Friday, December 27, 2013

Expensive Sweater Ruined By Toddler - Who Is Responsible?

Dear Tazi:

I have never been fond of children and my cousin and her husband have just given me one more reason to dislike the little creatures. I have just returned from a Christmas dinner at our "Aunt Georgina's" house where my favorite cashmere sweater was ruined by my cousin's two and a half year old son.

Aunt Georgina is elderly, and like a lot of elderly people she keeps the heat on pretty high in her house. I was sweltering in my sweater, so I took it off and placed it over the back of my dinner chair. Aunt Georgina feared it would be ruined when she noticed "Adidas" stroking it repeatedly and sing-songing about how soft it was. She suggested that I put it in the bedroom with the coats, which I did.

After dinner, while sitting around the fire enjoying my family's company, we all noticed a nasty smell emanating from the other room. My brother commented that "it smells like someone needs a diaper change", implying that my cousin or her husband should go find Adidas and change him. My cousin then proclaimed that Adidas no longer wears diapers, that he is potty-training, and that he probably pooped on the floor since there was no potty chair available for his use. (Like our eighty year old aunt would have one?). I can only wish the little monster pooped on the floor!

As soon as my cousin went to investigate, I knew something was wrong. She called Aunt Georgina to the bedroom - where the coats were kept - and I overheard my aunt exclaim a stressed, "Oh dear!". I went into the bedroom and was immediately hit by a wall of the nastiest smell you could imagine! Then, I saw that Adidas had spread my cashmere sweater on the floor and laid a very loose stool out on the center of it! From the look of it, he then used the sleeves to wipe himself. Aunt Georgina saw the look on my face and pulled me into the kitchen where she held me tight while I overcame the urge to throttle the kid.

Tazi, if it was just a sweater it would be one thing, but this sweater was a gift from my late husband who was killed while serving overseas. I would write more, but I think you understand how much that sweater meant to me...and how it is irreplaceable to me. My cousin's husband then added insult to injury by coming into the kitchen and telling me that if I expected him to pay $200 to replace a sweater I was crazy! My cousin overheard him yelling at me and ran in to explain that it wasn't about the money; it's that it's Christmastime and providing for a young child was quite expensive. She then offered to replace my sweater with something of lesser value. Thankfully, Aunt Georgina shooed everyone out of the kitchen at that point just as I burst into tears.

Tazi, no sweater could ever replace the one my husband gave me, and it is not about the replacement value of the sweater. I am upset because my cousin's kid ruined something precious to me and neither parent wants to take responsibility for the "accident". My cousin even went so far to say that I should have put my sweater somewhere safe if I didn't want it ruined and that since Aunt Georgina told me to put it in the bedroom she should be responsible for replacing it! Aunt Georgina graciously offered to do just that, but she is on a limited income and I would not dream of putting such an expense on her.

Has parenting changed so much since I was a child that kids are no longer held responsible for their mistakes? My cousin tells me that if I were a parent I would understand that this was all just a silly accident and I would be more forgiving. While I am angry with Adidas, I am LIVID with his parents! Adidas should know better, but his parents definitely know better! It is for this reason alone that I am demanding that they buy me a replacement sweater. My cousin's husband has told me not to hold my breath waiting and my cousin has suggested - as a compromise - that Aunt Georgina file a claim under her homeowner's insurance, which has a very small deductible that they would be willing to cover. I just don't know what to think!

In A Stinky Situation

Dear In A Stinky Situation:

I can see why all your Aunt Georgina could think to say was "oh dear" because I am thinking the same thing myself. Oh, dear. You have my deepest condolences on the loss of your precious present and on the loss of your husband, who was bravely serving his country at the time of his untimely death. It is obvious you are consumed by grief for the loss of what the sweater symbolized, and not the sweater itself. Is your cousin too boneheaded to see this or does she simply not know that the sweater was a gift from your late husband? You might want to make this point clear before trying to clear the air any further.

Your cousin's husband owes you a HUGE apology for the way he responded to the destruction of your property. His response was tacky and self-centered. Both your cousin and her husband need to own up to their responsibility in this mess - one of them should have been keeping an eye on Adidas and made sure that his potty needs were met, even if that simply meant lifting him up and placing him upon the full sized toilet and then holding him steady while he did his thing. That his parents have not taught him that the floor is not the proper place to go potty can be overlooked in an tightly-timed situation (such as when a child has diarrhea); that Adidas' parents are not instructing him as to the error of his actions is inexcusable. Even wild animals have an innate sense of where and where not to defecate. While it is easy for non-parents to offer parenting advice, there are some issues that just beg for correction. This is one of them. When you consider the fact that Adidas had to seek out your cashmere sweater, pull it to the floor, spread it out, center himself above it, and then use the sleeves to wipe his bottom this does not sound like an emergency situation. (For the record, I would like to add that I am impressed that Adidas was able to wipe his own butt! Credit where credit is due).

If your Aunt Georgina does not mind filing a claim against her homeowner's insurance - and the insurance company will pay the claim - than filing a claim, with your cousin covering the deductible, seems like a reasonable course of action. If the insurance company will not cover the claim, then your cousin must be held responsible for the entire cost. It is not like Aunt Georgina's cat barfed on the sweater; she could not have known that her grand-nephew would take a trot all over it of she placed it on the bed with the coats.

I realize a replacement sweater will not be the sweater that your husband gave you, but you need to remember that your husband and your marriage are not represented by a sweater; they are represented by the love you had for the gift he gave you. I also realize you must feel like you are losing your husband all over again, this time one small bit at a time instead of all at once. The grieving process is not something that continuously flows to a smooth end; it has its starts and stops, its lulls and its rapids to navigate. I can see from the tone of your letter that in the time it took to complete it you oscillate between anger and grief. A few appointments with a grief counselor who specializes in working with war widows may be of considerable help to you.


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with Bachelors degrees in Communications and in Gender and Women's Studies. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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