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New Neighborhood Pariahs

New Neighborhood Pariahs

By Amalah

Amy,

My family moved to a great neighborhood 6 months ago. All the neighbors and kids were eager to meet and hang out. My kids 7 and 10 yrs old play every day outside with all the kids. However, there is one girl, our neighbor who is 10, that constantly clashes with my 7 yr old. Both my family and her family have tried to “let the kids figure it out” but apparently my husband has been bottling up the angst from each offense.

Yesterday, he exploded. The girl next door, 2 times, hurt my younger daughter. Once by purposefully excluding her. The neighbor girl invited everyone inside her home and told my youngest daughter she wasn’t allowed in. Then again the neighbor girl hit my youngest during a game of tag. As I said, my husband exploded. He came to me for help before addressing the neighbor girl. I stepped in before damage could be done and tried to get the story from all sides. My husband lost his temper and shouted “bull shit” at the neighbor girl after she gave her side. I asked him to leave. I didn’t condone his behavior, it was completely inappropriate. After he walked away I told the neighbor girl that his behavior was not appropriate and he should not have spoken that way to her.

Fast forward about 4 hours. My kids went to their sports and we had just returned. I found the neighbor girl’s mom pacing my driving. After telling my oldest daughter to go inside, the neighbor mom proceeded to curse me out and yell at me for my husband’s action. (My husband was still gone at sports with my youngest daughter.) Then told me that all the neighborhood parents knew what he said. She then insinuated that no one from our neighborhood would ever play with my children again.

I tried to talk to my neighbor, civilly, but she was beyond ticked off and resolution wasn’t what she was after. She just wanted to yell and scream at someone in my family for the curse word that had wrongfully been flung at her daughter.

How do I go on? I have a stubborn, prideful husband that refuses to admit wrong doing. I have a neighbor that I used to have a friendship with, that won’t speak to me. And now there are 10 kids in my neighborhood that potentially aren’t allowed to play with my kids. As an example, today there isn’t any public school. Normally kids would have rung my doorbell by 10am to get my kids out to play. It’s after 1pm as I write. The neighborhood kids are outside playing but my kids are inside. I’m afraid that if I tell my kids to go outside and play, that all the other kids will tell my girls that they aren’t welcomed. 

I will add that my children are homeschooled so neighborhood friends are critical to their social networking.

Any insight would be invaluable.

Your stubborn and prideful husband needs to A-P-O-L-O-G-I-Z-E. Like immediately. In person, to both the girl AND her parents. He need to ask for forgiveness and promise that it will never happen again, because he is taking steps to make sure it will never happen again, preferably with the support of an anger management class.

I mean, seriously. I curse like a mothersailin’ sailor and have ABSOLUTELY stepped in and scolded other people’s children for unacceptable behavior (pushing, name-calling, general jerkiness, etc.). My mama bear instincts run as deep as anyone else’s. And yet. And yet! I cannot imagine losing my temper and brain-to-mouth filter so much that I would scream an obscenity at a TEN YEAR OLD CHILD.

I recognize that you are not making any excuses for his behavior and you fully see it as unacceptable. But JUST as unacceptable is his refusal to make it right. On behalf of your children and you, whom he has ALSO wronged every bit as badly as the girl next door. He has embarrassed his family, put you in a situation where YOU were yelled and cursed at, and is now endangering his children’s social lives because…he won’t admit that he did anything wrong. After losing his temper and screaming a curse world at a child. Who was not his child. Um, that was wrong. Full stop.

Look, I get that this girl has been challenging. She doesn’t sound very nice. But your kids are going to meet more non-nice kids who hit and push and other little Queen Bees who enjoy excluding others. It’s unfortunately part of growing up, and I certainly doubt you’re teaching your kids that the proper way to deal with challenging people is to get super mad and yell bad words at them.

Which is why I went as far as to suggest that your husband has an anger problem that needs to be addressed. This won’t be the first or the last time your children face some social injustice. And the whole big picture of him bottling up each offense and taking it so personally that a too-forceful YOU’RE IT! during a game of tag sent him off the deep end of seething anger at a little girl is super disturbing.

My kids have been hit and pushed and excluded and come home from neighbor’s houses in tears or anger over OMGSOSERIOUS I’MNOTHISFRIENDANYMORE who knows what. It’s HARD, man. But we’re the grown-ups and we have to act like the grown-ups. We let them cool down for a bit, we talk about it, we decide whether it requires the grown-ups getting together to talk, or if the offense will be completely forgotten on the next day off from school. Sounds like the two of you confronting this girl together was a bad idea, since she probably felt cornered and was thus more likely to try to spin/lie her way out of it, because that’s what kids DO.

I’m veering into pointless “woulda coulda shoulda” territory here because what happened can’t be undone. But make no mistake the blame is 100% on your husband here, even if we accept the mother’s reaction as over-the-top and unhelpful. (It totally was! But if we even if we go that route we’re gonna end back up at “BUT HE STARTED IT!) I’m sure the other parents heard about it, so I believe you that the lack of knocks on the door isn’t a coincidence.

I mean, I have to admit that if some man I didn’t know all that well came into my yard to scream a curse word at MY 10-year-old…yeah. I would probably not react very well to that. I would be very very upset about that. I’m not the screaming/confronting type but I would definitely feel more comfortable if my children kept a safe distance from him. I wouldn’t directly punish the children but would likely pull the “they can come here but you can’t go there” move. Because WTF dude. Not cool. 

Unless, perhaps. He apologized. Not you, HIM. Humbly and honestly, to my child. Turn the whole mess into a teachable moment about how grown-ups get angry too and make bad choices and say things we don’t mean, when really we all just want to be friends and treat each other kindly. (You know, like how you want this girl to treat your daughter.) I wasn’t being kind to you and I am so, so sorry. It will never happen again and I hope you can forgive me, and that we can all be friends.

They might not even accept the apology. But he has to try. He. Has. To. Try.

If he can’t sack up and do that, however, I really don’t know what else to say. Maybe it’ll just blow over eventually and the kids will forget about it, but his refusal to make things right at the time would remain VERY concerning to me.  That says something very unsettling about his character, that his pride and refusal to admit he’s wrong takes precedence over your family’s place and comfort in your own neighborhood. Not to mention that YEAH, what he did was wrong, and as parents we expect our kids to apologize when they do something wrong. Please accept nothing less from your husband.

Photo source: Photodune.net

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Comments

  • Karen

    This girl sounds like a fairly classic trap setter but, yeah, your husband blew it.

    But I want to comment on the homeschool-social thing. It sounds like you are particularly aggrieved about the impact this will have on your homeschooled kids’ social network and I just don’t see it being so critical. My kids are homeschooled and we live in a neighborhood that is a mix of young families, teens, empty nesters, and elderly. There just aren’t a huge number of neighborhood kids for them their age to play with especially since the rest are in school and have school friends or both parents work and they are usually in camps when school is out. But my oldest is in ballet, scouts, science class, takes her CCD class at church, and once a week we spend an entire lazy afternoon at the park homeschool day. She has lots of friends that we meet at the park and the beach and for bbqs. And we can just be neighbor friends with the neighbors for block parties and such without needing to load those relationships too much. 

  • Melissa

    He was wrong. He should apologize. He should make it right. But seriously, you can diagnosis “anger management issues” over a father yelling one obesity? I don’t know… The tone of the advice here is really accusatory, harsh and upsetting. You have put this man’s entire character on the line based on one poor interaction with a neighborhood kid that has been bothering his child for a while.

    I would guess that he doesn’t agree with the way the issues between the kids have been handled thus far…which might make him go to his wife as if to say “see, look this kid is really a bad egg. I don’t want (our kid) to take it anymore.”

  • Stephanie

    He may not have anger management issues, but boy is there something wrong with someone who can’t go and apologize to a 10 year old.
    My almost 4 year old climbed on top of our friends’ shed yesterday at their Super Bowl party and the dad had to get up there and retrieve her. She refused to come down and he made her go in time out, which I think all of us were both surprised and a little impressed about. After she cried a little, I made her go down and say sorry to our friend. She’s stubborn and the most strong-willed child I’ve ever encountered, but she was ashamed, could barely look him in the eye to say she was sorry, but she still did it. A grown up should ACT like a grown up, especially for the sake of his wife and children, if nothing else.

  • Theresa

    I am almost always 100% on board with Amy’s advice and insight, but I find this response here way off. I’ll agree that a grown man shouldn’t curse at a child (especially one that is not his) and I’ll also agree he needs to apologize. But am I alone in thinking that every single party in this scenario is being WAY dramatic?
    Anger management classes? Really?
    Pacing the driveway in anger? Seriously?
    Screaming obscenities? Hardly.

    This is all ridiculous. Every single word in the question, and most of the answer.

    All parties are being dramatic and childish. He shouldn’t have cursed. He owes an apology. Both moms need to get over themselves. No one needs anger management classes. Get over yourselves, everyone.

    I wouldn’t be very happy if someone used a curse word at my kid, but whatever. It’s just a word and everyone loses it sometimes. It doesn’t warrant a letter to an advice column or anger classes. Move on already and get over it. The parents are being more childish than the kids. Geesh

    • Merissa

      While it’s entirely possible that there was some exaggeration in OP’s letter, I can absolutely believe that some people’s reactions can be that over the top. I am a very quiet non-confrontational person and I have been in several situations where I experienced similar behavior from a parent. The fist was when I worked in a daycare center a mother yelled at and lectured me for 10 min because her son’s shoe lace was untied. The other two instances were when I worked in a department store and where much worse involving being screamed at with obscenities and one woman threatening to slap me in my face. One was because I dared tell her children they couldn’t run through the store and the other was over the return of a dress. If you have worked with the public, it does not take much to believe people will do just about anything. 

    • I entirely agree. Maybe I’m not precious enough, but if a neighbourhood parent raised their voice in exasperation and called bullshit on my ten year old’s farcical story about why it wasn’t his fault he excluded a younger child, and why he wasn’t responsible for hitting her either – especially if there was a history of this kind of BS that clearly wasn’t being addressed by her parents (hang on, wait. That’d be me *blink*)  – I’d laugh it off before THANKING him for the dose of reality my kid clearly needed because I WOUDN’T be that parent pacing in anger and impatience, waiting to let loose on his wife about how out of line CallingBullshitOnMyKidMan was, I’d be standing at the doorway of my SON’S bedroom telling him to suck it up and go apologise to the little girl for being mean, and to her father for flat out lying to him.  
      And maybe that’s why my kid’s not an pinehole and this kid is. Her mother sounds like the original anyway, and you know what they say about apples and trees.  

  • Kate

    I 100% agree with Amy, so I’m going to repeat everything she just said basically. I know this isn’t what the OP wants to hear, but there are plenty of people who would never scream “Bullshit!” at a child, let alone one that isn’t their own. It’s just not in their makeup, no matter how much “built up angst” they have. As a mother of two daughters, I want my kids playing at the house of that person, not of the house with the dad who might fly off the handle. This time he curses, next time who knows? It’s the loss of control, again, at a CHILD, that’s kind of disturbing. And frankly, so is the OP’s attempt to justify it by listing out the reasons the little girl is so horrible. (Hit your kid in a game of tag? Otherwise known as “tagging”? Shocking!) So yeah, it’s a terrible situation, but your husband needs to get his ish under control. And if people don’t want to send their kids over to play at your house because he lost it, well, actions have consequences. 

  • M

    I like Amy’s advice, and I think some sort of reflection on the part of the OP’s husband may be warranted. I don’t think the only problem is that her husband yelled “bullshit” at a 10-year-old. As problematic was his inability to talk out the situation with the children while his wife mediated and his continued refusal to apologize although the stakes are high (it doesn’t matter if the stakes aren’t actually high, they seem to feel that way for the OP).

    I, too, can be described as stubborn and prideful, and I, too, have had to restrain myself from yelling bullshit at (my own) children. While my own anger issues were exacerbated by raging pregnancy hormones, I sought therapy for them. It helped.

  • K

    I’m kind of with Theresa on this one – seems like everyone kind of needs to calm down. I can’t imagine a scenario in which I would shout “bullshit” at a child. I also can’t imagine pacing around in someone’s driveway waiting for them to get home so I could confront them over something like that (and I am more on the opinionated/will confront side of the spectrum). I also can’t imagine NOT apologizing if I stupidly lost it in front of a kid who was being a jerk to my kid. Which! Happens. All the time. Kids can be cruel, and exclusionary, and bossy and whatever, but a child’s behavior is just that – child behavior. It happens. We course correct and teach them, we talk to their parents and create a plan for when/if it continues to happen. And while I don’t agree with Amy’s assessment of “anger management”, I do think that his reaction was disproportionate, and warrants a conversation between the two of you (OP and spouse) about what might really be the deal with his tantrum. I mean, “bottling angst” over one jerk kid’s mistreatment of your daughter? Seems like a symptom of maybe something else. Inability to apologize to a neighbor and talk it out, in an effort to keep the peace? Red flag there too. And further – OP seems to live in a neighborhood of gossips (neighbor lady insinuated that she told everyone), so be prepared to apologize and talk it through, and have a result that still isn’t satisfactory. Can OP’s husband handle that? Will he freak out if he isn’t immediately forgiven/all isn’t forgotten when he graciously apologizes? The whole thing seems quite strange. Sorry OP – hopefully your husband can figure out how to play nice with others. If not, maybe organized sports is the best social opportunity for your kids. There is a ref present.

  • Bea

    I also agree with Amy here. Your husband was “bottling up his angst” about an issue between two children? So much so that it exploded and he yelled and swore at a 10 year old? I live in a very tight-knit, safe neighborhood with lots of kids. There are inevitable clashes between kids that need to be worked out sometimes with the parents prodding apologies, sometimes just telling the kids to walk away. But if a new family moved into our street and the dad exploded at one of our neighborhood girls like this? Uh-uh. No way would anyone in the neighborhood be ok with that. Of course they want their kids to stay away from your family–for all they know your husband could lose it again. If your husband won’t follow Amy’s advice and apologize sincerely and thoroughly, it’s going to be a long road to gain the trust of your neighbors again. I feel for you but I really can’t blame your neighbors.

  • Lily

    I’m on board with Amy’s response. That 10yo girl sounds like she can be a little jerk, but all kids can sometimes, and adults have to be the “bigger people” (nyuk). Something ugly has been set into motion here. He really needs to humbly apologize. The real kind, not the “I’m sorry but” kind. He did something inexcusable to a child. I’m sorry all of you guys are in this situation, and I feel bad for you, your kids, your husband, the 10yo girl, and her mother. But the right thing to do is apologize and there is no way around that.

  • Jenny

    Yeah, I’d really try and get your husband to applogize.

    10 year old girls can be mean.  It sucks.  But it’s hardly surprising.

  • Kat

    I agree with some of the others here that Amy’s response seems a little harsh. Telling a father that they need anger management after hearing second-hand of an interaction? A father who’s emotions were likely running high and was likely upset after his daughter was emotionally and physically harmed by someone who repeatedly has had bad behavior. Why isn’t anger management recommended for the mother who paced the driveway then screamed obscenities at the letter writer? That is premeditated and deliberate, and personally I think I’d watch out for this neighbor, but’s just me.

    Also, at the time the letter was written, it had been less than a day. I know many people, myself included, that need time to process and accept that they were wrong, then plan how they will address the situation after their temper has cooled and can think more rationally. Hopefully the husband can do this. He does need to apologize and model good behavior. What is the saying – do what I say, not what I do? We are constantly teaching our kids how to interact with people, and this would be a good chance to humble himself and be the bigger person, so the kids can learn to do that.

    • Kay

      Well, the letter writer probably can’t recommend the neighbor seek anger management, but she can definitely bring up to her husband that he needs to get his anger under control. If a grown man loses his temper because his daughter has TWO run-ins with a not-very-nice child and then is unwilling to apologize for his wrongdoing in order to salvage his kids’ friendships, that’s a pretty bad situation for the entire family.

      • Kat

        I never said that the neighbor needs anger management, but that I’d personally watch out for her – to me her behavior is far more frightening, but again, that’s just me. Also, the letter writer said that her daughter and the other child have clashed a lot of the last SIX MONTHS and that the father has been upset but held it in; it was the two direct incidents in one day that caused him to speak out.

        • Kay

          Agree that the neighbor (and the daughter) seems problematic. But it’s still alarming to me that a grown man blew up a little kid for things that are so common and typical of kids that age and that he doesn’t see anything wrong with that.

  • Cheryl S.

    Wow.  First of all, Dad needs to apologize.  Definitely.  You don’t scream at other people’s kids even when the probably deserve it.

    Second, Dad needs to learn how NOT to get totally wrapped up in childhood drama.  Believe me, I have a 10 year old girl.  There is always some drama with her and her friends.  And, yes, I’ve had a deep urge to slap some of those kids. BUT. I. DON’T.  

    I comfort my daughter when her feelings get hurt.  I talk to her about how things make her feel and how we can deal with them.  I’ve not yet had an instance where I felt the parents needed to be involved.  

  • Kelsey

    It sounds to me like everyone is being way overdramatic here. “She hit me while we were playing tag!” is generally code for “She tagged me but I didn’t want her to because I don’t want to be it!”, and really a sensible adult response to that would be, “Well, honey, that’s how tag works, and if you don’t want to play the game the way it’s played I suggest you ride your bike/come inside/do something else instead.” I think the parents are taking this all a bit too seriously here, needing to discuss this stuff with the offending 10 year old and then screaming (profanity or no) at said 10 year old over a game of tag…it’s a bit immature and ridiculous. Husband needs to get himself under control, go apologize, and all the adults in the situation probably need to chill out, like, a lot, and stop cornering other people’s children to demand an explanation for whatever “transgression” has been committed against their own kid, who quite honestly is probably being dramatic. I don’t blame neighbor kid for trying to lie her way out of it, it’s completely inappropriate and was probably kinda scary for her.
    However, the inviting everyone but your youngest child over to play, which alludes to her inviting your oldest child but not your youngest, would (for me, at least) warrant walking over to the neighbor’s house to discuss that with her mother (note: not the child, her MOTHER), in a, “So youngestchild came home pretty upset a few minutes ago, it seems like yourkid invited all the neighborhood kids over to play but told youngestchild that she couldn’t come. Just thought I’d let you know, and I’ll be taking my children home now, thanks” kind of way.

  • Kay

    I agree with Amy’s advice because I think it will make the letter writer’s life better than the alternative, which appears to be digging in and just ignoring this and hoping it blows over. Maybe this other driveway-pacing swearing mom is a kook and the rest of the neighborhood won’t blacklist your kids, but you better believe that many, many people will have major problems sending their kids to play at a house where a 10-year-old was sworn at by the dad. And the longer this goes unaddressed, the weirder and more uncomfortable things will likely become.

    The husband needs to make amends here in a public way. Ideally he’d apologize because he realizes he was wrong to swear at a child, but if nothing else, he needs to do it so his kids aren’t excluded and so a polite relationship can be restored with the neighbor. It’s really the least he can do.

  • Tiffany

    Are these neighbours even people you actually want to be friends with? This sounds like soooo much drama! Yeah, swearing at other peoples kids isn’t cool, but seriously, not one other neighbour was also fed up enough with this child’s behaviour to back you up?
    So, even if/when this blows over…. Who’s to say something else won’t happen in the future that’ll have the neighbourhood queen bee excluding you all again? Or, fast forward to high school, and the daughter is mimicking this type of cliquey behaviour? Or if there’s another issue, when they’re older, what’re the odds her daughter will be held accountable vs your daughter being blamed? You and your daughters may want to widen your circle or friends anyhow, iregardless of how this plays out.

  • Ann

    I’m in the minority here, but I don’t think the father should apologize just like that. The girl is probably already delighted with how she’s getting away with her bullying, and now instead of being told by her parents how inappropriate it is, she gets a pat on the head from mommy, and a grown adult apologizing to her? I mean, I don’t know that her parents aren’t telling her to stop, but based on her mom’s reaction sounds like she’s done no wrong in their eyes. The OP’s husband was wrong too of course (even though honestly, BS is not such an awful scary curse word), but I just don’t think it sends a good message to a budding bully that she gets an apology but doesn’t have to apologize herself. I mean… I can’t tell from the original post how bad the situation is, sometimes kids are just ridiculous and they do need to sort things out themselves, but if there’s actual bullying going on, the kid should apologize first!

    • C

      This! All of this! This is what I kept thinking the whole time I was reading this. I don’t know what the actual situation is, maybe there’s a whole lot of neighborhood drama like the other commenters said and it’s all just over-hyped. But I also think it would be hard to keep telling your child that after 6 months of being specifically singled out by an older child, that the younger child is being dramatic and should just get over it. I guess we can just say, “Oh honey, don’t go play with the neighborhood kids because you know Alyssa always makes you feel like a pile of shit.”

      And here Amy Storch!, let me remind you that you are the same person who wants all kids fears to be regarded “As Real”, whether they are logical or not, well here we are: an entire family held socially captive by a 10 year old. Every time your child walks out the door, she fears how a specific person might degrade her. That’s a whole lot of fear if you’ve ever been the target of a “Oh Not My Baby” child.

      OP- totally sucks that this is landing square on your shoulders. I would definitely make sure the neighborhood isn’t your only source of social contact for your kids because neighborhoods change, either by people moving in and out, or because the kids grow up and start hanging out with people that have similar interests, not just whoever is outside playing ball. I also think you need to not let your daughters see the stress this is putting on you, and you should do that by realizing you kept your shit together and did things the way they should be done. Your husband needs to apologize but it’s going to take some time for him to build up some street cred with your kids and your neighborhood. And you need to be the person who calmly sails the ship so your girls know that everybody is going to survive this because it’s such a small blip of your life at the end of the day.

    • JD

      I find myself agreeing with this as well. I also wonder if the neighbor would have had the same reaction should the father have said (in the same tone and volume) “I don’t feel you’re being truthful” or whatever PC crap it is these days, instead of “bullshit.” Yeah, maybe he should apologize for the actual swear word, but not for how he felt about witnessing bullying behavior, especially towards his own kid. If the OP isn’t exaggerating and this kid really is a bully, strong reaction is sometimes warranted. 

  • Kim

    I mean, there’re certainly more appropriate ways of calling the kid out, but yelling bullshit just doesn’t seem like the”OMG you monster!” offense it’s laid out to be.  And pacing in front of the driveway?  All this drama?  Yes, only two offenses on the day (but that exclusion one, boy howdy, that is rude) but there is a history of this, and dad get protective, too. I’d say the 10yo is coming by her drama queen behavior pretty naturally.
    Is it worth an apology?  Yes.  His response was inappropriate.  Does groveling need to be involved? Nope. This sounds way out of proportion to me.  It would be different if he was actually calling the girl names, but bullshit is a freaking minor word in this context and today’s lexicon.
    Having said all that, I’d be looking for other social situations for kids, ASAP, because I don’t see the drama here being worth it.

  • Hooboy

    Yeah, saying bullshit is no big deal, esp. in response to repeated bullying. Sure, give an apology if you’re in a neighbourhood where swearing is some sort of abominable omg terrible crime and you just need to bow your head and eat shit sometimes, but anger management lessons? Is this an American thing? I feel like I barely understand the question or the response here. Maybe I’m a monster.

  • CK

    OP, while I do think your husband should apologize, it sounds like you have a bully in your neighborhood.  Maybe letting the kids play in the neighborhood isn’t best.  We have a child in our life that my children cannot play with unsupervised due to constant, low-level bullying.  I realize this doesn’t address your concern about how to move forward with your husband and neighbor but wanted to throw that out there for the future.