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I got the surprise of my life when people were complaining about a DR editorial. You mean the BYH column is not the...

Boyfriend needs to man up, reader says

Harriette Cole

Harriette Cole

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

 

DEAR HARRIETTE: Your advice to "Who's Watching My Baby?" was certainly not "Sense and Sensitivity." This is exactly why there are so many problems with our next generation.

Any male can contribute to the creation of a human being. It takes a real man to be a parent. You should have advised that young mother that it is time for her boyfriend to learn how to "adult" and leave his Peter Pan years behind.

I'm incredibly disappointed that you would give that boyfriend a free pass and put all the burden of raising the young child on the mother and the grandmother. The message you sent was terrible, and you should retract it. As a member of our local school board, I can speak from experience — these are exactly the situations that are creating the problems that local school districts, communities and law enforcement have to undo. They're problems created when adults don't want to parent their own children. — Take Responsibility

DEAR TAKE RESPONSIBILITY: Thank you for your letter and clear concern about how I addressed a sensitive matter. The question was about a young woman with a baby whose boyfriend is supposed to watch their child on occasion. When it is his turn, he typically gives the child to his mother, who watches the baby. The young mother was upset about this. My response suggested that it may be a blessing that the grandmother is stepping up and caring for the child.

You make an important point here: The young man does need to learn how to care for his child. My intention was not to give him a pass. It was to make sure that the baby is properly cared for. I remember that as responsible as my husband attempted to be in the early days, I was sometimes legitimately worried that he was not as safe as I thought the moment called for. Quite frankly, when my daughter was an infant, I was worried to leave them alone together. I definitely needed help — including from him — but it took time before I felt that he was capable of handling her on his own. It was from that perspective that I considered that Grandma watching this baby could be a blessing.

What I didn't take into account in response to this young woman was that the man does need to figure it out. I recommend that the learning curve would best occur if the couple is together and the new mom can teach him what she wants him to learn about caring for their child. If that is at all possible, it may lead to a healthier engagement on his part and relief on hers — over time.

Even if they are not together as a couple, given that they both created this child, hopefully he will agree to be an active participant and learn how to care for the baby. If the two can spend some time together each week, he will grow confident enough to watch his child successfully. The new mom can also talk to his mother to ask her to help her son to participate in child care when the baby is there.

TALK ABOUT SUICIDE

DEAR HARRIETTE: Thanks for addressing teen suicide. If a teen says he or she is suicidal, has a plan and has the means to complete that plan, then he or she should be hospitalized. These criteria are objective. Sometimes you have to ask questions to obtain this information, and some readers may be nervous about doing that. If that's the case, please remember that talking about suicide does not make people suicidal. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (nami.org), is a great resource. -- Want to Help

DEAR WANT TO HELP: I appreciate your follow-up regarding teen suicide.

This discussion reminds me of my teenage years. My best friend died by suicide on her 16th birthday. When I remember the days and months leading up to her death, I recall being so close in our freshman year. We spent tons of time together, along with a small group of other girls. But there was a change in our sophomore year -- she got a boyfriend and started spending less time with her friends. We tried to stay on her radar, but she became secretive and standoffish.

I mention this because if you notice that your teenager has changed friends suddenly or has shut down from the people who are normally part of his or her life, that's another indicator that something is off. My friend seemingly had everything; her story is a reminder that how things look on the surface may be different from what's going on inside.

For parents and friends -- if ever you're in doubt, get help. Your child may be angry for a moment, but you may end up saving his or her life. If a teen is articulating the desire to end his or her life, be proactive and take that child to the hospital.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, I urge you to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or the Crisis Text Line, which you can reach by texting the number 741741.

FAMILY MATTERS

DEAR HARRIETTE: I recently got married, and I am still in the process of settling down with my wife. Before meeting her, I devoted my life to being a support system for my mother and sister after my father passed away. Sometimes I feel that they take advantage of me by taking money out of my account without alerting me, but it has never been a pressing matter until now. I am building a family of my own and have a child on the way, and I need to focus my attention on providing for us first. My mother and adult, employed sister just don't want to let go of me. They also enter my home as they please, which makes my wife uncomfortable. How should I handle this? -- Torn

DEAR TORN: It's time to change your bank account and prevent them from having direct access to it. You may need to change your locks, too.

This sounds extreme, but it may be necessary in order to wake up your family to what life is like for you now. Explain that you will never stop helping them, but your priorities have shifted and you must focus on your growing family first.

Harriette Cole is a lifestyle writer and author, nationally syndicated advice columnist and motivational, wife and mother. She founded Dream Leapers, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com.

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