Q. Potential Child Abuse: I'm a graduate student living in an apartment complex. I recently got new neighbors with two small children. These children are constantly screaming and crying at the top of their lungs. What concerns me is that these screams and cries don't sounds like children throwing a temper tantrum; they sound like children who are being abused. I never hear the parents yelling or the sound of objects breaking so I haven't mentioned this to anyone yet. However, I would be devastated if these children were being abused and I didn't do anything about it. What should I do?
A: If you're concerned you're hearing abuse, then call the police. Some kids are temperamental and boisterous, but you say what you're hearing doesn't sound like that. If something is wrong in that apartment, then the family needs intervention.
Q. Nasty Boss: My boss does not wash her hands and I find it disgusting. My office is right next to the restroom. When she goes, you hear the toilet flush and the door open all at the same time. Sometimes you hear the water, but not often. There are signs in the restroom about how important washing your hands is, but I guess this has not made an impression on her. She's sick often and every time she goes to the doctor, I think, "If you'd just wash your nasty hands you'd be OK." What if anything can I say or do about the situation?
A: Just convince yourself she prefers hand sanitizer and forget about it. As long as she's not seeing medical patients or in the food preparation industry, you just have to accept you can't monitor other people's bathroom behavior.
Q. Gun Violence Prevention: I have a friend who last year divorced his wife after she cheated on him many times. She was a friend of mine too, until all of her secrets and lies came to light. She has a completely different and slightly crazy view of the whole thing and believes the divorce is her ex's new girlfriend's fault, whom he started dating after separating from her. She is now ranting on Facebook about getting a gun, a concealed carry license, how to make a gun out of a nailgun that you don't need a permit for, etc. She has also been seen sitting outside her ex's house while his girlfriend is there, just watching. She hasn't made any threats, so it seems there isn't anything authorities can do. The ex is a very low-key kind of guy and is reluctant to get authorities involved because he shares custody with her and their two children. What can a person do to prevent what looks like from an outsider's perspective, a threatening situation?
A: You need to tell your friend (the guy) that you are very concerned about his ex's behavior. She may not have made explicit death threats, but ranting about nail guns, blaming her unhappiness on the new girlfriend, and parking in front of her house all sound alarming to me. Sure, this situation is complicated by the custody arrangements, but if his ex-wife is unstable, that is something important to know before he drops off the kids. He needs to keep all this evidence, take photos of her parked outside the house, and take them to his lawyer. If he won't, then the girlfriend certainly should report that she is being stalked. If they won't act, however, it doesn't sound as if you have the standing to intervene.
Q. Re: Cross-Training Husband: If your husband is overweight he may be using the clothing for "support." I am not sure any male would want to admit to anyone that the man boobs flapping while on the treadmill had to be fixed.
A: I would so much rather have my husband tell me that he had the need for a mansierre than that he imagined himself as Bo Derek.
Q. Bringing a Baby to Prison: My husband will soon start serving an 18-month prison sentence. I am seven months pregnant with our first child. I am scared and sad and angry that my husband won't be here for our baby's birth or first year of life, but I still love my husband. I don't want to divorce him. At the same time, I am anxious and hesitant to take our baby to meet him in prison. He will be serving time with some dangerous people, and I don't want to bring our child into that setting. My husband says he will respect whatever decision I make, but I know it will devastate him to wait over a year to meet our baby. Am I being unreasonable?
A: I wish you'd told us what he did. Assault? Insider trading? Whatever, you say you're staying with him. Check with some support groups for family members of the incarcerated about this, and with the prison about their rules for bringing children. It seems to me that as unpleasant as the circumstances are, your child will be safe. Although your baby will thankfully be too young to remember anything about these visits down the road, it will be important for your husband to see his child and feel bonded. You don't have to bring the baby every time, but it will help him to have the image of his growing child as an incentive for good behavior while in jail and for starting fresh when he's released.
Q. Re: For Sick Play Date: Just wanted to say that my daughter's day care is fine with bringing her in if she has a cold as long as there's no fever above 100.4. As often as kids in day care get colds, she'd miss half the winter if she couldn't go in with a runny nose or slight cough. Now if she had a stomach bug, fever, or a strange rash, she'd stay home. Same goes for seeing family and friends. Plus people are often contagious before they show any symptoms. Incidentally, when I got the flu this winter, it came from my sister-in-law, not my daughter (who'd had a flu shot—I hadn't).
A: Sure, if no drippy noses were allowed, there would be no one in day care. But you also know if your kid is significantly flowing and coughing, it's better to bow out of a play date.
Q. Neighbors: Our downstairs neighbors, a young couple, are having trouble with their 3-year-old son. They yell at him to stop whining. I've thought about buying them a copy of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, and I'm wondering if that'd be a good idea, or be seen as too intrusive. My husband and I do not have children. If people have ideas about a book that'd be a better fit, please pass them along.
A: Unless you're the only possible person who could leave the book, I think you should drop it off by their front door when you know they're out. A conversation about their child-rearing technique from a childless neighbor is probably not going to be productive.
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