Dear Prudence

Help! Our Neighbors Exiled My Kids From Their Pool for an Absurd Reason.

There’s a heatwave, and they’re overreacting!

A child crosses her arms in front of an illustration of a pool.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Getty Images Plus,

Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)

Dear Prudence,

The community pools are not open yet. We are in a heat wave. One family on our street has put in a pool and is lording it over the rest of us. They have a teenager and a little girl “Bea.” Bea acts like the little queen of the neighborhood and doles out her favor to the few chosen capable of earning the right to swim. Bea is only “allowed” to invite a few kids over at a time because her sister doesn’t want to “babysit the entire street.” All the girl does is sit in a hammock and play on her phone while the kids swim.

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Our three daughters constantly want to swim, but our oldest one made the mistake of pushing Bea into the pool after an argument over a toy. No one was hurt, but you’d think Bea had been beaten bloody. Bea’s mother has banned our girls from coming over because our oldest was “too violent.” We got into an argument where I told her it was just roughhousing and maybe if her daughter had been actually watching the kids instead of her screen, it wouldn’t have happened. I should have kept my mouth shut.

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Bea’s mother went on social media and put up the Pool Rules and the diatribe about community values, personal responsibility, and how she wasn’t going to stand by and watch one daughter get “physically attacked” only for her other one to be verbally. She will close the pool gates otherwise. She didn’t name my family, but everyone figured it out.

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The heat index keeps rising. Help please.

— Pool Exile

Dear Pool Exile,

You can’t really go over to someone’s house and push them into the water after an argument and be alarmed when you’re not invited back. I believe you that Bea and her mom aren’t doing a great job being gracious as new pool owners, but there’s no right to due process when it comes to friendship or going to other people’s homes. This is a teachable moment.

And it might actually be a positive one for your family, at least when it comes to safety. I was alarmed to hear about the apathetic teen lifeguard—not because I agree that you are entitled to free babysitting but because I just read an article about how easily (and quietly) kids can drown and how much supervision they require when they’re in the water. My understanding is that the best practice is to have one sober adult totally dedicated to watching the pool at all times. And ideally, lifeguards will switch on and off so the person watching is fresh and alert.

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Dear Prudence,

My wife and I agreed to each carry a pregnancy. I went first and as much as I adore our son, it was a miserable experience. I threw up all nine months and was in labor for two days. My hip was dislocated during the delivery. Our son is 4 now. We went to the doctor to see about another pregnancy, only to find out there is no way for my wife to carry a baby to term. It isn’t medically possible. It broke her heart.

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Our options are limited because our state isn’t favorable to gay adoption, our insurance will not cover surrogacy, and our funds are very limited. My wife wants me to carry our second child; I don’t. I feel it just isn’t in the cards. We have a great life, we are both in good places in our careers, and our son is a delight. My wife argues we made a “deal” to have two children, and I said I kept my end of the bargain. She started to cry. I apologized immediately; the words are still there between us. I love her so much, but I don’t want to repeat that experience. Help please.

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— One and Done

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Dear One and Done,

Even if you’d sworn on your life that you would carry both children, you’d be allowed to change your mind, and I would hope your wife would never pressure you to do something with your body that you don’t want to do. Plus, the deal was clearly for each of you to carry a child, and it’s not your fault that that’s not possible. But here we are. Even if she agrees on the details of the baby-making agreement and that she can’t force you to have one, facing a roadblock when it comes to having the family you planned is really hard for any couple.

I see two approaches:

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1) Work on figuring out a way to have a baby. If you both decide you do want a second child (or if you decide that she really wants one and you’re willing to go to the ends of the earth to make it happen for her), you can uproot your life and make huge sacrifices to make it happen. It’s not at all unheard of for people to move across state lines or apply for a new job with an employer with better fertility benefits in their quest to have a kid; or,

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2) Admit to her that you aren’t willing to go out of your way to do this. Remind her of how difficult you found pregnancy and underscore why you’re happy being one and done. Then you can start what will probably be a long process of working on her disappointment and sense of betrayal. This will probably involve a professional therapist.

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Whichever path you choose—going all-in and getting creative in your quest to have a child, or mourning the two-kid family that your wife imagined you would have—you should prepare for it to be at least a year until the two of you are in a good place. While you’re working on making a plan or unpacking all the emotions around this, I hope you can agree on one shared goal: To refuse to let the discussion about a second child keep you from fully enjoying the one you already have.

Dear Prudence,

My son Max is 20 years old. He lives at home rent free with all expenses paid, except for his car and cellphone. In the past year he has had car trouble three times, where I had to use the location on my phone to find him. He now refuses to let me use his location. I am very easy going and don’t really check his location very often and I could care less where he goes. I just feel safe knowing I can find him if needed. I suffer from an anxiety disorder and having the comfort of knowing he is safe helps a lot. Who is right?

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— Just a Quick Check

Dear Quick Check,

Neither of you is really right or wrong, but you are living together and that means taking each other’s needs into consideration. Obviously you could simply say, “If you want to live here rent-free, you need to share your location and if not, you can move out.” However, though that would be fair and is probably what a lot of parents would do, I don’t think it would lead to a great outcome for either of you, and it would probably intensify your anxiety about his wellbeing.

How about something like:

“I love you, and I’ve been helpful to you because I want you to have a safe place to live and save money. You know I suffer from an anxiety disorder, and I am asking you to accommodate me by sharing your location so that when I start to worry I can check and see that you’re okay. I realize you’re grown up and my goal isn’t to keep tabs on you. I just want to be able to put my mind at ease. I love having you here, I don’t ask a lot of you, and this small thing would really help make my life easier. Can you do it for me?”

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Alongside making this request, you should also work on the underlying issue. He’s eventually going to leave the house or at least go on a long trip, and you’ll have to figure out how to manage not knowing where he is and whether he’s okay. So this is about more than his phone settings, and I hope that even if you win this battle, you dedicate some time to figuring out how to handle the inevitable stress of loving an adult child who has his own life. Cell phones with location tracking are a relatively recent innovation. Imagine how you would have coped with having your car-trouble-prone son out of your sight in 1990, and work with your therapist on developing the tools to do that.

Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

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