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Dear John: Love Her, Hate Her Kids

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


What’s your problem? Write to John at [email protected]

Dear John,
I’m a middle-aged guy who’s been seeing a woman I’m crazy about for six months. I’m divorced with no kids and my girlfriend is divorced with two kids, 9 and 12. Two boys. There’s no way to sugar coat this, though: I don’t like the kids. They’re unruly, undisciplined brats. My girlfriend has joint custody with her ex-husband, so they’re around a lot. She has no idea how I really feel – I think I’ve done a good job of hiding it and she thinks her kids hung the moon. She just doesn’t see them objectively. So what do you think? Is there hope for this relationship, or should I cut my losses?
I Know Cute and They’re Not It

Dear They’re Not It,
Do yourself a favor, do your girlfriend a favor, but most of all, do these boys a favor and tell your girlfriend you can’t see each other any more.
These are young boys who have already endured their parents’ divorce. Do you have any idea what that’s like from a child’s perspective? Now you come along and you’re so obtuse and self-absorbed that you’re miffed they don’t happily welcome you into their family? Guess what: they want their dad back. They don’t want you. I assume they’re not getting their dad back, but hopefully, they will get a man who will treat them with understanding, patience, and love, despite all their anger and sadness. That’s what they need. The last thing they need is you.


Dear John,
My sister sees a psychic about once a month, and she’s been doing so for years. I think it’s ridiculous, but my sister has come to rely on this woman, so my attitude is it’s none of my business. Every once in a while, though, this psychic will make some vague prediction of something negative happening to someone she will describe in the most general terms. Of course, my sister quickly turns “Someone you know who lives in a white house is having trouble at work” into “Uncle Ralph is going to lose his job!” Then she calls Uncle Ralph to warn him. Nobody puts any stock in the psychic (besides my sister), but the calls are upsetting nonetheless. How can I get her to stop doing this?
The Rational Sister

Dear Rational,
It amazes me that if you want to do something as simple as installing a toilet, you must provide proof to the state that you are qualified to do so. Yet if you want to prey on people’s vulnerabilities and insecurities as a psychic or clairvoyant, all you need do is hang a neon crystal ball in your window. Why these people avoid charges of fraud is beyond me.
But I agree with you: if your sister finds comfort in a visit to the psychic, it’s her business. Until she makes it your – or Uncle Ralph’s – business.
Your sister is trying to be helpful, but what she’s doing is really quite selfish. I recommend a direct approach. The next time she warns you of the psychic’s prediction of impending doom, let her know that she believes in the psychic, not you. You’re not interested in what she said and it’s disrespectful for your sister to foist it upon you. Encourage any family member who may be subjected to this to do likewise. Looking into my crystal ball, I see your sister taking a while to get the message, so any time she brings up the psychic, interrupt her immediately, remind her you’re not interested, and change the subject.

Dear John,
I’m at an impasse with my husband. A couple of weeks ago, my fifteen-year-old daughter asked me if she could have her hair dyed blonde. We had been looking at pictures of her when she was a toddler with beautiful blond hair that has darkened quite a bit over the years. I said sure – she’s a mature, responsible kid with good judgment about how she presents herself, so I let her make decisions like this. I mentioned it in passing to my husband, though, and was surprised to learn he is adamantly against the idea. He won’t give me a better answer than, “A fifteen-year-old girl should not be dying her hair!” Honestly, I didn’t even ask him what he thought of the idea because I didn’t think he would have the least bit of a problem with it. He’s generally very open to things like this. This time, his response came as a complete surprise. My daughter keeps asking me when we can go to the salon and I keep stalling, hoping my husband will change his mind, but he’s as against it as ever. What can I do???
Caught in the Middle

Dear Caught,

It sounds like your husband may be having a hard time seeing his little girl turn into a young woman, with all that implies.
I don’t think what your daughter is asking is unreasonable, but while your husband is being too rigid, I don’t think his point-of-view is completely outlandish, either. So, I’m afraid you have to tell your daughter that you were mistaken when you thought her dad wouldn’t object. You and your husband both have to approve for something like this to get the parental stamp of approval. Since your husband votes no, the answer for now must be no. And don’t present it to her as, “It’s okay with me, but your father is being unreasonable.” This is a chance for her to see how conflicts are resolved in a family, and sometimes “resolved” means you don’t get your way. Your daughter will be expecting more independence in the years ahead, though, and it sounds as if she’s earned it, so I’d be on the lookout for other signs Dad is having a hard time seeing his little girl get ready to leave the nest.

John is a middle-aged family man from Providence. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at [email protected]


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