I’d be mortified and making apologies left and right.

  • Cupcake September 28, 2012, 9:41 am

    @Ghra I’m not sure whether you’re accusing the OP of pretending to be poor, or of being poor and pretending to have a posh house, but either way, as Mechtilde said English people often have what they call a lounge and a conservatory even if they aren’t especially wealthy, and the OP put “poorer” in inverted commas, which I think implies that she isn’t actually poor, but Susie just thought of her that way. Maybe Susie is one of those insanely rich people who think anyone who doesn’t own an island is a pauper.

  • Snarkastic September 28, 2012, 11:41 am

    I thought the same thing. Those “poorer” people in the UK sure are living it up with their many rooms!

  • Lisastitch September 28, 2012, 2:21 pm

    OP, I’m so sorry this happened. You have wonderful memories of your grandmother that nothing can take away, but it’s also nice to have physical items that keep those memories fresh.

    And by three, I expect children to know better. My son was less than three when we were at a stationer’s store with lots of breakable gifty items. I said “Don’t touch”. He raised one hand with the index finger extended and very deliberately and very “defiantly” (for lack of a better word) reached out and set his finger tip on one of the breakables, the whole time looking straight at me. He wasn’t able to say it in words, but he very clearly conveyed, “Mom, you’re saying ‘don’t touch’. but I think you really mean that these are breakable; I need to look with my eyes, not my hands; if I want to touch something, I need to do it very carefully so I won’t break it”. He totally understood what I expected of him and while I kept my eyes on him in similar situations, I trusted him to behave.

  • ImJustSaying September 28, 2012, 3:08 pm

    Two situtions of a somewhat similar manner

    Situation #1 – I am working in retail where we have computers out for customer to try software. A group of boys come in 12-15 I’d guess. Boy 1 proceeds to change the color settings on the monitor to a strong pink then walk away. Boy 2 casually says “hey why’d you do that?” Boy 1 answered “because I could”
    I am standing right next to them as all of this happens. So i say “Would you like it if i came to your house and moved your things ‘because I could’?” He looks mildly concerned and says “No” but still proceeds to walk away! I put on my No-Nonsense voice and say loud enough for the whole store to hear “Excuse me you did not have permission to change store property yet you did it anyway. Change it back now and do not return to this store without a parent” I’d love to see if the apple fell far from the tree for this kid. He changed it back and the whole group left. Haven’t seen them since then.

    Situation #2
    My mother and I had recently gone shoe shopping and found a pair of Ralph Lauren Suede calf high boots marked down from $1900 to $200! (DSW never disappoints!) I should mention I have size 11 feet so shoe shopping is always a mission for me this was an amazing find. Fast forward to a later week day my high school best friend is over my house which is a usual occurrence. We order pizza and it comes with little containers of garlic sauce. I’d already shared the Amazing boot story with my BF abd had brought the boots out for her to see prior to the food order. Well when the food arrved and we settled in she sat on the couch and my boots were right at her feet. I was making my way over to move them to “safety” when she opens her garlic sauce to forcefully and spills it on one of my boots!
    I literally yelled “Nooo!” She did move to wipe off the sauce but since they were suede the sain was ther to stay. I said something to the effect of “theses are ruined and I just got them.”
    Her response?
    “Well they weren’t really that cute anyway”
    Being HS we hung out a bit after that but I stopped answering her calls soon after that incident.

  • StephM September 29, 2012, 9:05 am

    This is why I don’t want to invite kids to my wedding. I’m absolutely petrified at what they might do, and that the parents won’t care. Yech. OP, I’m terribly sorry this happened to you.

  • videodiva October 1, 2012, 1:23 am

    Most middle-class Americans live in homes with a living room, a family room, a dining room, and a deck overlooking the back yard. A middle-class British family most likely would have the same thing, they’re just given different names, and since the weather tends to be rainy an enclosed patio or conservatory makes better sense than an open deck.

  • Cat Whisperer October 1, 2012, 2:07 pm

    OP, I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your grandmother’s crystal trinket pot. I know exactly what you mean about objects giving a link to someone we love.

    FWIW, this couple can most likely look forward to reaping the rewards of what they’re sowing now in how they are parenting their child. That’s a measure of revenge. They will deserve each other.

    My mom drummed into us kids from our earliest days, “You look with your eyes, not with your hands!” and taught us that when we were anywhere that wasn’t our home, we were not to touch things. (When we were in a place where there were obvious breakable objects, she made us put our hands behind our backs and keep them there. A habit I still have to this day.)

    This is an easy thing to teach kids if you start early and if the parents model the same behavior. It isn’t hard at all to set limits and once you’ve taught the kids that “no touching” is an absolute, no exceptions, it becomes automatic. And it helps teach kids, very early, the concept of boundaries: that there are things in this world that don’t belong to them, and which they have no right to touch or do anything with unless the owner gives them permission.

    FWIW, I just don’t see many parents bothering to teach kids that the way I was taught. Just for example: my father taught us that when we’re walking on a sidewalk, if we step off the sidewalk and walk on someone else’s yard, we’re trespassing, which is against the law. Yes, that is a bit drastic, but it’s also true: if you venture into someone else’s yard without their permission, that is a trespass and it is illegal.

    Kids walking down my street from the bus stop on one end to the school on the other have no concept of trespassing. They come into people’s yards to pick flowers or fruit, they throw trash in people’s yards, and we’ve even caught kids trying to get into our back yard. And if you try telling them they’re supposed to stay on the sidewalk, they just look at you like you’re crazy.

    Bottom line: if it isn’t yours, then unless it’s a public property of some kind, or you have prior permission from the owner, you don’t touch it. That isn’t hard to understand. Why is it something that parents just don’t bother teaching their kids as soon as the kids become mobile?

  • Athena October 1, 2012, 3:31 pm

    Cat Whisperer,

    Funny story about sidewalks. My mother owns two properties, about a block from each other. Across one is an uninhabited home with a fig tree in the yard. My brother adores figs. So every time he walked between the two houses, he’d make sure he was still on the sidewalk, and would pick figs that were overhanging, making sure he would never enter the yard itself.

  • Cat Whisperer October 1, 2012, 4:39 pm

    Athena, my dad went to the extreme, but he got the message through: you don’t enter someone’s yard to pick their flowers or fruit, or just to goof off. If there’s a sidewalk, you stay on the sidewalk.

    We have two persimmon trees in our front yard, and the fruit on these trees is just now turning bright orange. So now the war with the kids walking down the block to and from school begins: many of the little hooligans think that if the yard isn’t fenced, it’s okay to come onto the lawn and pick the fruit. And unfortunately the little vandals don’t care if they pull entire branches off; after all, it’s not their tree.

    There are two ironies to this: first, if the kids would have the courtesy to come up to my door and knock, and ask me if they could have some fruit, I’d be happy to hand them a bag and help them pick what they want. The trees bear far more persimmons than we can ever eat. We regularly give people who knock on our door and ask about the persimmons permission to take as many as they want, we even give them bags to put the fruit in. I’ve never turned anyone down if they’ve asked for a persimmon. I just want people to ask, not to treat my yard like public property.

    The second irony, which is actually kind of funny: the persimmons may look a beautiful glowing ripe bright orange, but they aren’t ripe. Not by a long way. These are the Fuyu variety of Japanese persimmons, and they aren’t ripe until they soften. To be edible, they need to be so soft that most people think they’re rotten when they feel them. Then they’re sweet, rich and meltingly delicious. But an unripe persimmon– man, they’re so astringent that if you taste one, you’ll immediately run to wash your mouth out and probably brush your teeth. That’s about the only way you can get the taste out of your mouth after you’ve bitten an unripe persimmon.

    Every year at this time we observe the same phenomenon: persimmons pulled off the tree and thrown into the yard with one bite taken. Considering what an unripe persimmon tastes like, the miscreants are well punished by that illicit taste of unripe persimmon.

    But things reached a whole new low a couple of years ago when one kid, who apparently was disgusted by the taste of the persimmon, didn’t just drop it in the yard. He threw it at the front door. I happened to be home at the time, and I heard it hit the door; I ran to see what that sound was, and found a bunch of the little hooligans standing there laughing, pointing at the kid who’d thrown it. After that, I made a point of being out in the yard, watering the plants, when school let out. Some day we’re going to put up a fence.

  • Sara October 1, 2012, 7:18 pm

    Ugh, there are so many things about this that annoy me. I’m particularly bothered by the trend I’ve noticed that people don’t seem to think that there should be any place that’s off-limits or inappropriate for a child. I’m not that old (31), but when I was a kid and my family were guests in someone else’s home, children were generally limited to “family” areas–kitchens, rec rooms, dens, etc. Living rooms, private bedrooms, etc. where there were a lot of expensive, important or breakable items were not places that we were to go into, especially not uninvited, and we definitely would not have been expected to go into those spaces and start manhandling things. Fancy restaurants, black-tie affairs, and dinner parties were more examples of places that were for adults and that we, as children, were generally not invited until we were old enough to know how to control our behavior and act appropriately. If we were taken to one of these places and we behaved inappropriately, we knew that we would immediately be taken home for a consequence. We quickly learned that no, we didn’t get to go everywhere and yes, there were expectations and boundaries around how we were to act.
    On the topic of children not touching things that don’t belong to them, I have a friend who has a great tactic for when she goes to stores, etc. with her two young children. She calls them “Angel Wings” and when the kids hear that, they clasp their hands behind their backs so their arms form wings. When they get out of the car to go into a store, museum, etc. all she has to do is whisper, “Angel wings, guys!” and the kids know what to do.

  • Ann October 2, 2012, 2:33 pm

    Expecting people like Suzie and Alan to raise children well is a non-starter.

  • Monica October 2, 2012, 11:33 pm

    OP, I’m so sorry to read that. Yes, memories are indestructible, but what a huge disappointment to have a memento effectively destroyed by bad parenting and then dismissed as “inexpensive.” The whole story made me cringe.

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