My neighbors have two children, ages four and nine months, and the older child is profoundly disabled. For whatever reason, the parents have opted to keep him at home rather than placing him in a facility. They don't have hired help, maybe for financial reasons. The dad works and mom is alone with the two children all day. Because the older son needs round the clock care, the younger daughter is constantly left alone. She doesn't cry when she wakes up because she knows nobody will tend to her. Mom rushes through feeding, practically shoving food in her mouth, before going back to the older child. The daughter is at an inquisitive age, so she's blocked off from the son's bedroom, where mom is for the most of her day. The parents have babyproofed the living room and leave her alone there all day long. When dad gets home, the parents take turns sleeping in shifts so the daughter still doesn't get a lot of attention. I try to take the baby out every now and then and it's heartbreaking to see her so enthusiastic when I talk to or cuddle her. I would have called the authorities for neglect a long time ago if I didn't know the special circumstances of the family, or how upset they also are over not being able to give their baby the attention she needs. But I feel bad for the little girl, and keep thinking that somebody should intervene. They are socially isolated so it won't be difficult to figure out it was me who called. I'm torn between doing something for the baby, and wanting to support the parents who already have a hard time. Is there a win win situation here at all?
This is a heartbreaking situation and you sound like a friend as well as a neighbor. You will not be harming this family by calling Child Protective Services. There is a child who is being neglected and needs protection now. These parents have been given an painful burden, but there are many social services that should be available to them, from relief caregivers to respite care, but for some reason, they have gotten themselves so isolated, they are not taking advantage of them. No one can be a caregiver 24 hours a day. Having the mother collapse will be of no benefit to her son, and not being a mother to her daughter will have profoundly damaging long-term consequences for the child. Picking up the phone and having the authorities intervene in an untenable situation sounds harsh, but doing it is the best way of supporting this family.
My husband proposed to me with a beautiful heirloom engagement ring that originally belonged to his grandmother. I treasured it and looked forward to passing it down to my own kids one day. Recently my SIL got engaged, and while on the subject of rings, my MIL mentioned how relieved she was to finally get the family ring back. It turns out my husband previously gave the ring to a former fiancée (which I didn't know he had). They broke up, and she fought viciously to keep the ring. They even had lawyers involved, until the ex-fiancée decided it wasn't worth the trouble and returned the ring. I'm furious that my husband recycled a ring he previously gave to his ex -fiancée. I thought my engagement ring had beautiful love stories of previous generations of happy marriages, but now I've discovered that it's "tainted." I'm thinking of giving the ring to my BIL in case he wants to use it in the future. My husband is annoyed and thinks nothing of it, insisting that we keep it to pass down to our children. Am I being silly here?
I'm less concerned about the history of the ring than the fact that your husband neglected to tell you he was previously engaged -- that's the issue that needs addressing. Your rock is a piece of compressed carbon. It does not contain either the happiness or unhappiness of its previous wearers. However, if you must, do some kind of incantation over it with a stick of burning sage leaves and free it from the misery of the ex-fiancee. Taking it off and passing it on is not going to improve your own marriage. Instead you need to say to your husband, "It sounds like a terribly painful episode that I understand you're reluctant to revisit, but I'd appreciate hearing something about the fiancee from hell."
My dad's girlfriend Julia rarely eats. She keeps the temps in their apartment low to burn more calories and has a bunch of other strict rules about eating. Mostly she seems to try to keep from eating at all; for example, she regularly fasts 36 hours a week and has resorted to eating baby food as "portion control." She lies about having IBS so when we go to parties she doesn' have to eat anything. My brother and me think her eating habits are unhealthy, but she and our dad like to say she's "focused." When we've raised our concerns about Julia's eating habits before, Julia has acted like we're sabotaging her desire to be thin. I know my dad loves how thin she is, because he tells her she's beautiful all the time. Julia is very, very thin. My brother and I don't know what to do, because we've been raised to trust our dad's judgment. He tells us Julia doesn't have an eating problem. But her behavior is so odd and obsessive. Sometimes our dad and Julia forget to buy food for my brother and me to eat on the weekends. We refuse to eat baby food. My brother and I fear if we tell our mom about Julia's eating habits that she'll take it to the courts and/or that he'll be angry with us. We're fifteen and seventeen so maybe we should mind our own business?
Julia sadly has an eating disorder and your father is her enabler. But you are not going to change their dynamic. You and your brother need to ignore her bizarre behavior to the best of your ability -- which means bringing heavy sweaters even in summer. However, you two are teenagers and you need a full refrigerator for the weekend. Start suggesting to your father that when he gets you on Friday you all go to a grocery store and stock up for the weekend. If he won't supply anything other than pureed prunes, you do need to tell your mother your father's cupboards are bare.
Dear Prudie, My father-in-law died due to his own drunk driving about six months ago. Up to his death, none of his family had any idea that he had a problem with alcohol. Nobody else was harmed in the accident. My husband is grieving and we are still closing up details on the estate. My mother has always been adamantly opposed and - honestly - very judgmental about drunk driving. Recently, in conversations, she started making passive aggressive remarks about my father-in-law's death. Thus far, my husband has not been around to hear them, and I never want him to. Any tips for the conversation that I have with my mother? I would like her to know that she is certainly entitled to her opinion, but expressing it around me and especially my husband, is very insensitive and unnecessary.
I am also adamantly opposed to and very judgmental about drunk driving. I can't understand any other reaction to drunk driving. Unless it was a strange one-time drunk driving episode, it is odd that no one in your husband's family was aware he had a drinking problem. These things can be hidden, but usually the truth comes out. Nonetheless the man is dead and he fortunately didn't kill anyone else. You need to tell your mother that your agree with her about drunk driving -- only an idiot would defend it -- but your husband is grieving his father's violent death. Tell her she doesn't need to express the horrors of drunk driving to her son-in-law, he is experiencing them, and she needs to respect the mourning process.
Hi Prudie! Thanks for taking my question. I'm writing in to ask how to handle my boss who feels the need to comment on my ethnicity constantly. It's not in a negative way, in fact, I feel like he is doing it to be "cool" or "hip", or maybe just try and relate to me more. It's annoying though, that he turns it into a big story anytime he meets someone who is of the same ethnicity as me or when he reads an article about the country my parents originate from. My parents are immigrants, but I was born and grew up in America. I very much embrace my culture but it's weird that he points it out so much. I grew up in a diverse community and went to a diverse college but I am one of VERY few minorities in my workplace. I'm not used to that, but I would be okay with it if he didn't feel the need to constantly point it out. It makes me feel like I am their token minority. He's a cool guy for a boss, otherwise. Should I just let it go? Am I making this into a bigger deal than it needs to be? I've tried pointing out to him that I grew up here and am very American in many ways but he hasn't quit talking to me about all-things-related-to-my-culture and generalizing my interests, tastes, etc.
For an answer, I turned to the chat producer, Bethonie Butler, who is of African-American, Mexican, and white background and who has written about dealing constantly with the discussion of her ethnicity. Here is her excellent suggestion for what to say to the boss: “I appreciate your interest in my culture, but I wish we didn’t talk about it so much. It’s true my parents are immigrants and I am proud to be X, but I’m also American. I enjoy working with you and would feel more comfortable if we weren’t constantly talking about my ethnic background." Bethonie's answer is elegant, gentle, and to the point.
Why CPS? Shouldn't that be a last resort? The LW doesn't say she has tried to hook the family up with supportive resources or even addressed her concerns to the parents themselves. Yes, this family needs help. But there are lots of avenues you can use to help them before jumping to the most disruptive one.
A lot of readers are criticizing me for going nuclear and suggesting calling CPS. I actually wrote an answer like the one above and before I hit "publish" I reread it, deleted it, and rewrote it. The neighbor simply has no expertise with the issue of disabled children and the social service system. The parents needs some people who do. CPS doesn't take children away unless it is necessary. But they have the knowledge of the system to be able to get the parents in touch with the other social service agencies who should be assisting this family. The family needs a caseworker and supervision -- that cannot be supplied by a well-meaning neighbor. A baby is suffering now, so action has to be taken immediately.
Dear Prudie, My fiancé and I are excited to get married in about six months. We recently created our invitations and emailed drafts to our parents to get another set of eyes on them and see if there were any errors. My fiancé and both his parents are physicians. My fiancé does not use the Dr. title outside of work (and rarely inside of work, for that matter). Both his parents do use the Dr. title in their personal and professional life. On the invitations, we did not identify my fiancé as a Dr., but did identify his parents. My fiancé's parents were fine with the phrasing of the invitations. My parents, on the other hand, thought that putting their titles on the invitation was both unnecessary and a form of bragging and asked us to remove the titles because it looks pretentious. We read your column every week and thought you might have a good (and unbiased!) opinion on this matter. To title or not?
Unfortunately, six months is not enough time for your parents to rush through medical school so they can append a "Dr." to their names. It is not bragging to use "Dr." if you are an physician, which this threesome is. Your fiance would be perfectly entitled to use the Dr. on the invitation if he so chose. I have more of a problem with people with Ph.Ds using the "Dr." title, which I think is better reserved for those with medical degrees. Try to convey to your parents that it's not a putdown of them they you're marrying into a medical family and their using "Dr." is just the facts.
Dear Prudence, My sister is eight months pregnant with her first child. She owns a four-year-old Miniature Pinscher who is well-behaved 95% of the time. The other 5% of the time he is extremely aggressive. Unprovoked, he has bitten every single member of my family, and has drawn blood almost every single time. This is in spite of being on high doses of anti-anxiety medication. She has hired two behavioral experts in the past, both of which told her that the dog needed to be put down. My family has been pressuring her to consider her options, as we all feel strongly that the dog's aggression is too unpredictable and too violent to keep in the same house with a small child. The more we push, the more my sister tells us that he's just misunderstood and that she won't let anything happen. We all feel that she is in total denial about what the dog is capable of. What should we do? -Doggoned Frustrated
I hope there's a father of this child who's more rational about the dangers of an aggressive dog toward his offspring. I suggest contacting the previous behavioralists and asking them to each outline to your sister the potentially fatal consequences of an uncontrollable dog in a home with a baby. Unless the dog is physically separated at all times from the baby, which would probably make the dog more crazy and aggressive, there is no guaranteeing the child's safety. Since several of you have been bitten, you could report the dog to animal control. Multiple bites could get the dog confiscated. If necessary, someone should take the dog before the baby comes home and up its meds to the "comatose" level as you try to come up with a permanent solution.
Dear Prudie, My sister-in-law "Amy" is 33, but has the mental faculties of about age 8. My in-laws have a family history of excusing Amy and typically she gets what she wants. My husband and I are expecting our first child and Amy asked if she could be a babysitter. My husband and I do not feel Amy is able to be a reliable and trusted babysitter, so we told her no, but that she would be a wonderful helper and we are excited for her to meet her niece/nephew. It turns out my in-laws started telling Amy that when they babysit "Amy will be in charge." Prudie, i am all for giving Amy independence and responsibility, but I would rather something other than my infant be the trial run. My husband agrees with me and is willing to have a conversation about this with his parents. What are some good ways to frame this concern? We want to express that we love Amy -- but feel VERY uncomfortable with Amy having the impression she is "in charge" of something so delicate as an infant.
You've already framed the conversation very well here, your husband just has to have it with his parents. If they indicate they don't get it, or that it will be wonderful for Amy to feel she is in charge, then your in-laws will only be allowed to be with your child when one of you is around. The hurt feelings of relatives and dogs do not come before an infant's safety.
I've always had walk on eggshells around my parents, and I never know what's going to turn an otherwise pleasant moment into a raging argument. These incidents have gotten less frequent over the ten years I've been away from home, but old habits die hard and I've never been good at standing up to them. This time, the situation involves their dog, a very large pit bull who is their "baby". They travel a lot and take her with them everywhere they go. She's very sweet, but not particularly disciplined. My parents came to visit my new house recently, and brought their dog (without asking first if it would be okay), and my husband and I had to keep our cats locked up in our bedroom the whole time as a result. The dog also did some minor damage to the house in various places. At the time I made some small effort to ask if they could either not bring the dog, or possibly stay in a hotel room, but ended up backing down. They spent the whole visit telling stories about people they won't visit because they can't bring the dog. Now they're coming again, and I don't know what to do. If we keep the cats in the bedroom, they keep us up all night, not to mention the logistical problems of lugging our large mechanical litterbox upstairs. I feel like I need to stand up for myself, but I also worry that I'm being an inconsiderate host or, worse, a "bad daughter". Is their a tactful way that I can put my foot down about this, or should I back down in order to keep the peace?
Maybe leaving the pitbull with the insane miniature pinscher would solve the previous letter writer's problem. Just kidding. Your dilemma is not just about an insane dog person, but more generalized mental problems. Of course your relationship with your parents has gotten better since you've been away from them; it sounds like being away from your parents is the solution to dealing with them. It's fine if they visit, but not if they bring their pit bull into your home. It's simply too distruptive. Practice saying those two sentences before you actually speak them to your parents. If they rage and whine, then the visit won't happen. If they find a pit bull-friendly hotel, it will. Imagine if you have children and your parents insist that their baby be allowed to be around yours.
Have your parents both get ordained online. Dr. and Dr. and Rev. and Rev. invite you to the wedding of their children.
My sister-in-law is an LPN and has been one of the round-the-clock caregivers for a woman who was born profoundly disabled but has been taken care of at home for her entire life rather than in a facility. State agencies offer a variety of services as part of the Children with Special Health Care Needs provision of the Social Security Act to help in just such cases. There is absolutely no reason this family should be doing all this care all on their own, and I'm frankly very surprised that their son's doctor and other health care providers haven't steered this family towards adequate caretaker resources.
Good point -- why hasn't a physician inquired as to how the disabled child is being cared for? Many people are suggesting various private and public agencies that could be contacted. It's fine if the neighbor wants to get the ball rolling that way, but it must be gotten rolling immediately. And if Child Protective Services is the agency that's called, they will come in and make an assesment, not immediately swoop away the children.
At a family gathering my sister Vanessa commented to me that my soon-to-be stepdaughter could "stand to lose some weight." My fiance's daughter is thirteen, five-three, and 105 pounds. Vanessa always makes nasty comments about people she feels are overweight: my mom, our other sister, me. She is five-nine, never weighs more than 110 pounds, and seems to see obesity as a moral deficiency. In the past Vanessa has said nasty things about my fiancé, too, for no other reason than he's chubby. I have asked her time and time again to stop, but she never listens to me. Now that she's started criticizing my stepdaughter, I'm wondering if it's healthy to have Vanessa in my life anymore. I don't even want her at my wedding, because I know she disapproves of my fiancé. My parents are well aware of Vanessa's issues with weight, and we've all tried to help her make healthier decisions. Nonetheless it would hurt them if cut Vanessa out of my life. Am I being too harsh on my sister?
I don't know how a 105 pound teenager goes about losing some weight -- is Vanessa recommending the removal of a leg? Vanessa has an eating disorder and from the sound of it a personality disorder (there's a lot of that going around on this chat). You must tell your sister that weight discussion is off the table, especially when it concerns teenagers. If you're around her and she brings it up, just say, "Vanessa, we talked about not talking about this, so let's change the subject." If she won't, walk away. Don't disinvite her from your wedding, just assign someone to be her minder and keep her away from your stepdaughter.
My best friend Jen and I are in our mid 20s and both still live at home. Jen has a younger sister, Mary, who is 12 years old. Mary has been diagnosed with ADHD, and clearly has several other undiagnosed problems going on, but her father, who has joint custody, refuses to allow her any treatment, whether therapy or medication. While this is sad enough, I've noticed over the last several times I've visited for extended periods of time that Jen and her mother constantly belittle and demean Mary. Mary gets very obsessed with things (right now it's astronomy), and wants to do nothing more than tell everyone about the cool things she's learned. Jen and her mother will tell her to shut up, that she's being weird, or that no one cares. Mary's starved for attention and I love to give it (I'm one of the few people who can get her to behave for more than 20 minutes without acting out), but I'm not around nearly enough. I have no idea what her home life is like with her father, since no one is allowed to speak of him in Jen's house (Mary switches between him and her mother every week). I want to encourage Mary to flourish into a happy young woman who's not afraid to speak up and be passionate about something, but I have no idea what to do. Please help
Please contact Mary's school and report this to the principal or guidance counselor. Mary sounds like a bright girl who needs help and instead is being demeaned and bullied by her own family. You are also friends (for now) with Jen. Perhaps because she grew up with rotten parents she doesn't have the perspective to see how her sister is being harmed. But you should try to provide it. Tell Jen some of the compassionate things you've said here about Mary and how it pains you to hear her insulted. Maybe Jen will wake up. If not, your friendship is doomed.
Within the past year, I've become very good friends with a girl I went to school with from middle school through high school. We're both now out of college. During college, we got together over breaks to catch up and now that we're both back home after graduating this past May, we get together almost every week for coffee or shopping. I'm happy that she's becoming such a good friend and I'm realizing that I missed out on the opportunity to be a good friend to her earlier. The thing is that throughout middle school and high school, I was friends with another couple of girls who made fun of her mercilessly. Because I was friends with them (and because everything they said about her just amplified those annoyances about her for me) I went along with it and made fun of her too. I'm ashamed of how I acted and know that making excuses for myself is not OK. She knew we did this, even though it was never to her face, and she had a miserable time in high school both because of this and other reasons. She knew that my other friends were the instigators, but I don't know how much she knew I was involved. Either way, I really want to somehow apologize to her on behalf of me and everyone else that made her feel that way in school. I like to think that we've matured and that she has, in a way, forgiven me because she's never brought it up and we always enjoy spending time together, but I still feel like it's an elephant in the room every time we're together. Should I apologize? I don't even know how to broach the subject.
Apologize. Start by saying how much her friendship has meant to you and what a delightful she is to be with. Then say something's been tearing at you, and that's how she was treated in high school. You don't have to go into details -- and you certainly can't apologize for the other miscreants -- just take your lumps and say you were an immature twit and you feel sick about the part you played in making her high school years difficult. It sounds as if she has already implicitly forgiven you, so it will be nice to make this explicit.
I have always been great with children, and have been a loving and doting stepmom of two for years now. The problem is that my eight year old stepdaughter annoys the tar out of me! Her littler brother is a hellion, and handfull, and I adore both of them. But always prefer the company of my stepson to my stepdaughter. I have nephews, and a brother, so I've never been around girls. But, I've raised my SD since she was a toddler. I love her to pieces, and am very protective over her, but the idea of having her follow me all around the house, or climb on me, or of playing "ponies" with her, annoys me so much! She's needy, and timid, and very immature for her age (acts more four or five than eight) and I worry that it's just the type of person she's growing in to that I don't like! I was always annoyed by girls like that in school. Am I a horrible person? Or, is it natural that some people just connect more with one gender than another? I love to get nails done with her, or go to the movies, or to plays. And other girly activities, it's just the sitting around the house stuff that makes me batty! What do I do?
Give yourself credit for taking on two difficult stepchildren and being the most loving and accepting mother to them you can be. There's a dirty little secret that even biological parents can connect better to some of their children than others. That doesn't mean the love isn't equal, just that the way personalities mesh is not. Your awareness of your annoyance will go a long way to keep it in check. Give yourself permission to be a human being. But if there really seems to be something amiss with your stepdaughter, you should suggest an evaluation. She's been through the loss of her parents' marriage (or the disappearance of her mother) and the arrival of a new mommy. It could be that some counseling will help her grow into the best young woman she can be.
Why not contact CPS for this child? If she has health/mental issues that aren't being taken of, isn't she as neglected as the baby in the first letter?
It could be that they will need to be called. But this girl is in school, so the school authorities have legal responsibility to check out the situation and report potential abuse.
Prudie, you made a huge leap to eating disorders here! I'm 5'8" and never weigh more than 110, and everyone accuses me of having a disorder. I'm in perfect health, and my physician assures me I can never gain weight no matter what I do. The attitude that thinness can only be caused by a disorder is what's wearing thin. Thin people deserve respect too.
I don't think it's much of a leap if the thin people are obsessed with being thin, have bizarre eating habits, and most of all want to impose them on others, or make cruel judgments about other people's bodies. Some people are just lucky to be naturally slender -- that's different.
My wife's book club is mostly married couples, except for two single-by-choice moms. Every month, we do a family potluck where the husbands come with the kids. At the last one, I suggested a Daddy and Daughter outing to a local event for us dads to get to know each other better. One of the single moms hit the roof and started screaming at me about how dare I imply that her child can't come because she's not married and how she's doing a great job raising her kids and then some political comments as we have different views. My wife is mad at me for bringing it up, saying I was insensitive to the single moms. Personally, I would have been happy to bring along her children so they wouldn't have been left out, had I been asked. Now, that's off the table. Have we reached the point where fathers talking about doing things with their kids is wrong? I don't really even know how to react.
There's nothing wrong with a dad and daughter outing. What's wrong is suggesting it at a gathering where some of the daughters don't have dads -- obviously you can see that. The other mother should not have screamed. Simply pulling you aside and saying that was not a good suggestion because it would leave out several of the children would have been better. I understand your wife is annoyed for creating unpleasantness. You should apologize the next time the group gets together. But once emotions have simmered down, putting together a gathering of dads and girls -- all the girls -- sounds like a fine idea.
I work full time, and usually am only off one day a week. My husband works 3 days a week. We do it this way so he can spend more time with my stepchildren. The trouble is that he gets very upset with me if I ask him to chip in with dishes, laundry, helping the kids with homework, lawn care, etc. He says the household and all things involved in running it are the "woman's job." Prudie, I'm exhausted! The last time I just quit doing it, he packed his things and moved in with his brother until I cleaned the house. He's in bed by 8 pm every night, and insists that the kids are just too much work for him during the day. (I cook all their meals, give them their baths, and do all school work/projects with them) so I don't see how! What's the best way to bring up the conversation that I feel like he doesn't contribute to our household?
With your salary you probably can find a helper who can watch the kids and will do some light housework . I am reluctant to advice people to skip counseling and go straight to the divorce lawyer, but what are you doing with this immature jerk? Why do even want such a spoiled brat helping you raise your kids? He sounds like a drain on your energy and emotions and a bad role model for the kids.
I'm going to college with a young woman I've known since kindergarten, Susie. Until we were juniors, Susie always talked about how her parents and their parents and all of her ancestors were Irish. Then she began dating a Latino guy and she started telling people that her mom's mom came from Puerto Rico. I never called it on her when we were in high school together. I am actually Latina, and I recently found out from Susie that she plans to join that same Latin culture club as me. She plans to tell people there that her grandma is from Puerto Rico, too. Am I wrong to be so bothered by her lie? I'm glad she's interested in her boyfriend's culture, but her lie about her ethnic background makes me squirm. To be clear, I don't have any issue with Susie joining the club. It's that she's going to pretend to be Puerto Rican that bothers me. I don't get why she lies about being Latina, because she'd be welcomed just as much if she told people in the club she was Irish. Part of me wants to "out" her, but I don't want to come off as a tattle to the other club members. Should I just ignore Susie come fall?
You can watch amusedly as Susie breaks up with her Latino boyfriend, leaves the Latin culture club and serially joins Hillel, the Muslim Society, or whatever club is in sync with the ethnicity of her current boyfriend. You're right, an interest in Latin culture is enough to be a member of the club, but it's very weird that your friend is lying about her ancestry. Instead of outing her to the group, just ask your friend what's up. Say she's always said her ancestors were Irish so you're suprised to hear their boat stopped in Puerto Rico.
RE: Fatal Drunk Driver's child. I know my own in-laws, particularly my mother-in-law, did this to me when my mother died of lung cancer after being a heavy smoking since the age of 13. I oppose smoking totally, but her self-righteousness and lack of sympathy (of the issues going my mind then, a PSA on a social issue wasn't one of them) really hurt our relationship. I think the mother of the drinking-and-driving situation just has to realize that when a person dies, they go through a mini-period of sainthood. It just happens and no matter how honestly valid and backed by evidence you point against the recently departed are, nobody, particular his children, want to hear and even if her son-in-law comes to agree with her, he won't forget her insensitiveness.
Great point. The mother-in-law will only harm her relationship with her son-in-law and her own daughter if she harps on the failings of the recently deceased.
I work in health care and find some days are "themed". I will have multiple patients with the same problem, for example all my patients with MS will somehow schedule for the same day when otherwise I could go weeks without seeing someone with that particular disease. (I work in primary care). Your themes today seem to be parents who need to be reported to CPS and crazy parents of adult children-ie the dog lovers, offended by Dr on wedding invitation. Did you pick them that way or did it just happen?
I'm glad you have the same experience. Themes just spontaneously emerge amazingly often. Calling the Dr. (Ph.D or M.D.?) Carl Jung!
Thanks, everyone. Talk to you next week.