DEAR MISS MANNERS: My wife and I live with our 18-month-old son on the third floor of a 20-unit apartment complex in a major city. On weekdays, we both work, leaving our son with a responsible adult who takes him on outings.
When we get home and begin to prepare our family dinner, our son sometimes screams out of excitement or frustration. Of course we try and do everything we can to prevent this, including taking him outside for a walk or additional playtime.
But now our immediate downstairs neighbor (a single, older woman without children) has started shouting from her unit for us to quiet our son, sometimes using a harsh tone and words. I have calmly explained (from our balcony) that we are doing all we can to keep our son quiet but that it is not possible at all times, that we understand that the noise upsets her and that it upsets us, as well.
Her response is to continue to shout from her balcony. She even suggested that if we spent more time with our son, perhaps he would be more quiet.
While I am sympathetic to our neighbor (no one wants to listen to prolonged shouting), I feel this comment crossed the line and was offensive to both myself and my wife, as we would both prefer to be at home with our son as opposed to at work.
The neighbor’s shouting and comments have caused our family stress, but I do not see any point in further dialogue between balconies. Accordingly, we have decided to simply ignore our neighbor and carry on as best we can. I am not sure what further action we should take. Does Miss Manners have any advice for us as to how to politely address this issue?
GENTLE READER: Your neighbor’s comment was impolite, but perhaps she is tired. And perhaps, like Miss Manners, she noticed that instead of apologizing for the noise, you chose to explain to her that babies sometimes cry and that your inconvenience is equal to her own.
You should apologize and -- for the sake of the other 18 tenants -- do so in writing. This will also give you the opportunity to say that while you are doing your best to calm your son, your neighbor’s shouting from the balcony exacerbates, rather than improves, the situation.