### Surprising Excuse: My Son’s Unbelievable Reason for Rejecting Butt Wiping

I have an 11-year-old son, “David.” The other day while searching through his room, I noticed a strange odor emanating from his laundry basket. Upon closer inspection, I discovered unsanitary marks on several pairs of his underwear. Later, in a private conversation, I inquired if he was experiencing any digestive problems, assuming that was the cause.

To my surprise, the reality was far more concerning. David had ceased cleaning himself after using the bathroom because he believed that wiping between his buttocks would label him as homosexual. I was shocked by this homophobic misconception and unsure how to address it. Despite teaching him to be accepting of diverse sexual orientations, he now associates proper hygiene with sexual identity. I am struggling to comprehend this shift in his mindset and feel lost on how to rectify it.

—Skidding Out of Control

Dear Skidding,

While some skeptics may question the authenticity of such anecdotes, the scenario resonates with the challenges of parenting preadolescents and their peculiar beliefs and behaviors. In addressing the immediate issue, it is crucial to remind David that cleanliness is a universal practice unrelated to sexual orientation. Emphasize that personal hygiene is a fundamental aspect of self-care, irrespective of one’s sexual identity. Just as individuals like Travis Kelce and Lil Nas X maintain personal hygiene without compromising their sexual orientation, David should prioritize cleanliness as a basic human necessity.

Regarding his misconceptions about sexuality, it is essential to approach this with understanding and patience. Preteens often encounter conflicting information and societal pressures, which may lead to misguided beliefs. While his current stance is disheartening, it is premature to label him as intolerant based on this isolated incident. Middle school can be a challenging period marked by peer influence and misinformation, which may not align with the values instilled at home. Continue fostering an environment of acceptance and inclusivity, reinforcing the importance of respecting individuals regardless of their sexual orientation. Over time, David may reflect on this phase with a more enlightened perspective, appreciating the diversity of human identities.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I am a working mother in my 40s with two children, residing with my 68-year-old widowed mother who is preparing for retirement. Following my father’s passing in 2021, my mother fell victim to a Facebook romance scam, resulting in a substantial loss of \(200,000, with \)100,000 borrowed from my sister and me. Despite our efforts to involve law enforcement, she resisted, convinced that the scam was legitimate. Subsequently, she engaged with multiple fraudulent individuals posing as affluent suitors, leading to further financial losses and estrangement within our family.

Her persistent involvement in online scams, coupled with her narcissistic tendencies, has strained our relationship and raised concerns about her safety and well-being. As she disregards warnings and continues to engage with scammers, including requests for monetary transfers and item shipments, I am apprehensive about the potential risks posed to my family. Balancing my concerns for her with the need to safeguard my children’s security, I am uncertain about the most effective course of action. Should I consider distancing myself to alleviate stress, or persist in confronting her delusions and safeguarding our financial interests?

—Grandma Is Talking to Strangers

Dear Strangers,

The challenges you face with your mother’s susceptibility to online scams underscore the complexities of protecting loved ones from financial exploitation and emotional manipulation. The significant financial losses and repeated engagements with fraudulent individuals highlight the urgency of addressing this delicate situation with care and consideration.

To mitigate the impact on your family, it is prudent to disentangle your financial affairs from your mother’s and establish clear boundaries to safeguard your resources. Ensuring that you are not financially intertwined, such as being co-signers or sharing joint assets, can shield you from the repercussions of her decisions. While her actions may evoke frustration and concern, prioritizing your financial independence and security is paramount in navigating this challenging dynamic.

In addressing her susceptibility to scams, it is essential to approach the situation with empathy and understanding, recognizing the emotional vulnerabilities that may underlie her actions. While confronting her delusions and attempting to dissuade her from engaging with scammers is crucial, it is equally important to emphasize your concerns for her well-being and the potential risks involved. Encouraging open communication and offering support without enabling harmful behaviors can foster a sense of trust and understanding between you and your mother.

Ultimately, finding a balance between protecting your family’s interests and supporting your mother through this tumultuous period requires thoughtful consideration and proactive measures. By prioritizing clear communication, setting boundaries, and seeking professional guidance if needed, you can navigate this challenging situation with resilience and compassion.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

At 15, I reside with my father, who holds sole custody following my mother’s unexplained absence three years ago. Recently, my father commenced a relationship with a woman named “Melissa,” who exhibits behaviors that I find distressing. Melissa displays signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), particularly regarding cleanliness, to the extent of covering our dining table with multiple layers to prevent any stains during meals. This extreme behavior has led to us eating outdoors on the porch in winter, wearing coats due to her aversion to potential stains.

Despite expressing my discomfort to my father, he dismisses Melissa’s actions as eccentric and suggests accommodating her idiosyncrasies. While providing me with funds to dine out if needed, he continues to acquiesce to her demands, resulting in frequent outdoor meals. I feel alienated in my own home and seek guidance on restoring normalcy to our daily routines. Is this situation unreasonable, and how can I address it effectively?

—Wrapped in Plastic

Dear Plastic,

Your narrative captures the challenges of adjusting to a parental figure’s new relationship and the complexities that arise from differing perspectives and behaviors. The discomfort you experience due to Melissa’s extreme cleanliness habits is valid, and it is essential to address this issue with your father in a constructive manner.

Initiate a candid conversation with your father, expressing your concerns and feelings regarding the current dining arrangements and the impact on your daily life. Emphasize the importance of maintaining a sense of normalcy and comfort within your home environment, highlighting the impracticality and discomfort of eating outdoors in winter conditions. While acknowledging your father’s affection for Melissa, convey the significance of establishing boundaries and fostering a harmonious living environment that accommodates everyone’s needs.

Consider proposing alternative solutions that respect Melissa’s preferences while ensuring that your needs and comfort are prioritized. Open communication and mutual understanding are key in navigating this situation and fostering a supportive family dynamic. By expressing your feelings assertively and seeking a collaborative resolution, you can work towards restoring a sense of normalcy and comfort within your home environment.

Matthew Dicks, Cassy Sarnell, and John Eric Vona

I’m Convinced My Child’s Teacher Has It Out for Her

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My daughter, “Alice,” a first-grade student, has expressed distress regarding her teacher’s demeanor and conduct in the classroom. Describing the teacher as exhibiting frenetic energy and employing strict standards accompanied by potential shaming of students, Alice’s negative experiences have manifested in physical symptoms such as teeth grinding. Recognizing that other parents and students have encountered similar challenges with this teacher, I am uncertain about the appropriate course of action. How can I address Alice’s concerns and advocate for a positive learning environment for her and her peers?

—An Actual Real Question From a Person You Know

Dear Person I Know,

Navigating concerns related to your daughter’s educational experience and well-being is paramount in fostering a supportive and nurturing learning environment. Acknowledging Alice’s distress and physical manifestations of anxiety underscores the significance of addressing these issues proactively and advocating for her needs.

Initiate a dialogue with the school administration to communicate your observations and concerns regarding the teacher’s conduct and its impact on students, including Alice. While recognizing the limitations of immediate interventions, expressing your commitment to fostering a positive and inclusive learning environment can prompt the school to consider alternative approaches or support mechanisms for affected students.

In supporting Alice through this challenging period, prioritize open communication and validation of her feelings and experiences. Reassure her that her concerns are valid and that you are actively engaged in addressing them with the school. Encourage her to express her emotions and provide a listening ear to validate her experiences and feelings. Emphasize that her well-being and comfort are paramount, and that steps will be taken to ensure a positive and supportive educational environment for her and her peers.

By advocating for Alice’s needs and fostering a collaborative approach with the school, you can work towards addressing her concerns and promoting a conducive learning environment that prioritizes student well-being and academic growth.

—Dan

More Guidance from Slate

Upon reviewing my 8-year-old’s MAP test scores, which exceeded expectations, I am contemplating whether to transition him to a more challenging academic setting. While his teacher believes he should take initiative in pursuing advanced options, I am uncertain about the appropriate age for children to assume responsibility for their learning and delay gratification. How can I support his educational growth while balancing his autonomy and academic development?