Q. Partner With Disabled Child: I am a divorced mom of two lovely kids, ages 14 and 10. I have recently begun dating my college sweetheart, who is separated and in the process of divorcing. It is long distance, and he has one child in college and a 13-year-old autistic son. His son’s autism is severe—he functions at a preschool level and can be violent at times. Much of the burden of care for “Daniel” falls on my boyfriend—even though he and his wife are separated and Daniel lives with the mother, he is the one who bathes Daniel, puts him to bed each night, takes him to school, etc. We are very much in love and hope to marry, but I am concerned about the ramifications of what life with a severely challenged and potentially violent teen will bring to my kids. My youngest is half Daniel’s size. My boyfriend has been hurt by Daniel many times—black eyes, bloody noses, etc. Residential living is not an option until Daniel reaches age 18 at the earliest. Prudie, I truly love this man, but just don’t know if I can take this on.
A: Hold on there, Mom. Yes, many people reconnect successfully with past loves. But you aren’t even in the same town as yours, and he isn’t even divorced. This current iteration of your relationship is “recent” so it may be heady, but at this point in life you two need to have your heads on your shoulders and have the wisdom to remember what happens after the first flush of lust passes and the daily grind reasserts itself. I say you two put the marriage talk far aside, let your boyfriend finalize his divorce, and see how this relationship fares over the next year. Surely, if you want to be together, someone is going to have to move, which will mean a disruption for one set of kids’ access to both parents, and I assume also will require the moving partner to find a new job. All of you need to spend more time together to see how the families mesh (while making sure your kids are safe). Making deliberate and cautious decisions will let you know what you would be taking on and what you can handle.
Q. Wedding Etiquette Question: Our friends’ daughter is having a destination wedding that we won’t be able to attend. We wanted to get her a nice gift but most everything on the registry has been taken except for lots of little items and a $500 blender that’s out of our price range. Would it be appropriate to buy something from a store near them (some place like Macy’s) and send that? We’d send it with a gift receipt so they could get what they want though there is the risk that they don’t shop at that store. The other alternative is to give them money toward a down payment for a house but the idea of cash (or a gift card) doesn’t sit right with me. Any suggestions would be welcome.
A: For one thing, you could bundle a bunch of little items into one bigger gift. For another, it’s never wrong to get something lovely, while being thoughtful enough to enclose a return receipt. If you get anything less than a gracious thank you for what you do purchase, or the bride lets you know it would have been preferable to help them buy a house, then you can confidently forgo the baby shower gift.
Q. Adult Parent Child Dynamic: My 21-year-old daughter informed me of a weekend trip she was taking out of state (a five-hour drive) to visit her boyfriend and his family. I asked her to tell her overprotective father about her trip which she did not. Her father is in the habit of getting information about her through me. I constantly ask him to call or text her which he does not do. She normally calls or texts him when she has a problem, but they have very little day-to-day interaction. When she was on her way back she stopped through to say hello to us and told her dad about her trip. He is FURIOUS with me for not telling him where she was. I am not surprised but I think his anger should be directed toward our daughter. I saw nothing wrong with her trip but he would not have wanted her to go if he’d known in advance.
A: You’re lucky she still has a relationship with you if you wish your husband at blown up at her instead of you. Your daughter is an adult who does not need permission from her daddy to visit her boyfriend. You need to change the whole dynamic here. Start by telling your husband you are not the NSA and you’re not going to keep tabs on your daughter for his sake. Explain to him that his overprotectiveness is only pushing her away, and that he needs to deal with his anxiety about her. Seeing a counselor together should help him confront his overprotectiveness and give you better tools for having healthier relationships with the two people you love most.
Q. Not Invited to Wedding: I have known “April” since we were kids, and we’ve always gotten along, although we are both much closer to our mutual friend, “May.” April, May, and I get together at least once a year, since I live on an opposite coast now. I have known that April has been engaged since last year, and I had even factored her wedding into my summer plans. So I was a little surprised when she told me that she might not be able to invite me due to guest restrictions at her venue—although she also mentioned that 40 children were going to the wedding! She asked me for my address for a save the date that never came, and neither did an invitation. I admire that she was up front about everything, but I have to admit that I feel a little sad as her wedding approaches. (She was invited to, and came, to my wedding.) I also feel as though maybe I should take a hint from her? I am going to send her a present and wish her well, but I am wondering if I am looking too far or little into this snub. Do I pretend that all is well and continue the get-togethers, or do I take the message and maybe just stick to getting together with May?
A: Please tell me your name is really June. Anyway, it’s nearly June, and it’s wedding season, and so it’s time for people who are in the wedding party to complain about their indentured servitude and for those excluded from the wedding to be hurting from the snub. It sounds as if April has lost control of the event if it’s become a combination wedding ceremony and day care convention. She was upfront about your need not to save the date, but she didn’t burden you with the obvious fact that her relatives have browbeat her into taking over the guest list. You have always liked this woman but aren’t intensely close, so don’t conclude this is the closing of the friendship. Just send a gift and your best wishes and be glad that you can spend your money and vacation time on a holiday of your own choosing.
Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. Talk to you next week.
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