Dear Care and Feeding,
My 13-year-old daughter went to live with her dad just before the pandemic. After living alone for a year, I recently asked a friend of 20 years to move with me, but she is not respecting my one major rule. She has a tendency to want everything her way, which has been a struggle since I own the home, but when it comes to my child, that’s crossing a line.
This friend doesn’t seem to understand that she should not make plans with my daughter without talking to me first. I only see my kid every other weekend now, but even if that were not the case, I do not understand why she felt the need to ask my daughter out to lunch and not tell me about it until just before they were about to leave. To be fair, she had invited me to go too, but I said no; instead of dropping the issue, she says, “Well, your daughter wants pancakes, so we’re going.” I talked to her about this before, and she said she understood. Then her schedule didn’t match up to be at home for my daughter’s visits for a while, and it wasn’t an issue, but the moment we were all home on the weekend together, she did it again. She left for a few days right after lunch, so I texted her that I appreciate all her help and like having her around, but that she cannot make plans with my daughter without me; it was late because I dreaded confronting her. As she has a tendency to tell me I’m wrong, she’s right and that’s the end of the discussion. She responded that if I want to talk to her, I need to do it like a grown-up and not in the middle of the night. Now I don’t want to bother talking at all.
My daughter wrote us both a note, “I love you more than anything Mom and (friends name)” because she knows my friend would feel left out if she were not included. I feel stuck and like I’ve ruined a long friendship by living with a friend, and I know my daughter cares about her, so it seems unfair to ruin their relationship too. I probably should have said something when the lunch incident happened, but I didn’t want to have that argument in front of my daughter when she had been promised pancakes, only to be told I’m making a big deal over nothing. What do I do?
—Fed Up Friend
The short answer is, get this chick out of your house, like, yesterday. But before we get there, I think you should spend some time considering why you struggle to assert yourself with someone you consider to be such a close friend that you’d invite her to share your home. Are you compromising your comfort in order to maintain this friendship, or is this your usual way of operating? Either way, it isn’t good for you, nor your relationship with anyone, and it deserves some attention.
As for this person, what she did with your daughter was completely inappropriate. I don’t know if you all are more like sisters than friends, but even a sibling would be in the wrong for making a promise to a child and then putting her mother in the position of being the bad guy if she takes it away. And, yes, she would also be guilty of making plans with a kid without asking her mother—which is, as you said, a violation of the only real authority you’ve asked her to respect while staying in your home. While you did take a mighty passive-aggressive approach to addressing it, your homegirl seems more concerned with correcting your behavior than considering that her own actions were quite an infraction. This is not the only indication you give that this woman does not afford you the sort of respect you want in this relationship and that she is not someone who should live in your house. She has your kid worried about leaving her out of a note that she’s writing to her mom; that doesn’t sit well with me at all.
I don’t think you should feel like you ruined the relationship by inviting her into your home, as it appears that the time together cast a spotlight on an unhealthy dynamic that may have predated the pandemic. Perhaps this experience has proved that you two are not the best fit, or that if you are to remain in each other’s lives, you’ll need to do some things differently: She is going to need to respect your wishes, most especially as it relates to your home and child, and you are going to need to work on enforcing boundaries and speaking up for yourself. It seems that the best thing to happen now would be for her to go, and I hope you can make that happen soon. Let her know that you appreciate her coming when you invited her, but that it’s time for your home to go back to normal again.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
I am an almost 13-year-old girl, and I have a couple of younger siblings, a 10-year-old sister and an 8-year-old brother. When I was younger, and up until now, my parents didn’t really inform me well. For example, I spent an entire summer smelling awful, and when I went back to school, I used soap as a deodorant. I was maybe 8 at the oldest and didn’t know better. But the main thing was they never talked to me about a few things, but mainly LGBTQ issues. I just literally had no idea about those things, aside from knowing mom’s friend, who is gay. I found out everything I now know, which might I add is a lot, from online. I don’t want that to happen to my brother and sister. I want them to know that they can talk to me and ask me questions.
My question is, where do I stop? My mom had the “birds and bees” talk, but didn’t mention anything about, for example, same-gender intimacy. I mentioned to my sister that a girl could be intimate with a girl, as could a boy with a boy, but she doesn’t get it. She wants to know exactly how. There is literally no way she will find this out anytime soon. She knows a couple of terms from books she’s read about gender, but I just don’t know if I should go into detail. If I do, I’ll wait until she is at least 11, but I don’t know if I should even do it then. My parents have no idea I know any of this. If I asked, they would explain it, but they are not religious liberals.
—To Tell or Not to Tell
Dear To Tell,
Part of the unofficial job of being an older sister or brother is telling your younger siblings things that your parents won’t, either because they can’t or because they don’t wish to do so. However, there is a fine line between filling in some gaps for your little sister and brother, and engaging in inappropriate sex talk with younger children. Also, while the amount of information you’ve found online may make you feel like you’re now better prepared for the world than your parents made you, there’s also the chance that you’ve encountered some things that may have been scary, confusing, and/or untrue while browsing the web, which is yet another reason that you needn’t make it your responsibility to become your siblings’ sex ed teacher.
You say that if you asked your parents this information, they would answer your questions; are you concerned that because you (seemingly) didn’t ask those questions and instead turned to the internet, that your siblings will do the same thing? What is it that you think your siblings need right now that they aren’t getting? While it is important that children understand that there are multiple ways of being in an intimate relationship with someone, and that love isn’t just a man-woman thing, I don’t think it is best for you to take it upon yourself at 13 to make sure your sister and brother know how people have sex.
If it is the case that you feel your parents will explain these things if asked, but aren’t inclined to offer the topic up, then perhaps you could mention to them that you wish you’d been clearer on certain things when you were younger and that you think your siblings may have some questions about sexuality that should be addressed. I’m sure you’ve made it clear to your siblings that they can come to you about anything; continue to let them know that. If there is a time in which there is a question related to sex that you need to answer for one of them, I think it will be obvious to you. Also, be sure that they know that you are nonjudgmental, that they can trust you, and that you will support them as they explore their own identities and attractions in the future. Good luck to you!
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Dear Care and Feeding,
I’m married to a great man, and we have a 7-year-old daughter. My husband, who is almost 20 years my senior, also has an adult son with whom we have a good relationship. When my husband and I first met, he was very sure he didn’t want to have another child. I was pretty sure I wanted to be a mom, so over a few years, we mulled the question of having kids together over, mostly separately. Then one day, my husband told me he had changed his mind and wanted to have a kid with me. He was very clear that he would only want to have one more child. I had always imagined being a parent of more than one, but I agreed as I really wanted to have a kid with him and no one else. We then decided to get married, after which I got pregnant with our beautiful baby soon thereafter.
We have a great life together, the three of us. My husband is a great dad, and just having one kid in the house definitely has its upsides. Our daughter also loves her older brother very much. Mostly, I have felt good about the size of our family, but once in a while, the thought of having more children has come up. Sometimes I’ve really longed for another kid, but I have reminded myself of our “deal,” and the feeling subsides eventually. I understand that my husband feels like he’s too old to have another baby. He was often super tired when our kid was little; the lack of sleep and everything else baby-related just overwhelmed “the old guy” as he calls himself. But now, I’m soon going to be too old to have another kid myself, and I feel like I would really love to have another child. I want to give our daughter a younger sibling. I’m very close to mine, and I feel a bit lost about what life will entail without a little kid in the house. My husband will eventually retire, and what will I do then? Just work?
I also secretly worry that something could happen to my husband and that I would feel very alone with just me and my daughter. He’s healthy, but he is a lot older than me, so I guess it’s likely I will live part of my adult life without him. I’ve raised the question very cautiously with him, and he kind of laughed it off. I understand that I should probably talk to him again about the size of our family and the future, but it feels so difficult when I am almost 100 percent certain he will never change his mind about having one more child. Can you help me get some perspective on this?
— One and Done Or …
Your “deal” does not preclude you from having the very common experience of longing to carry a child as your body approaches the end of its ability to do so with relative ease, nor from resenting that as it stands now, your own daughter will not have the sort of special bond that you and younger sibling enjoy. Though you agreed long ago to compromise your desire for multiple children with your love’s disinterest in having any additional ones, that doesn’t mean that you won’t continue to mourn the vision for your life you once had. While it’s always good to take a moment to count your blessings and be grateful that you were blessed to meet a man whom you love, who loves you, and with whom you were able to have a beautiful daughter, it’s also important that you give yourself permission to tend to a sense of disappointment that you probably feel very guilty about having in the first place.
You understand that your husband feels too old to do fatherhood again, especially after feeling like an “old man” seven years ago when he last had to care for an infant, and perhaps you might be thinking that your energy could compensate—despite the fact that you, too, are seven years older than last time, and the parent to a young child. You also have accepted that you are statistically most likely to outlive your husband. What you don’t seem to have considered is what your husband’s age means for his children, what percentage of their lives they may get to have him around, and at what capacity, etc.
Your age is unclear, as some women would describe 40 as the end of their baby carrying years, while others might feel they have another decade (and any/all outcomes could be true, thanks to medical issues and interventions alike), but I’m assuming your husband is likely no younger than 55. While plenty of first-time parents welcome new little ones at his age, whatever it may be, this man told you at least a decade ago that he was done having kids then … only to change his mind because of how much he wanted to have a life with you. It would be an incredibly selfish request, in my opinion, for you to not only ask the difficult task of new fatherhood of an older man, but to ask one of a man who already compromised his desires for you a long time ago.
Also, might your husband’s son begin a family of his own at some point? How might actively caring for a younger child impact his ability to be a doting grandfather?
With an adult child, your husband thought his caregiving days were over, and yet he resumed them for you. You want him to do that for a second time, so that you can give your daughter a sibling who would be nearly a decade younger than she is? Though she and your hypothetical second child could very easily be close, this isn’t about her having companionship, as they wouldn’t be companions very often, and may not even ever attend the same school, depending on where you live.
Actually, you get to what I think is the real heart of the matter in your final paragraph: You’re worried about what happens when your husband passes away, and perhaps when your daughter moves out on her own. That, combined with your reasonable ache for another baby, seems to have you fixated on a scenario that doesn’t sound right for your family. I would suggest talking to a professional about your feelings, someone who can help you to find peace with the beautiful extended family that you already have. Wishing you all the best.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
I’m currently at a stage with my partner where we are talking about marriage and our future. We plan to get married, but we are both ambivalent about children right now. I think he’s a little more certain than I am in the way of wanting kids. Right now, I look at my life, and I don’t want what to give up the free time I have to raise a kid. But my real problem is the feeling that I have that life is mostly hard and kind of pointless. I feel that life is very painful in a way that makes it unenjoyable most of the time. You spend most of your life doing things you don’t want to do just to be able to afford to live. I don’t like it, and I feel like it’s wrong to inflict existence on a child by bringing them into the world. I love my family, and I love my partner, but I just can’t get over this hump of feeling dejected about life, the state of the world, etc. I guess my real question is: Is having kids worth it? Will they have a better experience of life? Am I too broken to raise well-adjusted children?
—Blues in Buffalo
You are not “too broken” to raise happy, healthy children. However, it certainly sounds like you are dealing with some feelings that would make parenthood, marriage, or any other challenging endeavor infinitely more challenging. While you should absolutely grapple with your thoughts about your free time, and how you would or would not like to spend it, what is more urgent is you taking the time to deal with your lack of enthusiasm for living in this moment. I am asking you, begging you, actually, to please speak with a professional. It’s one thing to feel low, but to find that life is painful, typically hard to enjoy, and perhaps unworthy of the effort it requires, that sounds to me like you may be dealing with some challenges beyond your control right about now—and that is something you should not have to shoulder on your own. Please, friend, talk to someone, and soon.
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