Dear Prudence is online weekly to chat live with readers on Mondays at noon ET. Read part 1 of the chat here. Read part 2 below.
Q: Call Back?: My boyfriend of five years said his ex-wife’s dad had a massive heart attack. He needed to fly to his hometown to take care of his 12-year-old daughter. A week later he messaged me saying he owed me a long conversation when he had his head on straight. More than a week after that, I haven’t heard anything more from him. I’ve messaged twice and called once with no response. What should I do?
A: Get back on the apps. Either a) he and his ex-wife are back together or b) he’s decided he doesn’t want to be with you for some other reason. I’m really sorry!
Q: What About Charlie: My 8-year-old son is very shy so when “Charlie” moved in next door, we were very happy. Charlie is the same age as our son and they became inseparable. Charlie’s mom will send Charlie over basically every day so she can go out often until very late. She rarely responds to our texts beyond a few vague comments about when she will be back.
Charlie often will eat dinner with us and even take baths in our house because my husband and I can’t in good conscience send him home without his mother there. Talking to Charlie’s mother gets us nowhere. She is abrasive and rude with a chip on her shoulder over being a single mother. Charlie’s father isn’t in the picture. My husband and I are debating what steps to take next and if we should get the authorities involved. Charlie isn’t being abused or neglected in any obvious ways, but the situation can’t continue. We need some outside help please.
A: Do not get the authorities involved! With no actual abuse or neglect they couldn’t even do anything. Beyond that, I wish we lived in a world where you could make a report and magical, kind people would show up to support a family with the goal of making a child’s life better, but that’s not how it works. Charlie could be removed and just end up in a different horrible situation, with strangers. Unless the circumstances were extremely dire, I wouldn’t recommend this course of action.
This is the way to look at the situation: Charlie is a kid with a really hard life. Either he can have that life without you in it or he can have it with you in it making it better. I think you should choose the latter. Should his mother be taking care of him? Absolutely. Do you have to make extra dinner and run extra baths when you didn’t sign up to care for two kids? Nope. But think of it like this: There’s a lot of suffering in the world that you can’t do anything about but this is something you can really help with, right in your own home. Here is an innocent kid who needs care and consistency, and you can offer it without too much extra effort. Continue to set an extra place at the table. Charlie’s mom may never appreciate you but he will.
Help! I Want a Baby, But I’m Worried About Mental Health Issues That Run in My Family
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Q: Can’t Take the Heat: I have ADHD and often perform poorly on the first exams of the semester because transitioning from one schedule structure to another is tough. But I always end the semester with great grades and all my teachers say I am a stellar student.
I am interested in a professor’s field, but when I asked him how I could get involved, he mentioned I did poorly on the first test. I said “Yep” and nothing else, which created an awkward silence until he pointed me to some journals. I’m not always comfortable disclosing my condition to people because they may judge me, but I also understand why he’d be hesitant to encourage me if at the moment I seem like a bad student. How can I deal with situations like this in the future to show I will be academically ready for challenges?
A: A person who pushes an interested student away because of a poor test score is almost surely not going to be more understanding about ADHD. There are self-important jerks and wonderful, kind supportive people in every profession. You happened to encounter a self-important jerk. Ask around and find another professor to talk to about your interest. Going forward, if you aren’t comfortable disclosing your disability and don’t want to have to explain early-semester low test scores, you can wait to approach potential mentors and supporters until you have a stellar report card in hand.
Q: This Close to Ripping Out the Plug: My husband absolutely rages at video games when they aren’t going his way. I understand the frustration of glitchy games or getting close to winning a level or beating a boss and lag causes you to lose. I don’t mind the occasional exclamations when that stuff happens. But my husband will just completely go off for 30 minutes, ranting and raving, screaming at the TV. When this happens, I feel my heart rate go up, I get anxious and angry, and it just really ruins my day. I’ve tried asking my husband to reel it in. I’ve explained how awful it makes me feel. When he’s away from the games, he’ll admit the way he acts is uncool. But it doesn’t stop his reactions.
I was so mad about it the other day, I resorted to banging around loudly in the kitchen. I know it wasn’t very mature of me, but obviously, my pleas haven’t been helping. My husband came out to see what was going on. I said I was upset that he was yelling at the TV, and he said, “Oh for f— sake!” and stormed out like I was the unreasonable one. He has trouble managing his emotions in other difficult situations and is easily frustrated. I enjoy playing video games, too, but I’m not particularly good at them. This doesn’t really bother me, but my husband will literally get upset with me if he’s watching me play and I keep messing up the controls or have trouble solving a puzzle that he thinks is obvious. He acts like a giant toddler sometimes and will acknowledge this outside of whatever it is that frustrates him. But he won’t modify his behavior and it’s really stressing me out. What can I do?
A: I’ve received a lot of letters from people whose partners get in bad moods over video games. But 30 straight minutes screaming at the TV? That’s really troubling. So is the fact that this isn’t limited to one scenario. Storming around in the kitchen isn’t going to solve this. You can decide whether you need him to stop this behavior when you’re present (which might not be something he’s even capable of) or limit it to 30 seconds, or if you need him to seek professional help for his behavior and the deeper issues behind it. Then sit him down and let him know. Yes, offer an ultimatum.
Jenée Desmond-Harris: We’ll wrap it up here. Thanks for joining, and I’ll talk to you next time.
More Advice From Slate
My husband and I have a frequent disagreement on our 3-year-old and her love for dresses and all things pink! For the first two years of her life, she was constantly mistaken for a boy because she wore gender-neutral clothes. We direct her towards books and other media that do not represent traditional gender roles (no sparkle princesses!). However, our daughter adores the color pink, insists on wearing dresses, and is currently obsessed with accessories. I am fine with this, but my husband gets annoyed and says that dresses and accessories aren’t suitable for doing most things. I appreciate his commitment to raising our daughter without gender stereotypes, but I also want to encourage her to make her own choices. What should we do?