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The last straw... withholding heat in a cold winter

post #1 of 61
Thread Starter 

I have had issues with my 'friend' for a while now.  The short back story is that my dd and another little girl Natalie became friends in preschool.  They were two peas in a pod and really loved each other.  Natalie's mom and I have many things in common and always have lots to chat about.  I really thought this could be the beginning of a long friendship.  It has proven otherwise.

 

I am all for parents parenting their children how they see fit.  Whether to parent AP, or feed sugar, or play with plastic, or not... really every family situation is so dynamic and we are all living in this blended world... live and let live is a good way I view the world.

 

Okay so I think this mother has extreme practices....  An example of this is that her children can not keep gifts, they can only have old worn toys (books and a few toys are okay, but nothing plastic or nice),  they eat very traditionally (whole foods in the vein of Nourishing Traditions) which is fine, but I really can't see why MORE food isn't available.  Her children are all rail thin and whenever they came to my house they would eat as much as I could give them (of a similar variety as their mom provides).  This screams bad parenting to me, but I don't say anything because it is really none of my bussiness.  Also, one child can not have a playdate or parkdate without the other... and mom is always making sure that when 'friends' are mentioned that both girls say their sister is their 'best friend'.  There are more examples, but you get the idea.

 

So this winter when I went over for the only playdate we had with Natalie in many months the mom explained to me that they are not heating their house because... hmmm, well the only reason she gave is that they didn't want to spend the x number of dollars on the heater.  Now we live in the SW and so it isin't a brutal freezing winter, but regularly drops below 35 at night.  Isn't this going waaaay tooooo far?   When I got there one of her rail thin girls was huddled next to the space heater in bare feet on the concrete floor....

 

by the way, both parents have advanced degrees and both parents work for the major employer in town and I know they are not rich, but um... isn't this going too far?

 

 

post #2 of 61
Quote:

Originally Posted by Felicitymom View Post

 

Her children are all rail thin and whenever they came to my house they would eat as much as I could give them (of a similar variety as their mom provides).  This screams bad parenting to me,

Mama please be careful - this is judgement. just coz they are rail thin and eat large meals in your house doesnt mean they are being neglected - which you are implying. under 5 dd always found someone elses food better than ours. so right after a meal she could go over to the neighbors and eat another meal with them. i lived through so much embarrasement during that phase.

 

So this winter when I went over for the only playdate we had with Natalie in many months the mom explained to me that they are not heating their house because... hmmm, well the only reason she gave is that they didn't want to spend the x number of dollars on the heater.  Now we live in the SW and so it isin't a brutal freezing winter, but regularly drops below 35 at night.  Isn't this going waaaay tooooo far?   When I got there one of her rail thin girls was huddled next to the space heater in bare feet on the concrete floor....

to me this is not neglect either. the girls could wear something warmer. perhaps they are at the stage where they are refusing. but it makes sense to me to turn down the heat at night. why have heat when everyone is under the blankets anyways.

 

by the way, both parents have advanced degrees and both parents work for the major employer in town and I know they are not rich, but um... isn't this going too far?

mama you have some issues with this mom. i think because of your issues perhaps this is clouding how you look at this family.

 

yes the mom goes to extremes. but you are implying neglect. that can be v. dangerous.

 

from what little you have written - no i dont find it neglectful. however it depends on how the kids are. if they are old enough to clothe themselves then they could easily grab socks and grab a jacket which it seems they dont want to do.

 

 

post #3 of 61

I don't know. Some things might be extreme or odd but not really neglectful or harmful. It sounds like they are living pretty different from you though.
 

Have you actually seen that your friend does not provide her children enough food or are you assuming they are not providing enough just because her kids are thin and eat a lot at your house?

I would not judge by appearance or appetite the amount of food a child has at home. My dd has always been very thin- way below average weight on the growth chart- no matter how much she eats. She is not unhealthy or restricted in the amount of food available to her. I was the same way as a child.

 

I think having a space heater is providing heat. Do the children also have access to warm clothing and blankets?

I had a very cold home when I was a kid. It did not have great heat or much insulation. We had space heaters, blankets and warm clothes. We put plastic on windows and covered them with blankets. We sat near heaters. We were a little cold sometimes in winter. It wasn't harmful even if it was uncomfortable at times. That's just the way it was.

 

It may be that they are financially strained even with degrees and jobs. If they truly do not have enough food at home and can't afford to heat their house maybe you can help them find some help. You might ask your friend if she has checked with her utility company for ways to keep heating costs down like an equal payment plan.

post #4 of 61

 Not sure, but how are the children  - do they seem distressed, unhappy, anxious, scared, sad, anything off in any way?

post #5 of 61

While I can't say for sure that everything sounds hunky dory, I haven't read anything that is definitely off. As others have pointed out, being thin doesn't mean neglect (my daughter is in the 3rd percentile for weight, and believe me, we offer her tons of food). Eating a ton at your house doesn't mean anything either. They could eat the same amount at home, or they could just have a case of the grass is greener. Sometimes DD eats more elsewhere than at home.

 

As for the heat, while the idea of sleeping on concrete sounds a bit extreme to me, I personally don't find it necessary to heat the house when it goes down to 35F at night (it's not 35F in the house, more like in the 50s). You'll find DD prancing around the house with no socks often. Sometimes in summer jammies even. I'm always telling her to go put on socks or a sweater but she's just not cold, what can I say. We have plenty of blankets, but she'll kick them off at night. She gets hot.

 

We really can't conclude anything either way from what you've observed.

post #6 of 61
I feel like you pretty much described my family... and I'm not neglecting DS or anything!

We are a bit minimalist I guess, we regularly declutter & donate DS's toys (and many other items throughout the house) and we do generally return or donate gifts that we don't feel comfortable with DS playing with. Most of his toys & books came from the thrift store. DS has never complained and other kids love his playroom so I don't see the problem with him not having "plastic or nice toys."

DS eats non-stop from morning to sundown and yes, he always prefers other people's foods, and yes, he is on the tiny side (I wouldn't say 'thin' but he's only around the 15% for weight). It's embarrassing sometimes that he's constantly asking other people for food (even though I always keep a huge bag filled with food with us all day). I have joked to people, "I swear I do feed him at home!!" DS has been on several different diets (as in vegan, whole foods, paleo, etc. -- not weight loss diets of course! smile.gif) and I don't think the type of diet he is eating has had any effect on how much he eats on playdates so I don't see how following a NT-type diet would be an issue. I don't see any problem with their eating habits at all, based solely on the info your provided here.

I also don't see a huge issue with the heat, if they have a space heater then they do have heat. We live in the northeast & don't always keep the heat on (unless it's below freezing) and even on very cold nights we are likely to keep the heat low and just close the bedroom door & it stays plenty warm. We have blankets and sweaters and socks (which DS never wears, he's always in bare feet no matter how cold, just what he prefers I guess).

So I think you are over-reacting to some differences in your parenting/lifestyles... but I also know that sometimes it's hard to convey the whole picture in an online post. Does the mom provide food for her kids? Are there blankets or warm clothing available (even if they aren't being used)? Are there a few toys (even if they aren't "nice" ones in your opinion)?
post #7 of 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by laohaire View Post

While I can't say for sure that everything sounds hunky dory, I haven't read anything that is definitely off. As others have pointed out, being thin doesn't mean neglect (my daughter is in the 3rd percentile for weight, and believe me, we offer her tons of food). Eating a ton at your house doesn't mean anything either. They could eat the same amount at home, or they could just have a case of the grass is greener. Sometimes DD eats more elsewhere than at home.

 

As for the heat, while the idea of sleeping on concrete sounds a bit extreme to me, I personally don't find it necessary to heat the house when it goes down to 35F at night (it's not 35F in the house, more like in the 50s). You'll find DD prancing around the house with no socks often. Sometimes in summer jammies even. I'm always telling her to go put on socks or a sweater but she's just not cold, what can I say. We have plenty of blankets, but she'll kick them off at night. She gets hot.

 

We really can't conclude anything either way from what you've observed.

What kid doesn't walk around naked in the winter and then complain that they're cold? ROTFLMAO.gif
 

 

post #8 of 61

It sounds like they're choosing a pretty monastic lifestyle, and that they have some kind of agenda, but there are worse things than having idealistic although possibly slightly misguided and overly controlling parents. The kids might harbor some resentment, but they'll survive assuming they are being provided with some source of warmth and an adequate amount of food.

post #9 of 61
Thread Starter 

Well, I guess the 'I'm being too judgmental" have it... I suppose I am.  I do have issues with this mom and I see from the replies I have gotten that my issues are clouding my judgement.  I am all for choices and freedom.  I have chosen not to contact these folks anymore.  It just bothers me too much to see the monastic choices that they are making... I think the kids are fairing pretty well.  I mean they don't have chronic health issues and they do play and laugh and such when out and about.  It seems extreme living to me, but that is their choice...  just for the record I know they are making their choices not based on lack of $$$$.  I don't know exactly what they earn but I know the choices are moral in nature.   Oh well, some friends lost, some friends gained...

 

thanks for all your insight.

post #10 of 61
It sounds like they're concerned about overconsumption - like not having processed food, not using heat when they live in a warm climate and instead relying on dressing differently, not having a ton of toys. There's a lot to be said for that, though I'm not there.

My kids always eat a ton at friends' houses. They are thin but not rail thin, but some kids are naturally rail thin, and most kids will eat a ton at friends' houses, particularly if they only get whole healthy foods at home and are offered more variety elsewhere.

So I agree that it's judgement, and I'm happy to see you recognize it in yourself. I'm still working on stepping back and recognizing when I'm reacting out of judgement, but it's a good thing to learn to do.
post #11 of 61

I live in the SW and I know people who don't use heat or don't even have working heat (and not from poverty). I don't see it as a big deal, although I can't do it.

post #12 of 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by Felicitymom View Post

Well, I guess the 'I'm being too judgmental" have it... I suppose I am.  I do have issues with this mom and I see from the replies I have gotten that my issues are clouding my judgement.  I am all for choices and freedom.  I have chosen not to contact these folks anymore.  It just bothers me too much to see the monastic choices that they are making... I think the kids are fairing pretty well.  I mean they don't have chronic health issues and they do play and laugh and such when out and about.  It seems extreme living to me, but that is their choice...  just for the record I know they are making their choices not based on lack of $$$$.  I don't know exactly what they earn but I know the choices are moral in nature.   Oh well, some friends lost, some friends gained...

 

thanks for all your insight.


I've gotta say, mama...I'm, like, SUPER scratching my head at how you are reacting to this family. You are seriously going to phase this mama out over what you described?? You've described the way that I live pretty spot on.

I mean, aside from the heat thing...but that's only because we heat with Anthracite and we cant help but have tropical temps around here during the winter. But if it's before mid-November or after mid-March...I don't care what the temperature is, I'm not heating the damn house. That's what we have sweaters for. If it gets too cold, I'll bake a lot and the house will get toasty (and bellies will get full!) that way. But it's funny that you mentioned the space heater as particularly offensive to you, as my children have, on multiple occasions, made a little tent on cold days and huddled in it while I pointed the space heater at the entrance of it to heat the space up for them. So...am I a monster?

 

The food thing...OH PUHLEASE! Yeah, you invite my kids over...they will make you think they haven't eaten in DAYS. Truth is, just about all they do all day is snack and snack and snack....CONSTANTLY. We are traditional/Weston Price style/sometimes paleo-ish eaters over here, so if we go someplace where there is high sugar, high carb, more "junky" type food..or, gasp, their favorite EVER: processed food made especially FOR kids (think capri sun juice, crackers/cookies in the shapes of animals, fruit roll-ups, etc) they will sit in the kitchen and just look at the the fridge/pantry and will eat anything you give them and nod like bobble heads if you ask them if they want more. They will eat you out of house and home...because I don't buy that shit around here. I don't restrict if we are out and about and it's offered to them, because even I enjoy an occasional piece of junky food...but I'm not going to spend money on gut rot, so they don't get that stuff at home. They LOVE the food I give them here, they eat it all day long happily....but when we go somewhere with "new and awesome-r" food, they gobble like they are starved at home. I know SOOOOO many kids who eat like that at other peoples houses.

 

The toy thing is weird to me...you say "nice/plastic"...what do you mean by that? I do not buy new things for my kids. They have a few really, super awesome toys. There are a few things they have that are plastic or have plastic parts, because they were just too completely neat-o to pass up for their plastic alone...but for the most part, they have WAYYYY less toys than any other kids I know and they are mostly wooden and "activity based" - think tools, kitchen stuff, dress up, big wooden dolls house). I was raised the same way (cherishing a few precious-to-me toys) and, ahem, funny enough...never really developed that "good old American consumerism" - my kids are too busy playing with dogs and chickens outside to play with toys much inside anyway.

 

 

I'm not trying to rag on you at all, but mama, I really think you should think hard about why you are judging this woman so harshly. If you are THIS turned off by her lifestyle...I can only imagine that you are living a lifestyle I would find very uncomfortable...but if I liked you and our kids were real friends, I would never stop being your friend over it. You would trade friendship over these things??

 

IMO, true friends are too hard to come by to let things like what you've described get in the way. All I can think of is how skinny I was as a kid. My knees were SO huge, like a baby horse or something, my feet stuck out like I was wearing water skiis...I wonder now, how many people thought my mother was starving us! lol.gif  Oh well.

 

post #13 of 61

i dont want to be this family but i wish i knew people like this family. everyone i know is normal

:(

post #14 of 61

I don't think there's anything wrong with distancing yourself from people if the way they live bother you. Even if you intellectually acknowledge that it's fine. There's no law saying you have to be close to everyone, or even that you have to justify distancing yourself.

post #15 of 61

      Quote:

Originally Posted by BroodyWoodsgal View Post


I've gotta say, mama...I'm, like, SUPER scratching my head at how you are reacting to this family. You are seriously going to phase this mama out over what you described?? You've described the way that I live pretty spot on.


You don't let your kids keep gifts, and they have to have playdates together and have to refer to each other as "best friends?"  I mean I'm all for simple living and valuing family, but I can't get behind that kind of control. I wouldn't call CPS over this family or anything, but based on what the OP has mentioned, I can't say I blame her for not really wanting to be friends. 

post #16 of 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by AbbyGrant View Post

      Quote:


You don't let your kids keep gifts, and they have to have playdates together and have to refer to each other as "best friends?"  I mean I'm all for simple living and valuing family, but I can't get behind that kind of control. I wouldn't call CPS over this family or anything, but based on what the OP has mentioned, I can't say I blame her for not really wanting to be friends. 


I'm with you. I found the OP really sad, and then was surprised by the responses. I went back and re-read the OP to see if I had misread it the first time.

 



Quote:
Originally Posted by Felicitymom View Post
t they are not heating their house because... hmmm, well the only reason she gave is that they didn't want to spend the x number of dollars on the heater.  Now we live in the SW and so it isin't a brutal freezing winter, but regularly drops below 35 at night.  Isn't this going waaaay tooooo far?   When I got there one of her rail thin girls was huddled next to the space heater in bare feet on the concrete floor....


This is just a sad picture. It would be one thing if the family were living in poverty and needed assistance, but to live like this by choice shows a lack of mental balance.

 

Living frugally, eating simple foods, and reusing items are one thing. Living in misery with trashy things is quite another.

 

I have a old friend who is always extremely tight for money, but her children are well cared for. All their clothes and toys are second hand, but everything is in great shape. All the food is inexpensive, but her children have a healthy glow from eating right and playing outside. Caring well for children doesn't have much to do with money.

 

I think that what the OP is seeing is intentional neglect. Her friend sounds unbalanced to me.

 

We've lived in Arizona. Before we moved there, I assumed that we would never use a heater because we are not weather wimps. It turns out that low 30's at night is cold, even if you have cacti in your yard. Living in Arizona isn't an excuse to let your children freeze.

 

post #17 of 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by AbbyGrant View Post

      Quote:


You don't let your kids keep gifts, and they have to have playdates together and have to refer to each other as "best friends?"  I mean I'm all for simple living and valuing family, but I can't get behind that kind of control. I wouldn't call CPS over this family or anything, but based on what the OP has mentioned, I can't say I blame her for not really wanting to be friends. 



It was these issues that stood out to me as well. The diet, eating a ton at a friend's house, and the use of space heaters didn't really bother me. Though, I do wonder... do you really save more money using space heaters though out the house as opposed to keeping the thermostat set at a reasonable temperature? Most people I know that use space heaters are those that don't have central heat, so I guess I've never considered it.

post #18 of 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by MamaInTheDesert View Post
. Though, I do wonder... do you really save more money using space heaters though out the house as opposed to keeping the thermostat set at a reasonable temperature?


You are much more likely to have a house fire using space heaters. They just aren't as safe. Esp with small children.

 

 

 

post #19 of 61

I really can't see what is going with what we have been given here.  Though if you're uncomfortable with this family it is best to distance yourself.  It really doesn't sound like abuse though. 

post #20 of 61


OP, chances are you are seeing something in your friends that is "off" but listing things doesn't give the full picture...


Quote:
Originally Posted by MamaInTheDesert View Post



It was these issues that stood out to me as well. The diet, eating a ton at a friend's house, and the use of space heaters didn't really bother me. Though, I do wonder... do you really save more money using space heaters though out the house as opposed to keeping the thermostat set at a reasonable temperature? Most people I know that use space heaters are those that don't have central heat, so I guess I've never considered it.


We use space heaters in the rooms in which we spend the most time. It's a big old uninsulated house in the north east US. So we keep the thermostat low and keep our living room and bedroom comfortable with space heaters rather than heating a ton of rooms we aren't even in.

 

My ds will totally huddle in front of a space heater in light weight clothes and no socks... He insists his feet can't warm up with socks on, since the socks insulate his feet from the warm air. We keep explaining that wearing socks and a sweatshirt will keep him from getting cold in the first place. But if he gets too hot, he complains he's dying of heat and strips down. Drives me nuts.

 

And tons of mamas on here talk about what they do if people give their kids gifts of which they don't approve. Made in China, plastic toys, Barbies with their disproportionate figures, battery operated toys, noisy toys, big toys that take up too much space. People on MDC frequently complain about those things and encourage moms whose children are recipients of those items to explain to their children that they are against the family values and to donate them.

 

The best friend thing could be the mom's idea about how to avoid sibling rivalry.

 

Anyway, I'm sure the OP is sensing something more than just this list of things. And there probably is something a little strange about this family. But there is really no way to judge and nothing sounds actually neglectful. One also can't judge the family's finances. Even if they have good jobs, they may have huge student loans from their advanced degrees. They may have medical bills. Even healthy people can easily rack them up, being told to go get a certain test done only to discover it isn't covered by the insurance afterwards. Breaking a bone can result in needing surgery with an overnight hospital stay and months of physical therapy, not just a xray and cast... My dh has had hospital stays that cost more than our combined yearly income. If the accident didn't happen at work, if we didn't have insurance, that would have screwed our finances for a very long time.

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