From Ask Lutz

Man Trouble?

Dear Lisa,

I live with my boyfriend of 2 years. Naturally, we're at that point of contemplating the future and what it has in store for us. We have so much fun together and share so many interests yet are diverse enough to challenge each other... so if it were to be just he and I, I think we'd make it just fine. But, we both want kids though and this raises some concerns for me.

We were raised so differently. My parents made me do my homework right after school, let me make my own mistakes and struggle through them when I did, and never bailed me out financially. I did well in school and have always been able to fend for myself. His parents wanted good things for him, but as one example, allowed him to drink their booze as long as he replaced them. In my opinion, they didn't make sure he had the right tools to make good decisions. They've always been there financially for him no matter what reasons were behind the trouble. This made him generally irresponsible and impulsive with his spending.

It took most of the first year but finally, he understands the value of a dollar and the importance of reliability. To isolate an issue, he believes his parents did the right thing with the booze thing since "they're going to drink anyway". I completely disagree. I understand kids will be kids and probably will drink, but not in my house or with my booze. I believe in open communication but condoning drinking in your household makes it all the more OK in any other household. Furthermore, he has trouble knowing when he's had enough to drink. I can't help thinking there's a connection.

After talking about this, I did get a little worried, but blew it off because I realized, we'd deal with it when the time comes - we're both reasonable and I think we could meet in the middle somewhere (just hopefully a little more on my side haha). Recently I've noticed something though that sparked up my concerns. Last July, he said he really wanted a pet. He talked me into getting a ferret. I absolutely love her and wouldn't trade her for the world. The problem is, he never helps take care of her! I give her a bath every 3 weeks, feed her every other day and give her fresh water daily. Her litter also gets changed every 2-3 days.

I don't mind taking care of her but it would be nice to have some help without having to literally watch over him as he does it. (If I ask him to do something and if he doesn't do it right then, he won't do it). Do you think there is any connection between how someone treats their animal and how they'll treat their kids? I'm just imagining him watching TV with the kids running around drinking beer while I'm on my hands and knees in the kitchen scrubbing the floor.

Man trouble or Over-analyzing Girlfriend?


***

Dear Man Trouble, etc.,

Occasionally I like to make a friendly wager and judging from the length of your letter, I’d be willing to take $50 bucks on you being an over-analyzer. But after last Sunday’s 10 words or less heartbreaker, I welcome the thoroughness of your question. And although I do accuse you of over-analyzing, I also think that you have brought up some very interesting and important issues.

In general, I’m all for the opposites attract rule of coupling. For example, imagine if you were to hook up with someone just like yourself: two people not drinking beer, bathing ferrets all the time, and mopping the floor while they concoct a whole bunch of household rules. And if your boyfriend were to mate with his own kind, you’d have some joint swimming with empty beer cans, un-bathed ferrets running amok, and some drunk guy watching the tube 24/7. So let’s begin by saying how grateful you two should be that you found each other. But you don’t need me to tell you that.

As I understand it, your concern is for the future children. Differences in child rearing techniques are the source of quite a bit of conflict within families and the main problem in resolving such conflict is that it is impossible to determine who is right. So, here’s what you got to do: Have two kids. You pick one kid to raise. Your boyfriend picks the other—flip a coin or draw straws if you both want the same one. You each raise chosen child and see which one turns out best and then you’ll know which parenting method is superior. I’m pretty sure this idea will work, but I have a suspicion you won’t go for it.

You say your boyfriend’s parents let him drink at home, so long as he replaced the booze—well, that is definitely teaching responsibility: You drink it; you replace it. If they just let him empty out the liquor cabinet with reckless abandon, then that would be another story. As far as the under aged drinking issue is concerned, you don’t specify the age that your boyfriend was allowed to drink. Personally, I don’t think toddlers should be drinking, whether they replace the liquor or not. But, there is something to be said about knowing what your kids are up to. And, if they feel comfortable enough around you to do whatever they might do amongst their friends, you will probably have fewer surprises down the road.

But the most important thing to remember is that you like your boyfriend, right? And he wouldn’t be like he is unless he was raised like he was. Keep in mind that most people learn parenting as they go along and they adjust their methods depending on how successful or unsuccessful those methods are. So, you could try letting the kids drink at home, teaching them to learn their limits and see how it goes—but, once again, I must insist not the toddlers.

And I do understand your concern that your boyfriend’s child caring methods might mirror his ferret neglect, but most people make excellent distinctions between animals and children and I doubt you should be very concerned. For example, when you have kids, you’ll probably bathe them more than once every three weeks, right? Speaking of ferret bathing, I did a little research because every three weeks seemed like a bit much. And it looks like you cut back to once a month. Please check out Grooming your Ferret, but be careful (if you are not presently a ferret owner) because it will make you want a ferret. (See how cute they are?).

The last suggestions I have are a) you should maybe sit on your ass and drink beer more and b) don’t do all the housework—let it go for a little while and see what happens. Your boyfriend might surprise you. If the kitchen floor and the ferret are always clean, why would you bother to re-clean them? Perhaps if you waited one more day—maybe a week, he would get the job done.

I hope I have been some help, dear reader, but frankly I have no idea whether I’ve answered any of your questions or not. Please feel free to write again if I have, in fact, been useless.

Best Wishes,

Lisa

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