Care and Feeding

My Wealthy Sister Offered to Pay Our Son’s Tuition. My Husband Lost It.

He said he “doesn’t take handouts,” but we need this one.

A man folds his arms in refusal while a hand offers him cash.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by panic_attack/iStock/Getty Images Plus and Lunatic_67/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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 older sister and her husband are much, much more well-off than my family. They can afford to travel several times each year, own multiple homes and expensive cars, and were able to pay in full for my nieces’ college and graduate school at private colleges. But despite a rather large age gap and drastically different lifestyles, we are very close, and they are some of the kindest, most genuine people you’ll ever meet. My son is 16 years old, and is a rising junior, and while my husband and I work hard and try to save as much as we can, we know he’ll probably have to take out loans for college, as he doesn’t qualify for financial aid. I have vented to my sister before about how I wish I could pay for his college and how upset it makes me that my son will either continue working throughout high school and college (even though his workload will increase even more next year, and he’s already balancing AP and honors classes and extracurriculars) and also spend extra time applying to scholarships or he’ll be in debt for years.

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My sister and brother-in-law called my husband and I and told us that as their gift to our son for his upcoming birthday, they wanted to cover the rest of the tuition at whatever college our son got into, but only if we felt comfortable with it. I was shocked at their generous offer, but I was going to accept … until my husband told them that we’d think about it and hung up on them shortly after. He went on a rant about how he can provide for our son and we’re “almost there” in terms of saving for college and “he doesn’t take handouts.” I think he’s being ridiculous, and both he and I know that the only thing we’re “almost there” in terms of saving for is if our son went to community college and then transferred to a state school, while his counselor has told him that he has a good shot at getting into his dream college (a prestigious STEM school we could only pay for with my sister’s help). I don’t understand why he’s being so stubborn on this issue—he’s always gotten along with my sister and her husband before! How do I get him to look past his desire to do everything himself and “not take handouts” and instead see what an amazing opportunity this is for our son?

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— Tuition Troubles

Dear T.T.,

Patriarchy is really a curse, isn’t it? There are women and nonbinary folks who are too prideful to accept amazing and timely blessings, sure. But it seems to be the case more often than not that it’s a cisgender heterosexual man who’d be trapped by his own conditioning in a situation like this. You need to have a number of long, honest conversations with your husband. Establish why he feels so strongly about this: Is he typically insecure about his finances? Is this triggering something that you knew existed, or a new concern?

Once you’re clear on why this offer bothers him, you can better strategize about how to change his mind. Try to avoid pointing out the absurdity of what he is proposing and instead focus on how much easier this will make your son’s life. Is that not what we want for our children? Be very clear on what your son’s day-to-day may look like with that gift, versus if he has to work frequently and switch to the school of his dreams years later, likely while taking on considerable student debt. Reason with him, politely and patiently.

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If that fails, honestly, I think you should put your foot down and accept the gift. Your son has the opportunity of a lifetime; why should he struggle so that his grown father can feel adequate? Do your absolute best to convince your husband, but don’t turn down a present that can change all three of your lives for the better unless you absolutely have to, and if that’s the case, then there’s another conversation to be had about your man.
Wishing you all the best.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I am a SAHM to a 6-month-old daughter. I occasionally get the opportunity to make a few extra bucks at a local art studio, which I love, and I reach out to my local friends to see if they would like to spend an hour or two watching my daughter. My friends are in the 27- to 29-year-old range, and this is the first baby of our friend group. Everyone is obsessed with her and it’s adorable. My question is, should I be paying my friends to babysit if they are always offering to watch her for me? As a former nanny, I completely understand “time is money,” but I am not sure how to approach the question of “are you looking to be paid or are you doing this as a friend?” If I must pay them, it would not be worth it to work for a few hours, which I am fine with. I just want to make sure there is a clear understanding of expectations without it being awkward and that I am not taking advantage of any friendships.

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— Are Friends Free?

Dear A.F.F.,

There are times in which paying a friend to babysit may be appropriate, if not absolutely necessary—when you’re asking for these services on a consistent basis, and/or for longer time periods, for example, or if they’ve missed work to help you out. But I’d imagine that at least some of your closest friends probably can afford to provide an occasional hour or two of care so that you can make some needed extra cash. I’m sure you have a somewhat clear idea of who can both afford to be so generous with their time and would be happy to do so. What you don’t want to do is to rely too much on these sitters, to the point where what once felt like special time with a beloved little one becomes unpaid labor.

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I’d also wager that your friends have some insight on what a couple of hours at the art gallery represents to you and probably don’t expect to be paid like a regular babysitter. However, there’s nothing wrong with checking in to make sure they are cool with the arrangement as it has typically worked, and/or figuring out other ways to compensate them for helping you out, such as ordering them dinner and an Uber home, etc. But if we’re just talking a couple of hours at a time every so often, I think you’re okay without a tab.

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

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My whole family is white, and as I’ve grown up I’ve realized my parents have made some very racist, and homophobic remarks. I am a gay girl, and it makes me feel super uncomfortable when they talk about how transgender people aren’t valid or make horrible jokes about Asians, Native Americans, or Mexicans. How do I properly approach them and ask them not to make those jokes? After my dad says something racist, he’ll add “Here comes the Woke Police,” so it’s pretty clear he is aware of what he’s doing. It’s really bothering me. How can I tell my parents to stop in a way they will understand and listen? I’m scared that I’ll bring it up and they might just call me sensitive and get defensive. Thank you for the advice.

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— Feeling Trapped

Dear F.T.,

You can and should continue to let your parents know that the awful things that they say offend you. However, there sometimes comes a point in which a young person realizes that it isn’t their job to change their family, but to survive them. Your parents have likely had these attitudes long before you were born, and while there are people who grow and change later in life, that isn’t typically the case. I certainly hope you can begin to turn their hearts and minds, but I think it may be in your best interest to focus on you.

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Do they target you based on your sexuality? Do you feel safe in their home? Do you live with them? If so, is there timeline for you leaving? If not, can there be? I’m not sure if you’re a minor or a young adult, but it seems that when you are old enough to live elsewhere and to exist without having to engage with them in person daily, you should.

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You didn’t talk about who they are outside of their bigotry, but it sounds like your family isn’t able to meet your needs because you need to be surrounded by people who affirm and support your identity and other LGBTQ folks, and who appreciate and understand racial diversity. As you get older, you realize that family is not just a matter of blood, but of choice. I encourage you to identify your “chosen family,” the people who love and understand you most, who make you feel good, safe and whole, and to center their place in your life instead. All the best to you.

For more of Slate’s parenting coverage, listen to Mom and Dad Are Fighting

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My 4-year-old has started telling little lies. Some examples: a friend asked if the flowers in our kitchen were from our garden and he said yes (they were not and he knew that); he will tell his dad that he brushed his teeth already when he hasn’t (this is because he wants to brush his teeth with me instead); I overheard his babysitter ask if a balloon in his room was from his birthday and he said yes (his birthday was six months ago and this balloon was a recent gift from a family member); when playing a game he will cheat or spin the wheel to get the result he wants. It’s little things like this, but it’s kind of frequent, sometimes multiple times in a day. I know this is developmentally appropriate, but what I don’t know is how to respond and react. We have had conversations about telling the truth and telling lies and why it is important to tell the truth (a la “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”). But I’m a little stumped as to where to go from here.

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— Stop Lying!

Dear S.L.,

This is developmentally appropriate for sure, but your son is also at the age in which he must start understanding consequences for negative behavior. Help him to appreciate truth vs. fiction beyond mere accuracy: Do you talk to him about how his lies can make other people feel? How important it is that people can trust you? “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” is an excellent example of how lies can put someone in danger, but he also needs to get that being untrustworthy comes with many other potential perils as well. People do not want to be friends with known liars, for example, and being dishonest can also harm you at school, at work, etc.

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If you feel like you’re having these talks and he’s just not getting it, well, he’s 4. He’s still testing boundaries and trying to figure out how he’s going to exist in the world. That doesn’t mean he’s going to be a pathological liar as an adult, but in the meantime, don’t get complacent. When he lies, call it out. Stop everything and have a discussion. Take away privileges such as dessert or getting a new toy when he refuses to be truthful. Set the expectation that rampant dishonesty will never be accepted in your home and hold him to it. Good luck to you.

— Jamilah

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My cousin Sheryl has been using Facebook pretty much exclusively to sell her nonsense pyramid scheme garbage to friends and family, which I barely notice anymore because I have her notifications hidden. Unfortunately, my extremely sweet 14-year-old daughter does not have her hidden on Facebook and has become her latest mark. Sheryl is trying to lure my daughter into her “downline” in hopes of selling her crap to classmates. How should I handle this?

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