Help! Does My Mental Illness Mean I Would Be a Bad Parent?

Advice on manners and morals.
Aug. 23 2012 6:00 AM

Am I Fit To Parent?

My fiancé and I both have mental illness. The last thing I want to do is make things hard on our future children.

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—Freaked Out

Dear Freaked,
You are very perceptive to see that this teacher is a predator and she chose as her prey a vulnerable, fatherless boy. You are also right that such people tend to be serial abusers and other susceptible boys will likely follow. I know you were sworn to secrecy, but then you were told about multiple crimes. I’m afraid your obligation to your friend and to future students negates your vow of silence. But this is not a burden you should have to carry alone. It’s the responsibility of the adults around you to take action so that Ms. Hotpants is not writing her name on the chalkboard when the new school year begins. So tell your parents and ask them to help you report this to the authorities. You can start with the school principal, but if you don’t get an immediate response, call the police. Do give your friend a heads up about what you are doing. Tell him this teacher is sick and needs to be reported, that what happened isn’t his fault and he needs help dealing with this. Yes, all this will be painful for a boy who has already suffered too much. But he will ultimately be better off for not having to fend off this sicko and bear this secret.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
My wife sets various clocks around the house to different times, some at the correct time, some five minutes ahead, some 10 minutes. For example, the clock in the bathroom is 10 minutes fast so she has “more time” when doing her hair and makeup. I like knowing what time it is when I look at a clock. I don’t want to have to remember to subtract five or 10 minutes depending on what room I’m in. The kicker is that she isn’t tricking herself because she knows that the clocks are set fast. Usually, I’m ready to go and she still hasn’t dressed. I don’t want to just deal with it because these are my clocks, too.

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—What Time Is It Now?

Dear Time,
Darling, if you have a gripe with something I’m doing, please don’t write to Dear Prudence, just mention it to me over dinner. This letter is from my husband, right? Because I am exactly the woman you describe. And as with the woman you describe, none of it works. Because I know which clocks are five minutes fast and which are 10 minutes, I factor that in to my toilette and am always late anyway and loathe myself for it. The real issue is here your wife’s behavior, so don’t make the mismatched clocks a ticking time bomb in your marriage. I understand your annoyance, and maybe you need to give her a nonnegotiable deadline: You’ll leave without her if she’s running more than 15 minutes late. Otherwise, forget trying to synchronize the timepieces and keep peace in your home by wearing a watch.

—Prudie

Note from Prudence’s editor: I've tried the “leave without her on a deadline” strategy in my own domestic setting, and paid dearly for it. It was considered a worse crime by my wife than her tardiness, regardless of the terms we'd previously agreed upon. True, I can't always expect her to operate like clockwork. But surely I can expect my clocks to!

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