A: In journalism we call this "burying the lede." That is, the real point of your letter is that your mentally unbalanced cousin is expecting a baby and something needs to be done to protect this poor child. It would be ideal if the family could come together and put a plan of supervision into place for what happens when the baby is born. If your cousin is a danger to herself and others the authorities need to be aware of this now and monitoring her after she gives birth. If one part of what happens is that you tell your cousin she can't visit you because her behavior makes a visit unsafe, that's part of letting her know that she desperately needs help.
Q. To Tell Or Not To Tell: My sister-in-law and I developed a good friendship over the years and we think of each other as sisters. Recently, I discovered that my brother is having an affair. I'm torn—should I tell my SIL or not? If I were in her situation, I would feel devastated if my friend or family knew but kept it hushed up. But if there's a chance that my brother will end the affair, I don't want to get involved. I've had harsh words with my brother, and he's head over heels for this other woman. I just don't know what to do.
A: You say that if the situations were reversed you'd want her to tell you, so that's a good clue as to how to proceed. If you do speak, you will be really getting in the middle of their marriage, so it's only fair to give your brother a heads up that you're going to spill. Sure, he may end the relationship, but if he's confessing to you he's head over heels, it sounds more like he deserves a kick to the head. If you tell your sister-in-law, give her enough information so that she knows the truth, but you don't have to give her every detail you've been privy to. Stay calm and supportive, and be prepared for experiencing the old adage about being the messenger.
Q. For the Poster Whose Mother Is Ill: I'm so sorry you're going through this. I can relate. What helped for me then, and makes me look back at my decisions with peace now, is that I did my best to live in the present. I delighted in every conversation with my mom, visited as much as I could, bought her thoughtful gifts, and gave her five birthday cards because I found so many with the sentiments I have for her. Also, don't feel like you need to lighten up your feelings for others if you feel down. It's not a pity party when it's something really life-altering and involves someone dear to you.
A: Good advice, thank you.
Q. Husband Is Too Germ Sensitive: My husband has always been a little fussy about germs, messes, clutter, etc. While I keep things clean, I am a bit messier, and occasionally allow clutter to accumulate on a table or counter. He's handled that well. OK, so far so good, and so we had a baby four months ago. At first, everything was fine, and we were enjoying our son, though obviously we were and still are very tired. My husband found that the baby likes to be held up above our heads so he can look down at us. He giggles, etc. All this was great until the time that our son must have had a slightly unsettled stomach. He puked all over my husband's face. My husband couldn't hand our baby over to me fast enough, and then jumped into the shower for 20 minutes. He was visibly upset the rest of the evening and didn't want to be close to our son, fearing a repeat. The problem is that he now has trouble getting close to our baby. He looks sick whenever we need to change a diaper, and he doesn't help with that anymore. He won't feed him either, he complains about the dribble being germy. He is really reluctant to touch our son, and washes his hands repeatedly after contact with him. I can't get my husband to talk about this, and I can't live like this anymore. How can I possibly get him to help more? Our son needs an involved dad! Where do I start?
A: If your husband doesn't want to hold his son against his chest, feel his baby's head get heavy, and thrill to the drooly spot left when your baby falls asleep in his arms, then you've got a problem. Yes, the vomit story is gross, but every parent has an account like that of their child's eruptions from one end or the other. Your husband has gotten himself in a loop that could alienate him from his child, so he needs help. Some form of cognitive behavioral therapy sounds called for, and he should call for an appointment right away.
Q. Helicopter Dad: My daughter is 10 and is in the fifth grade, and this time of year is her busiest regarding exams, projects, extracurriculars, etc. I never married her father, who lives a state away, and I have full custody (he sees her every other weekend). My daughter was assigned yet another project that she only had time to work on during her father's visitation with her. When I picked her up, I was surprised to see an impeccably completed project, not exactly to my daughter's abilities. It turns out that her father completed the project. How do I handle this? I feel it would be dishonest for her to hand in someone else's work, setting an awful precedent. Also, she will have to work on her science fair project during her next visitation with her father—how do I prevent her dad from continually doing her projects? He isn't someone who takes constructive criticism well.
A: You two are raising a daughter together, so you have to have some communication. The best course is to not attack, but to say you appreciate him stepping up to help his daughter. Then you have to explain the school is rather strict about how much parental involvement goes into the kids' projects. (I hope they don't allow parents to do the work!) Since your daughter didn't do the bulk of the work for the project, she could get in trouble, which would undo all the excellent help he was trying to give. Say you understand the impulse to just step up and do it yourself, but she'll learn more (and learn what she doesn't know) if she does it herself, with just a little guidance from him.
Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone, have a good week. And I hope that 14-year-old girl will be flying to Boston soon!
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