A: You start by not saying, "Hi, Mrs. Miller, do you want me to supervise the Pin the Tail on the Donkey game for the kids, and do you mind if I have take some soda from the fridge?" I'm a little confused by your timeline. You say you started dating "a little bit" and now you're in love. I hope that means you've dated more than a little bit. In addition, it sounds as if the Miller children are still young. I think that parents should be conservative about when they introduce their children to their new love interest. It seems to me that a birthday party simply isn't the event for Meghan the baby sitter to morph into Meghan, Daddy's girlfriend. If your relationship with Mr. Miller, I mean Tom, is serious and you both feel it's time you were reintroduced to the kids, that means the four of you should spend a quiet afternoon together. Hanging around with Tom's ex is not a good start. You can easily bow out of the birthday party and explain you don't want to cause tension or be the center of attention. But if you go, the way you establish yourself as an adult is to act and feel like one.
Q. Distracted Driving: As a friend of a family that lost a child to distracted driving, I think the texter-while-driving should educate herself. People who text while driving are 23 times more likely to have an accident. She may not view drunk driving and distracted driving the same, but the results are the same. I am sure she doesn't want to put a family through what she had to go through with her sibling.
A: You, and many other readers, are absolutely right that the distracted drivers are deluding themselves and causing mayhem and sorrow. I hope I made that clear. I do think it's fair for the LW to explain to her friend what the drunk driver remark meant to her personally. I'm sure the friend wouldn't have mentioned it so casually had she known the family history. But I hope the LW takes the responses here very seriously and realizes she's setting herself up to be the cause of someone else's loss.
Q. My Friends Want To Help Another Friend in Need ... and I don't: Three friends and I put an allocated amount each month in a high-interest savings account. The agreement is that in the unlikely event of somebody's death, that person's family gets the lump sum as kind of a life insurance. If nobody uses it, we all get our own money back. We started this after the death of a close friend left his widow close to bankruptcy. I thought it was a good arrangement until recent events. The wife of one of the participating friends, "John," has breast cancer, although thankfully not terminal. She quit her highly stressful job so she can concentrate on recovery. Then John's business started doing badly, and his daughter got into an accident, which requires a lot of expenses that aren't covered by insurance. John got stuck in a Catch-22 situation where he had to take time off to look after both his wife and daughter, then he lost even more clients because he wasn't available. Another friend in the group, one who is probably the closest to John, emailed us to suggest we take our savings and give it to him. The other friend quickly agreed. I haven't sent a reply yet because to be completely truthful, I do not want to. If I knew the funds were going to be used for anything other than life insurance, as callous as it sounds, I wouldn't have dutifully contributed every month. We have a written agreement that the savings aren't to be touched without everybody's agreement until 2015 (except in case of death) and if anyone backs out midway, they lose their contributions. I just want to continue this arrangement as agreed. How can I ask everyone to honor the original agreement without sounding heartless?
A: I'm no investment adviser but I have to disagree with one of the assumptions behind your financial dealings. The death of any given member of your group is not an "unlikely" event, it is a certainty. All of you have entered into a contract, before any decisions are made about changing the rules of that contract, all of you should talk to a lawyer. Perhaps, with everyone's agreement, it would be possible to dissolve the fund, get their contribution plus interest, then you are all free to do with the money whatever you wish. It is lovely to want to support a friend experiencing a terrible time; but it is foolish to eliminate your own financial cushion in case misfortune visits you.
Q. Re: He's dating the baby sitter: The letter writer said she started dating her boyfriend "a little bit after" he divorced his wife, not that they've just dated a little bit. Her question also seems to be more about meeting not his children for the first time in the girlfriend role, but rather meeting the ex-wife and family friends in that role.
A: You're right that I misread "a little bit" and that they have been dating for a while. But the LW says nothing about having re-established a relationship with the kids as their dad's girlfriend and not the baby sitter. If she has been spending a lot of time with them, then going to the party is fine and she just has to be gracious and confident. If she hasn't spent a lot of time with the kids, this should not be her debut.
Q. Custody Battle: I am a young, single mother of a 5-month-old baby boy. I work and attend college, both full-time. I was fortunate enough to find a baby sitter who watches my son for next to nothing since I don't have much. Things were starting to look up until I got a call from the baby's father, who recently went to prison. He and his parents are going to try and fight for custody! Where have they been for the last five months and throughout my pregnancy? I have had to do everything by myself and now they think they deserve to get to see MY baby? I'm scared because they have money and I don't. I'm at a loss as to where to go for help. I have no one. Do you have any suggestions?
A: Your boyfriend wants custody? Perhaps this is a new penal rehabilitation program I haven't heard about: Raise your baby in your cell. If you have no one and are a young, single mother with a child, you need to start working on a support system. First of all, contact the nearest public defender's office about getting representation.* It sounds like it could be a good thing that your son's grandparents have shown up. The baby's father should be paying support, and since his income is probably low at the moment, possibly his parents will step up financially. It might also be beneficial for the grandparents to give you some relief in caring for your son—no, not to take custody from you, but to help care for the baby from time to time. (Although on the evidence you provide, they perhaps have done a less than stellar job raising their own son.) Also, check into the programs and services available for mothers in your situation. You may be eligible for subsidized day care, for food and housing support. You should get to know other young mothers with whom you can swap babysitting and support. Also speak to your college's guidance office—they may have advice on getting you help so that you can stay in school.
(*Update: As readers have pointed out, public defenders are for criminal cases. I should have said this woman should contact the nearest Legal Aid office or the equivalent.)
Q. Same-Sex Household: I am a mother of 9- and 11-year-old girls living a quiet (not closeted but not in your face) life with a wonderful woman. My kids recently started a new school and are in the process of meeting new friends who are being invited for play dates and sleepovers. My question is this, how much information am I required to divulge before inviting these kids to our home? Do their parents have a "right to know" that I live with and share my bed with another woman or can I assume that I am entitled to the same right of privacy as a heterosexual person? Obviously, while the friends are over there are no PDAs because that is just tacky regardless of who you are and, generally, I think the kids are oblivious to the fact my partner and I retire to the same bedroom at night. At the same time, I want to protect my kids from the possibility that some parents in their conservative school would freak out to know their kids were being "exposed to this lifestyle." Do I have to announce it?
A: Just as a heterosexual mother wouldn't explain her sex life to the other parents, you do not have to say anything about yours. Neither do you have to pretend you are not a couple. If other parents won't let their children come over, how sad for everyone that the children are being punished because of such close-mindedness.
In a new approach, we’re publishing the chat transcript in shorter, more digestible pieces. You will still be getting all the questions and answers, and we may even publish bonus letters Prudie didn’t get to address during the chat hour.