A: Usually a father having his child share his last name is not considered a breach of trust. It's actually pretty standard naming procedure, even if, as in your case, the parents aren't married and can't stand each other. It sounds to me as if you two could use mediation. Look into mediators who help with these kinds of domestic disputes, then suggest to your ex that for the sake of your daughter you two need better guidelines for dealing with each other. Even if you wish your life had gone another way and the two of you had no reason to ever be in touch, the fact is that you are raising a daughter together. Finding a way to get along with each other will benefit this little girl in countless ways. Stop looking for illustrations of the perfidy of your ex. Think what a difference it would make in the tenor of your relationship if you said, "I was very touched that Isabella has my last name. Thank you."
Q. Transgender "Uncle"?: My brother has always been in the realm of "sexually fluid" and only recently begun dressing more openly feminine after a period of cross-dressing as a teen. He hasn't come "out" in an official capacity and I want to be respectful of him and his pace if he should. We are in a bit of a pickle about the questions my 4-year-old has begun to ask. "Why is Uncle Jarod wearing that hat?" "Is Uncle Jarod a girl?" I've been discussing privacy and personal inclinations with my son, but am terrified he may end up putting my brother in an uncomfortable position. Should I just ask my brother? Or keep coaching my 4-year-old to be more demure? He is most definitely not.
A: This is a great opportunity for both these guys in your life. You answer your son's questions honestly. And you also instruct him while it's fine for him to take his questions to you—or to ask his uncle—it's not polite to point to people you don't know and comment on unusual things about them. You tell your son the truth: Uncle Jarod likes that hat and thinks it look good on him. No, Uncle Jarod is not a girl—girls who wear pants and boyish clothes aren't boys—it's just that there are some men who like to wear girlish stuff. You can tell your brother that his fashion sense has gotten your son's interest, explain how you've answered, and say to be ready for his nephew's questions on style.
Q. Re: Child’s Mother Response: I picked up the book Joint Custody With a Jerk because of the title but it was really helpful in dealing with my ex. It essentially redefines the parenting relationship as a business relationship. Much easier when you remove all those pesky emotions.
A: I obviously can't vouch for the book, but thanks for the suggestion. It sounds like a helpful way to reframe the relationship.
Q. Father Is in Prison & Wants To Write the Kids: I have a 12-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter. Their biological father has been in prison for three years and will be for the next seven. My children have had no contact with him for eight years because he was very abusive to me and I left him and completely cut off contact. I have told them both as much about him as I felt was age-appropriate, so they are aware of where he is. I felt when he was released, assuming he served the full sentence, they would be of age to make the decision whether to have contact with him or not. Well, he just wrote me a letter stating how sorry he is and asked if he could write to the kids. I don't believe his apology, and I could put my own issues with him aside, if it was in their best interest, but he is in prison for statutory sodomy of a 6-year-old girl. My daughter doesn't remember him at all, but my son has been starting to ask more questions and seems to be interested in hearing from him. I'm not sure how to handle this. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
A: I think you should talk to a lawyer about the possibility of termination of parental rights. He sounds monstrous and I agree with you there's no reason for him to become pen pals with his children. You have done the right thing by not lying to your children about him, and by answering their questions honestly, and age appropriately. As the kids are getting older and want to know more, you might want to check in with a therapist with expertise in incarceration and sexual offenders in the family about how to proceed. The sad truth is their father is a sick man who hurt a child, and you wisely decided you would never let him hurt them.
Q. Long-Distance Relationship: I'm a woman in my early 20s in a very long-distance relationship. My partner has never been perfect, and I've never thought the relationship would end in marriage, but he is smart, funny, honest, and incredibly kind. My problem is that I've had a consuming crush on another man who lives in the same city as I do—a man who would not be a great match for me, but who I'm incredibly attracted to and can't stop thinking about—for quite a while now. I feel horrible and unfaithful, but to some degree I've welcomed these feelings because they distract me from missing my partner and feeling alone and very far away. Should I be taking this as a sign that it's time to end my relationship, despite having few real complaints about my partner himself? I feel like a louse and wonder if it's time to spare him.
A: I don't know if you have high standards for "perfection" or if you're just drawn to guys you acknowledge aren't quite right for you. But you're in your early 20s, so that's OK, as long as not-quite-right doesn't become a lifelong theme. You are seeing a guy you don't want to marry and can't see. So stop (not) seeing him. Yes, it's hard to be on your own, but having a distant boyfriend sounds like more of a crutch than a match. It could be your boyfriend is himself experiencing the same feelings you are, and it would be a favor for both of you to be free.
Q. Re: Doppelganger: He should see if he can find out this person's exact date of birth. That could either dispel the idea of a twin or come close to confirming it.
A: The same date is not absolute confirmation, but you're right, a different birth date pretty abruptly ends this movie.
Q. In Your Face Relative: I have a niece who asked me if she could stay at my home because she has a job interview in a town about three hours from where I live. She will fly in from out of town. I used to be close to this niece, but over the years her political and religious views have diverged sharply from mine. She likes to get in your face about these subjects and argue. When I or others try to change the subject, she does not take the hint, but digs in deeper than ever. For example she has told me I am going to hell because I don't share the same religious beliefs. I have not seen her for several years as I have not kept in contact due to her behavior. I want to help her out since she is currently out of work. I want to be a gracious host, but I am worried that she will say something insulting and I will say something I regret back. Hopefully she has matured, but what do you say to someone who is rude to your face?
A: This could be a wonderful occasion to heal your rift. Or it could be like finding a loathed talk-radio host has moved into your home. If she asks for a place to stay then proceeds to insult you, it may be that the economy is not the only reason she is out of work. But since you know her possible M.O., you decide in advance that no matter what the provocation, you will not say something you regret. If she starts in you can say, "Louisa, I was so thrilled you got in touch because I've missed you. We have to agree to disagree about politics and religion. So let's skip that. Instead I want you to fill me in on what you've been up to." If she goes off on you anyway, then that indicates that somehow the poor girl is off. So hold your tongue and when you say farewell be grateful she lives far away.
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