DEAR ABBY: My friend “Nora” was very shaken by something that happened to her recently. While her six grandchildren were visiting, the oldest boy (age 13) shouted, “Let’s take her down!” and all six of the children attacked her, knocking her to the ground, then groping and hitting her. Nora is 73 and only 5 foot 2. Her oldest grandchild is 5 foot 7 and weighs 140 pounds.
All of the grandchildren are large for their ages. The youngest, who is 7, weighs well over 70 pounds.
My question is, what can elderly people do to protect themselves? Nora felt helpless. She took the beating because she was afraid if she fought back, she’d be turned in for child abuse. I told her I’d have whacked that 13- year-old monster so hard he’d think twice about ever pulling a stunt like that again.
Now she’s afraid of her grandkids because, even though their parents eventually pulled them off her, they did nothing to punish the children for their aggressive behavior.
Is there anything older people can do to defend themselves against delinquents? – SHOCKED IN TOPEKA
DEAR SHOCKED: Are you talking about delinquent children or delinquent parents?
Nora’s grandchildren were obviously never taught by their parents the importance of behaving respectfully around adults, particularly elderly adults who can be fragile. They could have caused their grandmother serious harm. That the behavior went unpunished is extremely disturbing because if parents don’t bother to teach their children right from wrong, their misbehavior could escalate.
While the incident you described might be considered “fun and games” when it occurs between children, when it happens with an adult it becomes assault and battery. In Nora’s case, it could be considered elder abuse.
There are two ways to protect oneself from “delinquents” of any age who act like this.
The first is to avoid people who do not understand boundaries because their lack of judgment could sooner or later cause great bodily harm. The second is to notify the police and seek immediate medical attention.
DEAR ABBY: How do you tell people you just don’t like them and don’t want to be friends anymore? My husband, daughter and I are “friends” with a family we became acquainted with when our daughter was in first grade. That was three years ago.
This family is annoying and loud, and we can’t seem to distance ourselves from them. They constantly call for playdates and dinner dates.
The kids get along well, but my husband and I do not like this couple and prefer not to spend our social time with them.
How do we distance ourselves without offending them? – STUCK IN SAN ANTONIO
DEAR STUCK: Since when did an invitation to get together become a command performance?
You are under no obligation to accept every invitation that is offered to you.
The kindest way to extricate yourselves would be to simply not be available every time they want to get together. Cultivate other friendships for yourselves and your daughter.
P.S. I am not advising you to necessarily end the friendship between the children.
But when you arrange time for them to get together, make it a time when they are dropped off at each other’s homes.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.