People Can Be Oh So Bad But How You React Can Make It Ten Times Worse

by admin on July 18, 2013

Last week my thirteen year old daughter, Ella, had to have her wisdom teeth removed. The procedure was difficult for her due to how impacted the teeth were and the surgeon wound up removing two molars as well. One day after her surgery, our neighbor, “Jennifer”, with whom I had been very close for some time, called and asked if she could come over to check on Ella and chat. I said, alright. I knew (or at least thought I knew) this woman very well and I knew my daughter would not mind.

When Jennifer came over, Ella had just taken a pain pill and was sleeping on the sofa in the family room. Jennifer walked up to her, and (it still makes me furious to think of this) SQUEEZED her cheeks, HARD! My daughter immediately woke up and burst into tears. Jennifer GIGGLED (yes, giggled!) and pranced away to my kitchen to get herself a drink. I stood there, furious and in total shock but managed to compose myself and comfort Ella, who was sobbing in pain and was totally confused as to what what happened to her. I got her a cold pack and got her back to sleep and went into the kitchen, nearly shaking with fury, to find Jennifer sipping away at a Mimosa. It took every thing I had not to break her jaw. I told her that Ella was unwell (thanks to you, you evil b****!) and Jennifer needed to leave immediately. She looked confused but downed the rest of her drink and left.

I called my husband and managed to tell him what happened through furious tears. He was livid and even said I should call the police on this woman. I didn’t want to go to that extreme but vowed that I would never, ever, ever speak to Jennifer again. Ella was in horrible pain for several hours after this and no amount of pain medication and ice helped. I was horribly upset, which made her three younger brothers upset, then their still-fuming father came home and disturbed the peace even more by calling both his and my parents and ranting to them about what happened. This might have been inappropriate on his part, but that is how he deals with anger and I suppose I should be thankful that’s all he did rather than marching over to Jennifer’s and dealing with her “old school”, as he would say.

Ella had a thumb-shaped bruise on either cheek and was in great pain for the next four days. We found out at her check-up that what Jennifer had done had pinched off the newly formed scabs on Ella’s gums, resulting in her developing dry sockets. We now have to get them packed on a daily basis, which, though it does not hurt us to pay for this, is a cost that could have been avoided if Jennifer had chosen to reign in her inner sadist. The oral surgeon could not believe what happened when I told him. Everyone I’ve told about this has been absolutely appalled at how horrible this woman was. What possesses a person to squeeze the cheeks of someone who’s just undergone dental surgery and then LAUGH at them as they cry in pain? I believe this goes beyond an etiquette faux pas and into plain cruelty, but I simply had to share this. I still feel like crying when I think of what happened. In the past few days, Jennifer has called and left messages asking if she’d “offended me” and if she could come over to “talk about it.” How clueless can you be?! 0710-13

You have Mimosas (orange juice and champagne) on tap in your kitchen?  And she just helped herself to one?

It goes without saying that Jennifer has some serious boundary issues.  Was she perhaps a little inebriated when this happened?  It appears she was drinking alcohol at your house rather early in the day and her confused reaction and lack of understanding about why you are offended seems odd to me perhaps indicating she had been drinking before she came to your house.   It appears that even you consider it out of character behavior for her to behave this way.

Jennifer aside, can you now see how the drama you and your husband kept fueling disturbed your family peace long after Jennifer had done her deed and left the house?  How were the children served to witness their parents in a state of hyped up anger which only distressed them further?   Sometimes there are occasions where you, as the parent, have to suck it up and behave calmly and rationally so that you set an example for the kids.  What you say behind closed doors to each other and other family adults is one thing but you and hubby selfishly gave vent to your anger in front of the kids with little regard as to how this was upsetting them.   I don’t know the ages of the three younger brothers but it’s probable they were young enough to not understand all the drama and instead of one child victim, there are four courtesy of yours and the hub’s lack of self control.   Your job as a parent is to train up your children to react to other people’s horrid bad manners in a calm, civil, rational manner because they have to learn that they cannot change other people’s behavior but they sure can control how they react and behave. What they learned this week is that screaming, venting, ranting in anger regardless of how it affects those innocent bystanders is the appropriate drama response to any offense they happen to incur.

Addendum as of 8:55 am EST:

There is always a subset of people reading Ehell who believe in their inherent right to react to grave offenses committed against them with high drama and reciprocal retaliation regardless of what impact that behavior has on innocent people in their sphere of relationships (children, pets, family, co-workers).   I delete comments quite frequently from people who advocate reciprocal rudeness as their entitled right of response since I have no interest in promoting their twisted brand of etiquette or giving them a platform to justify their own right to exercise out of control behavior just because someone offended them.

Reread the story again and note the following:  “I was horribly upset, which made her three younger brothers upset, then their still-fuming father came home and disturbed the peace even more by calling both his and my parents and ranting to them about what happened. This might have been inappropriate on his part, but that is how he deals with anger.….”  Jennifer’s cruel act was a one time deal (so far) but Dad’s way of displaying his anger is “how he deals with it”, i.e. meaning he routinely “disturbs the peace” of his family with his rather selfish lack of self control in front of his wife and children.  Rather than the drama ending with Jennifer’s departure from the house, it just keeps going on and on for hours thus giving Jennifer enormous power to have ruined an entire day in this family’s lives.  How many times has this site discussed the concept of not giving power to the rude, ugly, mean boors of this world by moderating our own reactions in a way that rises above the drama and takes control of the situation?  Yeah, lots.   “No power to the boors” should be this site’s mission statement.

And Jennifer has yet to be confronted on this matter so instead of directing their ire at her, the kids get the brunt of it.   The kids became the unwitting audience upon which Dad rehearsed his anger.  (Hint:  If you cannot muster the self control or courage to confront your offender, no fair taking it out on the innocent parties of your immediate acquaintance.)

And then there is always some readers who take hyperbole to new heights by interpreting phrases or words like “self control”, “rational”,”civil”  to mean “act like a doormat”, “be a wimp” or to declare that anger under control is to show no anger at all.   It’s as if anger is either an “on” or “off” emotion and there is no concept of how one can express anger in a firm yet rational and civil manner.  If you are one of those readers who thinks anger is best expressed in frothing displays of emotions, you haven’t grasped the basic premise of this site and your comments will continue to be deleted lest you influence others with your limited understanding of how to behave.

{ 119 comments… read them below or add one }

Lex July 18, 2013 at 3:08 am

My jaw dropped when I read this story then practically unhinged when I read the admins response here!

Having had my own Wisdom teeth removed and having similarly lost a couple of Molars I know well the pain your daughter was in – the actions of Jennifer pinching her cheeks actually made me feel sick. If that had been me I’d have called her out on it immediately, highlighted to her that what she did was cruel and abusive, then asked her to leave and probably called the police – you should not be afraid to challenge behaviour that constitutes assault – she did physical harm to your daughter and caused you to incur extra cost (and dry socket is vile) – this warrants a conversation with the police IMO.

My father and I have a… volatile relationship and he did something similar to me (although in rage rather than whatever it was Jennifer was aiming for) so I know well the bone-deep ache this caused and can only offer my condolences that your daughter had to suffer this.

I recommend that you write Jennifer a letter explaining her actions and their consequences and don’t be shy about telling her exactly what the outcome and cost of her behaviour has been. I would also make it clear in the letter that she is no longer welcome in your home as a result of her behaviour. It might be worth a conversation with your community support officers but the jurisdiction of the police in the UK and US is different so I don’t know whether there is another agency that deals with this kind of ‘domestic’ incident.

I believe the admin makes a valid point about the distress this situation has caused your family, but I believe they are wrong to make this more your fault than Jennifers – the very first paragraph of the admins response here was to defend Jennifer and suggest that she was drunk, implying that she may have a drinking problem – it is wrong to defend this behaviour – assault is assault regardless of excuse. It is worth considering it as a possibility but it reads very much like a defence to me.

I, too, would have been raging and agree that it is very difficult to shield this from people in your household so I think the admin was overly harsh in condemning you for that although the point about setting an example is valid. I would therefore suggest that whatever path you take, you involve your children and show them that it is okay to stand up for yourself and defend your family, provided that you do so proportionally and using the correct medium.

It is wrong to repress reactions and emotions as your children could grow up not knowing how to deal with difficult situations – it is really important to teach them the difference between what happens indoors and what happens in ‘public’ and this is a good opportunity to do so.

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Cherry July 18, 2013 at 3:13 am

I don’t have kids, but if someone did this to a member of my family while I was present, I’d have to work quite hard to reign myself in and not leave them picking up their teeth with a broken wrist.

Regarding the story, Jennifer should have been called out on what she’d done, even if it had to be over the phone or via email to prevent regrettable outbursts. She obviously doesn’t understand what she’s done wrong, and telling her that what she did was awful could potentially save another child similar pain. And in an already high stress situation, parents are going to be upset. Scolding them for that seems a little unfair.

On the subject of the Mimosas, it’s very easy to get mixed drinks in a can or a bottle nowadays (very useful for adult picnics where you don’t have to worry about spilling when you pour). Jennifer, who clearly has no boundaries, may have opened the fridge, seen the mix and helped herself.

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Kirsten July 18, 2013 at 3:25 am

I think this is just awful, but I don’t understand all of your reaction – you still don’t seem to be handling Jennifer. She did something that dreadful to your daughter! Kick her out and tell her she has to leave because of what she did! If shock stopped you demanding, “What the hell are you doing? Get out of my house!” (I’m afraid that would be my reaction), it’s gone now. You need to confront Jennifer and tell her that what she did was wicked and she is no longer a friend of yours.

I agree with admin. Obviously you’re horribly upset, but you then upset your other children and then their father did the same later on. That’s not fair on them, especially because there’s nothing they can do about it. Turn that upset onto Jennifer, not your kids.

I’m another one who is surprised at the mimosas – er, she just poured herself booze in your house? At a time when it reads as if your husband is still at work, so possibly not very late either? This is very odd to me.

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Anne July 18, 2013 at 3:51 am

I would talk to a lawyer… You might think that it is a bit extreme, but that woman needs to have some consequence for her actions that not only made you daughter in pain, but created extra costs for you.

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whatever July 18, 2013 at 3:57 am

The neighbor pinched the girl’s cheeks so hard they bruised. That’s pretty hard. I can’t imagine accidentally pinching someone that hard, even (especially?) if I were tipsy. Also, I read up a little on dry socket, and it’s not clear to me that what the neighbor did caused it. However, if she did, that’s a very painful condition. Overall, what the neighbor did was both malicious and extreme, and the parents were right to be upset.

Did the parents overact? If someone pinches you hard enough to bruise without your consent, that is assault. I think we can give the parents a pass for being upset that someone assaulted their child, and in that context, ranting to your parents (are we supposed to bottle everything up now?) seems reasonable- a lot of people using ranting as a way to calm down.

Now, should they have done this in front of the other children? It seems to me that there was no way you could avoid having four upset children instead of one- the sick child was already extremely upset, and that in itself was going to set off the other children. The parents didn’t need to full-on rant in front of them- and by the way, the OP said nothing about “screaming”- but quite frankly, it would have been confusing for the other children if the parents hadn’t been at least a little upset. They would have thought, “Someone hurts my sister, and my parents are OK with that?” That you have no empathy when other people hurt them doesn’t seem the right message to send to one’s children.

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Marozia July 18, 2013 at 4:15 am

I’m not sure what to say about this….I’m completely speechless that a ‘close neighbour’ as OP called her could do something so darn insensitive as hurting a recovering dental patient.
It’s probably best not to associated with Jennifer – despite her wanting to ‘talk about it’.
Admin was right about the ranting and raving of husband, but in this case I can understand why he did it. Perhaps husband – not OP – (let him explain his actions) should speak to the younger kids so they can understand how upset he was regarding Jennifer’s utter stupidity in hurting Ella.

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RobM July 18, 2013 at 4:36 am

There’s no doubt that the behaviour of Jennifer here is absolutely disgraceful, that pretty much goes without saying. I do wonder if she was drunk already, as Admin says, or if she really is that inconsiderate of others.

I also agree with Admin about the OP and her husband making the problem worse – the kids are more upset than they need to be because they’ve seen the OP and her husband acting out themselves… sorry, but while you’re entitled to be upset you need to keep your game face on in front of the children. And someone who needs to invent the phrase “old school” to describe the way they deal with people who upset them very certainly has anger management issues of their own to deal with.

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LeeLee88 July 18, 2013 at 5:32 am

This is… uh… wow. “Atrocious” is a pretty good word. “Egregious” also fits. I’m not all that bothered by the husband ranting, although he should have gone to another room to do it instead of staying in front of the family. Of course he needs to vent; some sadist pranced into his house and hurt his child pretty badly. That tends to take a person beyond the realm of rational and into seeing-red territory. And he would want the support of his parents/parents-in-law to help him through it, although I think he went about it in a less-than-shining way.

The kids would have been upset anyway after hearing what Lucifer, er, Jennifer did to their sister, but again, let them come to the upset on their own, don’t fuel the fire and scare them further with your own parental rage.

I like the idea of telling folks what Jennifer did. A proper shunning by her peers is exactly what this hag needs at the moment. By the way, I don’t see how it matters that OP had champagne available in the kitchen. It could’ve been vodka and it wouldn’t matter; Jennifer would’ve found whatever she needed to make herself a glass of something or other and continued to be a clueless moron even while OP comforted her seriously-hurt daughter in the living room. I don’t want to assume that Jennifer has a drinking problem just because of a mimosa, but her other behavior makes me think that, yeah, there might be some sort of substance abuse issue there.

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Sharon July 18, 2013 at 5:54 am

I’m not sure I could have controlled myself in front of the children, either, but that, for the time being, is not the issue here–it is the cruelty shown by the neighbor, and it goes beyond etiquette. I think you have a lawsuit here and if you don’t want to go that far, I would certainly let Jennifer know why you are no longer speaking. Perhaps in a letter–state the facts: she caused incredible pain to a child which resulted in further dental work, expense, pain, etc. Then tell her for these reasons she is no longer welcome in your home or in your life. And then refuse to discuss it even further.

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jen d. July 18, 2013 at 5:59 am

You need to ask Jennifer why she did what she did, and explain the pain she caused. There’s definitely a lot of drama going on, and Jennifer sounds pretty unaware of the whole situation. Some people are amazingly clueless. It’ll also probably make you feel better if you make her aware of how much pain she’s caused….

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josie July 18, 2013 at 6:05 am

You talked to everyone about the incident except Jennifer….she would of been my first phone call.

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Sarah July 18, 2013 at 6:07 am

I would call and leave Jennifer a message at some point when I was sure she wasn’t there. I’d ask her to stop contacting me, say that your daughter is still suffering thanks to the cruel way she squeezed her cheeks immediately after surgery, and thank she suffered great pain and has required additional and expensive medical care thanks to the damage done by the squeeze. I’d finish by repeating that I did not wish to speak to her ever again and that she should stop contacting me immediately.

I don’t judge OP for having mimosas on tap. That’s very irrelevant. As is Jennifer’s level of inebriation. To me it doesn’t matter if she is drunk or sober. She assaulted and mocked a child. I’d have ranted too.

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Katie July 18, 2013 at 6:37 am

I disagree with the admin. I don’t think the OP did anything wrong. When someone assaults your child (that was assault, not bad manners), I think it’s important for your children to see you get mad. The OP nor her husband did not punch a wall or beat someone up in retaliation. But by getting angry, they let their children know that adults are not allowed to treat them that way, and that if any adult does, it will not go unnoticed. I think that’s way, way more important than the three younger brothers being a bit confused. Their sister was crying for hours because an adult who was invited to their house intentionally hurt her. I think anyone age four and over gets the gist of that situation and knows that hurting someone is wrong. We expect a crazy amount of politeness and decorum from our children, and for them to see an adult hurt their sister and then for their parents to be calm and collected without a hint of anger would send a message that it’s okay for a grown-up to do what they want, mom and dad will condone it.

And I think you’re focusing too much on the mimosa. It’s a breakfast/brunch drink, and if the OP was going to serve breakfast/brunch, it’s possible she had them ready when her “friend” got there.

OP, drop that friend. Explain to her what she did, show her pictures of the bruise if need be so it sinks in, but drop her.

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Molly July 18, 2013 at 6:38 am

I feel like this is “bad manners” the same way punching someone in the face is “bad manners.” Which to say, this might legally count as a type of assault. If someone’s “bad manners” cause another individual pain, injury, and increased medical costs, it is no longer just an etiquette issue.

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pucksmuse July 18, 2013 at 6:42 am

While I agree with the Dame, I do have to say I admire the OP’s restraint in not responding physically to Jennifer, and dragging this twit out of her house by the hair. If she really was that angry over the situation, she should have followed her husband’s advice and called the police. (That may seem like an overreaction, but what Jennifer did was assault on a minor. It left bruises and causes complications in her recovery. Jennifer should deal with those consequences, which might keep her from “Expressing herself” in this fashion again.) Reporting it would have been more effective to the husband’s ineffectual ranting to anyone who would listen. I really dislike it when people rant and rant about an injustice, but when faced with actually DOING something about it, they back down and say, “No, that won’t work because of XYZ reason.” If you’re angry enough to complain, you should be angry enough to resolve it.

Should Jennifer contact the OP again and asked if she “did anything offend her,” OP should let her know that YES, she is offended by Jennifer’s behavior.

“Jennifer, you came to my house under the guise of ‘checking on’ my daughter after her surgery and pinched her cheeks so hard that she woke up crying and bruised. Then you laughed at her pain and scampered off to my kitchen to help yourself to a drink. This action left my daughter with post-surgery complications that we are still dealing with and paying for. I am disturbed and angry by the pain you caused my daughter. I do not want to continue our friendship. Do not contact me or my family again.”

If Jennifer was drunk, the Dame suggests, maybe cutting off your friendship will help her see the consequences of drinking too much.

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NotTheSameJennifer July 18, 2013 at 6:47 am

OP, I hope your daughter is feeling and doing better. Admin, I understand and can see your point in saying to not show the children your anger and frustration but I think you completely glossed over what Jennifer did and instead attacked OP; if I were in the same situation I would have sat the children down and explained afterward that getting that angry happens but it’s how you handle yourself when you are angry that matters. OP did not scream at Jennifer, she did not fight Jennifer, she took care of her child and then she told her to leave, afterward she called her husband to tell him what happened. I don’t necessarily see what OP did wrong, admin. The only thing I can see as instigating was the husband coming home and phoning the parents, while angry, to tell them what happened. But in all honesty my husband and I both share practically everything with our parents so something like this would come out eventually.I don’t see how she could have handled herself at all better. I have also been so angry that I couldn’t see straight, which from OP’s letter I can safely assume she was that angry. What Jennifer did, drunk already or not, is criminal. She caused undo physical harm, and left a bruise on the cheek to boot, and she needs to understand that her actions have consequences. I would gather up all your socket packing bills and go have a nice but firm chat with Jennifer and explain why you sent her away, and explain that since the packing of the sockets was the cause of her squeezing the cheeks that she (Jennifer) will be paying for that. If Jennifer balks at it and takes a defensive air to it, as I think she would given her entitled mindset of being asked to leave and downing her drink, I would encourage OP to tell Jennifer that if she does not pay then OP will take her to court for this. Sometimes people need a wake up call about how their actions have consequences and I believe I hear Jennifer’s alarm clock blaring.

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carol July 18, 2013 at 7:06 am

I’d like to know if you’ve told Jennifer what she did, and how she reacted to it. It honestly does sound like she was drunk or high or something; you said you knew this woman, and the behaviour was something unexpected. Not excusing her behaviour, mind, but it sounds like one of those impulse control things. When one is not sober, one can tend to do things a sober mind would know was stupid.

If I were in your position I’d want to know what exactly was up with her, and would demand to know why she thought it was funny to hurt my child the second she did it. I get the feeling you didn’t confront her, which…why not? You ranted to everyone except the person who should have been ranted at. Jennifer should be told in the baldest possible terms that she’s an idiot of the highest caliber.

That said, I don’t blame you for being livid. Just reading this story kicked me into Mamma Bear mode.

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Cherry July 18, 2013 at 7:24 am

If the OP sees this, can I ask for a quick clarification? When you say Jennifer “squeezed” your daughter’s cheeks, do you mean that she pinched a cheek between the thumb and forefinger of both hands, or that she held the daughter’s face pretty much between both hands tightly?

Either way, she would have had to have squeezed very hard to leave bruising.

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sv July 18, 2013 at 9:24 am

Who cares if the OP had mimosas in her fridge? I currently have wine, beer and vodka in mine – that doesn’t mean I expect my neighbour to come into my kitchen and help themselves.

Now as for the actual matter at hand…I would call/email/text or talk to Jennifer, whichever feels the most comfortable to you, and explain the situation. It is possible ( although it strains credibility) that she genuinely does not realize what she did. That does not mean she gets a free pass, forgiveness, or anything else; it simply means you should tell her exactly what happened after she decided squeezing your daughter’s face was a good idea and the consequences that followed. And then cut all ties. And as for the drama and upset in your house …it’s hard to gauge how bad it was, because all houses are different, and what constitutes “upset” in my house is not the same as in my husband’s family home. For the most part, I think that seeing parents upset and outraged over something like this is okay; seeing them swear, slam things, or generally lose control is not.

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Cat July 18, 2013 at 9:35 am

This is a good time to be calm and rational. I would send Jennifer a note with copies of the doctor’s bills attached.
Keep the note calm and to the point, for example, “When you grabbed my daughter by the face so hard as to leave bruises, you broke off the scabs that protected her recent surgery. This resulted in further damage and in extra visits to her doctor. It has caused our child a great deal of pain and our family has had to pay both in our time spent going to the doctor and in more medical expenses than were necessary.
We would prefer not to continue our relationship with you. Please do not contact us again.”

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Jinx July 18, 2013 at 9:37 am

This is really, really bizarre. I know nothing about the neighbor or the OP’s history with her, but I highly recommend everyone stay away from her.

Ella, the daughter in this story, is who the story should be about.

She’s only 13, just had some terrible pain and surgery… and then had some crazy woman come into her space and spread crazy all over. This should be about Ella and what is best for her. Raising the stress level and perseverating on the incident is likely not a good way to make Ella feel comforted.

I’m very sorry, but it’s also terrifying that the OP suggests that Ella’s father would quickly resort to/enjoy physical violence against the neighbor so quickly. Without any thought as to how that might effect his family. Somehow, the father hears all this and thinks to himself “The best way to help Ella is violence against the neighbor”

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve grown up with people who had horrific anger moments, and if I were the OP in this scenario, I probably would have shrieked at the neighbor… but that doesn’t mean it’s the best (or most legal) thing to do. I don’t have children, but I hope if I did, my instinct then would be to serve their needs, and not my own.

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Tastycakes July 18, 2013 at 9:56 am

As someone who had complications after wisdom tooth surgery and can empathize with how painful that is, I feel so sorry for Ella and I can’t imagine someone would be as nasty, stupid, and cruel as Jennifer. But I also agree with the Admin- the OP and her husband come across as completely bonkers!! Screaming, crying, and ranting all day long accomplished nothing besides upsetting all of your other children! And why would either of you possibly think that going over to Jennifer’s house, or even calling the police (?!?) would do anything for you besides ramp up the drama?? You are absolutely entitled to be angry at that horrible woman, but spending all day in hysterics is a terribly dysfunctional example for your kids. Tell Jennifer exactly what she did to Ella and how much Ella has suffered because of it and cut off contact with her, but you and your husband should also work on how to express your anger without non-stop drama and hysterics.

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Huh July 18, 2013 at 10:23 am

In regards to being upset in front of your kids, I try very hard not be, and this was especially difficult during a painful divorce. There were many times I was talking to my best friend on the phone, door closed to my room, and they were on the other side of the door, trying to listen in. I don’t know if the father was in another room ranting on the phone to the grandparents or if he was, in fact, doing it all right in front of the kids. My point is sometimes kids are nosy and no matter your efforts, you can’t hide it from them.

(And don’t say talk late in the evening when they are asleep. I did. And it was like they had a sixth sense and would wake up to lurk outside my door.)

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Lisa July 18, 2013 at 10:30 am

I feel like there’s a middle ground here between hiding conflict from your children and exacerbating the conflict.

In an ideal world, the OP would have immediately stood up to Jennifer to say—calmly but firmly—that her actions were completely unacceptable and that she needed to leave immediately. That kind of conflict models for children how to set and keep boundaries—and reassures them that their parents are there to protect them.

(OP was understandably flustered—we all like to think how we would react, but reality is often very different.)

What the admin seems to be objecting to—and I agree—is the ongoing anger. Detached from the immediate context, anger can just serve to frighten, upset, and confuse children. I’m not an expert on children, but two things that I think are generally true are (1) kids don’t have a fully formed sense of boundaries between themselves and others, so they personalize stuff and (2) kids don’t have a sense of control over their world, so they rely on adults to provide order and stability. After the fact of the initial conflict, the kids just know that their sister is hurt, Mom and Dad are angry, and they (the kids) don’t know how to make it better. In that case, the parents’ job is to make the kids feel safe, secure, and stable.

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Spuck July 18, 2013 at 10:33 am

I can see both sides of the issues. I agree with Katie that this was a case of an assault, and posters actions would need to be condemned if she took a more aggressive role to prevent the initial action. She didn’t, the event has passed, and it is time to let your anger go if bringing up to the event causes everyone more stress.

At this point it is perfectly acceptable for Jennifer to become a non-person in the OP’s life. The family needs to be civil in places involving third parties, but around their home and public areas it would be perfectly acceptable for the family to give Jenny the permanent cold shoulder. Hellos, good mornings, gifts, letters, and nocks on the door can be ignored. The best thing the parents can do is not give Jennifer time, and attention and they should tell their children they can act coldly to this or any other adult who attempts to harm them. If you can get anything out of this event a good life lesson is better than nothing.

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Cheryl July 18, 2013 at 10:41 am

A few posters have commented that Jennifer must have squeezed very hard to leave bruising. Ella cheeks, jaw and even nose were probably swollen and tender from the surgery. There would have been a lot of pulling and tugging on the mouth to remove the teeth. Her skin would be very prone to bruising at this point. It wouldn’t have taken a really forceful squeeze to cause the bruising.

OP, you need to tell Jennifer what she did to your daughter. If you feel it is too much to confront her in person, then I’d suggest a letter. I’d have no more to do with her after that.

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clairedelune July 18, 2013 at 10:47 am

I continue to disagree with the Admin, even in light of her defense of her initial response (and even though it appears that my initial comment, which I don’t think can be at all characterized as uncivil, was deleted; so perhaps commenting further will prove equally futile.) Turning this into a story about the parents’ response, when the neighbor’s initial actions were so profoundly out of line as to straddle the space between rude and outright criminal, makes it seem like Admin is just looking for an excuse to scold story submitters. I’m particularly puzzled at the mention of “reciprocal rudeness”–the family did not reciprocate Jennifer’s rudeness in ANY way. They’re simply ignoring her–a remedy sanctioned by etiquette (see “cut direct”).

And I continue to feel that quibbling over the fact that the OP had mimosas in her house was snotty and irrelevant. I can think of at least 3 totally reasonable explanations for that, even if it did matter. Which it doesn’t.

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Mae July 18, 2013 at 10:47 am

OMG .

OP- I am angry for you! Why in the world would a grown woman do this to a child who just had dental surgery?? Both of my kids had to have their wisdom teeth out within months of each other in 2011 and it was very painful.

I would first tell Jennifer how horrible what she did to my child was and then completely cut off contact. NO WAY could I continue to be a friend to someone who did that to my child.

Is is too late to file assault charges?

I understand Admin’s reasoning about not upsetting the other children but I think in a case like this, when someone intentionally causes your child extreme pain, it is hard to control those feelings. If someone had done this to one of my sons, my first response would be to tell them to get out!

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admin July 26, 2013 at 5:03 pm

I think there is a case to be made for immediate, firm response to suspected abuse. At the moment Jennifer squeezed Ella’s cheeks, it would have been appropriate to have said, “What do you think you are doing?”, followed by, “What have you done? Why is she crying?” And there is nothing wrong with saying, “I think it’s best if you leave right now. We’ll discuss this later.” I find it odd that the OP did not confront Jennifer either while it happened or shortly thereafter.

But there is a whole lot wrong with the drawn out drama that ensued throughout the remainder of the day and into the evening. Poor kids became the sounding board for things that should have been said to Jennifer.

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Sarah July 18, 2013 at 10:48 am

“But by getting angry, they let their children know that adults are not allowed to treat them that way, and that if any adult does, it will not go unnoticed.”

It appears the children will learn that the adult will be politely asked to leave without being told she did anything wrong, and then their parents will rant fruitlessly about it for hours and hours and hours to everybody EXCEPT the offender.

Jennifer’s actions were extremely callous, rude, and stupid, but I wouldn’t guess that she had any idea that she would be causing such significant damage to the girl’s recovery. (I mean, I would never pinch the cheeks of someone who had just had their wisdom teeth removed — or anyone else, for that matter — but I also would never have guessed that such cheek pinching would have all these awful effects besides a temporary increase in pain.) Tell her what happened, calmly and straightforwardly, and then cut her out of your life if you want to. But the drama you describe within your family seems far more likely to make the situation worse rather than better.

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Elle July 18, 2013 at 10:50 am

I’m going to say something that I’ve wanted to say for a very long time:
“Mama bear” is neither an attractive nor a productive personality trait. Dial it back and deal with it like a mama human being.

More germane to the story at hand:
Maybe you couldn’t help spreading the bad mood through the house, but there was very little reason for your husband to go gossiping to his parents and in-laws. It may be “just how he deals with anger,” but hitting and screaming and biting is how my 18 month nephew “just deals with anger” and we still discourage it.

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Lythande July 18, 2013 at 10:51 am

I want Jennifer to be confronted (rationally and straightforwardly), and preferable some sort of update afterward – she apparently has no idea what she did wrong, which means she has some sort of justification, and I’m aching to hear it. I don’t think I would comprehend and it’s probably something selfish, but it’s not like she waltzed in and said to herself “I’m going to torture someone today”. And, even if she was drunk and this was out of her normal character, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t cut her off – it’s not an excuse.

@Cherry – I was thinking that she used one hand, with the thumb on one side and fingers on the others, and squeezed that way. That seems like the easiest way for the thumb to leave a bruise.

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Calli Arcale July 18, 2013 at 10:58 am

WOW! Yeah, actually you would be justified in calling the police, and even suing, since she caused actual, physical harm to your child. It is your decision whether or not to do so, but if you are going to do it, I’d do it immediately. Alternately, it is fine to handle it by simply ejecting her from your life, as you have done, treating it as the one and only warning she will get about injuring your children and laughing at their pain.

I do agree with admin, though, that as parents, you need to be able to compartmentalize enough that you can appear calm and collected in front of your children as much as possible. I commend you on not breaking her jaw; it would have been very hard to keep me from being physical. I hope I could retrain myself, but then, I’ve never seen anyone cause my child such pain and then laugh about it. And you were right to immediately expel the woman from your home. I think it might be prudent to respond to her requests once and only once, to clearly indicate that what she did caused your child considerable pain that lasted for hours and compromised her healing by causing dry sockets. Following that up by laughing and stealing alcohol from the kitchen only made it worse, and she will never be allowed back into your house. She has done more than offend and this is her one and only warning. I would totally cut her out of my life for something like that, personally. If she doesn’t get that inflicting pain is beyond offensive, she’s not someone safe to be around.

You will need to have a discussion with the children, if you have not already, about how what this woman did was horrible, and you will not allow it to happen again as she is no longer welcome in your home. This will reassure them that everything is going to be all right while also affirming that what happened to your daughter was terrible and she has every right to feel hurt by it.

*HUGGLES* What a dreadful thing to happen.

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Cami July 18, 2013 at 11:07 am

Sometimes I wonder if those advocating perfect self control at all times are parents. Because the typical parent is not going to have — nor perhaps should have — perfect self control when their child is assaulted, resulting in terrible pain. To hold parents to such impossible standards and spend more words excoriating them for their understandable reaction than in the perpetrator seems like blaming the victim mentality.

And I say “nor perhaps should have” because my parents were quite passive in the face of some pretty horrible things that were done to me. The lesson I took from that is that it was acceptable to treat me that way, that I should expect no better treatment, that I didn’t deserve better treatment. This lesson is not one I wish my child to learn. So if I had to choose between a “Oh, honey, that’s a shame, get over it, no need to carry on about it” and a father carrying on for hours, sorry, I’ll take the father carrying on for hours.

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admin July 26, 2013 at 4:56 pm

I am a parent and grandparent yet I advocate parental self control for the sake of the kids. There is no such thing as total, perfect self control but if you cannot keep your cool in this midst of a crisis for the sake of your kids, you need to learn because yielding to the desire to display intense emotions is self centered at the expense of the kids. Parents do not have the luxury of an emotional break down when their kids need them.

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The Elf July 18, 2013 at 11:09 am

Admin, I agree with what you are saying about the drama after the fact. But if any occasion warrants a little post-incident, multi-day, I’m-definitely-holding-a-grudge, ranting and raving, it’s deliberately causing your child pain and then laughing about it. What rational person would do this?

The part where I think OP takes it too far is in brushing off Jennifer’s later advances wondering if she offended. Yes she did, and it’s high time OP told her straight away what she did wrong and the dry socket after effect. Tell her clean and without accusing overtones. Just the facts. If she volunteers an apology, good. Doesn’t change much, but it’s still good.

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Anonymous July 18, 2013 at 11:10 am

I would send Jennifer an e-mail (or a written letter), and keep a copy. It would say something to the effect of, “You exacerbated Ella’s existing pain from her wisdom tooth extraction, made her cry, and then laughed about it. The next day, I had to take Ella back to the dentist, and pay $X on top of the original cost of the extraction, to fix the damage you caused. She has a bruise shaped like your thumb on her cheek, and the dentist says the pinching gave her dry sockets. Needless to say, I don’t want you to talk to me or come over to my house again unless it’s to apologize to both Ella and myself.” If possible, I’d include a photo of Ella’s bruised cheek (if Ella wouldn’t be embarrassed by this), so Jennifer could see what she did. If Jennifer persisted, you could send her the bill for the further dental surgery that her pinching necessitated, but I think maybe just understanding the gravity of the situation might do it for her. If not, then I’d go with either a Cut Direct, or pursuing legal action.

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Gamer Girl July 18, 2013 at 11:11 am

As a person who underwent a ton of dental and orthodontic hell at the OP’s daughters age, I literally shook when reading this and had to walk away from the computer. I can’t even imagine the pain that poor little girl went through. (Regarding the bruising tho, the pinch didn’t necessarily have to be very hard to leave bruising or rip off the scab. I know I bruised at the drop of a hat anytime I had something surgical done. Not that I’m giving Jennifer any benefit of the doubt, she’s awful.)

I also know that if someone had done that to me, and then went into my mother’s kitchen to help themselves to a drink, my no-nonsense, 5 foot tall, red-head of a mother would not have had the presence of mind the OP did, and we would have most likely be chatting with the MPs (military police) regarding several issues that day, including why my mother drug someone out her apartment door by the hair, and tossed them, head first, down the stairwell.

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E July 18, 2013 at 11:27 am

My DH’s family had a similar dynamic growing up, and it had a lot of negative repercussions for him as an adult. I’m submitting this comment in the hopes that people who do this can realize a little bit how damaging this really is for their kids.

It was my MIL in particular that reacted to everything in hysterics. Everything from the most minute mistake all the way to the most (actually) grievous disasters were all treated with the same reaction: screaming, yelling, crying, hysterics – for a prolonged period of time. She would talk to anybody and everybody about them. She wouldn’t drop it for ages. One example: my husband had an easily fixable eye issue. He was given instructions for exercises to do everyday. When she saw him doing the exercises, she would flip out and starting crying about how much of a disaster the original problem was. My DH learned very quickly not to do the exercises because it brought out this irrational and uncontrolled emotion in his mother. (The medical problem was never resolved, and he has to deal with it to this day.)

As a result of all of this, he learned that the proper response to things is a prolonged emotional event. Not only should one cry over spilled milk, in his mind, one has to do it loudly and theatrically so that other people know how much you regret the milk spilling. I am exaggerating to some extent, and he has gotten over it to some degree, but it still rears up. One time I lost my purse in a cab. I realized it too late, didn’t have a receipt, didn’t remember the cab number – it was just gone. It was a big inconvenience – new license, new credit cards, maybe some money lost. I spent a few frenzied minutes trying to track down the cab, but at a certain point I just realized it was futile. I tend to accept things like that very quickly, so I calmed down and wanted to just proceed with my evening. (We were out of town, so I couldn’t do much except call the credit card companies. And we were about to go to dinner. And I was hungry!) My DH actually accused me of not ‘caring enough’ about my purse! Why? Because I hadn’t cried and carried on and (metaphorically) tore my hair out. That’s what he thinks is normal. (Or, thought. He’s working on dropping that baggage.)

So, my point is that this kind of extended expression of anger is really detrimental to children who need calm, they need to know what the proper reaction to things are, and they learn this by watching their parents. Do you want your kids to go crazy and be angry or emotional for hours and hours every time something happens (while not actually addressing the person or the thing that made them angry)? I think, of course, the family had a right to be angry about the situation, most of all the daughter. It would have been best for her to first, have her pain and anguish soothed, and then later, for her to be able to bring up and deal with her own emotions about the situation rather than having her father’s and mother’s wash over the whole house (when it didn’t actually happen to them).

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Tsunoba July 18, 2013 at 11:45 am

On the subject of children reacting to a parent’s anger:

Back when my parents were still married, their computer desk had this sharp corner at about knee level. As you can imagine, this resulted in a lot of injured knees.

One day, my father hit his knee for the umpteenth time within the span of a few days, and ended up bleeding.

My father literally blacked out from anger. I think I remember him saying he doesn’t remember the actual event. In any case, he went into the kitchen, got a bread knife, went back to the desk, and started sawing off that corner. My sister and I just watched. I think I tried to talk some sense into him, and suggest he call a professional or…something besides what he was doing. Our mother finally got out of the bathroom, and was calm enough to explain that he probably couldn’t hear us, and it was probably best to leave him alone. He calmed down after the offending edge was gone, and my mother sanded what was left over to smooth it over.

I was around 16 or so, and it was terrifying to see my father so angry…and this was towards an inanimate object. I can’t imagine seeing him that angry at a person.

I say this because while I agree with the other posters that it’s understandable that the OP and her husband were livid about Jennifer, I wanted to explain that Admin does have a point about it scaring the other children. I refuse to get into the argument about whether the way they showed their anger was bad or good. I just want people to understand that regardless of that, children do become scared when their parents are angry, even if the anger is directed at something else, even when it’s perfectly clear to the child that the anger is not directed toward them.

I thought some of you might need that reminder, as I get the impression that some of you have been out of childhood long enough that you may have forgotten that. Not trying to insult anyone’s age; it’s just that I’ve gathered from various comments that I’m one of the younger readers here at the age of 25.

(Also, I’d like to thank Admin for this site. I have learned a lot about etiquette since I started reading. I’m still not as polite as I could be, but I’m learning.)

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verstrickt July 18, 2013 at 11:54 am

I fully agree with the Dame’s update at the bottom. Jennifer’s behavior was horrific, but once the misbehaving neighbor was no longer in the house the OP’s attention should have shifted toward comforting her daughter and restoring calm. Learning how to react in a way that safeguards our own mental health when someone treats us badly is a really important life lesson that the OP should have tried to impart to her daughter. It’s okay to get mad, but it’s even more important to learn to move on. All the rage, venting, and histrionics likely fueled her daughter’s crying and inability to calm down as much as the pain Jennifer caused. It’s also not clear from the OP’s description whether Jennifer *pinched* her daughter’s cheek’s (ouch!) or squeezed the cheeks, one hand on each side (also ouch, but potentially much less so), and sorry to doubt the OP’s story, but dry sockets and bruising are normal complications of wisdom tooth extraction and were not necessarily caused by the neighbor.

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Carrie July 18, 2013 at 11:54 am

I completely agree with you, admin. I grew up with a father who couldn’t control his anger, and my mother, sisters, and I suffered for it. We would have a wonderful day going to school, playing afterwards, spending quality time together, and then he would come home and cast a dark shadow over the entire day because someone said something he didn’t like or something happened at work earlier to make him angry. Rather than deal with it himself, he would take it out on us by being short and ranting about little things, which often left us upset and confused as to what we had done. I didn’t fully understand it until I was about 16, and up until that point dealt with my own anger in inappropriate ways.

OP should have done everthing in her power to calm herself before dealing with her children, calling her husband, etc. I don’t have children, but from what I understand, the number 1 rule of parenting is not to put your own drama on your kids. Maybe hubby needs some anger management and parenting classes if this is his norm and his childrent are being affected.

Oh, and I would write a letter to your neighbor, explaining why she is in your bad graces (because I doubt you can explain it to her in person without becoming upset) otherwise how is she going to learn anything?

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RobM July 18, 2013 at 11:58 am

@Katie ” But by getting angry, they let their children know that adults are not allowed to treat them that way”

No. Getting angry, while understandable, does nothing to deal with the problem. Wallowing in a fit of rage in front of the children suggests to them that their parents cannot control themselves, and that losing control is the way we deal with problems.

Actually using that anger to motivate you to deal with the problem, the one thing which the OP and their husband didn’t actually do, is what deals with the problem.

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HollyAnn July 18, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Yet another case of “telling everyone in the world that X offended you…except X”. I’m always amazed when this comes up over and over again. After all this drama and hysteria, it still seems that NO ONE has actually told Jennifer what she did wrong. Given her clueless behavior at the house it does appear that she was either tipsy or so stupid as to not realize what she did wrong.
When Jennifer was still in the kitchen, why on earth didn’t OP say, “Jennifer, why did you pinch Ella’s cheeks so hard? Don’t you realize she just had dental surgery? What were you thinking? She’s in pain because of what you did. I would like you to leave.” Instead OP and her husband called everyone in their address book to complain about it. What was the point of that?
I once encountered a mother who had spent weeks complaining at great length to everyone she met about another mother who had insulted her daughter at a playdate. Yet she had not said one word to the other mother. I am continually baffled by such misplaced energy.

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Gloria Shiner July 18, 2013 at 12:14 pm

I sincerely hope that the OP will follow-up post to say that she has somehow (in writing, over the phone or in person) contacted Jennifer to tell her what she did and the consequences and why this was unacceptable. I’m also very curious to know what Jennifer’s response is.

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Stacey Frith-Smith July 18, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Etiquette may address what should not have happened here and how best to manage the follow up in your personal sphere, OP. However, the neighbor assaulted your child. Call the police and file a report. You can do so calmly and with nothing more than the facts and your physician’s substantiation of the harm sustained. It may not make for neighborly relations, but it will set the facts into record so that if she repeats this category of behavior she is more likely to be sanctioned with some sort of punishment. For what it’s worth, your daughter and her brothers should be given priority in situations like this. A neighbor coming to check on a child who is so drugged that she is asleep and completely vulnerable is a gross miscalculations of appropriate boundaries on the part of a guardian. The infirm or ill and children are two very vulnerable demographics and here we had one child who was also ill and whose trauma will not be soon forgotten. I cannot imagine how violated she felt and how confusing, painful and traumatic the experience must have been for her- both the assault and the aftermath.

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Stacey Frith-Smith July 18, 2013 at 12:28 pm

sorry- miscalculation….

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ladyclaire July 18, 2013 at 12:31 pm

In squeezing the cheeks..you could easily squeeze someone’s cheeks hard enough to leave a bruise with only one hand. Thumb is on one cheek, the other fingers are on the other cheek. You can squeeze pretty hard by applying only a bit of pressure with your thumb and index/middle finger, and gripping someone’s face that way does put their thumb/fingers right at the spot where wisdom teeth would’ve been. Bruising is common after oral surgery, so it probably even wouldn’t take much to raise a bruise on the already damaged tissue. That’s what I pictured when I read the story, at least.

I had to have the inside of my cheek stitched together after I had my wisdom teeth out. If someone had so much as lightly touched my cheek it would’ve been agony.

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Hilary July 18, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Wow, what a baffling story. What kind of person would poke, pinch or otherwise touch a recent surgical site?

I think the OP and her husband should confront Jennifer in a calm, firm way about the incident. Go to her home and tell her that what she did was cruel and unacceptable, and you and your family no longer wishes to have any contact with her. It’s clear that she *thinks* she was joking around, but she needs to know that it’s no joke to purposefully cause pain.

I’m also with the admin that parents should model rational, calm ways of dealing with anger for their children. I grew up in a household where my parents fighting occasionally resulted in police intervention. Throwing things, red-faced screaming, and slamming doors was a regular part of our home life, and it has affected myself and my siblings into adulthood.

Though the OP doesn’t necessarily say that her and her husband’s anger rose to this level, it does sound like the drama of the incident was extended by ranting, phone calls, and frequent discussions. Kids pick up on this drama, and they model it in their own lives. It’s always tempting to rehash the drama like this, since it is cathartic to talk through it with others. When relaying the story to other family members, I’m sure they were just as shocked, angry and offended as the OP. It does make you feel better to spread these feelings to other people, but it doesn’t help everyone move on. Talk through the incident, come up with a solution, and put it into action. Then move on.

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WillyNilly July 18, 2013 at 12:33 pm

I completely agree with the Dame here. In fact while I certainly feel for Ella, I take the OP to task for more then just her bad reaction.

” …’Jennifer’, with whom I had been very close for some time, called and asked if she could come over to check on Ella and chat. I said, alright. I knew (or at least thought I knew) this woman very well and I knew my daughter would not mind.

When Jennifer came over, Ella had just taken a pain pill and was sleeping on the sofa in the family room. Jennifer walked up to her, and (it still makes me furious to think of this) SQUEEZED her cheeks, HARD!..”

Why was Jennifer invited over to check on Ella when Ella had just taken a pill a gone to sleep? And why was Jennifer allowed to approach Ella’s sleeping body? Surely as a neighbor Jennifer could be invited over to check on Ella at some other time. And even if Jennifer came over while Ella was asleep, to chat with the OP, as a mother and just decent human being, the OP should have directed Jennifer away from Ella, never letting her get near enough to touch her, because Ella was asleep.

I have to wonder if *some* of the anger and upset from the OP and her husband is being misplaced on Jennifer when it should be more inward. Yes what Jennifer did was all sorts of wrong and horrible, but from the outset, the OP failed to take even the most basic measures to protect her daughter’s personal space and physical well being. At 13 years old the daughter should be entitled to not be approached or touched while sleeping!

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Shannan July 18, 2013 at 1:15 pm

It frustrates me to no end when I hear people complaining about someone’s behavior to everyone except the offending party. OP, you need to call Jennifer and tell her exactly why you are avoiding her so this sort of thing doesn’t happen to another person.

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Shyla July 18, 2013 at 1:32 pm

I understand what you are saying Admin. to me it’s an extension of parents treating their children as friends and confidants not children. When something bad happens, you say to the uninvolved children I know your sister is hurt but I am helping her. Then if you need to vent you confide in adults. To the child involved, it may be appropriate to say I am very sorry this happened and I have decided she is not a good friend.

The friend was very wrong of course.

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