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Even those of us who don't have kids have heard the maxim that the rules you lay down as a parent are only meaningful if you enforce them. But what are you supposed to do when enforcing your rules essentially amounts to mortgaging your child's future?

That's the dilemma a Redditor brought to the AITA (Am I The A**hole) subReddit, a place where people can pose their moral quandaries to internet strangers, who apportion the blame based on the following categories:

  • NTA - Not The A**hole
  • YTA - You're The A**hole
  • ESH - Everyone Sucks Here
  • NAH - No A**holes Here

The Original Poster (OP), who goes by the username MadeHerRepayTheDress, called his post:

"AITA For 'Ruining' my kid's life after she ruined a dress?"

And it's... quite a wince-inducer.

"Ex(31) and I (male 32) had C, (Female 16) way too young. We're friendly co-parents."
"One big rule we share is if our daughter breaks something, she pays for it."

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Standard parent stuff.

"Now, sis (27) and I are the only grandkids. Aunt never married. Instead, she worked with [grandma] and [grampa] at their seamstry [sic] store, and took it over when they retired."
"Sis's girlfriend (29) proposed last year. [Grampa] (Gpa) offered to make [future sister-in-law] (FSIL) a custom suit, which she was over the moon about. [Grandma] (Gma) had me ask Sis what her dream dress was and record the convo."
"Sis, thinking it was just between us, told me in great detail what her dream dress was, though said it was way too expensive, so she would get something much cheaper."
"Well, a few months later Gma surprised Sis with her dream wedding dress. It fit perfectly and everyone cried."
"Sadly, Gma recently passed away, which hit us all hard. Sis was devastated, but decided that the dress meant Gma would still be there with us at the wedding."

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How moving!

But things are about to take a turn...

"The issue comes in with C. She's very large, much larger then Sis. Three days ago, we decided to go visit Sis and see how she was doing."
"It was great, but then C asked if she could try on the dress. Sis politely said no. C made a face, but dropped it."
"Later, we decided to go grab dinner. Sis and I went to pick up our orders, but C decided to stay and play with Sis' dog."

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You knew this was coming...

"We got back, and the dress was destroyed. C had apparently tried to get it on, popping some seams, and got stuck."
"Instead of waiting for help, she cut her way out. The dress was hacked to bits."

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But it gets even worse...

"Sis was devastated and asked us to leave. I grounded C, and called Aunt with some pictures, asking if it could be saved."
"She said there was no [way]. She said she'd make a new one, but it wasn't the same."
"Then she dropped the bomb on me - Gma had hand sewed most of the dress, used super expensive fabric, and put almost 500 hours in making that dress, since it was the only family wedding we'd have."
"In total, the dress cost 12,000 dollars, give or take."

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And worse...

"C has about 15,000 saved from various jobs, as well as winning writing competitions. This was supposed to help her in college."
"I took her to the bank and set in motion transferring all the funds, since as her parent I still have control over it. $12k to Aunt to pay for the new dress. $3k to my sister's wedding, as an emotional distress tax."
"I explained exactly why this was happening to C, but she sobbed the entire time, asking what was she supposed to do for college and saying it wasn't her fault."
"I told her she could get a job if she didn't get a scholarship, and it was her fault for trying on the dress after she'd been told no, and for not waiting until we got back."
"A few popped seams could have been fixed. Hacking the dress to pieces couldn't."

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"C told my ex, and while she agreed C was in the wrong after the full story, said I shouldn't have "ruined her future" for a "free" dress. I reminded her of our rule, and she still thinks I'm wrong."
"So, am I the a*shole here?"

This truly was a doozy.

OP included a few more details at the end.

"Edit - since people are mentioning they don't understand the 3k, that was to make up to my sister that C destroyed the last gift our dead grandma ever gave her. I consider that part of the price of destroying the dress, since even if Aunt remakes it, its lost a great deal of its sentimental value."
"I pointed out how young we had her because I wanted to explain how a 31 year old has a 16 year old kid. I do not resent having her, she's the best thing Ive ever done."
"I also brought up C's size because Sis has crohn's disease, and thus is very tiny. The dress was made for her size, and C is much larger then Sis."
"I love C as she is, but just holding the dress up, it was clear it wouldn't fit."
"Edit 2 - to clarify, the money was C's "have fun at college" money, not her college fund. My ex and I are paying for whatever scholarships don't."
"When she was asking what she would do for college, she was asking what'd she do for fun and to buy things we didn't pay for. The character count is very limiting, so I had to cut details to post."

Well, this story is full-on harrowing.

What's a dad to do?

Of course, OP's fellow Redditors had plenty of opinions.

"NTA absolutely not. She 'ruined' her own future. In my mind, that dress wasn't twelve, or even fifteen thousand dollars, it was priceless."
"It could have and should have been passed down for generations. I'm horrified your daughter did such a thing. Most kids don't go to college with savings, so she's just going to have to tough it out."
"I hope she looks back one day and realizes the payment she made was severely short. I am so sorry this has happened to your family." --fuc*ingbailey
"...OP, you didn't ruin your daughter's future. $15k doesn't go that far in college, she's young and she'll make back that money again..." --AdmVonChillEsq
"The context makes all the difference with this AITA."
"The family already had an established 'you break it, you pay for it' rule."
"The £15,000 is not college tuition money, it's additional 'fun money'"
"C was already told no to trying on the dress."
"OP is definitely NTA" --sweetpotato37
"Also really horrified by this. Even if hundreds of thousands of $ were handed over that dress is irreplaceable and priceless. I would be absolutely beyond devastated if I were Sis and not at all forgiving..." --Academic-Panic
"...I am shocked that the parents aren't doing more for what she did. Just paying the money back from the dress is the barest minimum. The emotional damage to the sis for this - I can't even imagine. . ." --BestGarbagePerson
"Honestly this is one of the few posts that actively horrified me while reading it, and somehow it just continuously got worse and worse. This is one of the most heartbreaking stories I've read." --capoeirapenguin
"Honestly, this situation is just so sad. Reading about the care and emotional labor put into the dress, just to have it trashed just breaks my heart."
"15k is a small price to pay for dealing that kind of emotional damage ..." --dkades
"Yeah NTA."
"Imagine actions having consequences. If she'd have been sued it would have been more." --dreadsquidred
"yep. some lessons are wayyyyy. more expensive than others." --n______c
"NTA. At sixteen you're old enough to know that there's consequences for doing things you've been told not to do. I applaud you for making C pay for the dress and emotional stress." --Whiskeyandacamera

Some lessons truly do have to be learned the hard way.

But the father came back with another update that changed things once again.

"So, I got off the phone with my ex about 20 minutes ago. At some of your suggestions, I sent her the pictures, and she freaked. She apparently didn't believe me when I said it had been hacked apart, and believed it was just a few torn seams."
"She was pretty much on my side after. She told me that she's spent the day badgering our daughter, asking her why she did what she did, and finally C cracked and said she was mad that Grandma wasn't alive to make her a dress, and that it was 'unfair' my sister got a free beautiful dress as a reminder when my daughter got 'nothing', despite the many things she was given after the funeral."
"She tried it on, took it off when the seams popped, and then in anger hacked it apart. If she couldn't have a dress from Grandma, no one could. Her own words."
"Honestly, knowing she did it on purpose has just made things worse. The fact that she could be so cruel, that's not the daughter we tried to raise."
"She will be going to therapy, whether that's in person when local therapists start taking new clients again or on one of those apps people have mentioned. We need to talk about it more. Her punishment stands as is, though we're going to see how therapy goes."
"As for all the seamsters who have reached out, please know I'm touched by your kindness. I really am. My aunt is going to see if she can incorporate at least some of the fabric from the old dress into the new one, maybe at least try to save the beading, but if there's anything usable I'll reach out. I so so appreciate all of your offers, you're incredibly kind people."
"I have yet to talk to my sister, but I have talked to her fiancé. Sis isn't doing well. The stress has caused a Crohns [disease] flare up, so she's stuck in bed sick. Which, honestly, I'm not surprised."
"Crohns is often triggered by stressful events, so I was expecting it. I told fiancé about Aunt making a new dress, and she promised to take the remains over to Aunt on Monday. She's thankful for us addressing the issue, but has asked for some space [for] Sis so she can recover and heal, and hopefully not end up in the hospital."
"As for the 3k, we'll see what my sister's state is in a few days. If she has to go to the hospital, then the money is forfeit for her medical bills, since it was C's selfishness that put her there, so she can pay for it."
"If Sis does not end up in the hospital, then I'll consider giving it back after she's gone to therapy for a few months, if she's accepted what she did was wrong and worked to make amends."
"We'll see what the next few months bring."

It seems like these parents are doing all they can to not only make their daughter accountable, but to also get her the help she needs. Best of luck to them and best wishes for the future brides health and wellness.