Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
Feb. 7 2008 7:29 AM

Uncle-Biter

I feel like a lout after swatting my vampire nephew. Am I?

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Dear Prudie,
During a visit with my brother-in-law's family, I was sitting at the table chatting when my 3-year-old nephew ran up, screamed, "I am a dragon," and bit my arm. Shocked and in pain, I ended up hitting him and knocking him over. He started crying and ran to his room. My brother-in-law said, "I know it was almost a reflex, but you can't come in here and hit my kid." I totally agree and feel terrible that I struck his son. This is not the first time I have been bitten by this nephew, and he has been sent home from day care because of biting. I now have a bruise where he bit me through my jacket. I have apologized profusely, but I still feel like a monster. How could I have better resolved the situation without resorting to violence?

—Flustered and Hurt

Dear Flustered,
Next time you visit, you could wear one of those mesh suits used by deep-sea divers searching for sharks. Or maybe you could borrow a whip and chair from a retired lion tamer. Of course you feel terrible about inadvertently striking your nephew, but getting smacked is what happens to people who sink their teeth in your flesh like a rabid Doberman. I'm against corporal punishment, but your unintentional hit may turn out to help this 3-year-old absorb a visceral lesson: "Bite uncle on arm, get whacked in head." Sure, it was an unpleasant situation for everyone, but you didn't need a lecture about not hitting children; your in-laws needed to apologize for the nephew's behavior and assure you they have been working hard to break him of this habit. Stop fretting, and next time you go over, be vigilant about your nephew entering your personal space until he outgrows his cannibalistic tendencies.

—Prudie

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Dear Prudence,
I am five months pregnant with our first child. Prior to my getting pregnant, my whole family—30 of us—booked a cruise to Alaska to celebrate a relative's 80th birthday. After finding out I was pregnant, my husband and I decided it would be fun to take the baby with us even though she would be only 2 months old. A few days ago, I called the cruise line to determine what I needed to do to register the baby and found out that they don't allow children under six months on the ship. For me, there was no decision to make: I couldn't leave my baby behind, so I decided we should cancel. My husband is livid. He does not understand why I wouldn't just dump my baby off with his parents and go play in the Alaskan wilderness. Besides worrying about breast-feeding, I'm sure I won't be comfortable leaving the baby with other people when it's so young. My husband has said he will never forgive me for this. Am I being unreasonable?

—New Mom On the Way

Dear New Mom,
If I were you, I'd be worried about how many babies I was going to be dealing with four months from now. I don't think even upon learning that one partner has been unfaithful that the other should start out with, "I will never forgive you." But, "I will never forgive you for giving birth to our child and ruining my Alaskan cruise"? In any case, here you are, about to start a family with a man who would say that. Since you don't say he is typically a self-pitying bully, let's be generous and assume that he's having a little psychological meltdown over how profoundly his life is about to change, and how much he worries that parenthood will crimp his independence. What you don't want to do is escalate this into a full-blown crisis. So, tell him you understand how much he had been looking forward to the trip, but speaking of this vacation in such maritally apocalyptic terms makes a reasonable discussion impossible. Explain to him there is no way you can leave your infant behind, so you can't go on the cruise. Say that leaves two alternatives: You both stay home and promise each other that as a family you will go on vacation to Alaska in the near future; or you stay home and, with your blessing (and you've got to mean it), he goes on the trip. Let's hope he is able to see the reasonableness of your offers, and that he does some growing up, fast.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
My live-in boyfriend and I have been together for more than four years. We are both in our late 20s, very much in love, best friends, and have an amazing time together—so much so that even grocery shopping is hilarious. We share the same goals and interests, and have challenging, engaging conversations. However, he doesn't bathe on a regular basis. And by that, I mean, he bathes every three weeks to once a month. I've tried to talk with him about his poor personal hygiene, but have made little headway. I've been blunt and angry, encouraging and sensitive, but, lately, I've mostly given up. On his side of the bed, our headboard and sheets have become stained with his body oils (imagine a used bag of french fries). I don't want to leave him, but I'm tired of it. I don't want to live with a dirty person for the rest of my life, and I don't want my kids growing up unbathed because their daddy refuses to. Could this be a personal-growth issue? What can I do?

—I Know I'm Not Perfect, Either

Dear Not Perfect,
I don't know if it's a personal-growth issue, but I'm loath to imagine what kind of personal growths are on the body of a monthly bather. What do you laugh at in the grocery store? He points to the soaps and shampoos and says, "Some idiots actually use those!" Sure, you may not be perfect, but if you bathe more often than Queen Elizabeth I, you should feel pretty good about yourself in your household. The image of your boyfriend's side of the bed looking like a used french fry bag is vivid and repulsive. I have tried to bar from my mind the thought of what the sensory assault must be like when Mr. Greasy attempts to join you on your side of the bed. Perhaps he suffers from the wonderfully named ablutophobia, fear of bathing. If so, this article gives information on phobias and anxiety disorders and possible paths to treatment. Print it out, and tell him you think this might be his problem, and that there is help for it. If he refuses to consider it, I don't know how you can consider getting close enough to him to contemplate having kids.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
My son is in his last year of high school, and he will be 18 soon. I recently discovered that his girlfriend of less than a month has sent him many nude photos of herself. She took the pictures with her cell phone and sent them to his phone. You can see from most of the photos that she took them while standing in front of the mirror. The other photos are close-ups of her parts. She is 15 years old. I have taken the memory card from his phone so that he is not walking around with these photos, while I figure out what to do. I think it's important to share these photos with her parents, so that they can explain the position she is putting herself in by sending them. However, my parents are worried that my son even having the photos could put him at legal risk and that we should just delete them and not discuss it with her parents.

—Photo Blackout

Dear Photo,
I think both the photos and the girl need to be removed from your son's life. Her exposing herself possibly exposes him to legal jeopardy. I also find her behavior sad and troubled (although I expect to hear that I'm so out of it I don't know that it's all the rage among 15-year-olds to send Penthouse-style shots of yourself to your classmates). Explain to him that she is a minor and at best she is demonstrating an extreme lack of self-respect and judgment. Tell him he could find himself in trouble for having what could be considered pornographic images from her, and that she's not a suitable girlfriend. If he doesn't understand, then at minimum you're going to have to confiscate his cell phone. You don't need to give the photographic evidence to her parents, but I would tell them she's been taking explicit photographs of herself and sending them to your son, and you knew they'd want to know.

—Prudie