updates: the coworker’s peeing son, the beach weekend, and more

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, when I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. Coworker’s son comes to work and has bad bathroom etiquette (#2 at the link)

A lot has changed since I was being tormented incessantly by the sound of a 12-year-old peeing. Let me elaborate:

1) The mother of the flagrant peer was transferred to another campus at our university.
2) My colleagues and I did some informal investigation and found out that her son was disabled, which explained a lot. With that information in hand, we decided not to do anything because the son simply couldn’t be responsible for it, and the mother was on her way out anyway.
3) I actually quit that job and got a $20k raise at another institution within a few weeks of you publishing my story. Everything’s coming up Milhouse!!

I also want to give my two cents that I actually don’t think it’s a good idea to address children directly. While the boy’s mother was known to be irrational and vindictive (even to the point of declining to renew someone’s contract simply because she didn’t like them) I don’t think it would be out of left field for a parent to be weirded out and even angry that a stranger was talking to their child about his bathroom habits.

In any case I am so glad that you published my request and while the situation no longer affects me I hope that any other folks who have to deal with door-ajar peeing sounds are able to get some peace (PEEce LOL) and quiet.

2. One of our bosses got invited to our rowdy beach weekend

First off, thank you to Alison and to all the commenters who weighed in – as always, you all are amazing. What an incredible community.

After some soul-searching I wound up delivering the message to Gabby myself. Billy is one of my favorite people, but he’s not a diplomat. I found a spare moment to go talk to Gabby, sat down, and basically told her that, as hostess, I wasn’t comfortable having any bosses on the trip, but that we’d love to see her at our next after-work pool hall excursion. She was quite understanding and we quickly changed the topic to talk about her recent overseas vacation. All very well and good.

The weekend trip was amazing and every bit as rowdy as we were expecting. 18 people, lots of craziness, copious drinking and sunburns – basically exactly what we had planned for.

For a while after that, though, things were… a bit odd. No one suffered any outright ill effects – myself included – but it left an odd social residue behind. Gabby jokingly mentioned being excluded from the beach weekend a couple of times (e.g. “well, since I’m not one of the cool kids…” etc.) . I can’t say I blame her – it was pretty awkward. Gruff continued to insist that she wouldn’t have minded having Gabby there, and Goat thanked me profusely for handling the whole thing. That would have been the end of it, except …

PLOT TWIST! A giant organizational reshuffle in Q4 means that no one is reporting to anyone else in this group anymore! They’re in entirely different departments now! Which means I was planning to ask Goat about her comfort level with inviting Gabby to this year’s shindig now that she’s an ex-boss… until COVID-19 came along and complicated/suspended everything fun until the end of time. It could still happen, but a giant rowdy weekend friend trip in August is seeming like a big ol’ question mark at the moment.

3. My boss is mad that I’m quitting

Thank you so much for publishing my letter! Your advice and the support from the comments gave me perspective that I desperately needed at that time. I saw your call for updates and figured I’d let you know how things ended up.

Right before my final week of notice, I came down with a pretty bad upper respiratory infection (I know what everyone is thinking, but this was back in October 2019, so it was probably just a severe cold), which was no doubt brought on by the stress of the situation. The documentation was complete, and I had wrapped-up most of my outstanding tasks, so I decided to end my notice period early to rest and take care of myself. My boss thanked me for my time and wished me well in my new position. His sentiment felt genuine, so I think I left on good terms.

I’ve had some time to reflect on what happened, and I now realize that while my boss was being hard on me, I was being equally hard on myself. I cared about my coworkers, and I felt horrible for leaving them in the lurch after such a short tenure, but I shouldn’t have let myself feel so miserable over it. My current boss is very focused on my career development, even if that means my next step is at another company! I feel much happier working for an employer that encourages a career growth mindset instead of thinking of me as another worker bee who should be loyal to the company. I’ve been learning a lot at my new job, and I’m more productive than ever! Nobody knows what the future holds during these uncertain times, but I feel like I made the right decision by leaving my former job.

4. My coworker wants to keep us all connected in cutesy ways (#2 at the link)

I have an update about my co-worker who wants to keep us connected in cutesy ways.

The issue with said co-worker generally took care of itself. I suspect her boss told her to dial it back a bit but regardless she did. Unfortunately, the grandboss decided to start doing it. I suspect I may be too close to the situation since I deal with grandboss directly more than most of my co-workers, but I find it even worse coming from him. At a time when we are swamped with regular work plus extra work due to COVID-19, it annoys me more that he has time for this. But… I just mostly choose to ignore it and in an office as big as ours no one really notices if I don’t participate.

{ 80 comments… read them below }

  1. Witchqueen*

    > I also want to give my two cents that I actually don’t think it’s a good idea to address children directly. While the boy’s mother was known to be irrational and vindictive (even to the point of declining to renew someone’s contract simply because she didn’t like them) I don’t think it would be out of left field for a parent to be weirded out and even angry that a stranger was talking to their child about his bathroom habits.

    Maybe it’s due to how I was raised, my experience with special needs children or my comfort level with them in general but if he’s peeing with the door open addressing it in a factual, “Can you please shut the door totally when you’re using the restroom,” isn’t something that I feel is like… Odd to address. IMP, personally, allowing the child to behave in such a taboo way without some guidance is more weird, stranger though you are.

    1. Cat*

      Yeah, that doesn’t strike me as particularly sensitive – when I read the update I forgot what the issue was and thought it was something more difficult to address. I think “please shut the door” is normal and straightforward.

    2. Nhea*

      Special needs lie on such a large spectrum that I wouldn’t take that as a given. My daughter is minimally verbal, and I wouldn’t be happy with a coworker addressing her before coming to me. I don’t get upset at strangers doing it because they don’t know better and I have no relationship with them, but I’d want more courtesy from the people I have to see every day (especially with an issue like this). The way she learns is different from other people, I’d know that better, and she’d retreat into her shell with strangers. It’s different for other children though, neurotypical or not. Best to be sure.

      I get that his needs weren’t known before, but I’d argue that’s more reason to speak with the mother, unpalatable as it is.

      1. KWu*

        Sincere question: if you don’t want strangers to correct your daughter directly, do you often have your daughter in situations where you’re not monitoring what she’s doing but there are strangers around instead? Those two things seem to go hand-in-hand to me (independence and interaction with strangers) but I’m interested in your perspective.

        Otherwise if I squint at OP’s situation, I get that someone wants to stay far away from teaching a coworker’s child how to clean a bathroom, or how to aim better, but “please close the door” seems totally fine to request directly. Seems part of learning to live in a society as you grow up.

        1. Nhea*

          Between school and home she’s monitored by either family or trained teams who aren’t strangers to her. Her situation is specific to her, and I only offered it as a lone example where “Could you please be sure to close the door” from a complete stranger wouldn’t work. It’s good advice in many cases, but I wanted to push against it being the One Right and True Way.

          I also think people may be focusing on the fact that the people here were strangers to the boy while disregarding that they aren’t strangers to his mother. In a situation dealing with young children you don’t know, sure, addressing the child works more often than not. In most situations where you don’t know the child but you do know the parent, why not address the parent? (I say “most” because the letter made clear why they wouldn’t.)

          1. KWu*

            Thanks for the response–it’s a fair point that direct verbal engagement between stranger and child wouldn’t always be very effective, but it seems like at least in your daughter’s case, she’s never in environments where it’s only strangers around to step in and enforce a norm like closing the door to the bathroom. So all that a stranger would have left to comment on might be small personal preferences.

            It’s also a fair point that other situations it’s harder to find the parent to address them because you don’t know the parent. However, I still think it’s a better default norm to address the child directly, when there isn’t a complicated discussion that needs to be had. I think it’s more respectful of treating the child as a person in society. To me it’s kind of an extension of adults asking questions about a child to the parent when the child is right there and could be engaged in conversation directly. I think we’d all like more independent adults in the world and this seems to me like part of a gradual process to getting there starting from babies to 18 year olds.

            1. Nhea*

              I don’t disagree with most of what you’ve said. Independence is a good thing. I just want to clarify that when I said “address the parent” I didn’t mean talk about the kid when they’re standing right there, I just meant having a conversation with the parent who a) would probably want to know what’s happening and b) would presumably be in the best position to correct this behavior over time. Reasonable people wouldn’t want coworkers dealing with this.

              There’s a workplace relationship aspect to this that probably shouldn’t be ignored. If you don’t know your coworker’s kids, you very likely don’t know their family’s philosophy/culture/situation. Talking to your coworker in private puts the responsibility on them (where it should be).

              1. JessaB*

                I think in this case both. It’s not odd to say “could you please close the door,” but I would also go find the parent and say “I had to ask child to close the door when using the loo…just wanted you to know this. If you’d been here I’d have told you first, but it’s a privacy issue for your kid, so I didn’t want to just leave them with the door open.”

            2. Junior Assistant Peon*

              I agree. There used to be a gradual process of taking off the training wheels, but kids today are bubble-wrapped until they leave for college. What, now you’re not supposed to talk to anyone under 18?

      2. Jennifer Thneed*

        But would your daughter be in a position to interact with adults without you around? I’m guessing that you would probably keep her closer by you that the OP’s boss kept her son?

    3. AntOnMyTable*

      I agree. If I was a parent I would appreciate someone telling my kid to shut the door so they have privacy. It isn’t really a bathroom habit.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        And what about the pee all over the place? I mean that’s just disgusting. The mother should have let her employees know, and if the kid is not up to cleaning up after himself, she should be keeping an eye out for when he’s finished so that she can clean up rather than letting her employees see that disgusting sight.

        1. uniop*

          hey, i’m OP from the bathroom post! the mother also was known to pee on the floor! what a great workplace.

    4. Terrysg*

      If the mother had explained the situation and was reasonable then you could talk to her. Given the situation it would have been completely reasonable to talk to the child directly.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        and clean up after him! I mean, she must know he leaves the loo in a disgusting state?

    5. epi*

      I agree. Not everyone is kind to children and adults who seem different– whether they are perceived as having a disability or not. Children with developmental delays need to learn about proper behavior, especially around bodies and privacy, for their own safety, to minimize stigma, and to prevent them from inadvertently transgressing against others who are also entitled to their own boundaries. Just like neurotypical kids.

      If I learned that my developmentally delayed family member was behaving in a way that could result in exposing themself to an adult, and an adult who knew about that never told me or corrected them, I would think that displayed very poor judgment. I get that it’s uncomfortable to correct other people’s children, but this is a safety issue. If I were the unrelated adult in this situation, I would not want people to learn that I let a disabled child pull his pants down around me, repeatedly, and never told him to stop and never told his parents.

      1. JessaB*

        This, precisely. Which is why I’d do both, ask the kid to close the door AND go tell the parent I had to do that. In the case of an open door and potentially exposing a child to the gaze of non caretaker adults, it needs to, for the safety of the child be addressed in the moment. But you also need to follow that up with telling the parent.

    6. Kate*

      I agree – you shouldn’t maybe put the nose of a disabled child into his pee if it is on floor, but asking to close a door is really really elementary. And if the child is not able to understand and comply, he absolutely shouldn’t be attending bathroom on his own. Really, that he is disabled doesn’t change much in the sense that obviously, it’s the business of parent-child team that the bathroom would be clean after his visits – if the child can’t manage it for whatever reasons, then parent should make sure the bathroom is left clean.

      And if the child is actually able to learn, this would be a case for being raised by a village. Maybe mother hasn’t enforced “door shut” rule at home, or maybe she is telling him each time to shut it and kid just dismisses it as mom overreacting. Hearing it from strangers would be giving child the message that her mom is underreacting/in not overreacting.

  2. Minimal Pear*

    I’m really not a fan of the framing that the son “couldn’t be responsible” for his own actions. I’m disabled and I vastly prefer it when people tell me that I haven’t noticed I’m doing something incorrectly/in a way that affects others negatively, so that way I can fix what I’m doing. I feel like it also has an element of “boys will be boys” to it, and I wonder if OP would feel the same if the child was a girl instead. I’m also rather put off by the use of “special needs” which is a term that the disability community is moving away from due to its inherently othering framing of accessibility.

    1. Anon for this*

      May I ask what the preferred term is, rather than special needs? (asking in order to be sensitive in the future, should it come up) Thank you!

      1. Minimal Pear*

        It really depends on the person, the situation, and what exactly you’re talking about! I personally go for “access needs” when I’m talking about, for example, needing extra time on an assignment. When referring to someone, like OP does, I find “special needs” to be SUPER weird and almost… objectifying? You’re referring to them by their needs rather than who they are as a person! The exact appropriate term here depends on the situation, but a lot of the disabled community prefers just… disabled! Nothing fancy, it’s not a bad word. And then you can get more specific if necessary, like “physically disabled” or “developmentally disabled” and so on. There’s no perfect term that’s going to work for every situation, because people are different and prefer different things. While the overall consensus tends to be that “special needs” isn’t a good term to use, I’m sure there are some disabled people out there who like it and use it for themselves. It’s best, at least in my own opinion, to specifically address the relevant information. “Special needs” doesn’t actually explain anything about why he’s having trouble with leaving the bathroom door open. So obviously I don’t know exactly what was going on with the kid in this example, but I might say something like, “We found out that he’s intellectually and/or developmentally disabled, and struggled to remember that he needed to close the door when using a public restroom.”

        Also, upon a re-read to see exactly what phrasing OP used, I’m struck that they said they did some informal investigation with their coworkers? Instead of just addressing the problem? That feels kind of weird and invasive to me. I’m very open about being disabled, but it would still be weird if someone noticed (for example) that I never offered to lift heavy things even when it made me seem rude, so then they asked around and found out that I’ve got joint problems, rather than just saying something to me!

        Anyway, sorry this is a bit scattered, I’m very tired and scatterbrained today. I hope this helps, at least a little!

        1. MayLou*

          I think it sounds less bad/depersonalising if the phrase is “HAS special needs” rather than “IS special needs”. There’s continuous debate in the disability community over disability-first or person-first language and it’s far from universal that person-first is preferred, but apart from anything else, “is special needs” doesn’t make any grammatical sense.

          1. knead me seymour*

            I know some disability activists advocate against “special needs” in general, either because it’s often used in a rather patronizing way or to emphasize that disabled people don’t necessarily have special or unusual needs, but social structures can make it harder for some people to have their needs met than others.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              So is “disabled”.

              For the record, I’m on the autism spectrum. I feel like this is a moving target and no matter what term you use, somebody is going to be offended, because it is by definition differentiating somebody from the neurotypical world. Which is the point. I’ve had people tell me to my face not to call myself “learning disabled” because they object to making someone feel disabled, even though I think I’m plenty bloody old enough to decide for myself how I want do describe myself and, yes, there are days when this feels very much like a disability. There are a few terms that have passed into pretty much universal offensiveness (“retarded”) but there seem to be a lot more where it’s better to find out what someone prefers.

              1. Dust Bunny*

                **How I want to describe myself.

                Washed my hands 40,000 times and now I can’t do a thing with ’em.

              2. Minimal Pear*

                Yeah, my view is that I am disabled. I do, in many circumstances, have fewer abilities than other people. And that’s… fine! I don’t need people to reassure me that I’m still worthwhile because I’m good at some things that other people aren’t. Everyone’s got worth because they’re a person, not because they can run far or create art or have an intellectual conversation. I think a lot of this debate around words like this is because of our societal need to see everyone as productive/contributing to society somehow… Basically I’m saying that capitalism is the problem, here. :P

        2. JSPA*

          It grates becuse, in many situations, it’s a way of saying, “I didn’t care to know more, so I put someone in a box labeled ‘special needs,’ and I will treat them as somehow less-than.”

          But sometimes, “there is an other-than standard situation” really IS all that’s relevant (or all that’s someone’s business).


          1. OP may not know the exact issue. Only that there is one.

          2. OP may not feel right disclosing the issue, insofar as it’s known.

          3. a 12 year old peeing with the door open is in large part anxiety-provoking because it “breaks the social contract,” more than because someone is peeing. Knowing that there’s ANY issue that reframes “requirement to comprehend and adhere to the social contract” changes the implication of the situation. Whether it’s claustrophobia, a panic disorder, global developmental delay, executive function issues, extreme ADD, doesn’t really matter to the story, after all.

          4. kids are not adults, and family members of a coworker are not coworkers. The respect and presumption of mutual professionalism due to a coworker is quite different from that due to someone’s kid.

          What matters is that based on some shared information, OP was able to decide that the kid could very well be doing his best to adhere to social rules (as he understands them) within the bounds of his abilities, and OP was therefore no longer weirded out by what might, in other circumstances, have been a willful transgression or act of rudeness.

          Once OP becomes OK with the situation, it’s no longer a problem. At that exact moment, it stops being something OP needs to deal with.

          Not OP’s job to burden the kid with feedback.

          No requirement that OP deal with the (high-stress) coworker mom, either.

          As for “information”: The “information” could well be that another coworker had heard mom discuss how hard it was to fit in all the developmental therapy. Or a description of a different encounter that another coworker had with the kid (or mom). Or another coworker has a kid in the same support group, and there’s no privacy clause. Or simply that someone said, “she’s done such an excellent job with him; he’s even starting to [describes a skill that is commonly mastered by age 5].”

          1. allathian*

            “Not OP’s job to burden the kid with feedback.
            No requirement that OP deal with the (high-stress) coworker mom, either.”

            OK, so what would you have the OP do? Just accept the situation as-is? No way. I really wouldn’t feel comfortable in that situation. But then, I don’t think children should be at work in any but the most unusual circumstances, such as our annual “bring your child to work day” (we had a liberal WFH policy even before COVID, so if someone really can’t tolerate 20 or so kids at the office on one day, they can WFH). It was really up to the coworker mom to monitor her kid, and to ensure that he shut the door. I get it that parents of disabled kids get used to the situation and if stressed, may not even realize how badly their kids truly break the social contract. But really, the mom should have been standing by the toilet to ensure that nobody else saw anything. Even if that meant going to the men’s room.

          2. Kate*

            “Not OP’s job to burden the kid with feedback. ”

            Kind of is, really. Being raised by village and such.

          3. Minimal Pear*

            I feel like I’m specifically uncomfortable with how OP phrased it as “investigation”. I know that could just be an over-the-top way to describe one of the situations you’ve proposed, but it feels very unnecessarily nosy and prying. More broadly, a lot of people treat disabled people’s medical information like it should be public knowledge–in my own experience, a lot of, “Why are you using a cane?”/”Why do you miss so much class/work?”/”Where were you? At the doctor? What were you at the doctor for? Your chronic health stuff, what chronic health stuff?” and so on. I definitely admit that with OP’s initial phrasing of “special needs”, and their assertion that the kid couldn’t be responsible for his actions, I’m put on edge (perhaps needlessly). But also, in that context, framing their information-gathering as something very intentional and investigatory feels like another red flag to me.

            Also, I’m now a little worried that someone in this whole situation violated HIPAA. (I just had to get re-trained on HIPAA right before my workplace shut down, so it’s on the brain.)

      1. Minimal Pear*

        Rad, thanks for making that change! I feel like in most circumstances I would be annoyed but wouldn’t object as strongly, but OP’s specific phrasing felt really dehumanizing to me.

    2. Kate 2*

      Disagree. The “right” term will *always* depend on the person themselves. Frankly a lot of people have no problem with special needs, because they do have needs that are different a.k.a “special” that other people don’t have. There is no global, or even a really united disabled/special needs/differently abled community in the U.S. By the way, just as an illustration it was metaphorically pounded into me growing up that we don’t say “disabled”, because that implies a person can’t do things, we say “differently abled”, because people can do things just in a different way than others. I guess maybe it’s regional or go abandoned but differently abled was on TV, news, etc as the term we were supposed to use and disabled was old, bigoted, , etc. Another example is the big disagreement in the autism community about person with autism vs autistic person. Families tend to prefer the former, those on the spectrum tend to the latter term. Of course the split isn’t absolute of course. Don’t want to go into the whole thing here, there are great articles on it if you google it. As an autistic person I clearly prefer the latter term.

      1. Minimal Pear*

        Oh believe me, I am… often more plugged into these conversations than I really want to be, haha. (For example, I’m strongly an Identity-First Language person, as you can probably tell from previous comments.) I personally feel like there’s a very patronizing element to the usage of “special”, much in the way I know some Autistic people feel about “special interest”. It’s like… I hear the word “special” in this context and immediately hear it in the treacly tone that a condescending, fake nice teacher would use. “Oh honey, your needs are what make you unique! They’re SPECIAL needs, because you’re so special!” My needs are very boring, actually, they’re just seen as unusual because our society is used to an ableist default. Sure, elevators are an accommodation for people who can’t take the stairs, but stairs are an accommodation for people who can’t jump ten feet straight up between floors, you know? Except one of those is common and doesn’t have stigma attached to it, so it doesn’t even register, and the other is more unusual and often stigmatized so it sticks out more in people’s brains.

        Going by your comment, you’ve probably heard a lot of this before–sounds like you’re also pretty plugged into those discussions–but that’s my $0.02. (Side note–I really wish there was a “cents” symbol on the keyboard.)

  3. Anon for this*

    I once read a bit of advice, when dealing with a problem with a child, it’s best to speak directly to the child rather than going through the parent. The reasoning was that when you speak directly to the child, you’re dealing with a problem, but if you ask the parent to intervene you’re lowkey criticizing their parenting and they can become defensive. I’ve tested this technique (mostly on airplanes, when a kid is kicking my seat) and found it to be super effective. There’s something about OMG A GROWNUP’S SPEAKING TO ME WHO’S NOT MY MOMMY that shuts down the bad behavior with a lot of kids!

    1. Kiki*

      I definitely agree when an adult has just encountered a kid who is violating a well-established social norm that directly affects you (like the kid is kicking your seat on a plane or you’ve just walked past him going to the bathroom with the door open). I think when the issue is more subjective, doesn’t directly affect you or someone around you, or if it’s something that would require more than two sentences to explain, it’s better to go to through the parent, though.

      1. Chance of thunderstorm*

        I totally agree. It has to be a well established norm or a safety issue. For example the kid I saw wandering out of the bathroom while the mother was in the stall after telling her kid to stay put (kid was old enough to understand and follow these instructions). I told kid to get back inside as I was clearly backing up the parental direction. And also, kids need things to be repeated a thousand times so if I can be another voice saying the thing the parent is no doubt sick of explaining then I will gladly be part of the village.

    2. JeanB in NC*

      I have not found this to be true. I’ve had parents lose their shit completely because I’ve asked the kids directly to turn their music down or stop kicking or something. And I’m asking in a very nice tone of voice, and saying please and thank you.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        Those parents are crappy parents. Keep doing what you’re doing (when you’re comfortable with it). Kids have to learn that they live in a world where their actions affect other people! I personally love when a stranger says something like that to my kid because it startles them so much to hear it from someone other than me that it carries way more weight than when I say it (for the eighteenth time).

      2. KWu*

        Those parents seem in the wrong to me to lose it, and I hope when I’m in that situation some day, I won’t get that defensive. I still think the right thing to do is exactly what you’re doing.

      3. JSPA*

        I’ve had people respond that way because they’re so fixated on “stranger danger” that they think…what, that I’m seducing / grooming their kid, right in front of them? In public? When it’s their kid who’s just crawled under my table and is kicking my leg, or is lying on the bathroom floor, sticking their head under the restroom divider, to look up into my stall?

        I chalk it up to, “there’s no such thing as a parenting license” and “people are allowed to be irrational.”

        Turning music down is a tough one, because there’s a lot of identity caught up in music, and a lot of disapproval that’s funneled through disapproving of “not my music.” So for that, I generally try to praise the song, before pleading a headache.

      4. blackcat*

        Dude, I once had a parent lose their shit at me when I *grabbed their child from the path of a speeding car.* “How dare you touch my child” kinda stuff. I was like “Uh, your kid was about to get run over?!” I got a “That’s none of your business” and I just walked away…

        Some people are just gonna lose their shit. Doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do to teach the kid manners.

        (FWIW, I am a parent)

        1. Zombeyonce*

          I really appreciated the honks from a car on the corner to alert me to the fact that my 4-year old had taken the 8 seconds it took me to unbuckle her baby brother from his car seat to leave her assigned spot on the sidewalk next to the car to run down to the corner alone and wait for me to take her across the street to the park.

          It was upsetting and she hadn’t actually left the sidewalk (her argument after the fact, apparently I need to be more specific in my instructions), but I can’t understand people that get mad at the person helping their children stay safe. Maybe they’re just so freaked out about the situation that they turn their anger outward instead of inward, but that doesn’t make it okay. Thanks for saving that kid.

      5. allathian*

        Yeah. But it’s a risk I’m prepared to take as a parent myself. It’s happened to me once, too, and all I could think was poor kid, what an awful parent. If I hadn’t intervened, the kid could have walked out in traffic and died. The mom blew up because she hadn’t been watching her kid, who was probably four or five so too old to be in a stroller, while she was arguing with someone on the phone. I think she blew up because I touched her kid, but it was the only way to prevent him from walking out in front of a car. I didn’t stay around long enough for her to collect herself or apologize.
        But parents who lose their shit when others correct their kids in public have more serious problems.

      6. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        yes, I got my head bitten off for asking a girl to move when she was sitting on my jacket, with my glasses in a pocket! The girl got up apologetically but her father went mental, saying “but how could she know your glasses were in a pocket?” and accusing me of taking up too much room, when the place had been empty just two minutes beforehand.

    3. Jedi Squirrel*

      Plus, in addition to all the great things you said, kids need to learn that they are part of a society that has certain norms. They don’t get a pass on certain things just because they’re young. That’s how you get absolutely horrible adults.

    4. Jennifer Thneed*

      Thank you! Kids are really used to just ignoring what their parents say (just like parents are really good at no-longer-hearing how loud their kids can be) PLUS so many parents just give direction without explaining why.

      So I’ve been on a plane in front of a small person and heard their parent telling them not to kick the seat. Which gets ignored. But little kids can’t really know that the thing in front of them is actually someone else’s seat back, and so more than once I have stood up and turned around to speak directly to the child. And this is what I say: “When you kick the seat, I feel it in my back. (Repeat once or twice.) Please don’t kick the seat, okay? Because I can feel it in my back. Thank you!” and a smile at the parents. And then I sit down and nobody kicks my seat anymore!

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        I love this approach! It explains to them why they shouldn’t do something.


      2. Kate*

        Yes, this! I really do hope that if my kids do something unacceptable when I’m not there, they WILL be told off by someone!

      3. Atlantian*

        It took me as a child way, way too long to figure this out. I used to put my feet up on the back of the front seats in the car when I was a kid and push to stretch my knees out. Even as a small, theoretically bendy kid, sitting in seats where my feet couldn’t reach the ground was painful after a short time. I would put my feet up and stretch and my parent’s would tell me to “stop kicking the seat”. Well, I wasn’t kicking the seat, so I couldn’t understand what they were on about. It was to 80s and they were ahead of the curve on not letting kids sit in the front until we were bigger, so I was a pre-teen before I sat in front of a kid for the first time and the fact that the seat wasn’t protective enough to stop the pressure from transferring through the seat back blew my mind.

        Just a long way to say, this approach is probably the best. If you don’t normally sit in front of people messing with the back of your airplane, car, bus or other seat you would really have no way to know how annoying it is. Keep doing what you’re doing. As the parent of a kid who needs to attend the school of hard knocks to really internalize anything, having strangers and other adults reinforce the things we say until we are blue in the face is really the only thing that ever gets through to some kids other than catastrophic failure.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Thank you! It probably helps that I genuinely like kids and if the seating allowed, I’d be chatting with them instead of sitting in front of them.

          Once I got on an airplane (in a previous life, before COVID-19) and my crappy seat was alllllll the way at the back, next to a family with a baby who was young enough to still be nursing. So after slogging my way thru the whole plane, I find my row, and I’ll bet the adults were gritting their teeth waiting to see my reaction. Which was, “I get to sit next to a baby! Rocken!” and they visibly relaxed and we all had a nice flight.

    5. Pennalynn Lott*

      When I’ve gone to restaurants where the adults sit at one table and the kids sit another (or the kids are clustered at the end of a long table) near me, I have no problem leaning over and saying, “Shhhhhh!” with raised eyebrows and doing that thing of bringing my forefinger and thumb slowly together to mimic turning the volume down, or saying, “Please don’t bang the silverware on the table.” 99% of the time the parents don’t even notice that I’ve spoken to their kids (or even that there’s been a difference in the noise level).

      If the kid(s) start doing something dangerous (running around the restaurant or — egad! — practicing athletic cheerleading moves at the top of steel-and-concret steps) I get the parents involved. I try to be as nice as possible and keep my emphasis on concern for the child’s safety and the restaurant’s liability (when really I’m internally pissed off that the parents can’t be arsed to keep an eye on their kids).

  4. AppleStan*

    Also, OP#1:

    Congratulations on the new job!

    And waving hi from one Simpsons Fan to another!

    Everything’s coming up Milhouse is one of my favorite sayings!

  5. patricia*

    Once I was in a casual restaurant seated near the restroom. I saw a kid about the same age as mine come out of the toilet and on his way back to his seat proceed to give a huge, disgusting wet sneeze that he caught with his hands. I saw him pull his (incredibly gross) hands away from his face in horror and then look at me. Without even thinking about it, I said, “EW! GO WASH!” in my Mom Voice. Kid immediately complied. I still laugh about how automatically I ordered him around like I do my own kids, and how automatically he did what I said.

    I wouldn’t have an issue if someone corrected my kids, especially on a matter of obvious importance like closing the toilet door when they’re using it. I’m usually grateful when someone has my back. It takes a village, etc., etc.

    1. Chance of thunderstorm*

      Ha! I added a comment above then read yours. I will be part of the village!

    2. Glitsy Gus*

      I agree, but I think you pointed out an important difference. In the moment, directly telling the kid to wash his hands then dropping it is expedient and takes care of the issue. So, in the same situation with the door, “Hey, Sport, that door latch is tricky, you have to make sure it’s really closed.” or something like that, then dropping it is fine. Sitting him down and telling him that it is important to always close doors, etc. etc. is crossing the line.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      We were making gingerbread houses with one of our regular social groups. One of the preteen boys, as he was walking by the supplies table, grabbed a bag of candy and stuffed it in his pocket. I whipped out the voice I used to use to make my dog wait for her food (I don’t have kids) and said, “[Kid], put it back.” Which he did, immediately.

  6. Jedi Squirrel*

    As a former teacher, I’m pretty comfortable telling kids they need to do something for health reasons.

    Funny story: I was walking to the office with my intern when two seventh-grade boys came tearing out of the rest room. I immediately yelled at them to stop, go back to the bathroom, and wash their hands. They stopped, groaned, and went back to the bathroom to wash.

    My intern asked how I knew they hadn’t washed their hands. “They’re seventh grade boys, and they came running out of the restroom.”

    Of course, they didn’t wash their hands. They were in a hurry.

    As we got closer to the bathroom, I stuck my head in the doorway (these restrooms had no doors; most schools around here don’t have doors on their restrooms) and yelled “And use soap!”

    More groans.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      This is me, to my 7th grader, at home, every day. It makes me feel better to know that it’s not just my terrible parenting, HA!

    2. allathian*

      My 4th grader is more diligent about washing his hands for 20 seconds than I am, and I’m pretty diligent about it now. He’s really good about it, too. I just hope his good habits stick in the new normal.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        I was ahead of the curve on handwashing! My wife and I lived with her folks from February-July of last year, and in late Feb I started a job that had me commuting ridiculous distances on 3 forms of public transit (and because of traffic patterns, driving would have not have been faster). And my MIL has fragile health. So every day when I got home, the very first thing I did was wash my hands thoroughly, the way we’re supposed to now, before I even took off my backpack. I kept that up after we moved, and when COVID happened this spring I felt pretty good about having that habit already established.

  7. Observer*

    I’m going to disagree with you a bit. Without knowing what the kids specific issues are, it’s hard to say that he really “couldn’t be responsible” but, I think that I would be very careful to get full information (which is not likely going to happen from some light “informal” investigation) before concluding that the kid really cannot be responsible.

    In any case, and more importantly, it doesn’t really matter to the basic issue. Sure, it means you probably cannot talk to the kid. But then MOM HAS THE RESPONSIBILITY to make sure that hit bathroom behavior is taken care of. If Mom were not already on her way out, it would have been TOTALLY appropriate to talk to her or, since you had reason to fear that it would not go well, HR.

  8. Ash*

    OP2: Do you think that going on rowdy drunken vacations with coworkers is maybe not the best idea in general, boss or no boss? Could you tone down the drunkeness a bit? It just seems like a disaster waiting to happen.

      1. Jojo*

        No one is asking you to do it. Lots of things may not be the best idea but adults get to make those kinds of decisions for themselves.

  9. Virtual puppies*

    Is there an update from the LW a few years ago who’s co-worker kept assigning her work as “no rush” then would be obnoxious if she didn’t have it done in an hour? Just reread that one and would love to hear how that turned out!

  10. Snarkastic*

    I think disabled or not, it’s helpful to say to a child in a matter-of-fact way that they need to keep the bathroom door closed. I don’t like to underestimate people because of physical or mental disabilities. I know a mental disability can make interpersonal communication trickier, but an attempt could have been made and it would have been a no harm, no foul-type situation.

      1. The IT Plebe*

        If telling a kid nicely to shut the door when they use the bathroom would cause harm and/or foul, then that child should not be using the bathroom alone.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Since the kid can’t keep the place clean, I reckon the mother should accompany him anyway, or at least watch out for when he’s finished to clean up. The employees are cool with the kid being there, she shouldn’t push her luck and expect them to put up with his mess.

  11. NoLongerStuckInRetailHell*

    As a former manager, I really, really, really want to take Gabby aside and mentor her. She desperately needs someone to give her some guidance on what is and is not acceptable behavior with your reports (and others who may not report to you but are below you in the company structure. Not only for their benefit, but for her own good. What if someone accused her of harassment during one of these rowdy drunken escapade?

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