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My 13-year-old daughter spent a night this weekend at a girlfriend’s house. I know and like this friend and her parents, and the girls have had sleepovers before. My daughter told her father and me a very disturbing story when she got home. She awoke in the middle of the night to someone tickling her belly and quietly chuckling. She was lying on her side facing the outside of the mattress she was sharing with her friend and says this person was a male with whitish hair crouched down beside the bed. It was dark and she was scared to look at his face. She turned onto her other side and tucked the blanket under her back but felt someone poking her and tugging on the blanket. Then a hand rested briefly on her upper arm—and he left. My daughter eventually fell back asleep. In the morning, she told her friend about this, and the friend said she must have been dreaming. My daughter said no, that she’d heard the floor squeak and noted the time (3:30 a.m.) on her friend’s bedside clock. After my husband picked up my daughter the friend asked her father (who has silver-gray hair), mother, and teenage brother (who has dark hair) about it. The friend texted my daughter that everyone denied such a thing could have happened and the whole family was upset. Then she said her father wanted to talk to my husband (who didn’t really want to have anything to do with this mess). The father and mother called and spoke to the two of us. They said this could not have happened—they’re not that kind of family, etc. They were terrified that word of the alleged incident would damage the father’s reputation. I said that I believed my daughter but that my husband and I weren’t planning to pursue the matter any further. The friend’s parents were relieved and grateful; there was talk about the awkward situations kids sometimes put parents in, about having a drink together sometime. (Of course my daughter will never sleep over there again.) I felt good after the phone call, but now I’m wondering if I let them off too easy—and whether I adequately demonstrated to my daughter that I believed her. For her part, she’s just worried that this has ended her friendship. Do you think I handled this properly?
What an eerie, creepy, middle-of-the-night episode that’s going to haunt everyone’s nights for a while. Your daughter is old enough to tell dream from reality, and while there is a chance she was dreaming, I, like you, believe she was awakened by her friend’s father. Whatever he was up to, thank goodness it wasn’t any worse. I’ll also throw out the possibility that the father has some kind of sleepwalking disorder, or maybe he had an Ambien and a glass of wine. Overall, you handled this fine. Most important was listening to your daughter, telling her you believed her, and staying calm. If you had overreacted, that would have turned an unnerving event into a trauma. (I do have an objection to your husband’s desire to stay out of this “mess.” Someone needs to tell Dad that when you bring your bundle of joy home from the hospital, you sign up for dealing with the messes that ensue.) I do think, however, that you and your husband should have been the ones to initiate the conversation with the other parents. Of course, this was destined to be awkward and inconclusive, but you needed to register that something bizarre happened. You did ultimately do so, and you were right to say to the other parents that you both believed your daughter and decided not to take this any further. You should tell your daughter about this conversation and reiterate to her that you trust her account and that she did the right thing by letting you know. Your daughter is understandably concerned about her friendship, but sadly this is a toxic event for both families. Tell your daughter you too hope that she and the other girl remain friends. But prepare her that things may be uncomfortable between them. Then keep tabs on how this plays out, so you can help her navigate the potential aftermath of this strange encounter.
Dear Prudence: Hijacked Confection
Three months ago my husband and I put our now 6-month-old son in day care. The woman looks after four children in her home, has great references, and is affectionate to the children. Everything is going great except for one thing—she appears to be pretty racist. My husband and I have both heard her say derogatory things about Latinos when we converse with her when we pick up our son. For example, she said that a local park used to be nice “until all the wetbacks started going there.” My husband and I are both shocked and dismayed at this. Neither of us has said anything, but I do not want my son exposed to such a disgusting, hateful point of view. However, we live in a small town and our day care options are quite limited. Do we address her language, even though it might mean that she treats our son differently? I feel dirty not saying anything, but I’m worried about potential repercussions.
If you had lots of day care choices, I’d tell you to find a provider who didn’t have such noxious views. But day care can be one of the most expensive and difficult dilemmas of the early childhood years. So I’m going to reluctantly say that you should stay put for now. Your son is an infant, so there’s little chance of his being affected by the bigotry of this woman. When he gets to be a toddler, find a good nursery school for him. In the meantime he will be barely verbal, so you don’t have to worry about his repeating any vile statements this woman might make. But the next time she says something to you that you find appalling, go ahead and respond. You can say something like, “Bernice, describing people that way makes me uncomfortable.” If she reacts badly, or you think her attitude toward your son changes, then she should not be caring for him. But let’s hope your speaking up prompts her to filter her bile.
I am a professional woman with a demanding job and a baby. I always figured that after starting a family I’d hire a house cleaner, just as my mother had done. We have the income to do this but my husband objects to this idea. He has listened to my argument that paying a cleaner would give us more quality time with our child and each other, but he says it makes him feel more loved to know that I have cleaned our bathroom myself. He is happy to do his share of the housework and doesn’t want me to contract out my share to a stranger. I don’t know if some women feel a kind of love for their husbands that best finds expression through scrubbing toilets, but, as it turns out, I don’t. I am tempted to secretly hire a cleaner for a few hours each week with my own money and pretend I’ve done the cleaning myself. Would this be wrong?
—Maid to Order
I’m surprised that by now your husband hasn’t found out where you’d most like to insert the toilet brush. I’d have an easier time understanding a husband who wants to freshen up his marriage by bringing someone wearing a French maid costume into your bedroom for a threesome than a husband who objects to a hiring a housekeeper to freshen up the bathroom. He certainly has a unique view of connubial intimacy. In your husband’s world, nothing beats your lovingly wiping away his failed attempts to aim his urine stream and scrubbing away his streaks. If I had a husband with ideas like yours, I’d be temped to move into my own place where I could hire some household help without hearing a load about how a domestic employee with a johnny mop is a violation of the marital bond. Do not engage in toilet-cleaning subterfuge. Either your husband accedes to having a stranger in your bathroom, or you hand him a bucket, a brush, and a bottle of Scrubbing Bubbles.
I share a similar email address to that of the CEO of a Silicon Valley company. I regularly receive résumés from prospective job candidates in my inbox that are meant for him. Usually I just forward them (the CEO and I have begun a cordial correspondence over this). Sometimes when I have a little free time though, I’ll read the résumés and cover letters. Some of the folks applying for high-level positions have atrocious writing skills. I write and teach for a living, so occasionally I quickly proofread the résumé and return it to the sender with some editor’s notes. I think it’s good karma and I’ve gotten back more than one appreciative response and never anything negative. I told a friend about this and she was appalled. She felt I was committing an invasion of privacy by reading the résumés and that it was rude and patronizing to be giving unsolicited edits to strangers. Who is right here?
So these job seekers can’t write or spell, and aren’t too swift about email addresses, either. You’re right that they can use all the help they can get. As far as privacy is concerned, they’re the ones clogging your inbox with their life stories. I think it’s delightful of you to help out some job-seeking strangers. And speaking of karma, just think, one day one of these improved résumés might land the candidate a job and that person might say, “I know someone we’ve just got to hire for our corporate communications department.”
More Dear Prudence Columns
“Mind Your Own Birds and Bees: Do my friends and family really need to know how my same-sex wife and I got pregnant?”
“Prisoner Wife’s Dilemma: If I don’t sign a horrible postnuptial agreement, my husband will divorce me.”
“Sexual Reeling: My wife had more sex before our marriage than I did—and it’s driving me crazy.”
“Papa Don’t Speak: My father is threatening to tell my twins they were born after selective reduction.”
More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts
“But the Kid Is Not My Son: In a live chat, Prudie counsels a man whose wife is pregnant with another man’s baby.”
“There’s Something I Have To Get Off Your Chest: In a live chat, Prudie counsels a man bothered by his girlfriend’s extra hair growth.”
“My Best Friend’s Funeral: In a live chat, Prudie advises a woman who must pretend to be her dead roommate’s fiancée.”
“Working Out Kinks: In a live chat, Prudie advises a man too scared to confess his sexual fetish to his girlfriend.”
Check out Dear Prudence’s book recommendations in the Slate Store.