Q&A: what to do when you break someone's stuff

Denise writes:

"Recently, we (me, my 3 year old and my 20 month old) were at a neighborhood playdate, and my 20 month old tipped a lamp which tore the lampshade. It happened quickly, and I felt bad, apologized profusely, and offered to replace the lampshade. The mom said it was no big deal, don't worry about it, that is what happens with kids, etc. I know that is what I would say at my home - and I know I diligently watch my kids (meaning we are not the crazy destructo kids family). So, my question is what should I do? Email or call her and offer to buy a shade again? Send her something (bottle of wine and sorry note, or gift certificate)??

I don't have any idea how expensive this lamp shade is, and I know that I cannot just go and buy one anyway. She does have a very nice home and so I am sure it wasn't cheap.

So what should I do?"

I think this goes back to babyproofing. If you have a kid, and are going to have any other kids in your house, then you really shouldn't have an expensive, irreplaceble lampshade. It's just common sense. Kids break things all the time. It sounds like the other mom is aware of this and really wasn't that upset by the incident. So I wouldn't give any more thought to the actual lampshade.

However, you do want to attempt to make restitution for the breakage and increase your friendship, so I would send an apology note along with a bottle or two of wine. I wouldn't go with a gift certificate, since that directly deals with the lampshade. But wine is always good (assuming they're not in recovery or nondrinkers--in that case I'd go with nice chocolate or some kind of fancy pastry like cannoli, a cheesecake, or babka). Plus, it's a friendly way to offer amends without dwelling on the actual incident.

Then make sure you host a playdate at your house soon. And make sure to put all your breakable stuff out of reach before anyone else gets there.:)