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iPhone broken by a 2.5 year old
September 15, 2010 2:42 PM   Subscribe

What's the etiquette consensus on paying for things broken by a relative's child? Last night my wife was at her brother's house. Their 2.5 year old boy snatched her iPhone from her hand while she was using it and smashed it against a wall, breaking the screen.

This is complicated by the fact that her brother is not doing very well financially and probably unable to pay for a new iPhone or screen repair, at least not immediately.

In my opinion if your child is out of control and destroys something belonging to another person, it's your responsibility to fix or replace the thing destroyed by your child. It's a wholly preventable accident.

If you have children and they have broken something (valued at $100 to $500+) belonging to another person, what did you do? In the reverse, if you've had something broken by another person's child, what did they offer to do?

I don't want to hold this over my brother-in-law as a debt but in my opinion he needs to do something to make it right.
posted by thewalrus to Human Relations (63 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
See if he'll split it with you.

The bottom line is the iPhone shouldn't have been anywhere near a toddler, though.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:44 PM on September 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


I don't want to hold this over my brother-in-law as a debt but in my opinion he needs to do something to make it right.

But it sounds like that's exactly what you want. You know he can't afford an iPhone, but you want him to buy one? What do you want him to do to make this right, other than spend money you know he can't afford?

Kids are assholes. They break things. If you don't want them to break things, you don't leave those things within their reach. Your wife has some culpability here too.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:45 PM on September 15, 2010 [28 favorites]


You stay out of it. Leave it between brother and sister. Any involvement by you just adds unneeded tension to the situation.

You imply that you can afford it when you say he can't...so eat the cost and keep expensive things from babies. They don't know better. Your wife should.
posted by inturnaround at 2:46 PM on September 15, 2010 [27 favorites]


Which model?

If it's one of the older models, a replacement screen assembly shouldn't run you that much and you can probably replace it yourself.

http://www.ifixit.com/iPhone-Parts/iPhone-3G-Display-Assembly/IF137-008-1
posted by runit at 2:48 PM on September 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


she couldn't over power a toddler to keep the phone in her hand? or socially she was embarrassed to? don't hand over expensive to electronics to children. sounds like she learned a lesson for next time.

if the brother could afford it and offered to, i'd take him up on it. but you know he can't afford it. how much is familial peace worth to you? for me, the price is way higher than $500.
posted by nadawi at 2:48 PM on September 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


It's their responsibility to fix it, but if you're in a better financial position, and they're close to you, you have a responsibility to let it go graciously if you're financially capable of doing so.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:49 PM on September 15, 2010 [54 favorites]


The kid may be wild. The wife might have been at fault. And so on...but the issue now is the question posted.
posted by Postroad at 2:51 PM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Practical point: your brother in law doesn't have the money. Squeezing him for it won't get you the money, and it will strain your and your wife's relationship with him.

So going after him for the money doesn't win you anything.

Replacing the iPhone yourself loses you the cost of repair/replacement, but you're going to lose that anyway. It possibly gains you the gratitude of your brother-in-law for not squeezing him when he's down. (Or, possibly, he hates feeling indebted to you, and the relation sours over that, but then, there's not much you can do about that.)

Since you can't win anything by not being magnanimous, and you possibly win something (gratitude) by being magnanimous, your best strategy seems to be to replace the iPhone out of your own funds. I'd suggest also not saying anything about it to the brother-in-law; if and when he can compensate you for it, he'll do it if it's in his character to do so.

And if it's in his character to apologize now, he'll do that too, which is what I think you really want. And if he doesn't, well, nothing you can do about that. Life goes on.
posted by orthogonality at 2:53 PM on September 15, 2010 [29 favorites]


I assume from your question you do not have children of your own. No parent would even allow a 2.5 year old to snatch an iPhone out of their hands or have it in a place where they possibly could. But, that does not make it ok for the little fellow to smash your wife's screen. If I was the parent of the snatch and tosser, I would offer to make it right but that assumes I can afford to or it is reasonable practical to do so. But, if I could not afford to make it right, I would immediately apologize and say how sorry I am and hope you don't ask. If you ask, I guess it is their obligation to make it right, but seeing as this is family and they can ill afford it, I would chalk this up to experience, never have any item out and about when I saw the little snatcher and pay for it myself. If you cannot afford it any more than they can, I would say something along the lines of how much this sucks and could they split the cost of a new screen.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:53 PM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


So, just how much is peace in the family and your relationship with your in-laws worth? A hundred bucks? If so, you don't value family or peace very highly. Bad mistakes happen. Man-up and get it fixed and forget about it. In the future ask your wife not to take the phone out to use in proximity to the kid.
posted by Old Geezer at 2:53 PM on September 15, 2010


Actually, orthogonality has it spot on.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:56 PM on September 15, 2010


That's one strong toddler.

I'd say be the bigger person and just eat the costs. Its an iphone. If you've got one of these, you're not exactly scraping the bottom of the barrel in the economic scale (and if you are...why do you have one in the first place?)

When the kid is an adult one day, you can tease him about the iphone he broke when he was a youngster.

If its a fairly new purchase (under a year) and you bought it with a credit card, check with your credit card company. It may actually be covered under a special accident or warranty plan.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 2:57 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Your wife gave the toddler the phone, therefore she realized there most likely would be consequences for that...a broken screen being one of them. Yes, the toddler should be taught not to throw things that are not his/hers. I think it is best if you just swallow the cost. It's a small thing in the bigger picture.
posted by zombiehoohaa at 3:02 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Obviously some people have never been surprised by a toddler before. Jeez.

Normally I'd say that parents are responsible for their child's actions, but if you honestly know that he cannot pay for the repairs or to replace the phone, and you can, then seriously, don't hold it over his head. What good would it do? Don't stir up trouble unnecessarily.

Or, what orthogonality said.
posted by patheral at 3:03 PM on September 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


Try not to focus on what's right, but on what's gracious, especially because preserving a good relationship with family is important. These things happen - toddlers will break things with no malice, and they can't be controlled every second, and it sucks if they get their hands on something expensive.

What's gracious for the parents to do is, obviously, to abjectly apologize, and offer to help pay something toward a replacement.

What's gracious for the aunt and uncle to do is to forgive and forget as much as possible. If the parents offer to help pay, even if it's not the full amount, accept with gratitude -- or if the income differences are that great, to say "thanks for the offer, but it's okay, I know you guys have your hands full these days so we'll take care of it." If they don't offer, try to think of it as a product of their financial situation and don't think ill of them for it.

(Maybe you feel as if this is part of a pattern, or it's playing into other problems between the two families, but barring that, I would just try to be as gracious as possible.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:03 PM on September 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


In my family there is a significant income disparity between my family's side and my uncle's side, though thankfully we've never been broke. If this had happened to us, this is approximately how it would have played out (in my case brother=my mom and wife=my uncle, but whatever).

Toddler: [destroy!]
Brother: Oh, I'm so sorry! (Bad, toddler! You shouldn't break things!) Oh god, and your iPhone, too. How bad is it?
Wife: Hmm, looks like the screen is cracked.
Brother: What do we need to do to fix it?
Wife: Oh, no, don't worry about it.
Brother: No, please, let us pay to get it fixed.
Wife: No, no, it's not a big deal. He's just a kid, he didn't know.
Brother: OK. Man, I'm really, really sorry.

[The next day]
Toddler: Sowwy fow bwaking yoh phone Aunt Wife. [hug]

So, in short (in my opinion), your wife's brother should have offered to have it fixed and your wife should have immediately said "no way". It's a stupid, fancy phone, and way less important than getting along as a family.
posted by phunniemee at 3:03 PM on September 15, 2010 [30 favorites]


I would offer to immediately pay for the broken item, and I'd offer some other smaller acknowledgement of the error and lost time / effort for the replacement (e.g. bottle of wine). If someone failed to do this for me, and especially failed to even try, I would definitely note it as an indicator of character.

That said, that's not the question you're asking. You're asking, "Should I force / entice / cajole my brother-in-law to pay for this?"

That's a very complicated question, moreso than it seems, which I think you understand. There's the old saying about why there's so much competition in academia -- "because the stakes are so small."

You can't go to the mat with a family member over a few hundred bucks. It's not worth the grief. If he's not offering, you can't really force the issue.

I think you're just left with having a beer and thinking, "Christ, what an asshole. My kid won't break stuff, and even if he does, I'll teach him he has to pay up."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:04 PM on September 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


It will help to stop thinking "My no-good brother-in-law's kid broke the phone" and start thinking "My nephew broke the phone." He should apologize, but you should pay.

Also: I'm pretty sure I let my son hold my iPhone when he was three. 999 times out of 1000 it's fine. This was an accident, same as if the phone had slipped out of your wife's hand any other way, and you're better off not trying to assign blame for it.
posted by escabeche at 3:16 PM on September 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


Yes, the parents of the toddler are responsible, but they can't afford to fix or replace it (and you know it), so you and/or your wife is going to have to pay, not them.

So it seems to me that your real question is, "How do I shake off my frustration that their kid just broke my wife's iPhone, and they, as parents, should pay for things their toddlers break, but they can't afford to, and now I have to pay for it?" With a possible addendum of "And he didn't even offer to take care of it, and that pisses me off too?"


(aside: zombiehoohaa, a little reading comprehension goes a long way.)
posted by tzikeh at 3:18 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


When my son was 2, he was sitting on a friends lap at my kitchen table. There was a small sentimentally-but-not-financially valuable sculpture within arms reach. As my son reached for it, and my friend allowed him to reach, I opened my mouth to say "please don't let him play with that".

I didn't say it quickly enough. It shattered as soon as my son grabbed it and banged it hard on the table. My friend was mortified, apologised profusely, insisted that he replace it. I explained that it couldn't be replaced, but it was okay, it was my son who had broken it. No harm done.

That friend went out and bought another small sculpture-type thing to apologise and make up for it. I thought that was a sweet, kind gesture (and now I value that sculpture more than the previous one, because it reminds me of what a kind heart that person has).

But it sounds as thought your BIL didn't offer to replace him. I'd write it off and take Cool Papa Bell's suggestion about the beer.

It also sounds like the kid needs some discipline. If my 2.5 year old snatched ANYTHING from someone's hand, they'd learn in a heartbeat that it's not acceptable and there are consequences. Was he disciplined in any way?
posted by malibustacey9999 at 3:18 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, replace IT, not replace him. Morning coffee hasn't quite kicked in, obviously.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 3:19 PM on September 15, 2010


I'm afraid you have to forgive the debt. The dad is your brother-in-law, the kid is your nephew, and that family can't afford to replace or repair. Unfortunately, when your relatives' kids are rough or careless, you often have to do what you can to prevent accidents/vandalism -- and suck it up when something does happen. I know this sounds unthinkable, especially if you have no kids or if your kids are well-mannered.

One of my nephews wrote on my white couch with magic markers. Another threw a small ceramic bowl and broke his cousin's front tooth. Another tore a hole in an aunt's vintage tablecloth by sticking a fork through it repeatedly. The wronged adults just accepted apologies and tried to forgive. (2 out of 3 haven't been successful in that effort.)

One thing I now say to parents who visit: "'I'm not used to having children around, and my house is full of breakable stuff that might be tempting to the kids. What can we do to prevent damage?" I also have said to the mother of a really rambunctious boy, "I love Matty, but my stuff is vulnerable. Can we get together someplace else?" She didn't like it, but there were no lingering hard feelings that I'm aware of.

In your shoes, I'd be angry, too. Experience tells me that the most you can do is make a bit of a show of letting it go. You know... like, "I felt surprised and angry when Stinky broke my phone. But toddlers are impulsive, and I know it wasn't his fault." Don't say whose fault you thing is is!
posted by wryly at 3:20 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


in my opinion he needs to do something to make it right.

Okay, but when you say this do you mean "he must pay for it" or "he must apologize to us on his knees" or "he should make us a nice dinner" or what? Obviously it's understandable that you feel wronged but what's the point of retribution? You know the man can't afford it, and it's hardly his fault.

It calls to mind this Washington Post article about children dying in hot cars because of a forgetful moment on the part of the parent (something that could and does happen to anyone), resulting in the parent getting tossed in jail. What's the point? People have a hard time accepting that something bad things happen. Someone must pay for this bad thing!

Let it go. If he wants to do something to make up for it, awesome. Otherwise chalk it up to experience (don't let toddlers have your expensive electronics) and familial harmony.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:24 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not a direct answer to your question, but I was able to buy a screen repair kit from ebay for $13 and though I am the least techy person alive, install it myself. So your loss may not be as great as you think. Memail me for more info if you want.
posted by CunningLinguist at 3:26 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


My dog ate my friend's nice leather shoes. We were mortified and insisted on replacing them. My friend emphatically refused the offer and correctly pointed out that if our roles were reversed we would do the same.

Unfortunately, family often comes with more baggage than friends do, and it can be much more challenging for either side to do the right thing.

Step 1: They should have offered to pay. Step 2: You should have declined the offer. Step 3: everybody should let it go. For real. Don't hold it over them, don't bad mouth them, don't think of it all. Steps 1 and 2 are optional.
posted by ellenaim at 3:33 PM on September 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


Also not an answer to your question---it's a sucky situation---but I let my kids, aged 2 and 5, play with my iPhone on a regular basis, and so far, no damage, although its been dropped a couple of times (mostly by me). So it's really too bad that the phone got broken, but I don't think the immediate generalization should be "kids should never ever get to touch iPhones" although perhaps your nephew shouldn't get to for a while.
posted by leahwrenn at 3:37 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is complicated by the fact that her brother is not doing very well financially and probably unable to pay for a new iPhone or screen repair, at least not immediately.

If I was your brother in law, and totally broke, I'd offer to pay some do-able amount to you every month, until it was paid off. Just because he can't afford to replace your iPhone tomorrow doesn't mean he can't slowly pay you back.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:41 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your first tag on this post is "etiquette." One of the overarching reasons for etiquette, the real point of good manners, is to make life more pleasant for everybody. If your manners are just right, nobody will even notice them; they just hover around in the background putting other people at ease...
posted by kmennie at 3:43 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


As some people have pointed out above, he should have offered to pay. As far as I know there hasn't been any apology or offer. It's been more like a shrug and a "oh, aren't two year olds just completely wild?!".

There isn't actually a huge income discrepancy between ourselves and my brother-in-law, in fact, the iPhone is not a luxury item... It's an iPhone 2G 8GB which was purchased used on eBay for $180 and carrier unlocked/jailbroken by us. I'm more bothered by the lack of reaction to the broken iphone than the cost to repair the screen, which is about $80. I'm happy to eat that cost for the sake of not stirring up trouble.
posted by thewalrus at 3:44 PM on September 15, 2010


Wait, how is this the brother's responsibility? Because he lets his son play with his aunt? The child did what little children do; your wife was the nearest adult, but she was paying attention neither to the phone nor to the child. It would be polite of your brother-in-law to apologize and commiserate, but he doesn't owe anyone any money; your wife should buy herself a new phone and be more careful with it.
posted by nicwolff at 3:45 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


2nding checking your credit card agreement to see if the purchase was insured. My wife dropped our laptop and it was eventually replaced (though they gave a couple of bogus excuses for turning us down -we persisted and eventually got a cheque for the full retail price).
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:46 PM on September 15, 2010


leahwrenn: " Also not an answer to your question---it's a sucky situation---but I let my kids, aged 2 and 5, play with my iPhone on a regular basis, and so far, no damage, although its been dropped a couple of times (mostly by me). So it's really too bad that the phone got broken, but I don't think the immediate generalization should be "kids should never ever get to touch iPhones" although perhaps your nephew shouldn't get to for a while. "

It is not about the durability of an iPhone, it is about not letting toddlers get ahold of anything you don't want broken or you cannot afford to replace. Sort of like going to a Grateful Dead concert. Never bring anything in your pockets that you cannot afford to lose.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 3:49 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


i used to housesit a lot when my child was two. i am the poster child for not being able to afford replacing expensive stuff, but i always offered to do something. if the broken thing was small, i had the replacement in my hand or installed by the time the owners got home. if it was more expensive, i would tell them immediately what i could do to replace or compensate for the item. sometimes, the owners would decline. sometimes, they wouldn't. i would somehow squeeze it out of my budget to make things right. every time, i made the first offer.

over $500 - wouldn't that stuff be covered under some kind of insurance?
posted by lakersfan1222 at 3:51 PM on September 15, 2010


thewalrus: "As some people have pointed out above, he should have offered to pay. As far as I know there hasn't been any apology or offer. It's been more like a shrug and a "oh, aren't two year olds just completely wild?!".

There isn't actually a huge income discrepancy between ourselves and my brother-in-law, in fact, the iPhone is not a luxury item... It's an iPhone 2G 8GB which was purchased used on eBay for $180 and carrier unlocked/jailbroken by us. I'm more bothered by the lack of reaction to the broken iphone than the cost to repair the screen, which is about $80. I'm happy to eat that cost for the sake of not stirring up trouble
"

You're right, he should have at least offered if he had character or good manners. Give him another chance just to see. After you fix it, tell him you got it fixed and see what he says.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 3:51 PM on September 15, 2010


I get the impression that thewalrus wasn't actually there when this all went down. In which case, yeah, defer to your wife completely on this.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:55 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


If he/they haven't at least apologized, I can see why your nose is out of joint; that's not so hot. But it does sort of sound like your best move is to just try to be gracious about it and not hold hard feelings.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:08 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Recently at a party, my friend's 3 year old managed to get the iPhone out of dad's pocket and place a call to his mom completely unnoticed. Who happened to be in France at the time. It was cute. But kids are wily. Blaming the wife is silly. Shit happens.

Of course anyone with any sense of propriety/manners/responsibility would attempt to make good on the situation in some way. But I was always taught that manners aren't rules for how other people should behave, they're rules for how I should behave. No matter what he does, you can handle the situation with grace.

If your Brother in law did not respond as he should have, there's nothing you can do about it. Starting an argument, or forming resentments doesn't help anything. Think of it this way, you now have more of an insight into his personality than you did before.You can let this advise you in future interactions without ever needing to say a word.

And who knows, maybe one day he'll surprise you. I had a friend of mine attempt to repay me for something that I supposedly did for him 7 years ago. I didn't even remember it, but he said it had always bothered him that he never got a chance to thank me properly.
posted by billyfleetwood at 4:11 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


The parent is always responsible for damage caused by the child.

work something out, half-payment, over time whatever.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:13 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


BTW, you don't specify if the glass was cracked, if the phone now displays the "White Screen of Death" - or both.

A quick Google shows plenty of replacement glass + repair kits for the 2G. Prices from $18 to $60. You shouldn't spend more than $30, I reckon.

I had White Screen of Death on my 3G from a simple 3 foot drop onto a hardwood floor, but the glass was fine. "White Screen" is a hardware issue. My husband researched the solution and bought a repair kit ($10) and the replacement part ($30?) and had it fixed fairly quickly.

Lots of folks fix their iPhones themselves and Google is your friend.


Furthermore, Apple currently sells the 3G 8GB for $99! Jailbreak is easy, as you seem to already know. If you paid $180 for the 2G, it must have been a while ago and your wife has probably gotten pretty good use out of it up to this point. It's OK to upgrade now, even if you weren't planning on it. Really.
posted by jbenben at 4:24 PM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


I know a 3 year old who is extremely strong and capable of snatching things from anybody if one does not keep an eye on him. Those of you blaming the guy's wife obviously haven't been around these type of kids. That being said, yes your brother in law is an asshole for not offering to pay and at the same time you should let it go, is not worth the trouble.
posted by The1andonly at 4:28 PM on September 15, 2010


I'm more bothered by the lack of reaction to the broken iphone than the cost to repair the screen

If they're in hard financial straits, it might just be denial -- kind of pretending that it wasn't a big deal, which is easier--and helpful in preserving one's pride--than acknowledging it was, which is embarrassing and complicated. Give them a break if you can.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:40 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Don't know if anyone mentioned this above and it isn't in response to your question, but rather to a early response.....PLEASE do not tease the little guy about breaking it when he gets older. When I was 4, I begged my grandmother to wear her watch and she relented. Within 20 seconds, I tripped and fell and ruined the watch. I was teased about this by them countless times growing up and even though they are dead now, I still feel a little guilty about it.
posted by murrey at 4:50 PM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


If person A's kid breaks someone else's stuff, it is entirely person A's responsibility. Frankly I'm staggered that anyone could see it any other way.
posted by Decani at 4:54 PM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


As far as I know there hasn't been any apology or offer. It's been more like a shrug and a "oh, aren't two year olds just completely wild?!".

This is the number one thing I cannot stand about parents. Not all parents are like this. Gracious parents will apologize when their kid goes over the line. I believe all the OP wants is an apology.
Was she supposed to walk out of the house and around the block to check her phone? Seriously? As though all of you keep everything that could be damaged out of a child's reach at all times? You NEVER slip? You NEVER forget? You NEVER misjudge a situation? *never*? Wow, I am impressed.

Where does the "don't have nice stuff around kids" limit end? Are we supposed to show up in rags or buck naked with no possessions when visiting children? Seriously?

My niece and nephew have ruined things when I have been there, and once when my niece grabbed my wrist, she twisted hard and my watch came off and she promptly dropped it in a bowl of soup. My sister was horrified, even though the entire thing was just a bad circumstance. She apologized. She offered to buy a new watch. She tried to give me one of her old ones. I let it go for a lot of reasons, mostly because my sister has gone above and beyond for me, and it wasn't an expensive watch.

But she apologized a million times. She made my niece apologize. For weeks afterwards I would show up and my niece would say "[niece] NOT put aunt micawber watch in soup!"

To answer the OP, I understand that your wife wants an apology. She should just say to her brother, "You know, it's not a big deal, but an apology might have been nice is all."
posted by micawber at 5:02 PM on September 15, 2010 [18 favorites]


I'm . . . sort of aghast at the advice here. Snarky comments about how the kid "overpowered" the adult? A rambunctious, undisciplined kid could easily get the upperhand over an adult in this situation. If it makes your wife feel any better, OP, a friend's toddler once repeatedly grabbed my skirt and lifted it at a social event at their house. When it happened a second time, and I held down my skirt and said "no", I was informed that it was my fault for "reacting."

(For what it's worth, the same kid also broke his mom's laptop around the same time--so much for parents being savvy enough to avoid accidents.)

Parents are obligated to discipline their children. They're certainly obligated to apologize for the damage they cause, if not to ask the child to apologize himself. I mean, seriously?

If it weren't family, I'd MMOB, but, were in your position, I might say something to brother like, "Hey, I know things are tough financially right now, and I don't expect you to pay, but I'm kind of bummed about the screen. It makes us feel wary about coming by, and you know how important our relationship with Nephew is."

(But then, I'm more confrontational than most.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:16 PM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


As far as I know there hasn't been any apology or offer. It's been more like a shrug and a "oh, aren't two year olds just completely wild?!".

This comment really sticks with me because you weren't there, didn't see it happen and don't seem to know exactly how it played out between your wife and her brother.

What does your wife want to do? Does she want to drop it? This is her brother and her broken phone, so if it isn't an issue for her than it shouldn't be an issue for you.
posted by victoriab at 5:49 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I understand your frustration. I don't have kids, but I have dogs. If one of my dogs ruined/broke something belonging to my friends or family, I would immediately offer to fix/replace it. If someone's kid busted up something of mine, I would expect the same in return. I probably wouldn't allow them to actually pay for it, but the offer would be nice. I have to tell myself quite often that not everyone is like me or would act the way I act. If I were you, I would let it go for the sake of peace.
posted by tryniti at 5:53 PM on September 15, 2010


> if your child is out of control

All children are "out of control", pretty much all the time. I think modern psychological research will tell you that it lasts until they're about twenty-three.

Seriously, the idea that only a badly-raised, badly-managed two-year-old would do such a thing and the average two-year-old would not is pretty crazy.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:20 PM on September 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


Those of you who say it was her fault for having an iPhone around a toddler should know that there are, in fact, many apps made specifically to amuse small children with an iPhone.

iPhones can take a lot of rough handling -- at least mine can, and mine is the same model and gen as the one in question, I believe. I've accidentally dropped it on concrete floors several times, and once it not only fell but went skidding down a brick stairway. No breakage, just scratches and scuffs. This kid must have given it a hell of a throw, but then, that's what kids do.

I bet A Terrible Llama has it right; I suspect your BIL is minimizing the damage because he knows he can't afford to pay (what he presumes would be) a triple-digit repair or replacement bill. It's not a good showing of character to dodge the subject, but we all have weak moments, and the parents of toddlers have to spend all their strength to get through the day as it is.

I suggest setting the feelings aside for just now and reserving your judgment. See if he eventually owns up to it.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:30 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


there are, in fact, many apps made specifically to amuse small children with an iPhone.

there are also drive through liquor stores. this doesn't mean you should drink and drive.

when it comes to children and expensive electronics, it's on the onus of the adult to protect it from damage.
posted by nadawi at 6:43 PM on September 15, 2010


If person A's kid breaks someone else's stuff, it is entirely person A's responsibility. Frankly I'm staggered that anyone could see it any other way.

I think almost all of us acknowledge that if Person A asked "should I pay for this?" the answer would be "Yes, to be polite of course you should"

However, the question's from Person B. So the question seems more like "Is there a way I can get my brother-in-law to pay for this broken iPhone without holding a debt over his head, if he doesn't want to?" That answer is a little more complex.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:06 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


You say in your original post that it's "a wholly preventable accident," but I don't think that means what you think it means. How was it in any way preventable? Should he have been leashed, or caged, so he couldn't touch his aunt? He was in his own home, where I'd assume everything breakable has been removed from his reach, so he's allowed to roam a room as long as someone's got an eye on him. Your wife happened to bring something breakable into the house and happened to use it and he grabbed it and ruined it. The only thing truly preventable was bringing the iphone into the house in the first place, but as other people have pointed out, your wife wasn't at fault either because really, what the hell are the chances of this incident actually occurring?

If she a fair amount of time with her nephew she should be somewhat aware of what he's capable of, however. Her brother didn't ask her to bring the phone in and show it to the kid, right? It was an accident, it wasn't outright negligence on the parents' part from what you've said here. As for your assertion that he was out of control... he's a toddler. Something I didn't realize until I had a toddler is that they really just can't understand logic, they don't respond perfectly to discipline, and they're completely unpredictable.

Of course, I don't think the non-apology was okay, at all. If it was my kid, I'd have apologized profusely and offered to pay - although if it was a sibling, and a more financially stable one, I may have felt comfortable enough in our relationship not to offer to pay - but that would really depend on the relationship they have.
posted by kpht at 7:44 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Your wife needs a WOOGIE if she's going to be sharing iPhones with toddlers. The Woogie is awesome!

If my kids broke anything, however, I would pay for it. I'd assume that's what most people would do.
posted by Ostara at 8:13 PM on September 15, 2010


He should offer, you should decline.

If he doesn't then, yeah, that sucks, but you should still be the gracious one and let it go.
What's $80 to preserve harmony in your family?
posted by madajb at 8:39 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


He should offer, you should decline, he should bring a home-baked plate of cookies over, and there should be no hard feelings. Nobody can fully control their toddlers at all times without locking them in a cage, and anyone noodling on a shiny-bright-iphone with a toddler around should be the one taking the precautions, because that's just begging to be grabbed.
posted by davejay at 9:28 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I have to say this, in stringent terms: even if they didn't apologize, even if they didn't offer to pay, PUT IT BEHIND YOU, MOVE ON, AND JUST BE MORE CAREFUL IN THE FUTURE. Otherwise, what's going to happen is there's going to be bad blood between you all, and the root cause is going to be something that 2.5 year old did, and sooner or later that kid's going to find out they're the root cause, and that kid is going to feel horrible for years. Be adults here, shrug it off.
posted by davejay at 9:30 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not a direct answer to your question, but I was able to buy a screen repair kit from ebay for $13 and though I am the least techy person alive, install it myself. So your loss may not be as great as you think.

Me too.
posted by tamitang at 10:08 PM on September 15, 2010


How close was the brother physically to the situation? If I was in your wife's shoes, I probably would have blamed myself. Maybe I've spent more time around little kids or something, but when I'm within arm's reach, I instinctively catch them as they tip over their chair or stop them from poking themselves in the eye with a fork, or whatever. I notice this happening with other families and groups of friends, too. The closest adult becomes The Adult. If some adult lets a two year old grab their thing and break it, that's the adult's fault. So, the only way I would consider your brother to be primarily at fault is if the child was sitting on his lap or something, making him the closest adult. I don't blame you for being annoyed if his attitude was quite cavalier. But there's a good argument here that your wife was responsible for protecting her things. What if she had watched but done nothing as her brother's dog walked over to a plate of hotdogs she had left on the floor. Would the brother be responsible there? I'd say no, and I'd say this is arguably the same. Just my two cents.
posted by salvia at 10:41 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I should add that in the parent's shoes, I would offer to pay for it. But in your wife's shoes, I would blame myself. In your shoes, I'd say "let's just let it go" unless I already had some grudge against them, and then I'd probably say "what do you expect? let's just let it go."
posted by salvia at 10:54 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, at least it'll be something you all can laugh about when the kid's a teenager.
posted by wherever, whatever at 10:56 PM on September 15, 2010


Kids are like an act of god (and your 'out of control' line is a little over the top, especially for somebody who isn't even three yet.) You have no insurance against them. Treat it the same way you would as if you'd tripped and fallen and the screen had broken. It's just some shit that happened.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:52 AM on September 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Isn't it insured? When most people I know break or lose phones in whatever way, they just phone up the operator who you have the contract with, say X happened and a new phone arrives in a day or two.
posted by rhymer at 2:02 AM on September 16, 2010


Wow, people should know to travel without possessions if there will be kids around? I like kids, will probably have a couple one day, but I don't spend tons of time around them.

I would never, in a million years, try to wrest something away from a friend's child or physically prevent a hell-bent kid from taking one of my possessions because I have no idea if something that seems "rough-and-tumble" to me will, given the physical and emotional differences, send a kid flying or crying across the room.

I trust that my friends are able to act when their child needs an intervention. If this parent couldn't intervene in time, why should we expect the OP's wife to? I probably wouldn't ask for the money, but I can empathize with being a bit chuffed at not receiving an apology.
posted by lalex at 9:28 PM on September 16, 2010


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