If we were confronted with a child who was hungry and actively seeking food, most of us would immediately do something about it.
Unfortunately, there are often consequences, even for good deeds like making sure a child’s stomach feels full, confided the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Redditor Mother-Simone felt helplessly caught between their two next-door neighbors and their daughter, who was clearly struggling under her parents’ diet culture expectations.
When the parents confronted them about helping, the Original Poster (OP) wondered if they had overstepped.
They asked the sub:
“AITA if I continue to feed my neighbor’s kid?”
The OP described the teen girl who lived next door.
“This is weird, but I really am racking my brain on how I could be a bad person in this situation, and if it would be bad to continue feeding this kid.”
“There’s a 13-year-old kid next door and she is a lovely, and I mean a lovely, kid. The kind of kid that would make me proud to call my own but unfortunately her parents don’t feel the same.”
Nina’s parents were focused on diet culture fads.
“‘Nina’s’ parents have weird hang-ups around food. They are big on exercising and ‘nutrition,’ I put in quotation marks because their nutritional advice is bulls**t.”
“They are gym/health influencers and are regularly recording things for their social media accounts in their backyard/gym. But I digress.”
“Nina and I have kind of gotten close over the past 3-ish years. She is friendly with my daughters but she usually comes over to hang out with me or to eat since she is always, and I mean always, hungry.”
The OP was concerned for the girl.
“Her parents just aren’t feeding her enough and the food they do provide is simply not enough.”
“So Nina comes over to my house to mainly eat but also shower (her parents don’t believe in washing regularly) and rest.”
“Well, just before Christmas, Nina had her weigh-in and she had, according to them, ‘dramatically gained weight’ for the 2nd time (they are literally exaggerating the weight gain and are acting like it’s a horrific thing to gain weight).”
“They put Nina under a lot of pressure and she cracked. She told them that she would eat at my house.”
The parents did not appreciate the OP’s efforts.
“Nina’s parents lost their s**t and they came to give me a talking-to. My husband had to calm them down and tell them I wouldn’t be feeding Nina anymore.”
“But I don’t think I should stop. If a kid is hungry, shouldn’t they be fed? Shouldn’t that kid be allowed to just rest and not constantly be doing a million sports and exercises before they can just be allowed to unwind?”
“Like the worst this kid is doing is watching a bit of tv, eating, and just resting when she should be having fun, but this is fun to her.”
“Not having to constantly perform and being able to eat a meal without it being meticulously weighted, plated, pictured and recorded, and calorie counted.
The OP posted an edit to describe the foods they provided.
“I am not feeding her junk but actual healthy meals like rice, vegetables, pasta, curry, grilled chicken, stews, fish, salads, etc., just regular lunches and dinners.”
“She eats at my house up to 3 times a week (but sometimes less and sometimes more) and my daughters often bring her snacks when they spend time with her.”
“There are no allergies or health-related issues as to why they are restricting her food intake other than a fear of her being overweight.”
“Nina is about 5ft and her latest weigh-in, she was at 86lbs. So that means she gained about 6 or 8 lbs in the past month. They weigh her every two weeks to once a month.”
The OP also described Nina’s bathtime situation.
“In regards to the bathing, Nina’s parents don’t believe in showering more than once a week (with occasional exceptions).”
“The first time Nina had a shower at my house was because she had her period and it lasted only 2 days and she wanted to shower but her dad said to wait until her washday.”
“Nina talked to my daughter about how icky she felt and my daughter let her take a bath. I came home to my daughter doing laundry while Nina had a shower. So I did her laundry.”
“She went home clean, with clean clothing, and so she was able to hang out the next day without feeling embarrassed around the other kids.”
“Since then if her washday is too far apart, she just comes over and showers.”
The OP also reached out for help.
“Some of you have suggested I contact her school. Stupidly I didn’t realize that was an option.”
“The school has a counselor and I will speak to them on Monday.”
“And yes I actually have been unofficially documenting their behavior but I will get everything together this weekend and call CPS (Child Protective Services) again and will continue as some of you have said, ‘You may need to squeaky wheel this s**t.'”
The OP also wanted to emphasize how they were trying to help Nina.
“I really think that some of you are wilfully trying to misunderstand the situation. I am not shoving food down Nina’s throat.”
“It’s just not normal for my kids to constantly be asking me to make extra food so they can sneak it to their friend.”
“I have spoken to Nina’s mother and she said that they had her on diets and other things because she was worried about Nina getting fat. It’s not normal or healthy to have regular weigh-ins for kids and to then be upset if they aren’t hitting ‘perfect weight’ is f**king madness.”
“During this time I also started talking to my daughters about what was going on at Nina’s house since she wasn’t yet forthcoming.”
“My girls said that her parents were weird about food and gave very small portions and that Nina had to ask permission to eat or drink or even open up new foods, as well as excessive exercising.”
“This is when I started to worry and called CPS. After my first call, nothing happened and I called again and asked for information, they didn’t give me any.”
“Nina is always hungry, always tired, and often looks very pale. So yes, I f**king fed her when she came over, and yes I let her come over to take a shower. It’s not normal for a kid to ask their friends to sneak/bring over food.”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some said the OP was doing the right thing and urged them to keep looking for help.
“NTA. If you know where her school is, I’d call and speak to the school counselor, then call CPS again.”
“This time, with CPS, I’d really give all the details of what they’re doing to her and links to their fitness channels, or whatever.” – crystallz2000
“She’s hungry and dirty because she’s not allowed to shower. That’s messed up. Calling CPS was the right thing to do.”
“Just keep doing what you’re doing. What are the parents going to do? Call the police? ‘Yes, Officer, I fed my hungry neighbor child and let her shower because her parents don’t let her bathe.’ The police would get CPS in there.” – Darth_Lawyer
“OP should keep calling CPS with updates on how her parents have reacted to her weight gain.”
“Just keep calling every time something happens with her. I’m a mandatory reporter and one of the most important points made to us is to report everything.”
“One report may not be enough to trigger an investigation, but as the evidence builds up, it may lead to an intervention. Report, report, report.”
“Contact her school too as they may be able to backup any report with evidence they’ve been gathering.” – Pleasant-Koala147
“Holy s**t, you’ll be the a**hole if you don’t contact someone like CPS for this poor girl. They’re traumatizing her in prime bonding and learning years and force-feeding her a slew of eating disorders.”
“You’re an angel for being so kind to this girl. Please keep feeding her at least, but please please think about getting her help of any kind.”
“Absolutely NTA for feeding her!! Her parents are abusing her and neglecting her straight up.” – bs1114
“I have the feeling once Nina grows up, she’ll visit OP more often than her actual parents.”
“OP basically half-adopted this child. Stay the good parental figure you are being for her. Maybe also verbally tell her you are there for her, it goes a long way for a child in an abusive household to know they have a safe haven somewhere.” – Icy_Appeal4472
Others were appalled by the girl’s current weigh-in.
“At 85lbs she is HORRIBLY UNDERWEIGHT. It’s literally child abuse.” – EMWerkin
“I’m 5′ and weigh 100-110, and people constantly comment on me being slim.”
“I’m underweight at 95lbs, and when I got down to 86lbs, it was because was literally dying from an illness.”
“And like, yeah, I’m an adult, but there is no way a 5′ frame is ‘fat’ at 86lbs. Her parents are depriving her of food.”
“H**l, she might have grown taller than 5 feet if they’d been feeding her properly.” – sad_choochoo_train
“Same height, went to 108-110 once I got boobs, still got ‘skinny’ comments but I was eating perfectly fine.”
“When I got down to 100 in college, it was because of a period of intense anxiety and I was literally only eating one meal max a day, nibbling on veggies during the day because I’d get nauseous eating anything else, and scarfing down ramen and some goldfish late at night if my body finally remembered I was hungry and the grumbles were too distracting to fall asleep.”
“I felt weak, I had dark circles, you could see my ribs at all times. I can’t imagine being 86 pounds, that’s horrifying.” – amandapandab
“This is a growing kid, and she’s going to put on weight. If she isn’t getting the proper food and nutrition at home, it will affect her growth and her health. OP is NTA.” – TribeFaninPA
While the parents had already knocked on her door to complain, the subReddit was grateful on the teen’s behalf that someone was providing for her in a healthy and stable way.
But without the help of an organization like CPS, it’s unclear how long such help would be able to continue.