Q. My young daughter recently had a slumber party. One of her friends was playing on my husband’s iPad, and while walking away with it, she dropped it and shattered the screen.
My husband jokingly said, “You break it, you bought it.” I think this scared her. She went into my daughter’s room and hid under a blanket. She cried for a long time. Because I was out taking another child home, I was not home when it happened.
I texted the child’s father (our neighbor across the street) to tell him she accidentally broke the iPad and that she was inconsolable. When she finally emerged, my husband told her that he wasn’t mad at her and that we like her very much. She seemed somewhat comforted by this.
Since then, we have not been contacted by the parents or received an apology.
My husband would like them to replace the iPad screen, but they have three children and not a lot of money. Still, it would be nice if they would offer something.
My husband can be very grumpy, and in the past, has had some negative interactions with this family.
My daughter is afraid that if he says something, her friend won’t want to come over anymore, because she is already afraid of my husband.
I do not want to cause problems with their family, either.
What are your thoughts? Wondering
A. You don’t say how old these children are, but your husband (presumably) was in charge of the group while you were gone, and so I’d say that when an adult hands a child an iPad — or doesn’t take it from her — then: “If she breaks it, YOU bought it.
Your husband already “joked” his way into scaring this girl. I give you all credit for working hard to comfort her.
It would be appropriate for the neighbors to help their child to write a note — or contact you to say, “We are so sorry this happened. We hope you’ll understand and forgive our daughter, and we’ll try to find a way to make things right.”
It does not sound like these neighbors have it together enough to do this — either that, or the fact that your husband has had “negative interactions” with them in the past (what, exactly, does that entail?) has intimidated them into paralysis.
If the crack isn’t too bad, you can put a screen protector over the (cracked) screen and carry on using it.
The lesson here — for all of you — is that, in life, stuff happens. It is important to be forgiving and to move forward with integrity, even if you don’t get what you want, or if others don’t behave in the optimal way.
Q. Our son and only child committed suicide eight years ago, a week after he visited us for his 30th birthday.
Immediately after his death, we lost many “friends,” and after all this time, they still shun us.
I researched the matter: It is very common that people shun you about this. Others excuse this behavior, saying, “Maybe they didn’t know what to say.”
However, those shunners are all highly educated, happily socializing people, adept at online research. There is no excuse. They helped to ruin my life. There is no solution to their having compounded my lifelong grief.
A. I’m so very sorry. Unfortunately, I am familiar with this phenomenon — and many people who have lost family members to suicide have also experienced the additional loss of friendships. It is all part of the heartbreaking collateral damage related to mental illness, as well as the lingering taboo of suicide.
People can behave in such baffling and disappointing ways — almost always based on what they need, and rarely what YOU might need. My hope is that you can find a way to release your anger and pain about this, and turn your attention toward celebrating the friends — old and new — who have remained steadfast through this.
You might be helped through reading “The Unspeakable Loss: How Do You Live After a Child Dies?” by grief counselor (and grieving parent) Nisha Zenoff (2017, DeCapo Lifelong Books).
Q. I really appreciate all of the literary references you make in your column! I saw a Tennessee Williams reference last week that really made me smile. But don’t you worry that all readers won’t really “get” them?
A. Thank you! I’m a proud English major. In my own reading, I don’t always “get” everything, and I think that’s perfectly fine.
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