Care and Feeding

I Don’t Want Dead Aunt Mildred’s Pet Parakeet

But she bequeathed it to my daughter.

A mom and her daughter terrified of a monk parakeet.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by AvailableLight/iStock/Getty Images and Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Submit it here or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My Aunt Mildred has just passed. She was in her late 80s, it was in her sleep, we’re all at peace about it.

Here’s the problem: In her will, she left my 14-year-old daughter her horrible bird. I am biased, because I grew up in New York and see all birds as rats with wings, but I never imagined one would wind up living and pooping in my house.

It’s a monk parakeet, which the internet tells me can live from 15 to 20 years (“Hawk” is, as far as we can tell, about 5 years old.) I don’t want it in my house, and I really don’t want to inherit it when my daughter leaves for college. What do I do?


Dear Shudder,

As someone else who would never allow a bird to live in her home, I understand your aversion. Nor am I overly hung up on Aunt Mildred’s wishes here, as she is dead. She shouldn’t have bought a bird that lives for 20 years in her 80s if she wanted to control all possible outcomes.

Does your daughter want the bird? If—after she has been brought up to speed on the amount of care she will have to provide the bird, minus any parental assistance, financial or otherwise—she still wants the bird, then I think you have a bird now. I’m very sorry.

If your daughter does not want the bird or the responsibilities that come with it, take it to a bird sanctuary, where it can live with many, many other exotic birds that old people have willed to their squeamish children and grandchildren. Don’t sell it to a pet store.

Please keep me posted. Please do not send me the bird. I do not want it.

Dear Care and Feeding,

I dropped my son off at college three weeks ago, and I’m still feeling the same empty ache I did when I hugged him goodbye. He’s our only child, and I’m not handling it well. My husband misses him too but is clearly getting weirded out by the degree to which I’m grieving. My son calls a few times a week, we text, so I can’t even point to a lack of communication. Is this normal? Do I need to talk to someone about it?

—Desperately Empty Nest

Dear Empty Nest,

You have spent 18-odd years with the goal of creating a functional, adult human being, and now you’re staring at his dusty softball trophies while listening to “Cat’s in the Cradle.” This is extremely normal, and you may be in need of someone to talk to about it.

Three weeks is still very early days. Give yourself some sort of household project to complete (not turning his room into an exercise room, that’s going to make it worse), enjoy the closeness of your relationship with your son (that degree of communication suggests he misses you quite a bit as well), and if you’re still feeling this degree of ache after more time has passed, go talk to a therapist. This is a major life transition, one that takes many parents by surprise.

I would also focus on your marriage, and finding a way to maintain intimacy and connection despite your differing reactions to your son’s departure. A marriage counselor friend once told me that the three hardest years in a marriage are the first year, the year after having your first baby, and the year your last (or only!) kid goes to college. I wish you all the best.

• If you missed Thursday’s Care and Feeding column, read it here.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My 7-year-old started getting a $4 a week allowance this year. He spends it on candy. This drives me absolutely crazy (my wife doesn’t care at all), but I’m not sure whether I should say or do anything about it. Please weigh in.

—Sweet Tooth

Dear ST,

He’s 7, what’s he going to spend it on, books about World War II? Cardigans? I think you can ask that he consume the candy after dinner, as a dessert, but I wouldn’t get overly worked up about it. Make sure his dental hygiene is good, and let it go. Some parents do the “put one third aside to donate, one third goes to savings, one third is for spending,” which is always an option, but if he’s making $4 a week, that seems like overkill to me. How much candy can you even get for $4 in 2019?

This is not a problem.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My 15-year-old daughter is dressing and grooming like a butch lesbian. Flannel shirts, Doc Martens, side-cut hair, etc. She maintains (I have asked her directly on more than one occasion) that she is not a lesbian, nor is she trans, this is just how she likes to look. Well, I’m concerned that boys she might be interested in are going to get the wrong idea, or be turned off by her appearance. I’ve offered to take her shopping in hopes of nudging her into slightly more feminine choices, but she’s turned me down each time. What, if anything, can I do?

—It Would Be Fine if She Actually Were Gay


I am … wow. This is truly something! What a remarkable letter. There is little point in taking you to task for the things that made my eyes pop, so let’s just get down to the action items, shall we?

Cease asking her if she is a lesbian.

Cease asking her if she is trans.

Do not worry about whether or not boys will be turned off by her side-cut.

Apologize for being overbearing about her appearance, ask her where she prefers to shop, and get her a gift certificate.

Get a finicky houseplant and pour your excess energy into keeping it alive.

You are in my prayers.


More Advice From Slate

My 13-year-old son recently came out as gay. All good, except his 11-year-old brother is in the intermediate school attached to the secondary school, sharing the same grounds and buses, and he’s getting bullied. Sometimes I can’t help wishing the 13-year-old would just dial it down for his brother’s sake.