Care and Feeding

I Can’t Believe What My Cousin’s New Boyfriend Asked My Daughter

Should I tell my cousin?

Young child eating something off a spoon.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Oleg_Ermak/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Care and Feeding, 

I’m very torn about what to do. A couple of weeks ago at a family get-together, my cousin brought her new boyfriend. He is middle-aged and didn’t set off any alarm bells until my 5-year-old daughter got home from camp.

This man has never been married and does not have children. He was being affectionate with my daughter (she was sitting on his lap while she had a snack) which at first didn’t concern me until he asked her to show him the playroom basement of our home. Not wanting her to be alone with someone I did not know well I sent our nanny down with them. When I wasn’t there, he then suggested my daughter show him her room. When my nanny went to follow them, he tried to tell her not to worry about joining them (something my nanny rightfully ignored). I’m so grateful my daughter was never alone with him.

Now I’m going back and forth in my head as to whether I should share my concerns about this man with my cousin. We are not very close but we care about each other. She has a nine-year-old daughter. Am I overreacting that a middle-aged man wanted to be alone with my child? If I do say something about my concerns, what should I say? I have no evidence that he had any ill intentions, more so concerns that he was going out of his way to try and be alone with a small child he didn’t know.

—Torn in Topeka

Dear Torn,

This is concerning and I do think you should share what happened with your cousin. Hopefully, this man is just clueless and doesn’t realize how strange and inappropriate it is for a grown man to attempt solo time with a child he doesn’t know; perhaps he thought he was being considerate of the nanny by dismissing her. Either way, your cousin should hear about this.

These sorts of red flags should always be, at the very least, examined closely. As with introducing any new partner to children, she should be paying attention to how he interacts with her daughter and other kids to determine if he’s the sort of person who deserves to be in her life long-term. If he’s exhibited any other strange behavior, then this may be the sign she needs to get the hell out of this relationship. If she hasn’t seen anything prior to this, she’ll know to pay attention to how the dude interacts with children and to look out for anything weird. It could be nothing, but it’s definitely enough for you to say something.

This will be a difficult conversation, and your cousin may immediately get defensive. Make sure you let her know that you aren’t accusing him of anything directly, but that you thought what happened was a little strange and that it was important for you to share it with her. Better safe than sorry, and better you have an awkward conversation with her now than to discover something awful later that could have been prevented. As for your daughter, I’m sure you’re already on top of this, but I’d limit their interactions in the future and keep a watchful eye when they do happen to be in the same space.

—Jamilah

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