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Dad Blasts Wife For Abandoning Panicked Teen Daughter For Hours While Clothes Shopping

woman shopping for clothes
AnnaStills/Getty Images

How old is “old enough” when it comes to children? Personally I feel like it really depends on the child.

As a member of the feral generation—GenX—my parental supervision was pretty lax.

Most days my older sister and I—age 5 and 3 respectively—would go out the door in the morning in Carson, California and not go home again until the street lights came on. Our Navy NCO Father was stationed at Long Beach while he was gone on deployments and our Mother was a labor and delivery RN who worked nights.

But unlike some of my fellow 70s kids, I won’t say “we survived” because I’m fully aware the kids that didn’t survive aren’t here to say letting 3 or 5-year-olds fend for themselves might not have been a great idea.

A lot of us are lucky we survived.

So it’s up to parents to assess if their child is ready to be left alone without adult supervision and for the child to say if they’re ready. If either says no, then they aren’t ready.

But what if one parent says yes and acts on it without the child or other parent’s input?

A father wrestling with this issue turned to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for feedback.

Ambitious_Report668 asked:

“AITA for calling my wife irresponsible, possibly being overprotective of my daughter?”

The original poster (OP) explained:

“I (37, male) live with my wife Jen (37,female) and our two kids (13, female and 7, female). Last weekend, my wife went out for the day with our oldest daughter—who for this story I will call Emily—while I stayed home with our youngest.”

“Three hours after they left, I got a call from Emily. She was very upset on the phone and was crying.”

“She explained that they went to a clothing store together. They split up to look at different sections and now Jen is nowhere to be found and her phone is going to the voicemail.”

“She had asked an employee to make a speaker announcement, but no one has come forward. Jen had been gone for around an hour.”

“I told Emily not to panic and I went straight down. When I got there, Jen was still gone and I couldn’t see her car in the parking area.”

“We searched for Jen in the stores that are next-door in case she went in one of them. I also tried to call her.”

“Around 40 minutes later, Jen calls me and says she is on her way back to the clothing store. I asked where she had been, and she said she drove to another nearby store that she wanted to go to.”

“I asked why she didn’t bring Emily or at least tell her that she was leaving, and she said because she did not expect to take a long time or for Emily to even notice she was gone.”

“Emily has been distraught and avoiding Jen. She is still very upset.”

“When we got home, Jen and I had an argument as I said she was irresponsible for going away and leaving Emily in the store without telling her. Jen says I just want to treat Emily like a baby and she is old enough to be able to be on her own in a store.”

“I asked Jen why she did not answer her phone and she said she accidentally put it on ‘do not disturb’. Jen is angry that I called her irresponsible and says what she did is nowhere close to being an irresponsible parent.”

“I know I can be overprotective of my kids, but we do live in a high crime area and it makes me very angry that Emily was left feeling scared.”

“Am I the a**hole?”

The OP summed up their situation. 

“I called my wife irresponsible for leaving our 13-year-old daughter in a store by herself without telling her.”

I may be overreacting and being overprotective. My wife says I am babying her so I do not know if I am wrong.”

“I could’ve been nicer to my wife.”

Redditors weighed in by declaring:

  • NTA – Not The A**hole
  • YTA – You’re The A**hole
  • NAH – No A**holes Here
  • ESH – Everyone Sucks Here

Redditors unanimously declared the OP was not the a**hole (NTA).

“NTA and this has nothing to do with being overprotective. That is just a smokescreen thrown up to obscure your wife’s bad behavior.”

“Suppose it wasn’t her daughter she took to the store, but a friend. Even for an adult friend, you don’t run out without a word.”

“That’s irresponsible, and a possible friendship-ending offense. Your wife is the a**hole, no ifs, ands, or buts.” ~ extinct_diplodocus

“Even if I go to the mall with my mom and we split up, I always text letting her know when I’m going to other stores and where I’ll be. She does the same—hell, we do that even if we split up in the same store, like Walmart.”

“You don’t leave without telling your kid. What if something happened to her? What if she got kidnapped?”

“There are so many what ifs, and for her mom to not even have those what ifs in the back of her mind is BEYOND irresponsible. NTA.”

“What she did isn’t okay and she put her daughter in a stressful and dangerous situation without a care. It’s not okay, that should never be okay.” ~ SpoonObleach

“She was already gone for an hour when the daughter called the OP, then after he drove to the store it was another 40 minutes before she returned his phone call. Who knows how long she was gone before her daughter noticed. Very likely she was gone for well over 2 hours.” ~ dncrmom

“I’m 30 years old and if I went shopping with my mom and she drove to another store without telling me, I would be annoyed. Especially for 2+ hours. That’s not normal behaviour at all.” ~ camstens

“I’m 40 years old and if my mom did this we’d be scheduling a dementia screening.” ~ KegelFairy

“NTA, OP, although not for the reason you’re stating. Yes, 13 is old enough to be left alone.”

“I went to the mall with my friends at 13, walked down to the library, babysat my little brothers, etc… That is the age that kids should be starting to gain independence.”

“The part that’s wrong is leaving her alone without allowing her to make that choice and without telling her it was going to happen. If the mom had said ‘hey, I’m going to another store down the way’ that would make sense.”

“But, the biggest thing you’re missing: literally no one leaves their kid alone for two hours to go to a store ‘down the street’ and they don’t conveniently put their phone on do not disturb when they do that.”

“I think there’s a strong possibility that she’s either cheating on you or meeting a dealer of some sort.” ~ Its_Big_Fungus

Many felt mom’s story about why she left, where she went and why her phone was off was suspicious.

“NTA. It feels like your wife didn’t say anything to your daughter because she wanted to make sure your daughter didn’t ask to tag along. I’m immediately suspicious of what your wife was actually doing.”

“I can’t imagine being with anyone at a store, leaving and driving to another store and not telling them. Let alone a freaking CHILD.”

“Forget for a second whether or not she should have left the kid at the store alone. How the BLEEP do you not text them and say, ‘hey, I’m going to x store, I’ll be back in a bit’ ?”

“Unless you don’t want to risk them saying, ‘Oh, I’ll come with you’.” ~ little-story-8903

“This is exactly where my mind went too. Why is your phone on ‘do not disturb’ when you’re out of the house with one of your kids?”

“Emergencies happen and people need to be able to reach you.” ~ Old_Beach2325

“Phone on ‘do not disturb’ when you are not in speaking distance of the child. Something is WAY OFF HERE.” ~ Rare-Parsnip5838

“As someone with a tendency to wander off and make others upset (sorry), that’s not wandering off, that’s sneaking away.” ~ LightspeedBalloon

“Yup, my husband wanders off sometimes. I’m short and not always in his peripheral. I’m used to it.”

“He doesn’t go to an entirely different store, taking the car, for two hours. And he certainly doesn’t wander off from a child he is in charge of.” ~ reluctantseal

“NTA, something is very wrong with your wife. She could’ve at the very least texted Emily to let her know she was leaving the store.”

“Her phone was conveniently on do not disturb. I worry she was seeing someone she had no business seeing for her to not bring your daughter with her then not answer the phone.”

“Especially if this is in a high crime neighborhood. Her defensive reaction is also concerning.” ~ fancyandfab

“I’m a mom with a similar aged son. This behavior is super suspect. I was left to fend for myself a lot as a kid, and my mom still would have never done anything like this.”

“I agree that this sounds like a possible addiction or infidelity issue. Unfortunately, that’s the only way this scenario makes sense to me.” ~ Odd_Hold2980

“No one buys that story. And OP most definitely should not.” ~ Rare-Parsnip5838

Unfortunately, it sounds like the OP will be lucky if his wife was just irresponsible.

Hopefully he can get to the truth, whatever it is.

Written by Amelia Mavis Christnot

Amelia Christnot is an Oglala Lakota, Kanien'kehá:ka Haudenosaunee and Metís Navy brat who settled in the wilds of Northern Maine. A member of the Indigenous Journalists Association, she considers herself another proud Maineiac.