DEAR CAROLYN: My neighbor thinks I’m a dangerous parent. She thinks this because I do things like let my daughter climb the tree in our backyard and let my son play football. She believes they are going to get injured or killed doing these activities, as she has told me ad nauseam.
Now she has started going directly to my kids, doing things like yelling, “Get down from there!” while my daughter was sitting in our tree reading a book, and telling my son and his friend, “Football will give you brain damage” while they were throwing a football back and forth in our yard.
Is there something I can do to kindly get this woman to shut her trap?
DEAR NEIGHBOR: Not really, nor is there anything you can do to meanly get her to shut her trap, because it’s her trap. You apparently can be more direct with her, though, since your “ad nauseam” suggests you haven’t; people who go on and on need your permission to do so, if only by your staying there and taking it.
So, don’t stay there and take it. “I’ve heard you out, and I believe you mean well, but my kids are playing and climbing with my permission. Please don’t interfere. Thank you.” Leave. Thereafter: “Thanks for your concern.” Then leave.
Talk to your kids, acknowledge how uncomfortable it must be for them, give them language: “I’m here with my parent’s permission.”
I would love to stomp over the boundaries she’s violating, but, unfortunately, there’s no point. She gets to be as misguided as she wants to be from her side of the fence.
There is a different angle you can take, if you’re not too fed up with her to summon the requisite compassion: “Are you OK? Because my kids are just playing, and your anxiety about it tells me there might be more to this story.”
If there is nothing more, then you cut to the I-know-you-mean-well speech. If she takes umbrage, then enjoy pointing out the irony of her believing you crossed a line.
But if she witnessed an accident or lost a nephew or has PTSD from too many shifts in a pediatric ER, then your still-necessary deflections of her concern will be more appropriate if you phrase them with that in mind.
DEAR CAROLYN: I am in a great relationship. I recently wore a necklace given to me by a former boyfriend, and a co-worker thought that was terrible.
I would never wear an engagement ring from a former fiancé, but I think a necklace is just a necklace. Am I crazy? Is there really bad jewelry mojo?
DEAR MOJO: Wear the jewelry – but if the commentary bothers you, then keep the backstory home in a drawer.