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While I was watching my friend’s daughter, she broke a hair item of mine. When I took her home the next morning, I brought the broken item with me and showed it to her mother. She said she would replace the item, but offered with a cheaper version that does not work for me. I have asked a bunch of people, and most say she should pay at least half of the cost. I am angry, but I’ve still agreed to watch her daughter, because I want to be a good friend and I know she needs help. Is it my fault that her daughter broke my item while I was watching her? Should my friend pay for the broken item? Am I overreacting about this whole thing?
We’ll start with simple answers. Yes, it’s at least partially your fault because you were in charge. Yes, your friend should probably pay for a portion of it. And yes, you’re overreacting. All three of these issues require some additional discussion, so let’s discuss.
Suppose the little girl ignored your express instructions and grabbed an item she knew was off-limits, turned to you with an evil grin, and smashed it on the ground. Then it’s the little girl’s fault. Now suppose you weren’t paying attention to her and she picked up an interesting-looking item that wasn’t obviously breakable and accidentally broke it. Unless you have a standing rule for the girl not to play with things, it’s pretty much your fault. After all, you were baby-sitting in your own home. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, as is your responsibility.
Look at it from the mother’s perspective. Suppose you were watching the girl at her own house, and the same thing occurred. Would you be responsible for the cost of replacing the other woman’s broken item? The answer isn’t cut and dried, but I could at least make a reasonable case that you should cover the cost, since you were supposed to be watching the girl.
Also take into account the girl’s age. If she’s 12 and does her own hair, she probably knows better than to play around with a strange hair implement, and she should know how to avoid breaking it if she does play with it. If she’s 2 years old, shame on you for leaving an expensive and breakable item where a toddler can reach it.
Now, on to the payment. If you’re looking for a truly equitable system, the girl’s mother should pay for the proportion of the broken item equal to her daughter’s responsibility. But that kind of arrangement only works in textbooks, so you need to be flexible. If the girl broke the item because she directly disobeyed you, the mother should cover the entire cost. If the girl broke the item because you weren’t paying attention, then you should cover at least part of it, and probably all of it if the girl was young and didn’t know the item was off-limits. Here I’ll go back to my previous point about the wisdom of keeping an expensive item somewhere a young child can reach it.
And your last question gets to the heart of the matter. Are you willing to risk a friendship over a hair item? Is it that important? You didn’t mention whether the woman pays for your child care, how often you provide it, and whether she provides you with special services from time to time. You also didn’t mention her financial situation or your own. All of those facts could affect how you address the issue of compensation.
But if your goal is to be a good friend, giving this woman a hard time over a partial reimbursement probably isn’t the way to go. Regardless of who is morally responsible, she didn’t actually have to offer you anything. If you don’t like the item she offered to buy, use what she was willing to pay to cover a portion of the cost of a replacement for your specialty product. Then drop the issue.
And keep your hair products in a safe place.
Thank you for reading today’s Q&A. Check back here tomorrow for another installment of the Ask The Dad advice column. If you’d like to submit an Ask The Dad question, send it to [email protected]