update: my coworker gave my kid $20 and told him to keep it a secret

Remember the letter-writer last month whose coworker gave her kid $20 and told him to keep it a secret? Here’s the update.

I read through every comment and I definitely understand where everyone is coming from and I deeply appreciate all the advice and information! To be completely honest, I didn’t even think of this as grooming behavior until I really read it from y’all and online, but it does make sense.

As far as my former boss goes, she is a former boss because of her overstepping boundary behavior. She is an older woman in her late 60s/early 70s who has no children and never been married, so I do think she just doesn’t know the norm when it comes to children.

I took Alison’s advice and brought the $20 back to her office. I approached the conversation with the advice of “I know you meant to be nice BUT….” and continued with the rest. It was hard to fight through the anxiety, but she was understanding, deeply apologetic, said it will never happen again and that she didn’t mean the secret as a literal secret and that she was just being kind of funny and didn’t realize the severity of what she said.

I have moved my son though and he now sits at a desk with workers surrounding him (three awesome ladies) within eye view of my desk, just to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I spoke with him about the incident as well and praised him for telling me right away. I did take the $20 from him but we stopped for ice cream on the way home after work since he was open and honest with me. Ever since he was little, I’ve made a point to tell him if he ever had a problem he could always come to me without any judgement and I will back him up 100% and he has taken me up on this a few times through which I’ve proven it to him. He knew I would be upset if he kept it from me so it was in his best interest to let me know ASAP, plus she made him uncomfortable since he doesn’t keep secrets from me at all.

I wouldn’t have been upset if she asked me first and if it was a couple dollars but the amount and the “secret” was definitely a line crosser but I believe I got the point across (fingers crossed). 

{ 208 comments… read them below }

      1. Stinky Socks*

        Great mom. Rewarding the honesty is super smart. Kid knowing you’ve always got his back is invaluable.

    1. Artemesia*

      It is really hard to actually deal with this kind of ‘confrontation.’ I have flunked this little test more than once and not dealt with something I should have. You did a fabulous job on this both with your colleague and your son.

  1. Callie*

    Kudos to you and your son for the way you handled this. It’s wonderful that he’s comfortable coming to you with information like this.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      Agreed! I think getting the point across with your son is the main thing to worry about, and it sounds like you’ve done that beautifully.

    2. GreenDoor*

      So much this! If he’s comfortable coming to you at the age of nine about a secret $20, and you reacted so positively and proactively, you can be sure he’ll be comfortable coming to you at age 15-20-25 with the way more serious stuff. High-five to you, Mama!

  2. Lena Clare*

    I’m glad it all worked out but can I just say that being an unmarried person with no children doesn’t (or shouldn’t) mean that you don’t know how to behave around other people’s children, or what is considered socially acceptable or not. She was just a weird’un.

      1. Cat Fan*

        OP handled it very well! Just chiming in to say I’m child-free in my mid-40s without having regular interaction with kids, and I know better than to do anything like what the co-worker did just because it doesn’t make any sense to me. What was the point of giving the kid money and saying to keep secret, but not really secret? I honestly don’t believe the co-worker, but it doesn’t matter now that OP has a firm handle on things.

        1. WannaAlp*

          I believe the point was because she thought that if the child told OP about the $20, then OP wouldn’t allow the child to keep the money. And she wanted the child to have the money.

          And that was indeed how things turned out (setting aside the ice cream compensation).

          Not defending the co-worker here; if you want to do nice things for other people’s children then you need the go-ahead from the parents. Just trying to explain where she might have been coming from.

      2. Esme Squalor*

        I don’t think the OP meant to imply that unmarried women without children don’t know how to behave appropriately with children. She was just providing additional context that this woman didn’t have experience being in the parent role, and that maybe that played a small part in her not thinking this all the way through.

        I’m child-free as well, and I didn’t read any malice here.

    1. GreyjoyGardens*

      This is a good point. I’m unmarried and childless (do cats count?) and even I know better than to give a coworker’s kid $20! That’s not like “Charlie wanted to go to the vending machine so I gave him a couple quarters.”

      1. Mommy MD*

        I’ve given kids a five or ten but I’ve always asked parents first. I like to make kids happy! With permission of course.

        1. fposte*

          Because experience is a teacher, and childless people, especially people who don’t hang with current parents, whether for generational or other reasons, are likelier than parents to be out of touch with current parenting expectations and concerns. No blame to childless people, of which I am one; that’s part of the deal is that you don’t *have* to be on top of these things.

          1. Lena Clare*

            I completely disagree…

            Childless people are likelier to be out of touch with parenting expectations and no, they don’t need to know them – but socially aware people with or without children *know* not to interfere with other parents’ children.

            And, if I may play devil’s advocate here, just having children doesn’t make you a good parent. It doesn’t make you even know what’s good for your own children unless you’ve been taught that yourself.
            And what if it did? What if you had a child and you just knew all that stuff but then you lost your child, would you lose all that knowledge too? It doesn’t make sense.

            1. fposte*

              I think it’s pretty clear that I didn’t state this as an immutable correlation.

              I think you’re sensitive because you know a lot about kids and your knowledge is sometimes perceived as invalid because you’re not a parent. I agree totally that that’s bullshit.

              But you know a lot about kids because you’ve had a lot of proximity to kids. That’s less common with childless people than with parents; that’s just a demographic fact, and it’s not insulting or hurtful. And parenting changes in ways that means grandparents’ understanding is less likely to be current than parents’–also just a fact, not insulting or hurtful.

              And plenty of socially aware people “interfere” with other people’s children–they talk to them, move them out of harm’s way, remove objects from their grasp, etc. Parents don’t always love it, but that’s still generally okay.

              And it’s okay to say that this lady’s age and childlessness made her less likely to know that her behavior, which would have been common in earlier eras, would freak people out now. Now she knows. It’s not a statement about capability, just experience and exposure.

              1. Lena Clare*

                I understand what you’re saying but disagree with it.
                I think we will just have to agree to disagree :)

                1. a1*

                  You disagree that not having children means you have less exposure/experience with kids than those that do have them??

                2. Close Bracket*


                  Depends on the childless person. Most childed people only have experience with their own children. Some childless people have experience with more kids over more years than than some childed people ever will. So, yeah, I disagree that not having children means you have less exposure/experience with kids than those that do have them

            2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              My kids are in their 20s, and I have to confess that I am losing some of that knowledge of how to interact with very young children. And I used to be that person who would sneak out of the adults’ conversations and into the kids’ room at a party, because kids were more fun to me than adults. It is what it is.

              Clearly, this does not apply to someone like you who interacted with a lot of young children for a living. You are probably far better at it than I ever was. But for someone like me who only did it for a limited period of time, let’s say I’ll have to relearn a lot if and when I have grandchildren.

        2. Jennifer Thneed*

          As an illustration of what fposte says, I’m childless and had no idea what changes there had been in elementary school education since my childhood until a really interesting conversation with a friend with 3 kids.

          1. Lena Clare*

            But you don’t need to know what changes in education there are in order to know it’s not a good idea to give a child $20 and tell that child to keep it a secret!

            1. fposte*

              But that’s an exchange that used to be considered okay; I speaking from considerable experience here as An Old myself. OP’s coworker just hadn’t downloaded the updates because she didn’t think she’d need that software, so she didn’t hear how that subsequently became a behavior that would alarm people.

              1. Lily Rowan*

                I dunno — I’m pretty old, and I thought it was creepy when my great uncle gave me a $20 and told me to keep it secret! (I don’t think he was actually creepy.)

                1. Mommy MD*

                  I don’t know. I had uncles give me a five or ten here with no felonious intent. But I get what you’re saying. When the kids were together when I was growing up my dad always opened his wallet and handed out a few bucks. They all would say let’s go visit Uncle Fester!

              2. Anna*

                I also think there was a LOT of pearl clutching about grooming behavior that skewed alarmist in the original post and that your take on it is closer to valid. The OP didn’t even consider the “grooming” aspect until people went from “Not Good” to “Predator” in no time flat. In my mind, it indicates an overreaction to something that was Not Good, but also Not Dangerous.

                1. Mommy MD*

                  Right. So agree. I give my teen nephew at least a ten virtually every time I see him. I don’t hide it. But I don’t ask permission anymore.

                  Really doubt older female coworker is grooming when there’s never been a problem before.

                  I know that gender-biased but the demographics of grooming pedophiles are generally men. I once warned a friend over and over about this with a guy who raised my creep meter off the charts and sadly she didn’t listen. I even told the guy he’s weird for hanging out with tweens when he has no kids. Didn’t stop him. My friend basically dumped me for ten years.

                2. Ace in the Hole*

                  I definitely agree that some of the comments were too quick to accuse the coworker of intentional harm. However, the behavior is still dangerous even if Coworker’s intentions were totally innocent. She was teaching/coaching a young child to keep secrets from his parents. Coworker might not be intending anything nefarious, but that’s exactly the kind of thing nefarious people count on to get away with what they do, not to mention how kids can get themselves in dangerous situations by allowing a small mistake to snowball because they’re trying to hide it from mom or dad. Teaching a kid to keep secrets from their parents is INHERENTLY dangerous.

                3. Woof woof*

                  +1. This is another example of the commentariat here acting like “a dog with a bone,” as someone put it on the thread about the hairdresser forced to give a free session to her fiance’s boss, when it draws an inference that is not necessarily justified.

                4. Michaela Westen*

                  IMO it’s necessary to address the worst-case scenario. What if that is what’s actually going on? What if the OP isn’t aware of that possibility? We need to mention it to make them aware, just in case.
                  It doesn’t look like the woman in this case is a predator – but OP has taken precautions in case she and we are wrong. That’s why we need to mention it.

              3. t.i.a.s.p.*

                I’m middle aged and the getting a treat/getting to do something fun that you weren’t supposed to do with a “don’t tell mom” was a very common thing when I was young and still something I see from time to time now. Although often the “don’t tell mom” is in front of mom with mom rolling eyes.

                1. fposte*

                  Yes, definitely that too! I think if you’re familiar with that convention and would have done the same thing if Mom were standing there, it doesn’t strike you as weird to do it when Mom isn’t there.

              4. Clisby Williams*

                I’m 65, and no way I would have considered this OK. It wouldn’t have been OK when I was a child, either, especially with saying this was supposed to be a secret.

              5. Workerbee*

                This. There are a lot of updates I haven’t downloaded because I don’t need to, and this goes for everything including humanity, adult or child. What horrifies us today was “just the way it was” not all that long ago.

                I hope I’m wiser today than I was yesterday. Sometimes it takes a sharper lesson. With that, I also try to look past my own “Why didn’t that person know X?” knee-jerk reactions that don’t actually help anything.

              6. Kathleen_A*

                Another “Old” here: Way back when I was a kid, a lady in my neighborhood used to give kids homemade popcorn balls at Halloween. (She also made special ones for Christmas that were deLIcious.) It was Normal at the time, but even then, it was rapidly becoming Less Normal, and it would be Extremely Suspect now.

                Standards can change a lot more than many people realize. There definitely was a time, and not all that long ago, when giving kids money in a light-hearted, secret-but-not-really-secret way would have been considered Normal. Should this lady have realized that times had changed? Yes, she should. Is it all that surprising that she hadn’t quite caught up? Not to me, and not, I suspect, to quite a few other Olds.

                1. Amy the Rev*

                  Yes! Even 20ish years ago when I would trick or treat with my friends, old enough to go alone but still young enough to trick or treat, there were a couple houses that would always invite us inside for cider and donuts, and sometimes even bobbing for apples. And we never thought anything of it, other than ‘yess that’s the house with the cider and donuts!’. I feel like more current halloween software teaches to never go inside someone’s house, but alas we were running an older operating system.

                  Also, somewhat ironically, my hometown made the news this year for sewing needles being found in halloween candy.

              7. Observer*

                I actually don’t think that that’s really true.

                I’m not as old as this woman, but my youngest is considerably older than this child. When I was a child, what this parent did would have been considered very inappropriate unless she were close family or such a close family friend that she were essentially family. True, no one would have called it out as “grooming”, but it still would have been majorly problematic.

            2. Archaeopteryx*

              That’s a cultural norm that changed throughout the 80s-90s when people became a lot more aware of abductions/etc though. Back when this person was young, the whole “here’s something nice/winky/don’t tell your parents” thing would have been generally seen as benign.

              1. It's mce*

                As a child of the 80s, I remember TV shows with episodes on this topic. Granted, it’s good to recognize the scenarios, as I can imagine they are not new. Sadly.

            3. Someone Else*

              OK but I think the point here isn’t that it’s impossible for an older, childfree person to know what is/isn’t a good idea to do with children. The point is that those facts about the woman make it more understandable how she could come to lack that knowledge. It’s not that nobody in her circumstance woulda/coulda known better; it’s just that it is simultaneously not shocking that she didn’t. A counterexample doesn’t really matter much when we’re dealing in “often” rather than “always”, regardless of which direction we’re talking about.

        3. Myrin*

          I mean, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that if you have no experience in dealing with X – whether that be a situation, an institution, people, or something else entirely – you are generally more likely to behave awkwardly around X or not be up-to-date on how to deal with X.

          That doesn’t have to be the case, of course (you could have a theoretical interest in X, for example, and all the reading you did on it has made you really aware of it already although you’ve never had much to do with it IRL), but it can certainly be a contributing factor.

          I don’t have any idea how to deal with dogs, for example. I have no interest in dogs, my family has never had a dog, and only one of any friends I ever had had a dog (and he was never there because he worked with my friends father, who’s a policeman); I could of course know how to deal with dogs anyway, if I were a natural dog whisperer, for example, or if I’d read up a lot on them or something, but it would certainly not be unreasonable for anyone to say of me “She’s never had a dog; I’m not surprised she doesn’t know that you aren’t supposed to do [dog thing] around them anymore”.

          Contrary to that, I know how to deal with bunnies. I’m not actually suuuper invested in bunnies, but I know very well how to hold them, feed them, entertain them, and keep their home clean, all of that just by virtue of having had several before. I’m sure there are a lot of bunny owners who don’t really know how to accurately handle them, but they probably still have an edge over someone who’s never so much as held a bunny, just because they’ve actually interacted with one before.

    2. CupcakeCounter*

      When I was young we had some older, childless ladies who were like this and they always creeped me out. I don’t think it is a childless thing as much as it is a age+generational thing. OP stated the coworker was late 60’s-early 70’s range and that was about the age of the ladies I remember (who seemed WAY older than that when I was 10 – my parents and their friends are closing in on that and I don’t think they seem that old).

        1. Rana*

          Mommy MD – we had an old neighbor lady like that when I was a kid who liked having us visit her (with our parents’ permission). We could tell that she was just basically lonely and trying to be nice, not creepy, but she was also a giver of Odd Knick Knacks (like a china turtle or a pottery cherub candleholder) that my brother and I took politely, while privately thinking the whole thing was weird and awkward.

      1. Dr. Pepper*

        This is exactly where my mind went. I knew ladies like that too, often called “maiden aunts” in literature, and yeah, they gave me weird vibes. Probably because they viewed children as some kind of alien species to be placated rather than fellow people.

        No, not all older childless people are terrible with children. No, not all parents are good with kids. No, it’s not difficult to stay up to date on child rearing trends. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t people out there who are terrible with children and have no idea how to interact with them, nor have any real desire to learn. I’ve met plenty.

    3. Wintermute*

      Yes! This! It’s an art you learn, but there are parents that are terrible with kids and childless adults that are great with them.

      When my brother announced he was going to have a baby (well his wife was having it, you know) I did my research! I looked up youtube videos on how to hold a baby! But there are resources out there, and you can always ask the parents how they do things, I just did when starting my christmas shopping for her, where she’s at developmentally, what things really catch her attention, if they have any goals or ideals in mind (some parents really want to avoid gendered toys these days, for instance, others have a ‘no violent toy’ or ‘no gun’ policy, some want nothing electronic, etc, etc). You may not have an intuitive understanding but as an adult in a world that includes children you should still learn about kids and what’s going on in the field of child psychology.

      Frankly in this case I’m not sure HOW she could even read the news and major news sites without having come across information that should indicate that asking a child to “keep a secret” even jokingly is likely to be taken poorly, by any responsible child but especially by the parents.

      And Kudos to the OP, you’re a parenting superstar and you’ve got an awesome kid there.

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        One of the smartest parenting tricks I learned about was to buy potentially problematic grandparents subscriptions to the appropriate baby magazines. That way they can see what’s “current practice” and it doesn’t have to come from the parents (who are seen by the grandparents as children, of course).

        Neat that you took it on yourself to do the prep.

    4. UtOh!*

      Though this is something I would never do as a child-free person (who has nieces and nephews), I think if you aren’t around kids, you may have no clue how to interact with them and joking around about keeping secrets might be fine from one adult to another but not to a child. Children perceive things so differently and can take words so literally that you have to be very careful what you say and how you say it. I sincerely hope that was the issue here, and not that she’s some creepy old lady looking for a “special” relationship with said child. But yeah, what was up with giving the kid $20 and not letting the parent know about it (beforehand)?

    5. Anoncorporate*

      Agreed. I think the OP was trying to emphasize that she had more altruistic intentions than “grooming”. But also that this boss is socially awkward and has boundary issues.

    6. Former Retail Manager*

      I have to disagree with you. I have a child (almost 19 now), and even I don’t always know how to behave around children, especially if they are very different from my child was at that particular age. As she was growing up, I knew what to do with the kids that were her age or below, basically the stuff I’d dealt with, but if you’d put a pre-teen in front of me when my daughter was 5, I’d have been clueless and would have tried to get away pretty quickly. If you are in a social circle where there are literally no children and you don’t go places that have children regularly, I don’t think it’s unusual that you wouldn’t be particularly aware of how to act around children and what’s appropriate at what age.

      As an aside/funny story, I have a friend like this. When he first met my daughter (she was 14) he asked her if a story I’d told him about something she did was true. She said it was. He responded with “you’re a piece of sh*t.” He was joking. We all laughed. But I realize that this isn’t everyone’s humor and he very easily could have offended someone who didn’t allow their teens to use/be exposed to profanity. He is not someone you want around young kids for sure and that’s because in his 60+ years on earth, he’s literally never really been exposed to children for any length of time and is clueless (admittedly) about how to act around them. I don’t think he’s alone.

      1. Rana*

        This. Heck, I don’t even always know how to interact with my daughter’s same-age classmates, since they’re now at an age where individual personalities are starting to be more important than their developmental age. I was not a child person even as a child; I always preferred adults, and my family was not large. So while I’m okay one-on-one with individual children I’ve gotten to know, children in groups are harder for me to interact with, and random kids at the playground confound me.

        And a lot of my knowledge is colored by my own child’s personality. I have to remind myself regularly that just because my child reacts in certain ways or is capable of certain things, not all kids are… and vice versa.

    7. JSPA*

      Logic flaw.

      Nobody’s saying “if A, then B” (If childness, then clueless).

      They’re saying, “If not A, then not B.” (If you’ve raised kids in the last 20 years, you have this stuff drummed into you; if not, then it could go either way.)

      A thousand people could write in to say that they have no kids and are not clueless–that would do zilch to disprove the statement that was actually made (as opposed to the straw man alternative).

    8. Observer*

      Well, to be fair, the OP isn’t point at just this – she says that this is a person with major boundary issues at all ages. She mentioned that in the original letter and in this follow up.

  3. Akcipitrokulo*

    Well done for confronting her! Best interpretation of her actions, you’ve helped her realise it was inappropriate… worst, you’ve warned her off and put her on notice. Either way, result!

  4. Hills to Die on*

    Thank you for the update. It’s nice when behavior could have been much more malicious in its intent but in this case was just thoughtless on your coworker’s part. I’m so glad it went well and that it ended up being a big teaching and learning opportunity.

    1. anonymous 5*

      YES–I am so, so, so impressed with the strength of the parent/kid relationship here and very glad that this situation seems to have resolved okay.

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        My parents said I could talk to them about anything – and I’d then get into trouble when I did. If this had been me as a kid, I probably wouldn’t have said anything and quietly spent the money. It’s so heartening to hear about kids who feel safe with their parents. Doing great work, OP!

  5. Ann*

    I know this isn’t the point of the update, but I’m curious as to why LW is now seating her son among other coworkers (“three awesome ladies”). I personally would not enjoy having someone’s kid in my workspace, and I hope that LW isn’t assuming that since they are female that they should be expected to be OK with a small child in their space.

      1. WellRed*

        The kid is nine. I’d hate it too, but I am guessing the LW is 100% certain her coworkers are totally fine with it.

        1. Micromanagered*

          To me, that’s “an older child.” Nine is old enough for a kid to entertain himself quietly.

      2. Manya*

        Who cares? I still wouldn’t want someone else’s kid next to me, for whom I was putatively responsible.

        I hate it that society thinks all women like kids, so they put unaccompanied minors and the like next to me. I plan on boozing and sleeping on a flight, not entertaining/comforting/protecting the child of someone who couldn’t be bothered to fly with them.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          There’s no indication that’s the situation here, and I’m going to ask that we not derail on speculating on things that aren’t in the letter (particularly when the speculation is so critical).

        2. Lily in NYC*

          I agree that it sucks when people assume that I want to be around a child simply because I’m a woman, but your “couldn’t be bothered to fly with them” comment is unnecessarily harsh and judgmental. There are many good reasons people can’t fly with their child that have nothing to do with not wanting to be bothered. Hmph.

        3. Smarty Boots*

          Wow, couldn’t be bothered to fly with them?? There’s all sorts of reasons to put kids on planes by themselves. And we’re not talking about an airplane, we’re talking about an office.

          Pretty mean tone to take with the OP. I don’t see her as making the others responsible — it feels to me more like, he’s sitting near other people (so, not alone and vulnerable) and within her eyeshot. Why not take the most charitable view?

        4. Cat Fan*

          You are at work in this scenario, not ringing on a flight. The kid probably just sits and does homework or plays on his phone. He is within view of his mother.

        5. SC*

          I would have no problem ordering a glass of wine and going to sleep with a 9-year-old unaccompanied minor sitting next to me on a flight. Like you said, I’m not responsible for them. But they have to sit next to someone, and it might as well be me.

          I flew as an unaccompanied minor a lot when I was a child. Most of the time, the adults next to me didn’t speak to me much, and I read a book or played my Gameboy (on silent). Occasionally, I had a conversation with the person sitting next to me. Pretty much the same as my experience as an adult.

        6. Observer*

          You’re doing a lot of projecting here.

          Mom is around, and can see the kid, who doesn’t sound like they need any comforting / entertaining / or protecting. She’s clearly not expecting them to do anything for the kid.

          I can’t imagine why some possible theoretical imposition on a flight has any relevance to this situation where Mom clearly does NOT want the ladies to do anything for the kid. In fact, that’s apparently why she put him there – because they WON’T do anything to / for him.

        1. Cat Fan*

          Even if the kid is quiet and keeps to himself? Why would you be so distracted and annoyed by someone who is working quietly?

      1. Micromanagered*

        It’s also the kind of thing that, if asked, a lot of people would feel like they “couldn’t” say no.

        1. Operational Chaos*

          That exactly. It’s frustrating and presumptive as hell, but as the person being placed on the spot with that situation how do you push back on it without looking like you hate kids or incurring negative reactions from parents who assume you’d be fine with it?

          I’ve been stuck in that situation at work and felt socially obligated to just grit my teeth through it. It didn’t exactly endear the parent to me going forward but I also didn’t see an effective way to get around it without attracting a negative response.

    1. ThankYouRoman*

      I assume they’re vocal about being okay with the boy being there

      I’ve grown up professionally with coworkers kids in some fashion in my office. I enjoy it. I have created nice bonds with my former bosses kids. It was rarely babysitting kind of stuff, just a visitor situation. Small talk and they knew when to hush and do school work/read/clean their dad’s desk.

    2. mark132*

      I remember babysitting the bosses kid at work one day (I was a 16-17 year old construction worker at the time). And it made me rather irritated. I didn’t complain, but I wasn’t ok with it.

      1. Cat Fan*

        They aren’t babysitting, they are working and the boy is likely working on his own stuff (school work, phone, whatever). His mother is right there. I think her point was that now the kid is in front of her where she can see him instead of tucked away in a corner.

        1. mark132*

          I should have added the kid was about 9 yrs old as well (if memory serves this was a long time ago). We were in a large semi-forested area, so I did keep my eyes on the kid.

      2. Mommy MD*

        I would say it’s fine for him to sit here but I might be away from my desk and don’t want to be responsible for his where-abouts.

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      It’s because part of the original issue was that the LW’s son was seated somewhat privately, so the coworker was able to approach him without the LW knowing about it. That won’t happen again.

  6. ThankYouRoman*

    Oh she’s legit old, now I’m thinking of her in a much better light. I’m glad it all went well though and she was receptive of the feedback when you approached her about it being an issue.

    I’m glad kiddo got a treat and is given positive reinforcement for telling you when these things happen. I just had to choke down a ton of pride explaining to my niece that I never actually told my mom about bullying issues when she came to her family about the issue she was dealing with. The “keep uncomfortable things quiet” a tradition/cycle I’m glad to see squashed.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      Yeah, in her era, no-one talked about abuse or grooming behavior, so the people around often didn’t know it was happening, or that it even existed. My mum didn’t tell me about her abuse until 60 years after it happened, when I finally told her about the creepy family friend that had bothered me 25 years before.

      This may be the first time she connected some of the dots between current events and how some of that happens, thanks to the explanation by the OP.

      1. GreyjoyGardens*

        And, worse, sometimes the abused child was thought of as “tainted” or “ruined” in some way and that could affect how they were seen in the community, future prospects, etc. It’s sad and gross, but blaming the less-powerful party has a long history. In small towns or close-knit neighborhoods, there was a lot of wanting to save face, keep honor intact, and not be seen as different or ruined in some way.

        I’m really glad we are coming out of that mentality in many places. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Kudos to you, LW Mom, for having such a great and open relationship with your son!

      2. London Calling*

        *Yeah, in her era, no-one talked about abuse or grooming behavior, so the people around often didn’t know it was happening, or that it even existed*

        I’m 64. We had a kids’ grapevine about the local creeps.

    2. Not Today*

      “Legit old”? I’m 63, guess I’m illegitimate old. Ageist reference is not helpful. If anything, not having kids contributed to her cluelessness, not her age. I have kids, and if one of mine ever told me about being given a $20 bill, we would return it. Not out of fear of grooming (some of those comments were over the top, in my opinion), but because we don’t take money for nothing from strangers. I’ve always been the opposite of a grifter! Besides, young kids don’t drive or have credit cards, so the kid couldn’t spend the money without my assistance. Coworker probably is flush and really didn’t think $20 was too much to give an unrelated child.

      Glad it work out. The “legit” old lady is probably mortified (I would be). Glad you know that she didn’t mean any harm.

      1. CD*

        I think some of the comments about grooming were over the top too. She seems like an older lady who isn’t around kids much and thought giving him $20 would be nice (and kids like secrets, so she thought it would be something fun). Allegations of grooming are a little bit much.

        1. fposte*

          No, but it makes it likelier, and this wasn’t even being clueless about children; it was being unaware of a current child-rearing protocol. When I was a kid, getting handed a gift by an adult with a cheeky “Don’t tell your parent” was absolutely a common convention; the premise was this was an enjoyable conspiracy. That’s pretty unnerving to contemporary parental eyes, but it’s true that this was a thing that a lot of us grew up with, and without having a reason to learn about changing protocols wouldn’t necessarily have noted them.

          1. Chocoholic*

            This. We have dealt with similar issues with our parents/in-laws over things like using car seats, spanking our kids, etc. Just because things were a certain way a long time ago, does not mean that they are this way now. I’m glad the co-worker seemed to understand and it all seems to have worked out for the best.

          2. Yeah I'm Commenting!!*

            Absolutely. This was very normal in my childhood and your explanation of an enjoyable conspiracy is perfect.

          3. Myrin*

            And, I mean, we’re not even talking “ancient times” here. You’re in your late fifties, fposte, if I remember correctly? Well, I’m only 27 and I totally wasn’t aware of this “current child-rearing protocol” until I read this very letter because I was used to behaviour like this from my own childhood; I honestly had a bit of a hard time understanding the outrage over this letter in the first place because this entire “protocol” was completely alien to me. (I assume there might also be a cultural component at play here, though, since I’ve gathered that we’re a bit more relaxed about children in general than Americans are, but I have no solid evidence for that.)

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, I was thinking about conventions in other countries, like the whole “leave your baby in the pram outside the shop” of Denmark. I don’t know if it’s just America, but I think we find it really hard to accept other child-rearing protocols as different rather than wrong.

            2. Lissa*

              Yup agree with you as usual. :) I think this is cultural for sure. US and Canada too has a very big thing about not parenting someone else’s child and tend to be on higher alert for interactions between other people and their kids. There are lots of people here saying they don’t see how it would be possible to NOT know this would be inappropriate but I think that varies a loooot generationally and culturally. This behavior especially strikes boundary conscious internet savvy people as bad but it’s far from universal.

            3. CD*

              I completely agree. I just don’t understand the outrage. I’m 27 as well and I experienced this lots of times when I was young. I’m also American.

          4. The Other Dawn*

            I agree. I’m childless by choice and haven’t been around a lot of kids in general, and I’m fairly clueless about them. Since I don’t usually interact with them, it’s just not a skill i developed. And it was normal in my childhood, too, for an older person, usually my grandparents or an aunt or uncle and sometimes a family friend, to give us kids money with a wink and “don’t tell your parents.”

          5. JSPA*

            Yup, it was totally normal. And there’s no “automatic update” feature in the human brain. It’s absolutely possible to default to your parent’s words, if you don’t have parenting experience / kid proximate experience of your own.

        1. fposte*

          Whereas my take is so what if I’m old? It’s not a dirty word. (Now I’m thinking of that exchange in On Golden Pond where the Katharine Hepburn character says determinedly they’re middle-aged, and her husband says “People don’t live to be a hundred and fifty.”)

      2. Clisby Williams*

        Exactly. My parents would never have let us take gifts (money or otherwise) from random people. I never got the impression they thought the givers were up to something nefarious – they didn’t want their kids to grow up to be moochers.

    3. Grapey*

      Is getting a $20 “uncomfortable”? I never told my mom when I got money from my relatives/parent’s friends as a kid because I knew she would make me save it! (Granted, I never got $20s, but 5s and 10s for fun money was normal.)

    4. Dr. Pepper*

      I’m too am delighted to hear that the innocent explanation has turned out to be the correct one. An older lady who is clueless about children and who presumably only has her own childhood to go upon when determining how to treat children. I’m glad she was receptive to the OP’s request not to give her child money. It’s always nice when the explanation is “clueless” and not actually worrisome.

    1. YOU ROCK*

      1000000% You are such a good mom and your son sounds lovely! So many of these advice columns are about bad behavior, which is entertaining but also depressing. Its so nice to read about a really good parent doing such a great job! And such a GREAT kid!

  7. Lumen*

    So glad to hear an update on this one and relieved at the outcome. Also glad that you rearranged where he sits, too, though – can’t be too careful. Thank you for following up!

  8. Liet-Kinda*

    So she was not – ahem – grooming the child for shady, nay, possibly nefarious purposes? She wasn’t planning to abuse him?

    Y’all can’t see it, but this here is my shocked face.

    /s, but Jesus, I hope some commenters take this one and maybe consider reining it in instead of taking the Speculation Train to Gift of Fear Town, because my god.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s a legitimate concern, but on the original post some people were presenting it as “this is definitely what is happening,” rather than acknowledging that there were other explanations as well.

      2. Liet-Kinda*

        It’s also a thing that an awkwardly well-meaning but clueless old lady might do, and absent other confirmatory indicators that her intentions were predatory, I thought it was ludicrous how hard many commenters were leaning into the “this is creepy! this is grooming! this is how abuse starts, people!” thing.

        1. Jersey's mom*

          My 77 year old mom with cognition problems will roll down the car window to tell younger women whow are smoking how it will give them cancer, and they should stop now. Saying this in a loud cranky old woman voice.

          The public may label her as a a crazy b***h. I know she’s trying to stop younger women from getting cancer or copd. Like her. She’s trying to help, but unfortunately her methods don’t work and at her age and mental capacity, she can’t change.

          Yeah, you gotta take these things in stride and as an adult determine if the person appears to be acting with nefarious intent, or simply concern (in a misplaced method).

    1. Quackeen*

      I wish I could upvote or ‘like’ your post! Of course, it’s possible that some won’t because, well, just because it worked out this time…

    2. Facepalm*

      It doesn’t matter that she wasn’t trying to groom/abuse him; it’s still a tactic used by abusers, and normalizing that kind of interaction in a safe office setting with a sweet, grandmotherly lady could desensitized a child so they would be more susceptible if the tactic were used in the future. While some in the comment section of the original post might have gone wild with speculation, it was still valid and important to point out.

      1. Anna*

        It does matter because we tend to get so caught up in what isn’t important, we ignore the big important warning signs. Grooming is more often a lot more subtle than this, but we’re so busy looking for the stranger with candy, we ignore the far more dangerous signs.

      2. Liet-Kinda*

        It was valid to point out, once, framed with appropriate caution and caveats as a very small but nonzero possibility. But there were a number of commenters who rolled in heavy and then doubled and tripled down, and the speculation was as wild and untamed as a magnificent eagle, soaring high over the Conjecture Mountains.

        ….that analogy got away from me.

        Like I said, this is a thing that predators, and awkward old ladies who have no idea how to interact with children, do. Raising the grooming angle largely makes sense as an illustration that this is not a thing an adult should do when dealing with children not their own.

        1. JSPA*


          And frankly, kids have considerable ability to understand that some people act friendly because they’re friendly, some people act friendly because they have bad intentions.

          And that they should 100% ignore someone’s past friendliness, if that person skeeves them out in any way, or touches / stares at their swimsuit area, or encourages them to undress, or offers to teach them about their body.

          Instead of penalizing people for vague acts of niceness, focus on seeing and drawing the line on skeevyness. After all, a grope can come (and often does come) from someone who has power over the kid, or someone who promises an intangible (like a spot on the starting lineup) or gives “gifts” of praise–not candy or $20.

      3. Clisby Williams*

        I’m really surprised at those who seem to think it was traditionally OK for people to give kids money and say it was a “secret” from their parents.

        I’m 65, and it was certainly not traditional when I was growing up. I doubt that the idea of “grooming” was on anybody’s radar when I was 9 years old, but no way would my parents have allowed me to accept a gift of $20 (or even $5) from someone other than an uncle/aunt/grandparent/godparent. Someone giving me money *without my parents’ knowledge*? No.

        Even now, I’m looking back and thinking how weird it would be for an adult to do that.

          1. Clisby Williams*

            One more reason not to chalk this up to “Oh, she’s old.” Just based on responses here, it sounds like this would have been more accepted among younger people.

            1. JSPA*

              Oh, it’s in plenty of cheesy kids movies from the 40’s and 50’s. “don’t tell your mom” or “don’t tell your parents who gave this to you” (while giving a gift) is an ancient trope. Heck, I think I’ve even seen it in silent films.

      4. Lissa*

        How does it NOT matter that she wasn’t trying to abuse him? I think that’s pretty dang important….

      1. Indigo a la mode*

        To be fair, neither were the dozens of people assuming that a kindly, if misguided, older lady was a dangerous predator. Maybe each person didn’t feel like their particular comments were that bad, but as a whole it was pretty overwhelming and condemning.

        1. anon for right now*

          Yes. This is why we’ve seen people saying they’re wary of sending in letters, because comments get very extreme. I know I’ve definitely held off for that reason.

      2. Liet-Kinda*

        Alison posted right here in this very thread. If she felt that it was necessary to address my tone, I believe she would have; she has done so with me in the past, deservedly, and unless she has changed her mind in the last few days, she has not appointed any moderators.

        And as noted by Indigo above, the comments in the original thread basically leapt straight to assuming this woman was a friggin [i]pedophile[/i], speaking of neither helpful nor kind. It was as unhinged a dogpile as I’ve ever seen on the internet, and yeah, this is as kind as I’m gonna be about that.

    3. Former Retail Manager*

      I too shared your shocked face upon reading that. But I come from a time/place where this was very common. All sorts of older relatives, mostly male but a few female, gave me money and told me to keep it a secret when I was a kid. In fact, it was never a secret. My parents knew all along and let me believe that I was getting one over on them, despite my stash of candy from the corner store that materialized in a matter of minutes. It never entered my mind that this could be predatory/grooming behavior.

  9. Delta Delta*

    This is a good update. Every piece of this worked the way normal, functioning adults do things. There was a genuine misunderstanding, it got cleared up, things got fixed, a child’s internal compass was affirmed a little bit, and then there was ice cream.

  10. kelly white*

    My 80 yo childless aunt really crosses the lines sometimes with my/my siblings kids. Stuff like giving them bags of candy without asking us, telling them they can have ice cream for dinner, then when we say no, throwing us under the bus, that sort of thing.

    She just hasn’t been around a lot of kids (mostly just us growing up), and she wants to be “friends” but doesn’t always understand that what she is doing is undermining the parent.

    Sounds like this lady was receptive to your feedback, and didn’t mean any harm, just didn’t realize the implications of her actions.

    1. Plain Jane*

      Eh, I know plenty of grandparents (including my own parents) who do stuff like that (giving grandkids food and presents they know their kids don’t want their kids to have) and they had their own kids.

        1. Chocoholic*

          My father-in-law gave my daughter cake for the first time, one week before her first birthday and then used the Christmas letter to “not tell mom and dad.” My and my husbands heads exploded. FIL thought he was hilarious.

      1. Mommy MD*

        Right. It’s almost a right of passage that I can’t wait for lol. Almost every grandparent does it and somehow everyone survived.

    2. Mommy MD*

      My childless aunt spoiled me rotten. I loved her so much. Parents back then didn’t stress over some once in a while candy or ice cream. I don’t remember anyone being obese growing up. Today’s sit on your butt playing video games all day or having your face in your phone are much worse.

      1. anon4now*

        It was the introduction of and then popularity of fast food that led to the obesity epidemic in america (late 70s/early 80s?). Until “healthy” food can be cheaply produced (or maybe just sold cheaply), it won’t go away either.
        People before this sat around reading, knitting or playing cards, etc. They are plenty of healthy activities that require sitting down for hours at a time, let’s please not demonize video games.

        1. Ellen N.*

          Fast food predated the obesity epidemic. It started in the 1800s in England with fish and chips. McDonald’s opened in the U.S. in the fifties. Also, until recently meals in the U.S. consisted mainly of meat and starch, the same as fast food. In much of the U.S. this is still true.

          There’s the chicken/egg conundrum. Have fast food portions increased to satisfy our growing appetites or visa versa? Also, how do you explain the many people who eat fast food and are not overweight and the many people who don’t eat fast food and are overweight?

          The obesity epidemic is complex Scientists are struggling to understand why it’s happening and what to do about it. There are many factors, most importantly genetics.

          1. JSPA*

            Genetics is the one thing that does not shift dramatically in a few generations. So while it plays a role from one individual to another, it’s dead useless to explain an broad shift in population means.

            People eating fish and chips in the 1800’s didn’t have cars, didn’t have bikes, many didn’t have horses or the money for streetcars, and houses were only intermittently heated. Walk 5 miles each way to work (and work a 12 hour day using only hand tools, with lunch limited to what’s in the lunchpail you carry) and sleep in a room with frost on the blankets on winter mornings, and you can have a country breakfast, and stay lean.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Actually there are relatively new studies showing that our microbiome does change drastically within a person’s lifetime. I’m awake with insomnia so I’m not at my best explainingthis I’m sure.
              Google ‘weight fecal matter transplant’ but maybe not over breakfast. Gut flora has changed weight gain & loss in both directions. Our gut flora are hugely affected by our medications and diet…and until now our gut flora pretty much came from Mom and from what we’ve eaten.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I’m not super positive that kids sat around knitting or playing cards all day every day back in the past. (Okay, reading, maybe some of us.) I was considered a very physically inactive kid who loved reading more than playing outside. And even I spent most of my free time as a kid playing outside with friends, walking around town, walking to school and back, walking from one after-school activity to another and so on. In the US where I live now, that was borderline illegal even when my children were growing up in the early 00s. They could play outside unsupervised (which they and their friends who lived close by started doing anyway when they were 9 or 10. We’d just all cross our fingers and hope that none of the neighbors would call CPS). They had to be driven from one playdate to another or from one activity to another. I hear it got a lot worse since then. I do not have the statistics, but I suspect this has a lot to do with the obesity epidemic, and is something the children or their parents have no control over.

    3. Grapey*

      Sounds like typical grandparent behavior. They have the fun after doing the hard work the first time around. (So I hear.) I like thinking of the times when my dad said no taking meatballs off the stove, but nonna always put an extra one in for me every Sunday.

  11. Shay*

    It sounds like you handled it well with her; crossing fingers and hoping it doesn’t happen again is very unlikely.

  12. LeeNYC*

    Yikes! “legit old?”
    The frequency of ageist remarks really is disturbing. All of us “legit old” people are not the same, in the same way as “Millenials” are not.

    BTW, I did not get this when I was a young parent, but the best part of being a grandparent is not having to enforce the rules! Obviously not going to ply grandchild with loads of candy and $20 bills, but flexibility is fun.

    1. LemonLyman*

      I thought the OP was being very respectful of the woman in the update. I am missing where OP uses the phrase “legit old”… can you point me there? Or maybe you’re referencing something else?

      1. pony tailed wonder*

        It was in ThankyouRoman’s comment at 2:17 pm. I think the comment was meant to be in a nest rather than a stand alone comment.

  13. TootsNYC*

    I also have a trustworthy son. When he was young, and he acted in trustworthy ways, I was sure to tell him that.

    And I also had times that I gave him privileges or perks that I felt were warranted BECAUSE he was trustworthy, and I told him that when I did it.

    I tried to point out trustworthiness, its importance, and its rewards.

    Ditto for honorable.

    And one time, third grade, I think, he was being verbally jumped on by his teachers because he was having trouble in school, and they as a group gathered us together to criticize him in front of us. I was livid, but mostly worried about him. At bedtime that night we talked about the gathering, and how did he feel.

    And then I said to him, “I want to tell you some things about you that I notice. You are an honorable boy. When you get a bad grade on a test, you don’t hide it; you bring it to me and we talk about it. You do not lie, you always do the things you say you are going to do. When I told you that you weren’t allowed to watch game walk-throughs on YouTube, you didn’t watch them, even though I wasn’t home to enforce it. You waited until the month was up before you watched them again. That’s honorable. And it’s very impressive.”

    I looked over at him, and he was rapt! It had such a huge impact on him, to have this big, grown-up, powerful adjective applied to him. Along with concrete examples of what he’d done to earn it.

    So, praise that kid!

  14. jcarnall*

    Your kid is awesome, you’re great, and your co-worker’s behaviour sounds like pretty much what I expected – she meant it jokingly and didn’t think about the implications. Excellent update.

  15. Urdnot Bakara*

    I see a couple of comments here from people who are concerned LW is getting the coworkers who sit next to her to help watch her son, and I didn’t get that vibe at all? Sounds more like she’s now just having the son sit quietly next to her where she can keep an eye on him, and she’s not concerned about the coworkers sitting next to her trying to ply him with money.

    Also, when I worked retail, I literally had someone leave their (sleeping) baby with me while they shopped, and I was too shocked to say no, so that’s my point of reference when I think of someone asking me to watch their child at work.

    1. GhostWriter*

      That was my interpretation as well. The original post said her son was “in the back” (which I imagine as somewhere a bit isolated, where she couldn’t see him and where something inappropriate could possibly occur). Now he’s near three “awesome ladies” (“awesome” implying the OP trusts them and they don’t mind the son hanging around?) within the OP’s line of vision.

  16. Zagg23*

    While I agree, she made a rather clueless mistake telling her son to keep a secret. It sounds like it was coming from a good place and she just wanted to give the boy a gift. I think she should have let her son keep the $20 as a reward for telling his mommy “the secret.” I feel bad for the woman who had her gift returned, sort of like no good deed goes unpunished.

    1. Anoncorporate*

      Disagree- it’s good not to normalize accepting money from strangers. Giving the boy $20 was inappropriate even if well intentioned

    2. TootsNYC*

      when a gift is in appropriate, it’s important that it be returned. It doesn’t have to be with malice. But it shouldn’t be indulged.

      I think that’s very important, actually. That’s ethical behavior.

      And she took her son out for ice cream as a sort of compensation, so that’s good. And in the future, there may be other perks he gets because he’s an ethical person.

    3. LemonLyman*

      I completely agree with 95% of what you said. I just don’t think they should have kept the money (which they didn’t). I’m surprised that most of the people in this forum have jumped to conclude that this woman meant malintent.

    4. JS*

      I think in this case they did the right thing. Approaching the lady about not giving her son $20 doesn’t work if she doesn’t give the money back. While a good “reward” could have been the mom giving the son $20 of her own money, I think the point here was to reinforce the “dont take things from strangers” so he gets positive reinforcement that doesn’t involve the money. This is important because, hypothetically speaking, what if it were $100, or a big extravagant gift the mom couldn’t afford? You don’t want to set precedent of “well I cant keep it but mom/dad will get it for me if I give it back” because if the kid knows his parents cant get it for them they more likely to keep the gift, even if they know its wrong, because they want the gift. Not to say that couldn’t happen regardless but much more likely if he were to get rewarded the same thing.

  17. Susana*

    Oh, what a nice update! As a childless unmarried person myself, I bristle a bit at the suggestion that we just have no idea how to deal with kids (and I’ve seen a lot of actual parents who don’t know how to care for kids). Being married or not has zero to do with it, of course. But the update anyway indicates this boss was not grooming or dangerous in any way – just awkwardly trying to give a treat of sorts to the kid. Kind of like a grandparent saying, here’s a piece of chocolate – it’s between you and me, don’t tell your mom! Which yeah, might not go over too well with the parents. But the motivation of the tier is not harmful.

    1. LemonLyman*

      Great point and something I try to mention below. People here keep talking about “grooming” but my thought is that this woman is just awkwardly trying to be auntie or grandma-like.

      I’m childless as well but I’m around a lot of kids since my family and friends have children (and I used to teach k-12). My guess is that this lady hasn’t been around kids of this generation. Kids and parents have to be much more on guard than they did in the past.

    2. SarahTheEntwife*

      I’m not sure why it’s offensive to say that if you haven’t done something very much, you might not be familiar with it. I don’t have kids or much younger siblings or other kids in my life, so yeah, I’m kind of awkward around them. Usually this manifests in keeping my distance because I don’t want to do anything wrong, but if I were more extroverted I can absolutely see me making the kind of mistake that’s in this letter.

  18. Ellen N.*

    Based on your coworker’s response to you confronting her, I believe that you should stop giving her the benefit of the doubt. It sounds disingenuous when she said that she didn’t mean it literally when she told your son to keep the $20.00 a secret. People who harm children often hide behind an act of being befuddled. If I were you I would keep my child far away from this person.

    1. Elspeth*

      Wow. That’s not what the LW said at all. Coworker was deeply apologetic and now LW’s son sits within her eye-view at a desk with three other coworkers.

      1. Ellen N.*

        Considering that the letter writer said that the woman was no longer her boss due to boundary issues and that the woman asked the letter writer’s son to keep a secret from the letter writer; I don’t believe she was innocent. Her “apology” in which she professed to not have understood that the son would assume the literal interpretation of the word secret simply bolsters my view.

        Predators often use threats when bribes don’t work. Children are often fearful of telling their parents if they’ve been threatened with consequences if they do so.

        If the woman had been a man I bet more people would share my perspective.

        1. dumblewald*

          The OP may not share this view, but she still believes that her former boss has boundary issues and is keeping her son away from her. Also, if I remember correctly, in the original letter, Alison advised that the OP should take the gentle approach the first time around, but a firmer approach if it happened again.

        2. Lissa*

          Ok, I think she probably wasn’t innocent – of boundary issues. But that is a huuuuge leap to “child predator”. We have zero evidence here that she ever threatened anyone, let alone OP’s son. It seems to me like you decided she’s guilty and that’s just how it is – the fact that children are afraid of telling their parents about threats doesn’t mean that every child who doesn’t tell their parents they’ve been threatened is hiding the truth. In this case OP’s son doesn’t sound like he’d have any reason to fear this woman anyway, and seems like he has a pretty good relationship with his mom.

          If the woman had been a man I’d still think there was a really good chance he could be innocent, but the reality also is that most child predators ARE men, so statistically it seems far more likely a 70 year old woman is not in fact, a child predator.

          1. JS*

            Exactly! Boundary issues could been “brown-nosing busy body” not “child or other sexual predator”. Its insane to jump to that conclusion from this interaction. Take it at face value and if something happens like this again with her then you can escalate.

  19. Flash Bristow*

    Can I just say what an awesome mother you must be, to have that level of trust and confidence between you and your son…

    Wish I’d had you as a mother, but that’s another issue! Just wanted to chime in on how good a job you must be doing in parenting, for your son to be comfortable coming to you. Nice job!

  20. LemonLyman*

    It sounds like this lady didn’t mean anything by this. Let’s not vilify her. She went overboard giving a present to a kid. She’s a childless older lady who may or may not have many interactions with young children nowadays. She was probably thinking she was being auntie or grandma-like. She’s probably even seen an older friend or someone on TV use the phrase “it’s our secret” delivered in a friendly, conspiratorial way.

    OP – You did the right thing to educate her on the norms of interacting with kids nowadays. She will think twice the next time she feels she has a connection with a child. But I don’t blame her for not knowing the boundaries. Even my generation (I’m an OG millenial) didn’t have to worry as much about stranger danger.

    Speaking of boundaries…good on your kid for knowing when to come to you!

    1. JS*

      I feel the same. In fact it was the norm even for our grandparents to do this back in the day. My great grandpa would come over from Poland and slip me, a 5 year old, 2 $100 bills and tell me “not to tell my mom”. LMAO what was I going to do with it? Of course I told my mom.

      OP did the right thing and it turns out this was for the best.

  21. I coulda been a lawyer*

    You may not realize it yet OP, but you are well on the way to being the parent whose teen calls for an early ride home from a “small movie-watching party” that turns into a “50 kids with drugs and booze” party – and I say this from experience. Congratulations! It’s a long, but rewarding, journey.

  22. JS*

    I think this is great! Glad you confronted her about it. I did think the people jumping towards predatory and grooming behaviors were going overboard and its clear from your update this wasn’t the case since the coworker was apologetic and not defensive about it.

Comments are closed.