Care and Feeding

My Ex-Husband Lets Our Daughters Watch Game of Thrones

How do I get him to stop?

Two teen girls looking scandalized watching TV.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by AntonioGuillem/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Email careandfeeding@slate.com or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My husband and I split up last year, and we have joint legal custody of our 13- and 15-year-old daughters. When they’re at their dad’s house, he lets them watch TV shows I believe are inappropriate for them: Sex and the City, Mindhunter, and Game of Thrones. He refuses to discuss this with me. What are my options?

—Let Kids Be Kids

Dear LKBK,

Right off the bat, I am intrigued by the three shows in question. Sex and the City is nostalgic feel-good TV for many of us in 2018 (I personally watched it in high school at my friend’s house), Mindhunter is a retro serial killer procedural that doesn’t exactly scream “sexy fun!” and Game of Thrones is … well, I’m not surprised they want to watch Game of Thrones. Can I hang out with your girls? They sound like a lot of fun! Digression over!

Look, it’s entirely possible your ex-husband isn’t even letting them watch this stuff; kids are fantastic at gaming the two-households situation for their own benefit. And if he is? Well, them’s the breaks. A family court judge does not want to waste her time telling your ex which popular streaming TV shows are child-appropriate, so unless he’s signed them up for YouPorn accounts, this is out of your hands.

Tell your children you would rather they didn’t watch adult shows, but that if they do, you are always here to answer any questions about them that they might have. Keep an eye on their school performance and their general mood, like you would anyway, and if you haven’t seen Mindhunter, Jonathan Groff is a treasure.

(Music: “Psycho Killer” by Talking Heads)

Dear Care and Feeding,

How do you tell the difference between a socially odd person and a dangerous person? My husband’s brother, let’s call him “Joe,” is an odd man, and on a gut level I mistrust him. This mistrust is based on a number of behaviors and circumstances that, individually, could certainly be completely innocent, but all combined have me feeling nervous about allowing my children to be around him unsupervised.

Joe is an incredibly secretive man. No one in the family knows anything about his personal life, and no one has ever been welcomed into his home. As far as we know, Joe was single, without any dating relationships, into his mid-30s. Then he met and married a woman 10 years his junior in a matter of three months. They now have an infant, and his new wife has confided in me that, despite portraying himself as a doting husband and father in public, he is incredibly controlling and disengaged at home. Joe worked for about six years as a high school teacher and coach and then suddenly switched careers to a completely unrelated field. He has since been let go from that job and went to great lengths to make sure no one in the family found out he was fired.

Joe has always been very engaged and loving with my now-preschool-aged children. I’ve never seen him do anything inappropriate with them. But I’ve noticed he gets them alone regularly. At family gatherings, when my kids go off to play in another room, Joe leaves the adults to go play with the kids. This past year he has asked several times to take them on special outings, specifically without their dad and myself. At first I thought he was being helpful, as we have a new baby, but he’s honestly not that thoughtful in any other ways. He wants to spend time with my preschoolers on a weekend without his wife and baby. He helped my son get into his pullups and pajamas in a different room, with the door closed. At a family gathering, he took my son outside to play alone and encouraged him to just pee outside, rather than coming in. These could all be innocent, if slightly awkward behaviors, right? Or they might not be?

So what is a reasonable response to this combination of personality and behaviors? Should I be supervising when Joe goes off to play with the kids? Would it be overreacting to request that grandparents not let my kids be unattended with Uncle Joe?

—It Doesn’t Feel Right

Dear IDFR,

No third party can tell you if you’re right or wrong to be suspicious about Uncle Joe, who may simply be a benign oddball who loves kids. Are there reasons to be cautious, however? Do I read things in your letter that give me cause for concern? Absolutely.

A conspicuous absence here is what your husband, Uncle Joe’s brother, thinks about all this. Have you spoken to him of your suspicions? I know that it’s exceptionally uncomfortable to raise such an issue about a close family member, but the intimacy of close familial bonds has also allowed many a predator to gain and maintain access to his victims.

For now, I think the right step is to make sure you’re actively supervising your children around Uncle Joe and monitoring him when you see he’s trying to get them alone. There’s not enough smoke to justify further action at the moment, and I think you’re in a very difficult position. Our instincts can be our greatest weapon, but they’re not magic. Please continue to put your children first and keep your eyes open, while also bringing your husband up to date on your concerns.

Dear Care and Feeding,

I have a 2-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old daughter. The 4-year-old wants everything she wants and also wants whatever her little sister has, even if the book/hair clip/cheese in question is something she normally would disdain.

For Hanukkah, I’m thinking about just giving them each the exact same small gifts each night to avoid the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments.

What do you think?

—Wit’s End

Dear Wit’s End,

This is absolutely fine. You and I both know that you’ll eventually have to get your older daughter over this particular hump, but it’s been a long year and they’re so little. Your sanity comes first. Give yourself a break.

Dear Care and Feeding,

Please tell me that it’s OK if I ban Caillou from the house. The kids love it, but I honestly cannot watch another episode.

—I Hate That Little Bald Creep

Dear IHTLBC,

I honestly cannot believe you haven’t done this already. I apologize to you, and to all parents, on behalf of Canadians everywhere. We don’t like him either.

—Nicole