Guest columnists and contributors are generously sharing their talents and insights while I’m taking some time to care for my new baby. Today’s letter is answered by prolific DW commenter and social media consultant, Sarah Huffman.
In the past, he’s accused her (to me, not to her face or to the rest of the family) of stealing his hat, his pen, and his sunglasses (all on different occasions). There has never been any evidence of her doing this, and she doesn’t have any history of stealing from anyone else. I don’t know why he thinks of her like this. She is a nice kid — a little rambunctious sometimes, but overall really nice. I feel now like I don’t want my boyfriend around her because I am worried he will accuse her of something else. She lives close by so in the past we have seen her fairly regularly; my boyfriend gets along with her well and with my other nieces and nephews, but I don’t understand why he would be so irrationally paranoid about a kid. It makes me worried about having kids with him in the future.
This seems like a really stupid thing to disrupt a relationship over, but I don’t know what to do. I’ve told him many times that all I want him to say is that he trusts me about my niece, and he basically responds by saying that he trusts me but not really because he thinks I’m blinded about my family’s faults. What should I do? — Niece Vs. Boyfriend
I’m going to try to make this sound as polite as possible. Sometimes, kids are little assholes. They just are. They steal. They lie. Of course, this is not to say that I believe your boyfriend. He could be completely wrong. To be honest, I was absolutely on your side about the whole thing and ready to completely believe your version of the story…right up until I read those four damning little words: “…a little rambunctious sometimes.” “Rambunctious” is parent code for “my walls are covered in blood and crayon.” I have an Aunt who used to say that her son was a little “rambunctious” and he once tried to set a cat’s tail on fire.
When you ask your boyfriend why he accuses his niece of stealing, how does he reacts? Does he just look at you with his eyes popped out repeating “I just know she did it…,” or does he actually present a reason like, “She was the only person in the house besides us, and I distinctly remember the glasses missing right after she left”? Also, what do you mean that there has “never been any evidence of her doing this”? Does that mean that his stuff really isn’t missing? If his stuff is still there then your boyfriend is a nut job. But if your boyfriend has even a slightly presentable argument, then it’s at least worth it to acknowledge that.
You may never be able to resolve this issue between your boyfriend and your niece, but to get past the argument, you are going to have to realize that you could be wrong. That’s all your boyfriend probably wants to hear — that you might believe him. I’d wager he’s probably more upset that you would pick the niece’s side over his than he ever was about his sunglasses or his computer. If it were me I’d say something along the lines of, “Ok, you know what? I could be completely wrong about my niece. She could be stealing from you and she could have been the one to mess up your work. But she’s my niece, and it’s only natural that I won’t want to believe what you think about her unless I see some solid evidence. So convince me reasonably that my niece did do the things you’re accusing her of, and then we can have a conversation about how to talk to her and her mom about the situation. Otherwise, I need you to let it go, because it’s making me uncomfortable.”
If you’re still worried about whether or not your boyfriend likes to harbor grudges against kids, then watch how he acts around them. You shouldn’t be wanting to restrict his time with your niece. In fact, you should be pushing for more time to see how they interact. Does he punish her more than other kids? Does he always look to blame her for things when they are clearly not her fault? Does he get angry whenever your niece is mentioned in conversation? Is he accusing her more after you express your concern and his accusations are becoming more and more unreasonable? If any of these things are true, then you really need to take a good look at the man you want to be your future children’s father. You said they get along well when they’re together, so that’s a good sign, but spend some time really looking at their relationship for yourself.
No matter what, be open with him that it makes you nervous when he makes accusations against a kid without having proof. A decent guy would be chastised if he knows he set off his girlfriend’s creepy meter and will probably wait to tell you about your niece stealing again until he can prove he’s right. If he’s not a decent guy, well, his actions will explain that for him.
* Sarah Huffman is a social media consultant who is freelancing art and photography along the way. She lives in Hollywood with her boyfriend, David, and their two cats, Mia and Daphne. She likes spending her free time spying on the neighbors through her window and ruining her boyfriend’s Netflix recommendations by watching bad reality wedding shows and movies starring Sarah Jessica Parker.
Skyblossom October 19, 2011, 7:33 am
I wonder why you think it’s highly likely you messed up the project? Do you mean that you opened it? If your niece can’t mess it up without opening it neither can you so if you opened it you need to confess that you did so otherwise there is no reason to assume you did it. Could your sister have taken a look at it? A hotel employee?
Also, did his things actually disappear or did you later come across them? If they disappeared was your niece the only one around at the time?
One other thing to keep in mind is whether you have ever had an experience where your boyfriend lied to you or exaggerated. If he is always honest then you need to give him the benefit of the doubt or does he every so often assume other people did things that they didn’t. You should know his personality and character enough to know whether this is based on something real or if he jumps to conclusions based on nothing. I guess you could set up a video camera so that it would cover the area where your boyfriend keeps his things and make sure it’s running every time she’s over and see if she ever looks through his things or helps herself to something that isn’t hers.
Skyblossom October 19, 2011, 7:43 am
One more thing, kids who steal are often trying to steal happiness. So if you and your boyfriend appear to be happy and your neice isn’t then she can easily assume you’re happy because of the things you have and steal them to try to be happy herself. I’ve known two sets of kids that began stealing things from their friends’ homes when their own families were falling apart. In general, when a child steals it means there is trouble in the home.
A third boy that I know who stole things thought they looked very cool and stole things from his kindergarten teacher because he admired her and he wanted to be like her. He especially wanted to run the laser pointer, use a classroom microphone and write grades in a grade book. He had a one week stealing spree and was never caught. He confessed 8 years later when a fit of conscience struck him and he felt terrible about what he had done. We were stunned when his parents told us about it because he was such a good kid it was hard to believe he went on a mini crime spree.
Kerrycontrary October 19, 2011, 8:32 am
Your 1st paragraph about kids stealing when they are unhappy is spot on! When I was 10-11 my friend Meg’s parents began getting a divorce. Not only is that bad enough, but her mother was cheating on her father with a guy she met online. And this was in the early AOL chatroom days. A lot of my stuff disappeared such as a wallet, a tracksuit, etc….I later figured out it was her and now I realize why.
Skyblossom October 19, 2011, 8:46 am
I saw a long explanation about this by a psychologist and suddenly the behavior of my neighbor’s kids made sense. They were literally trying to rip off happiness because they were so miserable. Very sad but something to keep in mind when you see it happening.
Sarah October 19, 2011, 10:20 am
Exactly, plus I definitely think that kids stealing for attention is also a pretty common thing. If things are rough at home, a kid’s not going to know how to say, “Hello adult I trust, please give me some emotional support and reassurance that my world isn’t falling apart,” so they find another way to get noticed.
And with the work thing, I can’t count how many times I would accidentally spill stuff on my dad’s documents or push random sh*t on his computer and then just walk away and be ready to take it to my grave. Plausible deniability is a kid’s second nature. I wasn’t a bad kid, per say, I was just a kid.
Skyblossom October 19, 2011, 10:36 am
You’re right. Some positive attention can do a world of good.
EscapeHatches October 19, 2011, 12:28 pm
The thought process is reasonable about kids seeking attention.
But I would point out that I was a little kleptomaniac as a kid and had a family life that even the Beaver would be jealous of. Sometimes little kids are just jerks and testing boundaries!
amber October 19, 2011, 1:12 pm
I completely agree with the testing boundaries. I would guess that pretty much every child has tested a boundary at some point in their life.
lets_be_honest October 19, 2011, 3:27 pm
Are you the Sarah that wrote the advice? Sorry, I haven’t read any of the other comments yet if its mentioned elsewhere.
Sarah October 19, 2011, 3:47 pm
lets_be_honest October 19, 2011, 5:30 pm
scattol October 19, 2011, 7:34 am
LW you are the adult and therefore the responsible one. Apologize for the mess up on your computer’s boyfriend. Ultimately it doesn’t matter how it happened, it occurred while the machine was under your control and you are the responsible one (between you and the niece).
For future incidents I would bicker hard with the boyfriend about the facts of the accusations. Until he demonstrate something is really missing, what it’s like, where was it the last time and find it, you can’t resolve the mystery and you can’t take sides between him and the niece. Only with a resolved incident you can decide who’s crazy. Could be the BF is forgetful or jealous or could be the niece like to press BF’s buttons. We don’t really know and until that’s solved there is no use in passing judgement.
Addie Pray October 19, 2011, 7:54 am
Sarah – Nice! And I love your little bio. Made me laugh.
Ktfran October 19, 2011, 10:14 am
I agree. Sarah, your bio was awesome!
spark October 19, 2011, 7:56 am
I think he may be weirdly jealous of the niece for some reason…
Betsy October 19, 2011, 10:13 am
Why would a grown man be jealous of a 10 year old girl? I think it’s much more likely that the neice is jealous of him.
bagge72 October 19, 2011, 10:15 am
It’s not the girl, but the attention she is getting.
Ktfran October 19, 2011, 10:21 am
I agree. I was the first grandchild on my dad’s side. His older brother did a lot for me. When he finally started dating someone, I apparently didn’t like this woman and would tell her to go home. I was two or three at the time, but obviously jealous of this woman “taking my uncle away from me”.
I was a flower girl in their wedding. Thank goodness she was smart enough to know that I was a little girl and didn’t know better.
It happens. The stealing could make sense if the 10 year old is jealous. As for messing up his project, I highly doubt it was intentional.
lets_be_honest October 19, 2011, 8:30 am
A grown man is accusing a 10 year old of stealing a pen. Really? This guy sounds nuts.
FireStar October 19, 2011, 9:49 am
Depends on the pen – I have a beautiful pen given as a gift and I’d be all shades of vex if someone stole it.
Addie Pray October 19, 2011, 10:12 am
I have a pen that looks like a cigarette. I’d be sad if someone stole it. But then again, I’m an adult (technically). Maybe I shouldn’t be so attached to what is in essence a pen. Or else keep it somewhere safe when a “little rambunctious sometimes” kid comes over.
lets_be_honest October 19, 2011, 3:32 pm
“I’m an adult (technically).” Oh man, I know how you feel!
Addie Pray October 19, 2011, 10:33 am
Also, I unintentionally steal pens all the time. There’s one in my hair right now; I can’t even remember where I got it or how long it’s been there.
artsygirl October 19, 2011, 12:30 pm
Sounds like the scene from Ferris Bueller with the school administrative assistant.
6napkinburger October 19, 2011, 1:50 pm
Eh, I have to say, I hate that attitude. Oh, he’s just a kid, you can’t be mad he broke your ming vase even though you specifically told him not to go in this room and locked the door. Oh, she’s just a kid, you can’t be upset that she spilled grape juice all over your rug after you only served her water.
I agree that there’s only so mad you can be AT THE KID for doing the thing, but you still have a right to be pissed the thing occurred. If a kid does something that you would be justified being pissed about if an adult did it, you can still be pissed about it, you just can’t not hold the kid to the same level of culpability.
So here, if the niece really is stealing his stuff, you bet he has a right to be pissed that his stuff is stolen. He has to be reasonable in demanding punishment/retribution from the kid, but his anger/pissed-ness is totally justified.
6napkinburger October 19, 2011, 1:51 pm
Its like when a kid kicks you or stomps on your foot. It still f’ing hurts.
lets_be_honest October 19, 2011, 3:35 pm
I totally agree that if its true this kid was stealing/breaking/whatever, she should be punished. Is he going to be annoyed, I guess. Maybe I’m a softy for kids. I can understand being annoyed. Angry? IDK. I’m in the ‘its just a kid’ camp, but like I said, I’m a softy.
lets_be_honest October 19, 2011, 3:24 pm
While I agree that even had the kid actually stolen the pen, he shouldn’t be pissed at the kid really, that wasn’t my point. No where is there proof that the kid stole a pen. If my bf came to me and said he thinks my 10 yo neice stole his pen in a serious tone, well, I would laugh at him and rethink whether he is actually the grown man I thought he was. Run this scenario through your head as though its happening to you. Don’t you think this guy is off his rocker? Like Charlie Sheen off his rocker? That’s what I got from this letter at least.
west October 19, 2011, 5:08 pm
Have you ever met a child? They steal stuff all the time.
lets_be_honest October 19, 2011, 5:33 pm
Um, yes. I have one. You’re missing my point. Why is a grown man seriously angry and confronting his gf about a child stealing a pen?
Caris November 6, 2011, 2:22 pm
My mom teaches at school. Shes a 5th grade teacher, her students are between 10 and 11 yrs old. The other day they thought it would be funny to hide her pencil-box. When she arrived home and realized her pencil box was missing she went pretty crazy. Why? Because inside the pencil box she had a pen that was given to her as a gift, the pen also happens to be quite expensive. She also had a pencil she loves inside that pencil-box. (The brand of the pen is Cross, which apparently is quite an expensive brand, at least in Argentina. And the pencil is Pilot the shaker mech pencil that she absolutely loves)
Kerrycontrary October 19, 2011, 8:38 am
I agree with Sarah’s advice that you should ask your boyfriend WHY he thinks your niece stole all of these other things. I mean if I was him I would be mad that you wouldnt even slightly consider that maybe your niece did this stuff. BUT I think that this is a slightly odd situation that needs to be monitored. Is your boyfriend like this with all kids or just your niece? He could be singling her out, which is reminiscent of an abusive parent that singles out a particular child for no reason. Your boyfriend also could be jealous of the attention you spend with your niece or annoyed that you visit quite often, but that is really petty behavior that I wouldnt put up with either.
MiMi October 19, 2011, 8:45 am
First of all, boyfriend needs his own computer to do his projects on. Second, if he feels his possessions are in danger of being snaffled, let the house be tidied up and personal items put in the bedroom with the door closed before your niece or any of the kids come over. That way any possibility of an impulsive snatch is obviated and if things go missing from the bedroom, then you’ll know for sure that there is a problem. Third, 10 years old is not too young to have a crush on someone, which might possibly explain items gone missing and a subconscious and uncomfortable awareness on the part of your boyfriend. Fourth, maybe your boyfriend has just taken an irrational objection to your niece. In any of these cases, it behooves you to step back and objectively observe the ongoing behavior and dynamic of both these parties.
If your niece is indeed struggling in some way, she’ll need your compassionate help (along with her mother’s) to find a better way to handle her emotions and actions. If your boyfriend is just being weird and has no basis for his accusations, then this is a good thing for you to know before you marry him…
bethany October 19, 2011, 9:18 am
Good call on this: “Third, 10 years old is not too young to have a crush on someone, which might possibly explain items gone missing and a subconscious and uncomfortable awareness on the part of your boyfriend.”
You never know she might have a shoe box under her bed with all the stuff in it and hearts drawn all over it!!
Fabelle October 19, 2011, 9:43 am
Yeahh, that’s what I was thinking too. If it’s true & her crush comes across perceptively in other ways, I would just tell the boyfriend to chill out. It’s annoying to have stuff go missing, and some people place an inordinately high value on their possessions, but if it’s just little things why is he even bugging out?
lets_be_honest October 19, 2011, 3:38 pm
AWWWW I’m totally pictuing this. I bet if gf said that to bf he’d feel better about it.
Budj October 19, 2011, 8:48 am
Really good advice and exactly what I was thinking.
Kids aren’t always cute little angels…if your boy friend is fine with the other children and never takes his suspicions out on your neice when interacting then I think you really need to take a good look at your bias in this situation. You are more ready to excuse it by blaming yourself (something which is fairly impossible if you never opened the file…) instead of realistically saying…wow…she WAS the only one in the house when his sun glasses disappeared / I WASN’T supervising her the whole time on the computer.
And a man jealous of a 10-year old? Seriously people? I mean I know it COULD happen, but…. I think it’s more likely the 10-year old is pissed this dude is hanging out with her Mom and Aunt all the time….or maybe she has a crush on him and is hiding his shit in a box in her room.
Budj October 19, 2011, 8:49 am
Or she is stealing for the aforementioned reasons above.
Renee October 19, 2011, 8:54 am
Same problem but a neighbor’s child, my kids play with. Kids can do wrong, even mine. We talked to the neighbor and they aren’t in denial. There are concerns we’re both working on, and she can only play with my direct supervision which for an older child I normally wouldn’t. It’s ok to say he might be right, because one day it may be your own child that steals. Children do thoughtless things, can’t teach them right from wrong with your head in the sand.
MissDre October 19, 2011, 9:01 am
All I could think when I read this is that I lose pens and my glasses all the time. One minute I have a pen… the next minute I have no idea where the hell I put it.
Budj October 19, 2011, 9:05 am
I did too…until I bought an expensive pair of sun glasses…I ALWAYS know where those are.
caitie_didn't October 19, 2011, 9:10 am
I’m thinking about grafting my Oakleys to my head so I stop misplacing them.
Elizabeth October 19, 2011, 9:38 am
I picked up some coach sunglasses from the outlet and I’ve misplaced them.. but i’ve been avoiding looking for them because I don’t want to confirm they’re lost! it makes no sense…
cporoski October 19, 2011, 9:02 am
His accusations are so wierd, that I think they are true. If this guy is a normally rational, then I blame the girl. I bet this girl does things when everyone turns there back. But think about why he would lie? In this story there is something missing. it is either that he is crazy or she is a brat.
amber October 19, 2011, 9:19 am
i agree. why would someone lie about missing pens? although i did have experience with a kid i baby-sat when i was little who stole quite a few things from me over the years and not in a mean way. her mom always told me she really liked me and just wanted to be like me, which is why she borrowed my lip gloss, hair ties, etc from my purse (the kinds of things you lose and you think you’re just crazy because you know you had it in your purse but now it’s gone). the worst was when she took a ‘picture’ of me, turns out it was my license and i drove around for almost a week without it! my point isthe guy doesn’t have to be crazy and the girl doesn’t have to be a brat. she could think this guy is cool and really wants to be like him so she’s ‘borrowing’ his things. if that truly is the case someone still needs to sit her down and let her know it’s not right. i think like sarah said the lw needs to at least think about what her bf is saying and re-evaluate whether or not the niece could have done it. at least talk to him about it rather than immediately dismissing him.
Shadowflash1522 October 19, 2011, 9:34 am
I wouldn’t say he’s lying about it, but for frick’s sake, it’s a pen! Am I the only person who loses pens left and right on a regular basis? If I’m in the middle of writing a note or filling out a form at the office and I get interrupted I usually just stick it in my hair or behind my ear and I don’t find it until I get home. Unless it’s a very expensive pen or has a lot of sentimental value (in which case it shouldn’t be left lying around), I don’t see why he’s complaining about it.
DDL October 19, 2011, 9:36 am
I don’t think it’s the stuff that matters, but the reasons and implications behind the stealing.
Shadowflash1522 October 19, 2011, 9:43 am
I agree, my point is that he doesn’t even have good reason to believe she “stole” it in the conventional sense (as in purposefully took, with or without malicious intent). She may have accidentally taken it, sure–are we really going to come down hard on a 10-year-old for that?
DDL October 20, 2011, 11:13 am
The thing is, if she’s actually stealing them in the conventional sense, she should still know better – she’s 10. But if she accidently took those things, wouldn’t she have realized it and returned it? Or, wouldn’t have someone else had noticed and asked her about it? It sounds like these things have gone missing and no one has seen them since.
Even if they are just pens and sunglasses, that’s how people start getting comfortable with stealing – small, unnoticeable things first. I’m not trying to implicate her, I’m just pointing this out – I want to make that clear.
But we don’t know if the boyfriend has evidence or not; maybe he just doesn’t want to share it with the LW because the LW doesn’t believe him anyways.
amber October 19, 2011, 9:38 am
i guess the thing is it’s not just pens, it’s a hat and sunglasses, etc. i mean i get that it’s not that big of a deal. but in the instance above where the girl i was baby-sitting was borrowing my lip gloss, hair ties, whatever other little things i had in my purse, we still sat down with her. because, it’s not ok to take things from other people ever if they are pens. and if it’s in his house on his desk when she takes it, is that laying around? i guess my point is, from the letter we don’t know whether or not she is taking things. it’s at least worth talking to the bf about and if she is taking things, someone needs to talk to her.
Renee October 19, 2011, 9:58 am
Agree, Pens are replaceable, but it is about respect for other people’s property. At ten, then should know and understand that concept clearly. I had a former friend whole stole/borrowed things without my permission. It starts off with pens and the like. If your niece steals minor things without being addressed, it can become worst as a teen.
Budjer October 19, 2011, 9:37 am
Pens may be brought in because he REALLY like the sun glasses….and if it is one of those pens that you can write on in outer space I would be pissed too.
Shadowflash1522 October 19, 2011, 10:14 am
I have one of those! Incidentally, I have no idea where it is…:(
Budjer October 19, 2011, 10:21 am
I blame your neice….and if you don’t have one yet….I’ll be there to point the finger when she comes out of the birth canal.
TheOtherMe October 19, 2011, 10:26 pm
…”I’ll be there to point the finger when she comes out of the birth canal. “…
Um, I think that would be totally inappropriate, Budjer :O
caitie_didn't October 19, 2011, 9:09 am
I agree with Sarah- kids can be brats sometimes and the people closest to them often have the biggest blinders on when it comes to their inappropriate behaviour. So it would have been nice to know the past situations in which the BF has accused the niece of taking his things, and to know a little bit more about the little girl herself- what’s going on at home? Is there sibling rivalry? Is she feeling neglected by her parents? Have her teachers mentioned inappropriate behaviour in class?
On the other hand,sorry I’m not sorry, but REPEATEDLY accusing the same kid of “stealing” or “messing with” your things on separate occasions sounds totally bonkers, especially when there’s been no evidence that she did it on the first and second occasion. I personally would view this as a yellow flag- someone who could develop such an irrational dislike for a young child (if the kid was taunting and making fun of him, or dropping his cell phone in the toilet- okay) has some issues. Particularly if he’s focused solely on the niece and doesn’t accuse any other kids in the LW’s life of this behaviour. That means he’s developed a vendetta against this kid and what kind of grown-up does that? Answer: one who probably has some emotional/maturity issues himself (maybe the boyfriend is jealous of all the attention the niece got?).
bethany October 19, 2011, 9:12 am
I totally agree with Sarah, in the fact that good kids steal sometimes. My coworker has amazing kids- they’re well behaved, get good grades and are really responsible. One day a few years ago she brought them into the office on a Saturday. On Monday all the highlighters and colored pens in the office were missing. Apparently they went around and collected them all and brought them home, and didn’t think anything of it. Of course their mom made them bring them back and it was fine, but in their minds, they were just collecting stuff- Not stealing. Her kids were around 7 and 10 at the time.
LW, you have to understand that there IS a chance that your neice is doing this stuff. If she has taken these things, she probably isn’t stealing to be mean or malicious, but just might not even realize that “Borrowing” things and not giving them back isn’t right. You need to respect your bf and his feelings and be open to the fact that she could be taking his stuff. Be more observnt when she’s around, and be proactive. When something goes missing, ASK her if she’s seen it. I dont’ see anywhere in your letter if you actually ever asked the neice if she took his things. That might be a good place to start!
Shadowflash1522 October 19, 2011, 9:27 am
Pens, glasses, and hats–things I lose all the time! Especially the pen thing, unless it’s a really, really nice pen or has lots of sentimental value, why the heck is he so upset? Kids try on hats and don’t put them back in the right place; that’s not malicious, that’s normal kid behavior. I also remember being fascinated by glasses as a kid, at least until I got my own. It’s not hard to see her drawing or doodling with the pen, then getting distracted and putting it in her pocket or sticking it in her ponytail and leaving with it. The point is, these things are really trivial so I’m wondering what it is you neglected to tell us.
First of all, did you ever find any of these things? Given that you never said, I can only assume that you haven’t or that they were found in an inconclusive place (such as the driveway, where BF or niece could have accidentally dropped the pen coming or going) Is your BF really anal about everything being in the right place? People who are tend to cry “thief!” whenever something is not where it’s supposed to be. Is there anything wrong in your niece’s life that might prompt her to stealing (as Sarah so astutely noted)? Again, as other commenters have voiced, what does “a little rambunctious” *actually* mean?
Lastly, I am curious about the project which seems to be the crux of BF’s anger. Even not knowing what type of project it is, I (as a program tester) can tell you that it could have been corrupted without ever being technically opened: if it uses a program that’s running in the background and the machine crashes, you can lose data. You can also overwrite parts of it by accident, delete them, or move them around with accidental click-and-drags while doing something totally different. Any of this could have been done by you or your niece without your notice; or, she might know but be playing dumb so she doesn’t get in trouble. BF’s anger is totally understandable, but I think the moral of the story here is *don’t use work computers for anything other than work*.
If BF is really that concerned about security he should have his own machine, plain and simple. If he’s not, then he’s fishing for reasons to blame the niece which is a huge red flag. With all this in mind, I would take Sarah’s advice: first, admit that your BF could be right. Then, watch and observe with as much objectivity as possible and draw your own conclusions.
mf October 19, 2011, 11:33 am
And he should be backing up his files! I’ve learned that lesson the hard way.
Painted_lady October 19, 2011, 3:06 pm
God, you’re so right about anal people. My mom is one. For quite literally the bulk of my life, the refrain was always, “Who had the _____ last?” Remote, car keys, kitchen scissors, etc. Or someone would ask “Where’s the _____?” and she would offer up two spots and if it wasn’t there, she’d huff, “Then someone took it.” And no one offered up that they had misplaced it, so she’d sigh, “Of course, no one ever takes them, they just wander off by themselves and disappear.”
After years of being accused – passive-aggressively, of course – of stealing stuff, I finally started finding stuff in weird places that only my mother would put them (keys in her computer desk drawer, scissors in the upstairs bedroom where she keeps her craft stuff, etc). So I started calling out (same tone, only jokingly) “Who opened up Mom’s desk drawer and put the keys she didn’t touch in with her stationery set?” or in answer to her “They’re either in the ____ or the _______,” responding, “Unless they’re somewhere else.” She’s finally lightened up a little bit and realized she’s not as infallibly organized as she would like the whole family to think, but it took yeeeeears of all of us getting accused of it.
Gems October 19, 2011, 9:47 am
Maybe I’ve watched too many episodes of Law & Order: SVU, but reading that he only has a problem with that specific neice doesn’t sit well with me. Is he protesting too much?
Shadowflash1522 October 19, 2011, 10:12 am
“Methinks the boyfriend doth protest too much”
Budjer October 19, 2011, 10:30 am
Or maybe she is a problem-child….and he doesn’t have a problem with the others because they aren’t.
Shadowflash1522 October 19, 2011, 10:38 am
I have to say though, it does seem a little crime-novel creepy that the problem child’s problems *only* seem to show up around her aunt’s BF…
amber October 19, 2011, 10:40 am
does it though? she said she was, ‘a little rambunctious sometimes’. perhaps she acts out in other ways with other people?
KAM October 19, 2011, 10:58 am
I have to disagree with this – as someone who grew up with a klepto-prone sibling, it’s pretty common for someone to continue a pattern of thievery towards a specific person, as opposed to branching out to other people. From what I understand, it’s less risky to steal from the same person if you know that nothing will happen to you (for example, the niece hasn’t gotten in trouble for purportedly stealing from the boyfriend. So why stop?). If you steal from someone new, there’s a bigger chance of getting in trouble. And realistically, at the age of 10, you’re more worried about getting in trouble than you are about doing what’s right or wrong.
Shadowflash1522 October 19, 2011, 2:35 pm
Very true. I stand corrected. Or sit, as the case may be.
Budjer October 19, 2011, 10:51 am
Yea – I’d say we have limited informatiaon on everything. I think I’ve seen more blinded-by-love family members than s/o’s jealous of family children scenarios though which is why I’m thinking the LW needs to take a step back from the situation and reassess it.
Fabelle October 19, 2011, 2:41 pm
I think Shadowflash1522 is implying sex abuse, because I watch a lot of SVU as well & thought at first that’s where this letter was going. Although there’s nothing in it that hints at that, and I think people nowadays are almost paranoid-ly mindful of it–it’s always a possibility. He could be singling out the neice as opposed to the other children & accusing her of things in order to undermine her credibility to the girlfriend.
Fabelle October 19, 2011, 2:44 pm
*Gem said it originally, sorry
theattack October 19, 2011, 6:56 pm
That is a gigantic jump to make from concerns about potentially stolen hats, glasses, and pens to child sexual abuse. Can you even be serious? It is a possibility, but a very small one, and it definitely shouldn’t be the first thought you jump to.
Hats and glasses can be expensive. Television can make special circumstances seem more common than they are.
Fabelle October 20, 2011, 8:45 am
Of course it’s a huuge leap to make, & not something we should truly be speculating with the info given, but thought I’d flesh out a bit what Gems seemed to be implying. The media publicizes that sort of thing to the extent where– like I said– people are very paranoid.
Budjer October 20, 2011, 11:26 am
I worked summer cohesion the summer before college…I couldn’t give a little girl a hawaiian lei in that class (who asked for it from me, mind you) who had a crush on me without being accused by the counselor of being a pedophile (I was 17 at the time so I’m pretty sure legally that doesn’t make sense anyways) people are freaking whackos.
Fabelle October 20, 2011, 11:44 am
I agree, it’s getting really out-of-hand with the mistrust of men with children. That kind of mentality does more harm than good– people should be cautious, obviously, but it’s harmful to teach girls and parents to fear ALL men.
katiebird October 19, 2011, 10:12 am
Spot on advice Sarah! Said everything I was thinking.
bagge72 October 19, 2011, 10:14 am
I agree with Sarah on this one, we really don’t know what his reasons for her possibly stealing these things are, we are only hearing the LW’s side of the story, which could be incredibly skewed, especially if this is her only niece, and she is really protective of her. I know the LW says there is no evidence, but if stuff is missing than that is the evidence. Also like others have said (besides the programmer haha) unless the LW actually knows that she opened her BF’s work file why would she blame it on herself? It seems like she is covering for her niece, because she understands that there is the potential for her to accidentally do this. I think the LW would definitely know if she opened the file herself (make him get his own computer! That is the risk he takes for using yours!). People also bring good points about the niece doing this because she has a crush or just really likes the BF, she could have saw his name on the comp, and that made her want to open it. I think that we are getting a one-sided version of this story, and I think that the LW really sees it this way, because she is either protecting her niece, or thinks she can do no wrong.
PS this what the alphabet would look like if Q and R were removed
Matthew October 19, 2011, 10:15 am
NvB, your letter says he is ‘irrationally paranoid,’ but you have no logic backing up that statement. You should know whether you opened his project or not. If you didn’t, it was probably the niece. That’s not paranoia; that’s logic. He’s not worried that 10 year-old is going to steal his pen again; he’s worried that you are blinded by your love of your niece and incapable of seeing fault and correcting bad behavior. If you can’t bring yourself to address any problem your niece *might* be having, how can he expect you to appropriately discipline your children in the future.
Lindsay October 19, 2011, 10:22 am
Good point. The other thing was that the LW said the girl was a little rambunctious. That could mean a lot of things, and if the boyfriend sees the girl as something more like a terror, then he could already be distressed that the LW thinks the behavior is OK.
Steelbird October 19, 2011, 10:17 am
I’m just going to comment on the computer thing because this just happened to my coworker. First of all, the easiest thing to do when you notice something has been messed up is close it down then look up the time it was last modified. If it was modified when the niece was on the computer then you have slightly more solid evidence that she did something to it. It’s probably too late to do this now because I’m assuming your boyfriend has worked on it since then, but that’s for future reference. Next, it is possible for computers to glitch and screw up projects themselves. My coworker spent 6 hours working on a big presentation. When she came back the next day, half the graphs were missing. She lives alone and unless the dog has learned to turn on the computer and opened up Powerpoint, the computer just deleted those graphs on it’s own. I guess my point is, right now you have no way to prove or disprove your niece messing with the project so I would let that issue go for now and focus more on the accusation of stealing physical objects.
Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com October 19, 2011, 9:19 am
Agree with everything already mentioned but just wanted to add one thing: CATS.
Are there cats in the house? I’ve seen my boyfriend’s cats walk off with all KINDS of things. Receipts, bills, medicines, bike parts, you name it. Recently, one of the cats was mad that I told it to get off the table and he proceeded directly to a display of Halloween decorations and, one by one, knocked them onto the floor with his paw.
I don’t really think cats are the problem BUT I just had to offer a “surprise theory” for comedy’s sake.
honeybeenicki October 19, 2011, 9:30 am
I have that problem in my house. One of my cats steals pretty much anything she can get her little paws on – paperwork, socks, underwear, hair ties, pens, glasses, small remotes, etc. I often find some of it in her known hidey-holes, but I know there are some other hideouts I don’t know about.
Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com October 19, 2011, 9:37 am
Yup! Recently also had the cats walk off with the drain plug in the bathtub. Found it on the first floor buried in the door mat which had been crumpled up into a “nest.” They will keep you guessing!
MissDre October 19, 2011, 3:09 pm
OMG mine too!!! She stole the plug right out of the bathtub! I’d caught her playing with it a few times and then put it back, but then one day it disappeared, never to be seen again!
Pinky October 19, 2011, 9:43 am
My kitty is a total klepto. She steals hot sauce packets, grapes, business cards and pens. I find them with little teeth marks under the bed. Sometimes, she leaves them in her kibble bowl.
honeybeenicki October 19, 2011, 11:21 am
I guess she likes her grapes with hot sauce and needs to make notes when she calls the people from the business cards. Makes total sense to me.
thyme October 19, 2011, 3:03 pm
Oh, be careful! Grapes are EXTREMELY toxic to cats. They cause kidney failure and can kill a cat really quickly! (dogs too!) I’m hoping your kitty is just carrying them around and not eating them, but still, very risky!
Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com October 19, 2011, 9:22 am
In fact, it could be Miles. After all, he was pretty unhappy about the baby coming and threatened to act out 😉
MissDre October 19, 2011, 10:45 am
Yes! My kitten (well, I guess she’s a cat now) takes off with everything! She even drags my stuffed animals around and growls at them while she tries to kill them (yes, I still have stuffed animals on my bed and I’m not ashamed to admit it! LoL). Once a month I lift up the couch and find pens, elastics, my contact lense cases, earrings… Haha I love my cats.
honeybeenicki October 19, 2011, 11:03 am
I’m scared to look under my furniture. I would find all kinds of missing things, though. My cat steals my stepdaughter’s American Girl doll all the time and my friend came over with her little girl (about 3 months old) and the cat tried to take her too! She only managed to get one of her socks though, but the baby was quite entertained while the cat tried to steal her away.
Emsz October 19, 2011, 11:30 am
The cat tried to steal the baby? O.O Most of the cats I’ve met try to stay as far away from babies as they can 😛
Something about the crying and the smell…
honeybeenicki October 19, 2011, 11:53 am
My cat LOVES babies. Once they are able to walk, she doesn’t like them anymore, but when they are still tiny she loves them. When they cry, she always goes over to investigate and will sometimes sit there and watch everyone else with the stink eye warning us to stay away.
She will steal anything she thinks she can. That was the only baby I ever saw her try to steal (other than dolls).
JennyTalia October 19, 2011, 10:33 am
Whenever I can’t find something I just assume my dogs took it. Usually I find I’m right when I see remnants in their poop later.
RunsWithScissors October 19, 2011, 12:03 pm
My cat steals pens and hair ties. If I’m at the bathroom sink about to take my hair out of a ponytail, her spidey senses must start tingling. She darts in, hops on the toilet, stretches herself to the sink, grabs the hair tie with her teeth, and YOINK- I will never see that hair tie again.
amber October 19, 2011, 12:57 pm
my dogs love my hair ties too. one of their favorite things to steal. my one dog also likes to chew forks and then he hides them in the couch. he’s unique.
Greebo October 19, 2011, 12:27 pm
Oh oh. My tuxedo cat may have been at this house. I once watched her open a purse, root around until she found a pen, and trot off with it like she’d won the Superbowl. She has stolen pens, stamps, kitchen sponges, pot holders, spools of thread… But she promised she’s reformed!
CatsMeow October 19, 2011, 3:18 pm
My tuxedo has a knack for opening things as well… including the pantry door and container of cat food (he’s obese).
Slamy October 19, 2011, 5:00 pm
I hate hate hate to be this person… but it would be a good idea to put your cat on a diet and work on getting him to a normal weight. Just like it is bad for humans to be obese, it is really unhealthy for animals as well. My cat died from complications of being overweight. He was a young guy and it was painful for him (and us!) and I feel like it could have been avoided if we had tried to help him lose weight.
CatsMeow October 20, 2011, 11:14 am
You’re completely right. He is on a diet, and he lost some weight (now he has the saggy flab hanging), but I think he has plateaued. The fact that he figured out how to get into the pantry is not helping. It’s definitely unhealthy but as the crazy cat lady I also see it as clever and cute (I can’t help it!)
I want to set up a nanny cam to figure out how he does it.
Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com October 20, 2011, 11:19 am
OMG, I am dying over the nanny cam!! I would love to have a nanny cam on our cats. This morning, there was a buzz of activity by the refrigerator and I would love to know what happened before I woke up (mouse, I’m guessing).
artsygirl October 19, 2011, 12:53 pm
I have ferrets – nature’s sneak thieves. The woman who runs the ferret shelter I got my girls from was missing a couple hundred dollars worth of semi precious stones which one of the ferrets decided would be lovely for their nest somewhere in her house.
honeybeenicki October 19, 2011, 1:04 pm
My cousin had ferrets when I was younger and she was living with us. They are little sneaky thieves. They steal everything. And hers liked to chew on my school books and homework. The teacher had to call home at least once to make sure I wasn’t lying when I said the ferret ate my homework.
Caris November 6, 2011, 2:33 pm
My cat likes chewing my hw xD
neuroticbeagle October 19, 2011, 5:51 pm
This is what I thought too! My moms cats love to play with pens and reading glasses.
Lindsay October 19, 2011, 10:19 am
This is slightly bizarre to me. It’s hard for me to write off what the boyfriend is saying because I don’t understand why someone would accuse a child of stealing or messing up a project if it wasn’t likely that they did. I agree with the columnist and others: What do you mean by “evidence”? Is this stuff actually gone out of your home when it was clearly there before?
It’s kind of weird that he noticed that a pen was gone. I’ve stolen tons of pens by using them and forgetting to give them back. What would a young girl want with men’s sunglasses? The project is more understandable to me. Was something deleted? Or is th e program just corrupt (which could happen without any intervention — I’ve lost tons of files at work for no apparent reason)?
Sorry, I’m just thinking out loud there. I think those things do matter because it’s kind of important here whether she is actually doing the things or isn’t, and whether your boyfriend’s evidence or lack thereof is there. But regardless of why you each believe what you believe and whether your niece is doing these things, you are angry that he’s not giving your opinion a chance, but you really haven’t given his one either. Kids may not mean to be bad, but sometimes they are. A good kid can still mess up a project.
Kelly L. October 19, 2011, 10:31 am
I just want to add, there’s a possibility he has some sort of prejudice against this kid that is affecting his suspicions, whether it’s just because of her age (maybe he thinks all kids steal) or if there’s a socioeconomic factor or whatever.
I have dealt with two men in my life who irrationally accused others of stealing. One was my father. He insisted that my cousin had stolen a videotape from us and banned her from the house. Then I found the videotape, misplaced in our own home, and he grumbled and said the cousin was still banned anyway. What was really going on was that she was from my maternal side and he thought my mom’s family was all trash.
The other was the boyfriend from my freshman year of college. He was sure one of my floormates had stolen his case of Mountain Dew and ranted to me for hours about how no one had any respect for other people’s property anymore blah blah blah. Then he found the Mountain Dew at his own dorm room, where he had actually left it; it hadn’t been at my dorm at all. In his case, he was prejudiced against my floormates because they were in the Greek system and he thought all sorority girls were privileged, entitled twits.
Both men turned out to be huge control freaks. This is a minority opinion, but I’m seeing this as a potential red flag. My own experience makes me wonder if there’s some shady reason he has pegged her as a “thief” despite the lack of evidence.
Lucy October 19, 2011, 11:22 am
Completely agree. I think what commenters in general are missing is that the huge fight wasn’t over the purported stealing. It was over a project on someone else’s computer that got messed up when that computer had been taken on a trip and used by multiple persons. To insist on blaming one specific person in that scenario does sound irrational to me, and I think the LW is right to be concerned. Then when you add in the boyfriend’s repeated accusations of stealing, he starts to sound even more irrational.
bagge72 October 19, 2011, 11:48 am
But is it irrational if supposedly only two people used it, and the LW is saying she herself didn’t go into the file? I mean I know she says the she probably messed it up by mistake, but you can tell that she is really just saying that to get her BF to stop accusing her niece. I would think that if she really thought it was her fault she would women up, and just admit to it to put a stop to all of this, instead of saying, maybe it was me, but I’m not sure I’m really at fault either, because I don’t know if I went into it or not.
Budjer October 19, 2011, 10:36 am
I think it all depends on how he treats her neice regardless of the information. It sounds like he treats her well and hasn’t accused her to her face. I would say the fact that the items are missing is evidence…she never clarified they found them later which I think WOULD have been mentioned because that puts a huge hole in the bf’s story.
caitie_didn't October 19, 2011, 11:22 am
The other thing that struck me as odd was that the LW said the boyfriend feels she is “blind to her family’s faults”. This is a big, waving flag. If someone takes the liberty of itemizing all the faults of your extended family, you should be running as far and as fast as possible. Nobody gets to insult your family. I grew up with a lot of this in my house and it is a sign of a domineering, has-to-be-right-about-everything personality.
I’d be curious to know if the boyfriend is the type to assign blame whenever something goes wrong. In my house, somebody always had to be ‘”at fault” if something was missing or broken, when often it was simply misplaced or a victim of wear and tear.
amber October 19, 2011, 11:35 am
i’ve been on the other side too where a person in the family is doing something wrong but it’s ignored because they’re family and we just don’t say anything bad to or about family. it can get frustrating especially when said person does something that hurts you. not necessarily the case here, but just saying there are examples from both sides. perhaps everyone in the family just blames her rambunctious behaviour on her being a kid and say she’ll get over it. but, maybe the bf isn’t used to this and is bothered by the fact that no one corrects her ever?
Budj October 19, 2011, 11:39 am
I think it depends on the context. Which we don’t have. Yes – coming out and insulting family is not cool, but if there are glaring personality traits / accusations / insults that consistently make the bf uncomfortable and the LW refuses to take an issue with it then that is totally different….but that is the bf’s fault for sticking around in that situation.
caitie_didn't October 19, 2011, 12:10 pm
yes. absoultely. I just don’t think unsolicited commentary on someone else’s family is EVER really appropriate.
Fabelle October 19, 2011, 12:54 pm
It’s seems weird to me too, why would he bring up her family? Does he have problems with other members of the family? It just seems un-called for, especially since the person he has an issue with is a ten-year-old girl. A child is still developing her personality, so there shouldn’t be any “flaws” to point out. Even if he’s just mis-directing frustration about something else, he seems like a jerk.
Fabelle October 19, 2011, 12:55 pm
And yes, children can be jerks as well but their behavior shouldn’t be framed as glaring personality flaws. Adults sort of have the rights on those.
6napkinburger October 19, 2011, 2:08 pm
Really? You’re supposed to marry someone and be complete partners in the world but you never get to comment about the things that their family does that drive you nuts? Really?
That seems incredibly unfair and, honestly, a huge obstacle in the “communication” that we so often tout. If his mom constantly does something that isn’t evil but drives you bonkers (e.g. commenting on how little/much you eat, questioning you if your partner is healthfully enough/”jokingingly” telling you to make sure he eats right), you aren’t allowed to come home from a weekend and tell him how much it drives you crazy when his mom does that? Or even if it isn’t to you, if she did that to your partner’s sister’s husband, for instance, but it grates on you, you can’t say anything? Your choice is to either marry him and shut up for ever, or dump him? There’s no reasonable ground where you marry him and occassionally get to bitch to him about the things that his family does that drives you nuts? Maybe he can do something about it. Maybe not. But him knowing it bothers you means that he can use countermeasures if it happens again.
I get that we’re all defensive about our families, and we should be wary that commenting on our partners’ families will not always be taken well. But isn’t wading through that conversation and figuring out a comfortable way to survive without one person always feeling attacked and the other always feeling like a teapot ready to blow the “good” communcation we encourage LW’s to have?
If you can’t take your partner pointing out legitimate flaws of you family that, for some reason, grate on your partner and thus, do affect them (even unfairly/irrationally), I think you have to hope that your family is the best ever, or else you will be disappointed.
Fabelle October 19, 2011, 2:33 pm
I agree that partners should be able to point out/make fun of annoying characteristics about each other’s family members, and they should definitely feel comfortable voicing any serious concerns (like a too-involved mother, etc.). My issue is whether or not the LW’s boyfriend is singling out her neice, because I don’t think it’s right to imply a ten-year-old is a terrible person and “you’re just blind to it!”
If his real problem is with the LW’s sister, or other family members, or maybe even just her or the way she acts around them, then fine– but he should tell her instead of demonizing a child.
Shadowflash1522 October 19, 2011, 2:41 pm
It could be demonizing, or it could be calling it like it is. There really *are* demon-children out there in the world. Not to say that LW’s niece is one of them — we truly don’t know and can’t judge for ourselves.
Especially since BF hasn’t called the child on it to her face, which sounds like he’s trying to address this through proper channels. How many of us would agree that it’s not his place to discipline his GF’s niece without talking to GF first?
KAM October 19, 2011, 5:35 pm
I hardly think that the LW makes it sound like her bf is “demonizing” the niece. He sounds legitimately pissed that his concerns aren’t being addressed. Not to mention that the LW, herself, admits that her niece is “a little rambunctious.” I’ve never met a child, described as “rambunctious” who was a good egg. Maybe that’s just my experience. But I think it’s willfully ignorant to pretend that all children are cute, innocent little angels. Kids are just tiny, awkward little adults. To pretend that they can’t/won’t do any wrong is just a recipe for disaster.
Fabelle October 20, 2011, 9:10 am
Right, I don’t think children should be put on a pedastal & thought of innocent angels. But from the letter, it seems like his insistence that the neice was stealing, and his comment about the girlfriend being “blind to flaws” might stem from him having issues with the other, adult family members. If that’s the case, I’m saying he should focus on those. If he’s actually only referring to the neice, then I don’t think he should frame a child’s misbehavior as having fatal personality flaws. Not to say they can do no wrong, but his word-choicing is a little heavy & more appropriate if it had been applied to the adults in the situation.
caitie_didn't October 19, 2011, 5:44 pm
Notice that I said “unsolicited”.
Saying “it makes me really uncomfortable when your dad makes fun of my weight” is VERY VERY DIFFERENT from saying “your entire family is white trash/stupid/mentally defective”.
It all depends on context and tone, which we don’t have here.
Sarah October 19, 2011, 1:43 pm
Eeeeeh, that is definitely open to interpretation. The phrase “blind to her family’s faults” could mean that he thinks that her family is awful (but I think she would mention that, wouldn’t you?), but it could just as easily mean that she is hyper defensive when it comes to her family. But I have the same thing. I could make fun of my little sister, but if my boyfriend tries to get in on the joke I totally pull a “The f*ck you say about my sister??”.
To me, the fact that she is unwilling to even fathom the notion that her niece did something wrong, something that a lot of little kids do, says she probably has a bit of a blind eye. Its one thing to defend your family, but you also have to kind of remove your bias from an argument about family sometimes, if only to be sure you’re seeing it from a logical perspective.
Sue Jones October 19, 2011, 10:32 am
This guy may really have a hate thing with kids. It is true that kids can be challenging and they do disrupt your nice ordered universe even more if one is really set in their ways. Kids bring a certain amount of chaos with them and it is quite possible that your boyfriend is not good with chaos. Perhaps she just moved his stuff and he calls it “stealing”? I would watch and observe a bit more and maybe warn him when the kids are coming over and he can remove his stuff from the common areas. And why can’t he get his own computer for gosh sake????? You can get a decent used laptop for not a whole lot of money anymore… Geez!
Greebo October 19, 2011, 2:33 pm
Except she says he’s good with her other nieces and nephews, and he apparently wants kids of his own. That implies he isn’t anti-child or anti-girls.
CatsMeow October 19, 2011, 10:36 am
Nice job, Sarah! I agree with everything you said, especially:
“Rambunctious” is parent code for “my walls are covered in blood and crayon.”
SpaceySteph October 19, 2011, 3:11 pm
Kudos indeed, Sarah! I laughed out loud in my cube farm at this. Because its so true.
Once I was asked by an aquaintance to give him and his visiting 9 year old son a tour of the space center. He assured me that though young, his son was “very mature for his age” having flown from Alaska alone and having been very helpful to his mother since his father had been away from home. His son was a terror. I spent about an hour giving them a tour of mission control and the entire time I was trying to keep the kid reigned in- I am responsible for visitors I bring on the space center, they’re not allowed in any controlled areas without me. Trying to keep him in my sight and away from any dangerous equipment was a constant struggle.
I understand that kids are kids and that he probably found some of this stuff boring (not everyone is a space geek like me!), but what really amazed me is that his father thought he was “mature for his age.” Often adults overlook these massive annoying traits in kids they love. This father overlooked his son (who by 9 should really be capable of paying attention for an hour) behaving like a brat; the LW and others that describe her as rambunctious are probably overlooking similar behavior as not a big deal while for folks that don’t love them innately, they are annoying or poorly behaved.
KAM October 19, 2011, 10:50 am
It’s hard to judge the situation objectively without knowing whether or not the “lost” items were found, ever again. It would also help to know the boyfriend’s character (and possibly line of work) – is he really particular about where things go? Is he forgetful that perhaps the missing items had simply been moved and forgotten? I know a lot of commenters have dismissed the boyfriend’s anger over a pen, but honestly, sometimes, you just really like that pen! I remember, growing up, we weren’t allowed to use my mom’s pens because she used them specifically for her tax returns. Something about how you can only use blue or black ink on the forms, I’m not sure. Nevertheless, it’s not totally ridiculous to get upset over a missing pen.
I think the other thing that the LW needs to consider is how the boyfriend is viewing this whole situation. She says that she’s started questioning what kind of husband/dad he’ll be, but I don’t think she’s paused to consider that maybe he’s questioning what kind of a wife/mom she’ll be. It sounds, from this letter, that she’d be the kind to dismiss or ignore her husband’s worries/concerns, rather than take a good long look at her family-oriented biases. Not exactly someone you want to jump into marriage with.
Honestly, LW, it sounds like you need to *seriously* consider the possibility that it was your niece who’s at fault. Not because she’s necessarily a thief (though I’m inclined to believe that she is – not a malicious thief – probably just a 10 year old girl with a crush) but because it shows that you’re willing to take both sides under consideration. It appears that up until now, you’ve always sided with your family, which is probably your boyfriend’s reason (conscious or subconscious) for being so upset by this whole situation.
savannah October 19, 2011, 10:52 am
As someone who did ‘steal’ things as a child its not always due to some underlying issue. I knew it was bad to take things from stores but I used to take things from other peoples houses. But they were never boring things like pens or glasses, what kid wants those? I used to take shiny or sparkly things like big marbles, little glass crystals or antique doorknobs (which I unscrewed with my fingernails,cause I was just that resourceful). I didn’t think I was stealing thing, I thought I was borrowing them.
I’m not sure about this situation, I think he is acting pretty weird and makes me think he doesn’t really like kids all too much. Also as someone else mentioned, its a computer file. There are records of changes. I just feel like this issue got blow up by both parties.
Nick October 19, 2011, 11:00 am
Good job Sarah, I like your questions the LW should ask.
My instinct is for LW to make fun of her BF. Anytime something trivial goes missing, it’s “oh let me guess, while you were in the shower, niece came over and stole it.”. :-). With the right tone and context, ridicule / humor diffuses things like this sometimes in my house. It’s actually a fun game. Blame the cats game. Blame the maid game. Etc.
Steelbird October 19, 2011, 11:34 am
I disagree with this approach. The LW doesn’t give is any idea if the “stolen” items were ever found again. Mocking someone’s (legitimate?) concerns just proves to them that you don’t take them seriously and don’t value their opinions on things they see as important issues. If the lost items have been found some place silly then gentle teasing might be ok but only if the boyfriend has accepted that he made a mistake and the niece is absolutely not to blame. If the boyfriend truly feels he has been wronged, making fun of him will only cause hurt and/or anger.
KAM October 19, 2011, 4:30 pm
Agreed. The boyfriend probably feels invalidated enough as it is. Why would you go and make him feel even more insignificant? Sounds pretty cruel to me.
Lucy October 19, 2011, 11:12 am
I’m going to take the minority view here and say I think the boyfriend is the problem. Here’s the scenario: You work on a project on your SO’s laptop. That laptop goes away on a trip with your SO, her sister, and her niece for several days. When it comes back, the project is messed up. You immediately blame the niece, even though multiple people used the computer, you weren’t anywhere nearby when it happened, and there’s significant evidence that the niece wasn’t using the computer unsupervised for any length of time. Hunh? That’s a completely irrational conclusion to jump to in that situation. First of all, why the fixation on blaming anyone? Shit gets messed up, and usually it’s an accident or computer gremlins. So why get so obsessed with accusing one specific person? Second, not just guessing but insisting it’s the niece, and then arguing that point at length, is bonkers. He wasn’t there, and there are multiple plausible alternative explanations for the problem, so insisting that only one explanation can be the case in the absence of any actual evidence is nutty. The only explanation I can see for that is that this guy has some kind of problem with the niece. What that is, I don’t know. Even if she does steal his stuff, this episode with the computer project is still batshit. I think the LW is right to be concerned and that she needs to share those concerns with her bf. Whatever his real issue is with her niece, if she can’t get to the bottom of it, I think it’s a huge red flag. I have a fixation with fairness and the truth, so there’s no way I could marry someone who makes unfair, baseless accusations against anyone, let alone a close member of my family.
Sarah October 19, 2011, 11:52 am
See, I totally thought that too, but then I got to thinking, say you lend your laptop to your boyfriend and his niece for the weekend. They come back, and your work doc is all scrambled and deleted. The first thing you ask is if your boyfriend messed it up, he says he doesn’t remember doing it. Wouldn’t you trust your boyfriend’s memory enough to know if he went on a word doc or not? I would remember that, wouldn’t you? It almost always comes with the “Oh sh*t, I clicked on the wrong thing” feeling. So it makes sense that a kid is more likely to not know how to work a computer and would mess things up and since the kid was the only other person using it….doesn’t it kinda make sense that the kid probably did it, barring other extraneous techie circumstances mentioned above?
And if this theory get’s shut down fast and hard, and judging by the LW’s absolute disbelief in the theory it probably was, and if there was an implication in the LW’s tone that he was somehow creepy for even saying it, doesn’t it seem realistic that her bf would push the point just for indignant justification rather than acting being mad at the niece? Now, if he gets furious at the niece, then yeah, he’s out of line, kid’s mess up stuff, and if he lent it knowing the kid would use it, then he should’ve known it was a possibility. But a part of me is wondering if the argument isn’t even about the kid, but about the fact that she refuses to even consider his take on the whole thing.
We don’t know how mad the bf got at the kid, and I feel like that’s the key to everything. If the LW finally comes to a point where she can say “Yeah, actually, she might have messed up your work.” then its his move. He can either a.)feel justified that his gf doesn’t think he’s crazy and move on or b.) get mad and find a way to punish the kid. I think that will make it clearer than anything what kind of a guy he is.
Lucy October 19, 2011, 12:26 pm
If his approach to such a minor issue is to make an irrational accusation, and then, when his gf points out that it’s irrational, to insist ever more vehemently on said irrational accusation, then he’s got issues. Honestly, if I did work on someone else’s computer and then it got messed up, there’s no way I would be blaming anyone except myself. It doesn’t even matter whether the niece did something or not – he worked on someone else’s computer, he didn’t keep a backup, and his work got messed up. That’s on him 1000%. The fact that he’s even trying to blame someone else, let alone someone against whom he has zero evidence, only sketchy suppositions and an obvious grudge, says to me he’s got issues.
Sarah October 19, 2011, 1:20 pm
But see, we don’t know if its a minor issue. Any work getting ruined has got to be frustrating, right? And even though we SHOULD blame ourselves if we let something of ours get ruined by somebody else, there’s still the part of us that wants to know who did it. I once left an art project in someone else’s locker in college and it got totally smashed up. I was so mad at myself for leaving it in the wrong place, but I still couldn’t help feeling a little upset at the actual person who did it and would have wanted to know who’s it was. If I had asked around and someone told me not to blame other people and that it was my own fault anyway, I think I would felt even more indignant about what happened and would have probably been upset that the said person cared more about defending someone than my work getting messed up.
Fabelle October 19, 2011, 2:19 pm
To Lucy- I agree that this does sound like a grudge, which is just bad news. Even if he has it in his mind that the neice stole his hat, pen, sunglasses– even if she DID steal them– it shouldn’t turn into a big fight with the girlfriend. That’s kinda nutty. Also, I’m concerned because the computer is a different matter entirely (nothing to do with stealing), but he’s still blaming the neice. That makes it seem like some bizarre grudge.
caitie_didn't October 19, 2011, 5:50 pm
YES!!! This is what I’m trying to say but not articulating well. Yes, it’s his fault he was working on someone else’s computer. He has a right to be upset that better care wasn’t taken, but out and out accusing a child when he has no proof they did it? BONKERS.
Also, pens and hats? Yes, I know that it’s the stealing itself that’s important, and not the monetary value of the object, but still….it’s SOOOO petty to be consistently accusing a CHILD of stealing those things without evidence/proof that they did it in the past. Even if he had actual proof- i.e. had seen the kid put his nice pen in her backpack, he is NOT broaching the topic in a tactful and mature way (at least according to this letter).
lets_be_honest October 19, 2011, 6:30 pm
This is what I was trying to say but was too out of it thanks to hospitalbrain.
Skyblossom October 20, 2011, 7:47 am
So talking to his girfriend isn’t mature? Then what would be mature?
KarenWalker October 20, 2011, 2:07 am
only the gf & the niece used the computer…the gf has used the computer previously w/o screwing up his file…logic would then lead one to the conclusion that it was the niece – it’s not irrational to blame her for it
i can also understand why he would think it was the niece’s fault if there is a history of his stuff going missing when she’s around – there is a history there that would make him think the niece is a trouble maker. if i notice that things go missing every time person X comes over, i will think that person X is responsible for that.
CMF October 19, 2011, 11:57 am
Maybe someone already said this, but I don’t really think the niece is the issue. Maybe she took stuff, maybe she didn’t. At least the LW could agree to ask her about the computer file, though. (I mean, his stuff went missing a while ago- he should have addressed it then, “Hey, Niece, you didn’t happen to see my sun glasses around the other day did you? Man, I really like those…hope I find them again.” I’d think, unless the kid’s totally unhinged, they’d reappear if she actually took them. But that window’s closed now. )
I think the bigger problem is the LW’s unwillingness to even consider taking the boyfriend’s word for it and agreeing to ask. That’s all, just agree to ask. Then ask the kid without the boyfriend around. See what you get.
Skyblossom October 20, 2011, 7:46 am
Kids of that age will almost never admit to doing something that will get them into trouble even when they get caught red handed. They just don’t. It’s self preservation and telling you what they think is the right answer.
fast eddie October 19, 2011, 11:07 am
Her niece is part of her family and can’t be excluded but his home security is breached and the issue has to be resolved. Start a conversation with her mom and dad about this.
Anyone who doesn’t keep a backup copy of important files somewhere other then the primary computer is going to regret the omission.
Greebo October 19, 2011, 12:45 pm
I wish we knew how quickly the “thefts” and project damage were discovered after the neice left, as well as all the other things people have mentioned (were the items ever found, was this a Bic or a beautiful custom wood pen, what does “rambunctious” actually mean in this context)?
Also, why hasn’t the bf or LW simply asked the niece “Hey, you don’t happen to remember where you set down the pen/hat/whatever, do you? We can’t find it and it’s important to us”. This might work if the niece accidentally took these items, or if she misplaced them innocently. If she actually stole them…probably not.
I understand LW might have reason to be concerned if her bf really harbors an irrational dislike of this kid, mistreats her in any way or usually overreacts to small things. However, if this girl is out of control, acts out maliciously, is disrespectful of bf or other people’s property and LW thinks this is ok, I wouldn’t blame bf for re-thinking whether he would actually want children with LW. There are just too many unknowns.
honeybeenicki October 19, 2011, 1:09 pm
I don’t really have anything to add because everyone has pretty much got it covered, but I did want to mention one thing – I just got bitched at by someone a few weeks ago for agreeing with someone else that sometimes kids can be jerks. I’m very happy that I’m not the only one who feels this way. Apparently, its just something that people don’t voice out loud.
meaghan October 19, 2011, 1:48 pm
We had a kid in my step dad’s family who was ‘rambunctious’. She was a horribly undisciplined child who would play sweet toher family and terrorize the rest. I was in that firmer category; shed steal my art supplies, destroy anything I had made, and just constantly chatter on and on. When I told my family I was told that I had either list my things or that she had done them by accident.
Bring on trips became miserable because I had to deal with her and no one believed me. It wasn’t until she started pulling it on her parents that everyone took heed of me.
In a nutshell: kids are great little actors when they feel the need. They have hundreds of reasons for doing what they do, and assuming the wonderful man you’ve been with for years isnt a child himself, then you should take stock in what your boyfriend is saying. Keep a very close eye on your niece next time she visits and watch her with an unbiased eye. You might be surprised.
meaghan October 19, 2011, 1:50 pm
Forgive me the typos I’m using my phone :[ darn autocorrect.
Greebo October 19, 2011, 2:04 pm
Amen! I know a mom who insists her six year old is “just shy”. But I’ve watched that girl steal from and bully her peers, mouth off to her elders and pull the “hysterical tears” act when she doesn’t get her way. She’ll be a real treasure when she hits her teens.
AKchic October 19, 2011, 1:53 pm
I have four kids. Two of those kids have half siblings of their own from their fathers (with half siblings of THEIR own from their mothers). At about age 7, kids start learning sneaky behaviors. It’s a testing phase to see what they can get away with. It’s the beginning of learning boundaries and setting moral/ethical limits. Some don’t outgrow this until late teens.
Your niece is right in the target age for this behavior (coming from a mother of boys who are 11, 9, 7, and 2 – trust me, she’s normal). Unless you opened up the file for his project – you didn’t do this. Your niece may have accidentally opened it (let’s give her the benefit of the doubt), but the fact that she didn’t say anything and hid the fact that she opened it suggests that she knew it was wrong. She covered her own ass and allowed someone else to take the blame (you). This is where an adult needs to sit her down and explain that while she isn’t in trouble this time, that a good person admits their mistakes and tells someone and apologizes for what they’ve done. The adult to do that is her parent.
As for the stealing, I agree with your boyfriend. You are purposefully blinding yourself to your niece’s light fingers. You don’t want to believe that she is doing it. 10 year olds take what they want and will continue to do so until they are caught out and shamed. Unless she is caught out, she will continue, and her thievery will only get bigger. Your boyfriend today, Granny next month, a store next year? Kids start out small. I’ve caught my own boys slipping packs of gum into their pockets at the check-out line at stores. A lesson was learned right there when I made the cashier call the store manager immediately. I had my own kids busted by security. 9, 7, and 6 at the time, and they were in the managers office getting told that if they ever shoplifted again in that store, they would be arrested. No second chances, and Mom wasn’t going to stop the store manager from doing it. They haven’t done it since. Talk to your niece’s parents and see if they’ve been having issues. You might be surprised to find out it’s more of a problem than you know.
Eagle Eye October 19, 2011, 3:46 pm
You sound like a great mom…
I got away with dick growing up, I was an absolute terror for no other reason than that my mother was pregnant with my sister. My crap was simply not tolerated and I know that it made me such a better person today.
My parents love me and support me, but they’ve never let that get in the way of reality…
(oh and I like to think that I’m a perfectly acceptable member of society today…probably thanks to them 😉 )
Painted_lady October 19, 2011, 10:15 pm
Can your kids come to Texas and be in my class? Seriously, I would *love* to have more parents like you!
Really, really good point that it may be happening at home. A lot of parents won’t say out of the blue that little Susie has been robbing them blind, or they assume it’s just directed at them (I’m guilty – I’m always surprised and relieved to learn a student is pulling the same shit with another teacher that he pulls with me; why it still surprises me I have no idea). And if blindness to this kid’s faults is a shared family trait, it’s even more likely. So maybe bringing it up to the parents will connect the dots a little better to the prevalence of the problem, if there is one.
AKchic October 20, 2011, 8:53 pm
Alaskans tend to have an ingrained competition with Texas. It’s called “we’re bigger (and therefore better) than you”. *laugh* Plus – it’s too damned hot.
When a teacher calls, the first words out of my mouth are “what did he do this time?”, although usually – it’s a good news reason for the phone call.
Tracey October 19, 2011, 4:39 pm
Have you asked your niece if she stole the items? If she tampered with his computer? If you haven’t, ask her, but not in an accusatory fashion. (“You know, ‘Bob’ lost his sunglasses a while back – have you seen them?” or “Did you happen to notice if there was a file open when we were playing that game on the computer the other day?”) Then, watch and listen. You know your niece, so you should know when she’s not being honest or trying to hide something.
Then sit down with your boyfriend and ask him why he thinks your niece stole his belongings or tampered with his project, but not in an accusatory fashion. (“Why do you think ‘Jane’ took your glasses?” or “Can you walk me through what happened when your hat went missing? I’m really trying to figure out what happened and how to talk to my sister about this.”)
When you have both of these conversations, you’re going to have to do your best not to get emotional or upset. You need to listen to them both and watch them. Their reactions will help you decide what to do next – whether that’s sitting down with your sister and niece to discuss next steps with her, or sitting down with your boyfriend to discuss next steps with him.
If it turns out your niece is stealing, you’re going to have to tell her that, though you love her, you’re disappointed in her actions and that she’s going to have to work to regain the trust of your and your boyfriend, then have her apologize to him. Then restrict your visits with her to times when he is not around at first (her home, out in public), then slowly bring her back to seeing you and your boyfriend.
If it turns out that your niece is not stealing, they you’re going to have to talk to your boyfriend about how he’s going to have to learn to trust your niece. She’s a part of your family, and that if he can’t let go of his mistrust – something that’s been disproven – then that will have a negative impact on your relationship.
Neither talk is easy, and I’m sorry you have to go through this. I’d also ask myself one very important question:
Why do you think this problem was caused by you? You’ve got some self exploration ahead of you.
Calle October 19, 2011, 4:50 pm
I’m surprised by the reaction of some people. I find it more believable that he is missing small things, not less believable. A child who does that sort of thing steals small things such as food, hairbands, pens, etc. It is not like they are going to walk off with an ipod or anything like that, instead they will take things and hope the person thinks they were misplaced. Again, I think rambunctious is a key word also. I am just generalizing, but the child is probably jealous that the boyfriend takes up the aunt’s time or has a crush on the boyfriend. The latter may be true and why he is kind of freaked out and adamant for LW to realize that the niece is stealing. Some people can handle that sort of thing and realize it is harmless but for others it is a bit disturbing.
AKchic October 19, 2011, 4:59 pm
With kids/teens – if it fits in a pocket, it’s fair game. Food, cash, change, sunglasses, portable game players, etc. If they are carrying around a backpack, then if it fits unnoticed – it is also fair game.
My oldest managed to take $60 from a hat on the counter and a DS to school right from under our noses while we were dealing with getting other kids ready for the morning (including a newborn).
Because there were so many kids in the house (four of ours, plus the half-sibs, half-sibs half-sibs, friends over, etc), we didn’t notice the glasses, food, etc that would go missing was HIM stealing them.
Painted_lady October 19, 2011, 9:34 pm
Okay, LW, I deal with a lot of kids every day. A LOT. Most of them are just a couple years older than your niece. I adore them, but every.single.kid has the potential to be a complete jerk. I bought a six pack of Sharpies a couple of weeks ago, and you know how many Sharpies I’ve got left? ONE! I don’t have cats, dogs, ferrets, gnomes, anything in my room other than my kids. I hate thinking it was one of my babies. It actually personally offends me and hurts me to think that I bust my ass every single day and they thank me by stealing my Sharpies, which are in the pen cup on my desk and I don’t lend out. I hate thinking any of them would be so unkind. Last year I had this really great kid who asked if she could borrow my pen, and I let her because I liked her and trusted her to bring it back. Which she did, after she wrote on a corner of one of my art tables that my head looks like a penis (points for creativity, but taken away for accuracy). Even the kids you really like, and the ones you KNOW like you, have the potential to be assholes. They just don’t equate, most of them, that stealing someone’s stuff is disrespectful – which is what it’s about here, not the monetary value – or that you’re thumbing your nose at all the kindnesses you’ve done. They want what they want, and if they’re mad at you right now they’re mad at you forever, so they take it. I know it’s easier to call out your boyfriend as wrong than entertain the *possibility* that your niece didn’t value you and your boyfriend in the same way you value her, but it’s totally possible that she stole this stuff. Address it now, look at the evidence he presents, and maybe chat with her parents about it in a non-accusatory way, because for her own good, it has to stop if she’s doing it. You’re not doing your relationship or your niece any good by dismissing your boyfriend. Right now, it’s pens and hats, but someday it may be a teacher’s purse at school, and she ends up in juvie (true story, btw).
Painted_lady October 19, 2011, 9:37 pm
They’re thumbing their noses, btw. Damn.
katie October 19, 2011, 10:30 pm
that last part is so true!
as a kid, my parents were so restrictive of things that i couldnt eat that i started stealing those things from the grocery store. candy, marshmallows, whatever i wanted. my dad said i couldnt have it, and so i would go get it myself. and honestly, i was caught only once, and i wasnt really punished (i think i got spanked?), and so i have taken things my whole life. like, not blatant stealing of things, but if there are free samples at the godiva store, i will take 3 while the lady behind the counter isnt watching… little things like that.
Painted_lady October 19, 2011, 10:42 pm
Oh, honey, that’s just the Godiva chocolate talking. No one can fault you for that 😉
But seriously, you’re right about the small-scale stealing. Even if kiddo doesn’t ramp up to bank robbery, learning the value of boundaries is going to make her life way less complicated.
Painted_lady October 19, 2011, 10:34 pm
Also, Sarah’s really great point about issues at home reminded me: perhaps she’s got some sort of issue beyond just “unhappy” – issue enough, but still – that’s contributing to stealing (if she’s doing it, of course). I’ve got a friend whose son is high-functioning Aspberger’s and he hoards food – takes it from the fridge or pantry and hides it under his bed and forgets about it till my friend comes in to clean and finds it. If she’s stealing and “rambunctious” (I’m totally stealing the blood and crayons line, btw), it could be indicative of some cognitive issue.
Otherwise, the rambunctiousness needs to be tamped down enough that she can function in a way that normal people don’t want to kill her. I know a couple of parents who bleat about not wanting to “stifle” their little angel. To which I always reply, better you stifle her than someone else.
coralmonster October 20, 2011, 6:16 pm
When I was 10 years old I was largely a good kid that didn’t get in trouble at school, but occasionally I was a lying, stealing little shit. I stole money off my parents, and lollies out of the cupboard. I got caught over the money, and punished, thank goodness. I stole a fridge magnet from a big store just to see if I’d get caught (I didn’t). I also told a couple of massive, whopper lies to people which caused great embarrassment to my Mum when other school Mums came up to her and said ‘oh, we heard you’re moving house!’ after I’d lied to everyone that we were. These were relatively tame compared to some kids, but I’m just saying, no matter how good you think a kid is, they’re capable of doing bad stuff, including stealing and lying about it to cover their asses. Your bf might be wrong, but you can’t refuse to consider that she has taken his stuff, especially if she has a crush (which at her age is likely).
Also keep in mind all those parents you know who have terrible, bratty kids but think the sun shines out of their ass and will defend them endlessly over the naughty stuff they’ve done. These parents actually believe their kids would never do this stuff, so it’s not impossible that you’re being blind to her bad behaviour.
Or maybe he lost his things and the computer ate his file, and he just dislikes your niece because she’s ‘rambunctious’ (I can’t say I love kids like that either) and thinks she did it because of that. Either way a bit more investigating and having an open mind to your bf’s accusations won’t hurt.
Chris June 5, 2018, 9:29 am
What a coincidence reading this story.
I have a similiar situation in that my partner of 8 years had accused my daughter of stealing twice. The first time was at my partners home when my daughter was 14 years old and there was no evidence at all. I obviously stood up for my daughter and had a break from the relationship. In my mind if there is not evidence then you can´t go around pointing fingers.Eventually all was forgiven and peace made.
It stressed the hell out of me. The second incidence happened 4 years later at my home and again there was no obvious evidence. My partner threatened to break-up our relationship if i didnt confront my daughter and replace the 150 € stolen. I did replace the money and subtly confronted my daughter.She cried and swore it was not her. I said OK, I believe you, no worries.
Now my daughter understandably despises my partner and does not want to see her ever again. This setup is unbearable especially when family come to visit as i have to seperate both – one day daughter and next with partner. Either way i can´t do right and i have become the piggy in the middle trying very hard to enjoy the moment with family or friends.
My partner is fantastic in everything and i thstill think the world of her but if i am honest to myself then she is a jealous type.
Is it her jealousy doing this ? or is my good daughter stealing?