Redditor girlyaita is a 55-year-old woman without children who hired a teenager in the neighborhood named “Sam” who wanted to walk her dog in addition to taking on other chores.
After having spent some time with Sam, she noticed his behavior indicated there might be problems at home.
After a confrontation with Sam’s angry father, the Original Poster (OP) visited the “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) subReddit and asked:
“AITA for giving a boy a ‘girly’ ring?”
The OP explained:
“I’m a 55-year-old childfree woman.”
“I live with my long-term partner and our dog, Billy.”
“I do not dislike kids. In fact I used to be a teacher.”
“There’s this teenage kid in my neighborhood, let’s call him Sam. One day he rings our bell, asking if we ever need a dog walker for Billy. I am usually careful with strangers and my dog, and when he saw he I was hesitant he added he could do other chores.”
“Clearly this kid wanted to make some pocket money – so why not, sure.”
“I let him wash my car, run some errands, stuff like that. Eventually I let him walk Billy as he seems to be sweet with animals.”
“As Sam did more and more chores for us, I got the feeling his home situation wasn’t great. Sometimes after doing a chore or walking Billy, I’d offer him some cookies and tea you could see he would sort of…linger.”
“One time he even said it was ‘loud’ at home and if he could study in our garden and we let him.”
“Anyway, there’s two things I have not mentioned yet.”
“One, I have a sizeable ring collection. I’ve been buying them since I was 14, and you can sort of imagine me as one of those eccentric older ladies with too much jewelry.”
“Two, Sam is sort of the effeminate kind of boy, who could possibly be gay, but he never offered the info and I never asked.”
“So anyway one day I could tell he was looking at my rings with great fascination. I asked him if he liked them and he nodded yes. I asked if there was any in particular, and he said yes. It was the ‘sunflower one.'”
“Without much thinking I asked if he wanted it. (This one has no emotional value, and I don’t have any kids to inherit this stuff anyway).”
“Sam kind of blushed and said ‘very much so’ but that he didn’t want to take it from me. I said don’t be silly, gave Sam the ring & Sam went home.”
“Next evening someone rings my door and it’s both Sam’s parents, with Sam between them.”
“This is the first time I’ve seen them up close.”
“First thing is Sam pushing the ring back into my palm saying ‘I’ve came to return this’ with a shaky voice.”
“Next thing his dad starts cussing at me, how dare I give things to their kid, and a girly ring of all things, and that it was not my place, it’s inappropriate, yadda yadda yadda – and made some derogatory comments about my age and weight.”
“At this I essentially told him I won’t stand in my own front door and be insulted, then closed the door on him. I have not seen Sam since.”
“AITA for giving the boy a sunflower ring without his parents’ permission? Or just for not thinking this could be a problem and getting him in trouble? I didn’t really think much of it when I did…”
“(Sam is 16, if that matters)”
Strangers were asked to declare one of the following:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH – No A**holes Here
This Redditor asked the OP to be vigilant about potential abuse and act accordingly.
“NTA. Only you can answer this, but as a former educator keep your eye open for signs of abuse and report it. You’ve already had some red flags with Sam and this is one more.” – wilder_hearted
The OP wrote in response to the above:
“I feel it is a red flag, but this was the first time I met them up close, I am unsure if he’d want me to intervene.”
Redditor wilder_hearted continued the discussion.
“But you know plenty of children react poorly (at least initially) to needed intervention. There is a fear of the unknown, a fear they will be blamed for problems at home, anger and rage misdirected.”
“That doesn’t mean we don’t report it, if there is a suspicion of abuse. I don’t know in this case if you’re thinking the child is being (emotionally, physically) abused or neglected, or if you just think his parents are d*cks. If it’s the former, report it.”
The OP remained hesitant about intervening.
“The problem in terms of this situation, I really have no way of knowing if this is a one-way outburst or not. Or in fact, if it’s specifically about me as a “strange lady”.
Other educators weighed in.
“As a educator myself, I’ve always been told to report anonymously if we ever THINK something could be up. A lot of time law-enforcement doesn’t do something the first time.”
“For all you know there’s been other reports filed on his parents for the suspected abuse. If anything they’ll do a wellness check and the good outcome would they found nothing but what if they did find something?”
“What if you don’t report it and something bad happens? Idk I’ve always felt extremely strongly about these kinds of thing because I know so many kids who have been abused in the past and no one said anything…” – idowithkozlowski
“Teacher here. There is probably a specific mandated reporter line in your area. You should be able to Google it, or ask a guidance counselor or social worker in your district.”
“Calls to that line may not be able to be anonymous (where I am, they are not). If you are worried about being identified and targeted, many districts have a designated mandated reporting person who will make the call for you. It’s often a guidance counselor.”
“I always call, but also talk directly to the school social worker and check in with their guidance counselor for older kids. The more appropriate people you involve, the more eyes on the situation and the less likely it gets ignored.”
“In my experience, administrators are often concerned about optics and will avoid escalating negative things if they can justify it to themselves. Social workers, not so much.” – jkrames
The OP provided the following update with clarification about her teaching history and responded to thoughts on possibly fostering the teen:
“To specify as several people have mentioned. I was not actually a primary/highschool teacher. I was a part-time drama teacher for teens who took at as an extracurricular (also adults, in different groups).”
“Yes, I had duty to report – but I never was in a situation I had to, because this is a very different learning setting. We did have a reporting system, but that was a specific confidential counselor a kid would be referred to who then would decide if a third party would be contacted.”
“The reason I am no longer currently a teacher, is because we moved countries, so actually I am no more knowledgeable than a layman about how I would go about reporting anything where I currently am. I am no longer tied to a school of any kind.”
“As for fostering Sam – my partner and I would be willing, but I’m unsure how that would play out, as we’re unsure if we’ll still be living here in 2 years time.”
Those who have suffered abuse came forward.
“I was abused as a child and thing like this are exactly what my parents would do. Please report it. It’s on them to look into it and determine, but they will never look if someone doesn’t tell them to.”
“You could be saving him from a life of pain.” – tvvat_waffle
“I grew up in an abusive home. There were signs, nothing overly obvious like walking around with a black eye, but there were signs. No one reported it. No one saved me.”
“That relationship you have with Sam? It’s because he needs you. I used to do the same thing -I had friendships with adults, and they filled the hole in my life, they became my family. Their homes were my safe spaces.”
“This wasn’t an overly common thing I did though, I didn’t build a close relationship with every second adult I met, they were rare people, people who for some reason I felt safe around.”
“I know you’ve said you’re child free, but it would appear you have been adopted. If you feel there are red flags, if that is what your gut instinct says, please go with it.”
“And if you can, tell him you understand, you understand that he was made to give it back, and you love him no less. He probably feels that being forced to give it back to you has ruined or tainted the relationship, and he will think it’s his fault.” – CrazyLush
“So as I explained in another comment, I never actually had to report anything as I was a part-time drama teacher.”
“What I would have done in this situation is either mention this to the designated counselor, or have sent the student there. The difference is that in a class situation I absolutely WOULD have had access to to talk to the kid, and had what we called a ‘care talk’ with him prior to decide anything.”
“So I guess the answer is: not yet, but I would have explored to see if it was warranted.”
Overall, Redditors suggested the OP was NTA but were more concerned about Sam’s well-being.
Despite many of the comments encouraging the OP to do something to help Sam based on assumptions of abuse, she seemed to remain apprehensive for fear of exacerbating the situation.