DEAR ABBY: We have a neighbor, an unmarried man in his late 50s, who has always made me a bit uncomfortable. He doesn't work and is always home.
We have a 13-year-old daughter, "Kimberly," who occasionally stays alone for several hours at a time while I run errands. I have always told Kimberly that if she's by herself, she should not open the door to anyone outside of immediate family. In addition, after seeing an episode of "Oprah," I instructed her that if she did mess up and open the door for some reason, she should slam it shut if she saw it was a man alone. She didn't have to be polite.
Well, our neighbor came over recently in a rage, complaining that our dog had gotten loose. We apologized profusely and told him we'd remedy the situation. We didn't want him to be unhappy with us. However, he just got angrier and angrier. He stopped talking about the dog and began ranting about Kimberly, saying she didn't know how to act and had slammed the door in his face last year. I explained that she was only 12 at the time and may have been frightened, but he continued to rant. (The dog was forgotten.)
Was I wrong to tell Kimberly she didn't need to be polite to our older male neighbor standing alone at our door? Am I just raising a rude child? Was it normal for him to come over a year later and yell at us about our daughter to the point of threatening to hit my husband?
Experts tell kids to "get away," "don't go near the car," "don't help the adult neighbor find his puppy," etc. But what do you do when following that advice convinces neighbors that your child is rude? -- PROTECTIVE PARENTS IN KNOXVILLE
DEAR PROTECTIVE PARENTS: You pay attention to the source of the complaint and listen to your intuition. You stated that the man has always made you feel uncomfortable.
That your neighbor would nurse a grudge for a year and then "lose it" to the point of threatening your husband with violence is another clue that whatever problems you may have pale in comparison to his. His behavior was irrational.
You have an obedient daughter who follows your instructions to the letter. Count your blessings, and tell her to keep her distance from that neighbor.