Boundaries can be difficult to quantify, and even harder to enforce.
Especially when children are involved.
However, what happens when a child breaches a very standard social boundary and their guardian takes out their embarrassment on the person whose boundary was violated?
That was the issue facing Redditor and Original Poster (OP) author-miglett2 when they came to the “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for judgment.
“AITA for telling a mother and her son he shouldn’t have even been looking at my phone anyway?”
She gave a little background.
“This is a very minor problem but I felt weird after the whole thing.”
“If it makes any difference, I have autism and am 15 Female.”
Then explained the situation at hand.
“I was on the bus home and since I figured out I probably won’t have much time at home since I had to do my homework, I decided to write my novel on the bus.”
“I’m an avid reader and aspiring writer so I basically write whenever I can and my stop was ages away.”
“This kid (around ten or nine) and his mother were next to me, the mother was also on her phone and the kid kept annoying me and asking if he could play games.”
“I’ve only got Chameleon Run on my phone and I didn’t want to give my phone to him.”
“I’m very timid and don’t like talking to anyone. I don’t know since it makes me very uncomfortable and I start to fidget and writhe.”
“People just strike anxiety into me and I have a slight stutter so that doesn’t help things at all.”
“Anyway, I was typing my story and the paragraph I was working on wasn’t even that bad.”
“The kid is practically leaning on me by now, asking to see what I’m doing but he looks at my screen then pokes his mother.”
“He said that I’m writing about death, which is true because there’s this really intense part in my story.”
“The mother looks at my screen and demands to see what I’m writing, so I show her.”
“Her eyes go wide and she asks me why the heck I’m writing about slaughter. I told her I’m writing a story and she said it’s not appropriate.”
“I did not understand this.”
“I asked her what’s wrong with writing a novel and she scolded me that her kid shouldn’t be reading those kinds of things.”
“I told her it wasn’t my fault because she should have been watching her son and that he should not have even been looking at my phone.”
“The whole thing escalated and I do not like confrontation and it was even worse because I did not have any earphones/headphones since they broke a couple of days ago.”
OP was unsure of her standing, so she came to Reddit for judgment.
“When I got home, I told my family and they agreed with me that I did the right thing and handled it politely as possible.”
“But I will let you decide.”
Having explained the situation, OP turned to Reddit for judgment.
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 decided: NTA
Many pointed out that bus-lady was invasive.
“The lady does need to learn how to control her kid, and it was none of her business what you were writing.”
“You handled that situation more kindly than I would have.” ~ magic_shenanigans
“You could be writing about killing her kid on that bus, and it STILL would have been none of their business.” ~ Mysterious_Friend_52
“After reading the title I really thought you were going to say you were looking at explicit images.”
“Nope, the kid had to look over your shoulder and READ THE CONTENT ON YOUR PHONE!!!”
“That’s a total invasion of privacy, not a passing glance.”
“You’re 100% NTA here.” ~ LowerAd9859
Others pointed out deeper parenting concerns.
“What drives me nuts is the woman was letting her child try to demand a stranger give him their phone so he can play games!”
“OP, just that fact alone makes you the NTA in this situation OP.”
“It was never OK for her not to correct her son to stop bothering people on the bus.”
“The fact that it seems she felt it was perfectly ok to let her son badger a teenage girl on the bus is pretty disgusting.”
“Teenage girls get bugged by people enough without a grown woman condoning it.”
“She’s raising one of those guys that always harassed my GF on the bus during her work commutes pre-WFH.” ~ Throwawayhater3343
“Some people expect the world to parent their kids.”
“If this happens again I’d maybe suggest moving seats if you’re able or angling yourself so whoever can’t see?”
“But even then you’re definitely not in the wrong here” ~ tfydb
“NTA and if you are writing about slaughter, I feel bad for your search history.”
“Must have had some fun google topics.”
“If that lady didn’t want her child exposed to certain things (fair enough, I wouldn’t want my kids reading that either) it’s HER job to make sure they don’t.”
“That means making sure they learn not to be invasive brats and read what’s on other people’s screens.”
“You are entitled to write whatever you want, if people didn’t wanna read it then they should just not invade your privacy. Super easy thing to do.” ~ Chaos-Goddess
Commenters were concerned about OP’s seeming lack of boundaries.
“You should never feel obligated to hand over your phone to a perfect stranger just because she demands to see what’s on your phone.”
“Your response was polite and perfect.”
“You pointed out how she should’ve been watching her kid and she didn’t like hearing the truth.”
“Don’t hand your phone over to strange, rude, jerks like her. She could’ve damaged it.” ~ hooliganoll
There were personal stories as well.
“I was on the subway, and the dude in the seat in front of me was Facetiming with a naked lady.”
“Holding his phone up so I could see it without any special effort. That’s what I was expecting here.”
“That dude was an a**hole. I’m an adult, so I just moved about my day. OP is NTA.”
“Also that mom sucks.”
“I give my kid leeway to make mistakes.”
“Kids mess up and they need to learn how to deal with it.”
“My firm rule is that you are considerate of others. If my kid was badgering the person next to them, I’d be livid and they’d be apologizing.” ~ SecretWheelieShoe
“My own (usually well-behaved and definitely not allowed to do things like this) kid recently demanded someone’s lunch from them.”
“Kids do this kind of thing, and I can tell you from personal experience that there are very, very sh*tty parents around who believe the world revolves around keeping their child from anything Unapproved (TM).”
“Neither set of behaviors even raised my eyebrows as a parent.” ~ vaalski
Many were shocked by Mom’s behavior.
“WTF is wrong with this woman?”
“She doesn’t see the problem with letting her kid bother strangers?”
“Or asking to play with their phone? Or looking at their phone? She’s lucky you weren’t looking at p*rn! Or writing slash/smut, plenty of people do that.”
“Whatever you were doing, it’s her job to control what HER child is doing, not scold you for minding your own business (and tolerating her brat) or doing whatever you want on YOUR phone.”
“NTA but she sure as hell is.” ~ Obsessed_Til_Death
“I’m sorry, but who is she to decide that something you create is not appropriate.”
“Apparently censorship is alive and well.”
“Your response is amazing because if she doesn’t want her child to read any of the stuff you were writing, she shouldn’t have been paying attention to her phone.”
“Her job is first as a mother, then as a minder of her phone. If she can’t handle that, then what’s the point of her taking care of a child?”
“You can write whatever you want on paper.”
“Would’ve been much different if you were watching a website in front of her child, but writing a story is totally normal behavior, even if the subject matter is a little out of the norm.” ~ MiggyTennis
There was plenty of encouragement.
“NTA, and I just wanna add, it’s really normal to write about intense stuff like that!”
“Almost all my high school writing was about death or overly intense love or murder lol.”
“She is 100% in the wrong.”
“Keep writing! You’ll only keep getting better and better – from an adult that majored in creative writing and loved it and now writes books” ~ glasswitch88
For the most part, kids don’t care about boundaries.
They’re still figuring out that other people are people, let alone that they have feelings independent of the child’s desires.
That’s where proper parenting takes over. It is our job as parents to steer the child away from harm – to themself and others.
Remember that even though a child may not understand your boundary, gently enforcing that boundary is still important for self-protection and for teaching the kid to draw and respect boundaries as they age.