DEAR CAROLYN: My daughter’s friend “Jenny” told her in their 5th-grade classroom that if she didn’t get onto an academic team at school, her mom would pour hot tea on her; this was in the context of their learning that my daughter did get onto the team, and Jenny was an alternate.
I was taken aback but tried to delve into this in a calm way. I asked if Jenny has said other things about her mom; my daughter said no, just that she’s strict. I also learned that Jenny was not acting upset when she said this, just conversational.
So, on the one hand, it’s just 5th-grade hearsay, and I think all kinds of wacky stuff gets said/misunderstood at that age. On the other hand, I can’t help but feel horrified at the possibility there is truth to this. I can’t decide what to do.
Right now the only options I can think of are to say something to the school counselor — who, unfortunately, in my experience, is not great at her job — or do nothing other than support my daughter and encourage her to keep me posted if anything further gets said along these lines. Other ideas?
My inclination is to do only the latter, but I’m struggling with that, because it’s the easier choice and I hope I’m not leaning that way for that reason. I have only met Jenny very briefly and have never met her parents. Per my daughter, Jenny is moving in a few months to her mother’s country of origin.
Unsettled by Secondhand Stories
DEAR UNSETTLED: Tell the school’s principal, who can then put all the staff on notice to look for evidence of abuse. If found, it would have to be reported to authorities.
Do also support your daughter and encourage her to keep you posted.
DEAR CAROLYN: Recently I was browsing through an online community and I found the details of a particular post very familiar. I looked through the user’s history and quickly realized this was my cousin.
I am now kind of addicted to reading this constantly updated stream of her opinions and personal details. For example, I’ve learned that she’s two months pregnant and has told no one except her parents. I’ve learned intimate details about her sex life. I’ve read long rants of her right-wing rhetoric and her criticism of her “libtard” relatives.
It’s a huge coincidence that I saw this post and connected her to the username and thus now know a lot of her personal life. I’m not sure how I should proceed.
I don’t think she would want me to see all that she’s posting, however she’s not going out of her way to preserve her anonymity; she has posted selfies using this username. I don’t plan on using this information against her, but it still feels wrong to be reading it. Do I owe her privacy? Or is it OK to gawk (and silently judge)?
DEAR I KNOW: You don’t owe her privacy that she freely discards. It does sound as if you owe it to yourself, though, not to spend so much time in this muck.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.