Ask Amy: My neighbor’s child bit my son

Dear Amy: I need help to set some boundaries with our neighbors who moved in two years ago. They are very friendly and sometimes bring us food or gifts for no reason. (For example, they recently gave my 12-year-old son a used blender.)

I feel guilty about my discomfort with them, but at the same time, I am quite introverted and need some time to decompress when I get home.

The neighbors and their children (age four and five) are very outgoing, and the kids come to our house/yard at least four times a week.

Sometimes they’ll look in the windows to see if we are home. If the front door is unlocked, the kids will walk right in, by themselves, and they argue if we ask them to go home.

The neighbors’ 4-year-old is also unpredictably physical, and he will sometimes bite/hit/kick people.

The parents asked my son to come over last night to play, but then at some point the 4-year-old bit my son quite badly on the leg.

When my son came home and showed me the bite, I asked where the parents were, and then learned that they had left the house and my son was babysitting their kids.

I’m not comfortable with their lack of boundaries.

I know there are much worse neighbors out there, and I don’t want to overreact or cause a neighborhood war.

How should I approach this?

— Not Feeling Neighborly

Dear Not Feeling: Are there worse neighbors out there? I’m not so sure.

Let me reframe this for you.

I might have been contemplating building a sturdy fence after the home invasions by these neglected children or the unsolicited gift of a used blender to your child.

You respond by feeling guilty.

I rarely tell people that they are feeling the wrong feeling but … no. Guilt is definitely the wrong feeling.

These neighbors have overstepped so extremely and unethically that you no longer need to feel guilty about anything.

No one should ever put your son in the position these people did. Asking a 12-year-old over “to play” and then leaving him in sole charge of two young children is … dangerous, unethical, and frankly a little creepy.

The fact that he came home with a wound on his leg is evidence that he should not have been there.

Setting boundaries is not starting a war. In fact, it’s probably preventing one.

When the children walk into your house uninvited, tell them, “Oops, you need to go home now. Bye, guys. I’ll watch you from the porch to make sure you get home.”

You should tell these parents, “If you want my son to babysit, you’re going to have to ask me, and I’ll ask him. Otherwise, he should never be in your house without at least one other adult home.”

You are a more experienced parent than they are. You are going to have to show these people how mature, concerned, and appropriate people behave.

Dear Amy: Before the start of the pandemic, I quit my job. I had planned to take a little time off to recover mentally, as the culture of that job put me in a bad depression. Once I began updating my resume and looking for a new job, we got the lockdown order.

Fortunately, between my savings and my husband’s job I could afford to suspend my job search. During the pandemic I finally got a diagnosis for a long-time mystery illness and began treatment.

I am now recovering post-op and ready to get back to work.

As I begin interviewing there will be questions about the long gap in employment. What should I say?

I fear saying something like “I took time to get my health under control” might leave them thinking that I could have future problems.

How can I put my best foot forward and give them confidence that I’m the right candidate despite my lengthy time off?

— Job Hunting

Dear Hunting: I suggest that you say, “I left my previous position just before the pandemic hit and decided to delay my job search until things seemed to be opening up, in order to maximize my options. Fortunately, that time is now.”

Dear Amy: Thank you for the laugh recently when you replied to “Anxious Bride,” who was planning a full-on Cinderella wedding.

Here’s the line I loved: “When I got married, I had only a flock of bluebirds to help me get dressed.”

— Still Chuckling

Dear Chuckling: This was a Disney reference I simply could not resist.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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