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I Lost it With a Neighbor Who Scolded My Kids For No Reason

"What had happened was that a bit of splash from the balloon had entered her open window. Was that annoying? Sure. Did we do it on purpose? Absolutely not. And it does not give you the right to come in and lecture my son."

Welcome to “Why I Yelled,” Fatherly’s ongoing series in which real dudes discuss a time they lost their temper in front of their wife, their kids, their coworker — anyone, really — and why. The goal of this isn’t to examine the deeper meaning of screaming or come to any great conclusions. It’s about yelling and what really triggers it. Here, Robert, a 37-year-old father of two explains why he yelled at a neighbor who scolded his kids about a rogue water balloon during a battle.  

When was the last time you yelled?

Last weekend.

Who’d you yell out?

I yelled at my neighbor for yelling at my kid for yelling [laughs]

Okay. Well, what were you doing?

My kids, who are eight and nine, and I were playing in the yard. It was a hot day and so I pulled out the sprinkler, water balloons, and a few other toys that we had so we could enjoy the day. And we were having a blast – laughing, soaking one another. I don’t allow my kids to peg anyone with water balloons just yet so I’d set up targets that we were hitting instead.

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So what caused the problem?

Well, we share a fence with an older neighbor. At one point or another, my son, the older one, threw a water balloon at the target but missed and it sailed over the fence and hit their house. Not a window or anything breakable, but just some of the siding. We continued to play and I’d stepped in for a minute. When I came back, the neighbor was in our yard and loudly lecturing my son in that holier-than-thou sort of way — What did you think was going to happen if you threw it over the fence? Hmmmm?

I guess what had happened was that a bit of splash from the balloon had entered her open window. Was that annoying? Sure. Did we do it on purpose? Absolutely not. And it does not give you the right to come in and lecture my son.

And that pissed you off?

Well, it was one of those moments that just ruined the mood. My kids are sensitive and if they do something wrong they feel it. If an adult tells them they’ve done something wrong, they feel it. But there’s a difference between telling my kid he did something wrong and him actually doing something wrong, you know?

And, some back story, this is a neighbor that we have had for, I don’t know, six, seven years? And we have a good relationship: I salt her sidewalk in the winter and help her clean the gutters; I drag her trash to the curb when I can and my wife goes over there with banana bread every now and again. So we try to be good neighbors. I don’t know if that closeness makes her think she can come over and lecture my son about something but I do not. I thought it would make her more understanding of out family and know when an accident is just an accident.

So what did you end up doing?

I told my kids to continue playing in a very passive aggressive way that would’ve been aggressive if they weren’t around. I loudly said Guys, why don’t you go over there, because Mrs. Wilson — that’s not her real name by the waydoesn’t seem to understand that sometimes accidents happen when you’re having fun.  Then, and get this, she said something along the lines of: Well, maybe your dad doesn’t understand how things work. I guess she didn’t really appreciate my initial comment. So then she and I proceeded to have a curt conversation about how she shouldn’t, ever lecture my kids or tell me how to parent and that we were just having fun.

How did it end?

Oh as passive aggressively as it began. She’s of the type that doesn’t like kids being kids. I’m sorry if she wants to live in complete silence or without interruption from the outside world but that’s fine. When I talk to her again, it’ll be like it never happened. But, boy, I was pretty pissed.

Did your kids continue to have fun?

At first they were pretty deflated. But then I broke my rule and let them pelt me with water balloons, which lifted their spirits pretty quickly. Later when my younger son asked me about her – he was definitely still thinking about – I just told him that Mrs. Wilson is old doesn’t like to be bothered and sometimes people get annoyed about silly things. Later, when telling my wife about it, called her an old bag. But the truth of it is that she’s old and lonely and maybe just wanted some interaction. I just wasn’t big on the fact that her adventure of the day was a lecture to my kids.