Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week: What do you do when another parent accuses your child of doing something you know they didn’t do? How do you confront the parent without making things worse for your kid and their friendship?
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Dear Scary Mommy,
Right before the pandemic, our neighbors were sure that one of the kids in our neighborhood had stolen a wedding ring off their dresser. This mom’s oldest son is close with our son—they are both 11—and friends with a couple of other tween boys who were hanging out together that day. The parents were home, but were working and not hovering over the boys. We have all been family friends for years, and the boys often swapped houses throughout the week. The mom noticed her ring was missing out of the dish she keeps it in, and started asking around. I wasn’t offended by her asking if our son (or the other boys) had seen the ring or knew what might have happened to it, but I was offended when she angrily insisted that one of them took it. She even accused my son because he had used the bathroom closest to her bedroom. My son vehemently denied it, and she wasn’t happy when we told her we believed him. Our friendship drifted apart from there.
Last week, my son was doing some homework on our porch and her son stopped on the sidewalk to talk to him. He mentioned that his mom had found her ring, and that he was sorry about what happened. My son told me about this conversation later, and I am pissed. She didn’t let us know she had found the ring and she didn’t apologize for accusing my son of stealing it. My son felt terrible about this and the strain it put on his friendship, and he was mortified that his other friends’ parents might think he was a thief.
We knew he didn’t steal it, and now we know she knows he didn’t steal it because she’s found it again! I want to confront her about this….but how? I’m not sure that I want to out her son, who maybe wasn’t supposed to tell us, and it’s not his fault. She owes my son an apology and should update the other parents as well. What do I say?
Oooof. This is a doozy of a situation, and I’m sorry this happened to your son and your family. I would be pissed AF too, and you’re right – she definitely owes your son an apology and needs to right this situation. Sadly, just because this is what she should do doesn’t mean she will.
Since you want to confront her about the situation without getting your son or her son involved, I suggest that you bring up the subject by asking her about it, instead of telling her you know. You could give her the chance to do the right thing and come clean. Email her and say something like, “Hello. I hope you are doing well. It’s been hard for my son to not see his friends like so-and-so the past several months. I was wondering … did you ever find your missing wedding ring? I sure hope that it turned up. I imagine it holds a great deal of sentimental value to you.”
Sure, she might see right through your prodding to get her to acknowledge that your son did nothing wrong, but so what? She should feel uncomfortable, and your goal is to get her to come clean without implicating her son or making things even more difficult for your son.
There’s one of three ways things could go from there – she’ll either (1) ignore your email, (2) deny finding the ring, or (3) tell the truth. If she tells the truth, you can then tell her that she owes your son an apology and that you’d appreciate if she’d let the other parents know that your son wasn’t involved. You could even say something like, “I’d like to let the other parents know this has been resolved. Would you like to tell them or should I?”
If, on the other hand, she ignores your email or lies about finding the ring or blames your son for something, then you unfortunately have the opportunity to teach your son the tough life lesson that some people are Lying McLiarsons. It is a brutal lesson to learn, but separating the mom’s actions from her son’s could help your son deal with it. Even if the mom is a liar, it sounds like her son is a good soul and an honest person. If your son genuinely misses the relationship, perhaps you could help him rebuild that relationship in a way that still protects your son from vindictive actions from the other kid’s mom.
If your relationship with the other parents has struggled as a result of the accusations, then by all means defend your son. Chances are, the other parents know what’s up though. I suspect that they want to keep this other mom at arm’s length for fear that their kid could end up on the receiving end of her accusations next time. I’m willing to bet they already know that your son wasn’t guilty of taking the ring. But if you need to protect your son’s reputation, by all means do so — and don’t feel guilty about it.
While I firmly believe in assuming good intentions, cutting people some slack, and giving people the chance to do the right thing, sometimes people suck. Their actions are harmful and hurtful and they don’t do the right thing. It’s awful, but it’s true. My suggestion is to cushion this tough lesson for your son by reminding him that people often do the right thing (like his friend did when he told him the truth) and that you will always be there to support him. And in the end, that’s a powerful lesson too.
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