I was absolutely tickled to receive a swift update to the infamous Who the Heck Is Patrick? saga from last week, one I hope you will enjoy just as much as I did. So many of us (I include myself and the editing staff here, as well as many readers) were concerned about the possibility of this young woman being groomed by a predator, so it’s marvelous to learn that we are all just … really old now.
Dear Care and Feeding,
So I confessed to my daughter that I found and read her letter to herself that mentioned “Patrick.” She didn’t even remember why she had written it and had to reread it to refresh her memory. Apparently Patrick is not real; he is an Urban Dictionary place holder for “perfect boyfriend.” (I looked it up to confirm.) She has mentioned Urban Dictionary’s name definitions before, so this rings true to me.
My best explanation is that she wrote this letter on a day when she was particularly anxious about school and life in general and was trying to encourage herself to look forward to the future. She also asserted that she is “single AF” (I may let my kids cuss too much … ) and laughed at how uncool I am. So, there’s that!
Dear Care and Feeding,
My 7-year-old keeps trying to kiss me on the mouth. She asks if we can get married. (“I’m already married. Kids don’t marry their family, but since we’re family you know I’ll always be part of your life, honey.”) We’re close, and there’s a lot of “I love you” and “I have the best parents in the world” stuff. Sweet. But when she’s tired or getting a little wild at bedtime, it can devolve into her trying to kiss me or show me how they kiss in movies. (Yes, she saw Mamma Mia once.) Yuck! I dodge. I say I don’t like it. I tell her she can kiss me on the cheek. I refuse to let her get close enough to do it. But what the hell??
I know you are going to ask if there’s a chance that someone else has been doing something inappropriate with her. I don’t think so. We always know where she is, and she can’t keep a secret to save her life. She’s super talkative, so I think we would have heard something weird or suspicious at the very least. But we haven’t. She makes poop jokes like every other 7-year-old but doesn’t say anything scarily sexual.
So two questions: How much should I be worrying about this, and how do I get her to stop while teaching her that this is a bad, bad idea and she shouldn’t be kissing anyone on the mouth?
—Not Into This
Dear Not Into This,
I strongly suspect this is not a real problem. Kids propose to their parents with great regularity (one of my cousins told his mother that he would marry her and Daddy could live in a second house down the road to make them pancakes) and it’s a very sweet, passing phase.
As is kissing! I think the best tack to take with the kissing is to continually stress that we get to decide how other people touch us, and where, and that she has those rights too, and that you don’t want to be kissed on the lips by her.
Then, I want you to try to take some time from your busy life to do some extra activities with her and show love in all sorts of healthy ways, and I’m pretty sure this will dial down on its own in good time. I would ask her teacher and any other care providers if they’ve noticed anything odd recently, in case she’s acting out in similar ways with other adults, but I really would be surprised to learn this is anything other than a slightly belated “let’s glom Mommy and Daddy” phase!
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Dear Care and Feeding,
I recently delivered my first child several weeks premature. In a state of panic at our lack of preparedness for a baby (let alone a premature baby) my husband set out to prepare our lives while I recovered. In his haste, he set ground rules that, although I agree with them on principle, make my life infinitely more difficult and strain my relationships with family members.
My husband and I are nonsmokers with families consisting mostly of smokers and/or vapers. (Nicotine and weed are both commonplace among all of our siblings.) The rules my husband set are that after ingesting any nicotine or marijuana, family and friends must shower, brush their teeth, and change their clothes.
Our baby is now a month old, and I am frustrated at not being able to ask family members to hold my baby while I pee because they vaped and didn’t shower after. I know that nicotine is really dangerous for newborns, but am I right that this is a bit much? It also ends up being a great excuse for my sister who lives with us (rent- and honestly responsibility-free) to get out of ever helping me out. Plus we don’t make the same people change or shower before sitting on the furniture that we later lay him on, so it all feels pretty convoluted. I’m exhausted but don’t know how to revisit this topic with my husband now that we are settled in and no longer in a panic.
—Surrounded by Smokers
Dear Surrounded by Smokers,
I am delighted that your husband has barreled into fatherhood like an avenging angel. I think that you should sit him down and say that now the baby is a month old, moving to a “please wash your hands” policy will be sufficient going forward.
Explain to your husband how difficult the overly strict logistics have been on you as a new mom, and the furniture silliness, and do your best to convince him. Ultimately, I do think that the parent who is more conservative about the baby’s safety gets to win the battle, but you can ask him if at the two-month or three-month mark you could lighten up some as a family.
Just be honest with him, and also try to listen to where his fears are coming from. I know that’s simple advice, but when you’re dealing with someone who has himself experienced trauma (the fear of losing your baby), sometimes we overreact by trying to control what we can control to create the illusion of normalcy.
I would like to know how your little family is doing in a month, so please update me.
Dear Care and Feeding,
My 14-year-old daughter has purchased with her own babysitting money a pair of clear heels. In my opinion, as her father, these are stripper shoes and I don’t want her to wear them. This is becoming a really heated discussion, as her mom is neutral and not backing me up. Should I tell her that taking them back is nonnegotiable?
—Staying Off the Pole
Oh dear, I don’t think I like you at all. I’m sorry, that’s a tough way to open my answer. First of all, when I think “clear heels,” I think of Disco Stu first, and not nude or semi-nude dancers. I think you need to back off and also do some thinking about how you are coping with your daughter becoming a teenager and having the limited autonomy to make choices you will think are bad. Clear heels are very different from, say, shirts that show side-boob, or skirts that you cannot safely bend over in. I cannot imagine them getting a second look in 2019. I also think you should probably be less rude about people who dance erotically for money in order to pay rent; that is a super common but also unpleasant way for you to interact with the world.
I also want you to know that your wife “not backing you up” is not what is making the conversation heated. It is getting heated because you are angry about the shoes, and I think you should work on how you express yourself around your family.
More Advice From Slate
My 11-year-old granddaughter has been determined not to view The Nutcracker since she was very young. We have no idea why. This year she will be visiting during the time the ballet will be presented in my town. Her mother and I both are happily looking forward to going. My granddaughter simply refuses to discuss it. Is it wrong to purchase a lovely dress for her to wear and tell her that her going with us is what we would like as a Christmas gift from her this year?