Dear Prudie: My neighbor cares for her disabled son to the neglect of her infant daughter.

Help! My Neighbor Neglects Her Infant Daughter—To Care for Her Disabled Son.

Help! My Neighbor Neglects Her Infant Daughter—To Care for Her Disabled Son.

Advice on manners and morals.
July 16 2012 3:13 PM

When Parents Aren’t Enough

In a live chat, Prudie offers advice on neighbors who care ceaselessly for their disabled son—to the neglect of their infant daughter.

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A: It could be that they will need to be called. But this girl is in school, so the school authorities have legal responsibility to check out the situation and report potential abuse.

Q. Re: Attitude Wearing Thin: Prudie, you made a huge leap to eating disorders here! I'm 5-foot-8 and never weigh more than 110, and everyone accuses me of having a disorder. I'm in perfect health, and my physician assures me I can never gain weight no matter what I do. The attitude that thinness can only be caused by a disorder is what's wearing thin. Thin people deserve respect too.

A: I don't think it's much of a leap if the thin people are obsessed with being thin, have bizarre eating habits, and most of all want to impose them on others, or make cruel judgments about other people's bodies. Some people are just lucky to be naturally slender—that's different.


Q. Dads and Daughters Minus One: My wife's book club is mostly married couples, except for two single-by-choice moms. Every month, we do a family potluck where the husbands come with the kids. At the last one, I suggested a daddy-and-daughter outing to a local event for us dads to get to know each other better. One of the single moms hit the roof and started screaming at me about how dare I imply that her child can't come because she's not married and how she's doing a great job raising her kids and then some political comments, as we have different views. My wife is mad at me for bringing it up, saying I was insensitive to the single moms. Personally, I would have been happy to bring along her children so they wouldn't have been left out, had I been asked. Now, that's off the table. Have we reached the point where fathers talking about doing things with their kids is wrong? I don't really even know how to react.

A: There's nothing wrong with a dad and daughter outing. What's wrong is suggesting it at a gathering where some of the daughters don't have dads—obviously you can see that. The other mother should not have screamed. Simply pulling you aside and saying that was not a good suggestion because it would leave out several of the children would have been better. I understand your wife is annoyed for creating unpleasantness. You should apologize the next time the group gets together. But once emotions have simmered down, putting together a gathering of dads and girls—all the girls—sounds like a fine idea.

Q. Sexist Hubby Gone Way Wrong!: I work full time, and usually am only off one day a week. My husband works three days a week. We do it this way so he can spend more time with my stepchildren. The trouble is that he gets very upset with me if I ask him to chip in with dishes, laundry, helping the kids with homework, lawn care, etc. He says the household and all things involved in running it are the "woman's job." Prudie, I'm exhausted! The last time I just quit doing it, he packed his things and moved in with his brother until I cleaned the house. He's in bed by 8 p.m. every night, and insists that the kids are just too much work for him during the day. (I cook all their meals, give them their baths, and do all school work/projects with them so I don't see how!) What's the best way to bring up the conversation that I feel like he doesn't contribute to our household?

A: With your salary you probably can find a helper who can watch the kids and will do some light housework. I am reluctant to advise people to skip counseling and go straight to the divorce lawyer, but what are you doing with this immature jerk? Why do even want such a spoiled brat helping you raise your kids? He sounds like a drain on your energy and emotions and a bad role model for the kids.

Update: Sorry for my confusion over the pronouns here. Her stepchildren presumably are his children. I feel sorry for the kids, and their welfare needs to be attended to if (when) this marriage ends, but this woman must stop being Cinderella. I doubt a conversation is going to change this insufferable parasite of a husband. 

Q. Identity Crisis: I'm going to college with a young woman I've known since kindergarten, Susie. Until we were juniors, Susie always talked about how her parents and their parents and all of her ancestors were Irish. Then she began dating a Latino guy and she started telling people that her mom's mom came from Puerto Rico. I never called it on her when we were in high school together. I am actually Latina, and I recently found out from Susie that she plans to join that same Latin culture club as me. She plans to tell people there that her grandma is from Puerto Rico, too. Am I wrong to be so bothered by her lie? I'm glad she's interested in her boyfriend's culture, but her lie about her ethnic background makes me squirm. To be clear, I don't have any issue with Susie joining the club. It's that she's going to pretend to be Puerto Rican that bothers me. I don't get why she lies about being Latina, because she'd be welcomed just as much if she told people in the club she was Irish. Part of me wants to "out" her, but I don't want to come off as a tattle to the other club members. Should I just ignore Susie come fall?

A: You can watch amusedly as Susie breaks up with her Latino boyfriend, leaves the Latin culture club and serially joins Hillel, the Muslim Society, or whatever club is in sync with the ethnicity of her current boyfriend. You're right, an interest in Latin culture is enough to be a member of the club, but it's very weird that your friend is lying about her ancestry. Instead of outing her to the group, just ask your friend what's up. Say she's always said her ancestors were Irish so you're surprised to hear their boat stopped in Puerto Rico.

Q. Re: Fatal Drunk Driver's child: I know my own in-laws, particularly my mother-in-law, did this to me when my mother died of lung cancer after being a heavy smoking since the age of 13. I oppose smoking totally, but her self-righteousness and lack of sympathy (of the issues going through my mind then, a PSA on a social issue wasn't one of them) really hurt our relationship. I think the mother of the drinking-and-driving situation just has to realize that when a person dies, they go through a mini-period of sainthood. It just happens and no matter how honestly valid and backed by evidence you point against the recently departed are, nobody, particular his children, want to hear and even if her son-in-law comes to agree with her, he won't forget her insensitiveness.

A: Great point. The mother-in-law will only harm her relationship with her son-in-law and her own daughter if she harps on the failings of the recently deceased.

Q. Today’s Questions: I work in health care and find some days are "themed." I will have multiple patients with the same problem: For example, all my patients with MS will somehow schedule for the same day when otherwise I could go weeks without seeing someone with that particular disease. (I work in primary care.) Your themes today seem to be parents who need to be reported to CPS and crazy parents of adult children—e.g. the dog lovers, or those offended by Dr. on a wedding invitation. Did you pick them that way or did it just happen?

A: I'm glad you have the same experience.  Themes just spontaneously emerge amazingly often. Calling the Dr. (Ph.D. or M.D.?) Carl Jung!

Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. Talk to you next week.

Emily Yoffe is a contributing editor at the Atlantic.