Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
April 21 2005 7:26 AM

Baby Talk

When infants "write" thank-you notes.

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Dear Prudence,

I'd like your thoughts about a new mother who writes all thank-you notes as if her infant baby were capable of writing. They are "signed" by the baby as well. I don't mean to sound petty. I appreciate the thank-you notes, but for some reason it really annoys me that the note is not written by the parent(s) themselves, as an expression of their own gratitude and acknowledgement of a gift. What are your thoughts?

—SW

Dear S.,

Funny you should mention it. Prudie has always thought this approach kind of goofy but has rationalized it by understanding that a (usually) young mother is so over the moon about her baby that she chooses this mode of correspondence. Given the state of etiquette these days, be grateful for any acknowledgment, even one written in the voice of the dog, which Prudie has, in fact, received.

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—Prudie, babyishly

Dear Prudie,

I am 30 years old, have been married for 10 years, and have two children. I come from a very conservative culture—I don't have to wear a veil to cover my face, but it is close to that. My husband and I have been going to a gym every day for the past seven months. Here is my problem. There is a trainer at this gym who's a teenager or in his early 20s who seems to watch me all the time. He doesn't talk to me, doesn't say hello—he just stands there looking at me. I have tried going to the gym at different times to avoid him, but he seems to be there all day long. I did not tell my husband about this, because if I did, I would be under house arrest for the rest of my life. I can't talk to my friends about this because they are all from the same country as I am and talking about such stuff (as a married woman) is taboo. Help me please, what do I do?

—Anxious

Dear Anx,

You have two options. Someone is in charge of your gym—a manager, perhaps—and it is to him you should go with your concern. Tell him the situation makes you very uncomfortable, and you'd hate to have to change gyms because of this. Your second option, which Prudie thinks is less likely because of your culture, would be to ask the young man why he is always staring at you. Either of these approaches might solve your problem. If not, then there is something implicitly dangerous and creepy about the situation, and you should state this to whomever is in charge of the gym. With luck, the young man will be let go.

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—Prudie, resolutely

Dear Prudie,

I've had sole custody of my son since he was 6. He's now 13. A few weeks ago, he was busted for possession of marijuana at school. I'm not convinced he takes the charge seriously. I should add that neither I nor my current wife use drugs, smoke, or get drunk. He is not a latchkey kid, and this incident has really stressed our family. By sad coincidence, his birth mother has been in prison for drug dealing for the past year and has two more years to serve. I've never told him this. I've thought about it, because I tend to believe that honesty is the best policy. But his birth mother asked me not to tell him, and I've been respecting her wishes. Now that he seems to be headed the wrong way, I wonder if I should tell him. It could be a great wake-up call and could hammer home the reality of drug use. But could it be emotionally damaging? I await your advice.

—Hesitant

Dear Hes,

A 13-year-old kid may be just experimenting. Prudie would say this: Withhold the information, for now, about the birth mother's drug problems. Should there be another episode, then tell him of the possible genetic predisposition. The bit about jail time, by the way, would send a very powerful message. Like alcoholism, there is much evidence that addictive tendencies can be hereditary, so his biological mother's difficulties should be made known to him.

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—Prudie, provisionally

Dear Prudence,

Please, please give me some advice. I have been a single parent for 17 years and have three adult children and a 19-year-old daughter. My 25-year-old has been on his own since he turned 21 and is doing well. My daughter is in university and lives at home—not a problem because I know she'll be independent once school is finished. My 28-year old, on the other hand, is causing many sleepless nights for me. He moved out at 18 and back in at 25—"for a few months until things get better." It's now three years later, and I'm worried that he may never leave. When he works, I give him 30 days' notice, but then something happens and he loses his job. He says he wants his own place but doesn't ever work toward it ... he has to pay his bills, fix his car, or get a better job. He does pay room and board but still expects me to have dinner ready when he gets home from work, or leaves the dishes for me and never thinks of helping with housework. (I know, I trained him.) Right now he's unemployed, and has been for three months. He owes me three months' rent. He sleeps all day and stays up all night playing computer games. I want him to leave. No, I want him to grow up, get a job, a life, and get out of my space! Am I being selfish? How can I throw him out when he has no means of support? Is it my responsibility to take care of him? Please give me some practical advice before I have a nervous breakdown taking care of this adult adolescent!

—Sandra

Dear San,

Granted, mistakes have been made, as they say in government-speak. It is never too late, however, to take back the reins. Children not in school or 18 and older are legally on their own. Of course you can't throw this case of arrested development out on the street, but you can do the following: Insist that he find—and keep—a job within the next three months, because the boarding house is going out of business the middle of July. And as long as he is living in your house, tell him there are new rules. He may not sleep all day and play games all night. The days will now be spent checking out employment, and the nights will be for sleeping. He is to clean up after himself and help out. If he flouts these rules, then it's time to tell him the jig is up, and he is out. To do otherwise is to enable him to sponge off you, possibly forever. If there is no movement in the situation, then tough love is called for, and maybe being left to his own devices will shape him up. What he most needs to know is that you mean business.

—Prudie, firmly