Dear Margo: To Mention or Not To Mention Disturbing Behavior?

One of my sons playmates is overly sexualized, how do I tell his parents? Margo Howard’s advice

To Mention or Not To Mention Disturbing Behavior?

Dear Margo: I live in an affluent community where my 7-year-old son has many playmates. Directly across the street is one of his closest friends, “Sam,” 8, who’s the youngest of three boys. I know the parents, etc. Sam has recently started acting out. It’s nothing serious, but he often does hip thrusts toward others. I initially thought it was the result of the “I’m sexy and I Know It” video. However, this past weekend, my son told me that Sam said he’d performed oral sex on his brother.

What do I do here? I don’t want to shirk any responsibility, but I don’t know what to do or how. I’m not close to the parents, although we do talk. Is this normal childhood experimentation? What do I do with this information? And should I worry about my son being unsupervised around these kids? — Alarmed Mom

Dear Alarm: An 8-year-old who is this sexualized is getting input from somewhere. Either he is being molested (possibly by that brother?), or he has unfettered access to porn, which I somehow doubt. Playing doctor is one thing, but fellating a brother is quite something else. I would risk being rebuffed and approach the mother. Tell her what you’ve observed and what you’ve been told. She deserves to know. Then let the chips fall where they may. With luck, the “chips” will fall into a child psychiatrist’s office.

As for your own son, I doubt he’s in any danger because his telling you proves he knows there’s something wrong with the situation. For good measure, explain to him that his buddy’s behavior is nothing that children his age do and there’s definitely something wrong. — Margo, preventively

Things Best Decided Before Committing

Dear Margo: I am trying to figure out whether to break up with my amazing long-term boyfriend. The short of it is he has very suddenly (like on a trip home one weekend without me) decided he wants kids, after telling me for the longest time that he would be happy either way. As for me, I am deeply undecided on the issue, and despite having tried to badger myself into wanting what he wants, I can’t seem to do it. I don’t rule children out, and the idea of adopting appeals to me on an intellectual level. But all the arguments I’ve heard for having children seem pretty sentimental, while the ones against seem more rational.

He is saying this is “not a deal breaker” for him. I have attempted to tease out why he feels this way, and what he says boils down to his being incredibly happy with me and children being something he doesn’t need “right now.” It’s this latter thing that worries me. If he broke up with me over this issue, I would feel that he was prioritizing a potential relationship with someone who doesn’t even exist over me. It’s the suddenness of my boyfriend’s decision that has thrown me for a loop. — Spooked

Dear Spook: Reading between the lines, I would venture that, right now, you do not see yourself as a mother, and you believe he will love you less if he loves a child. While I find your thinking about primacy and different kinds of love unrealistic and perhaps competitive, these are your thoughts, and I respect that. There are women who think “absolutely not me,” and then, often by accident, they have a child and wonder how they ever could have thought as they did. For now, until both of you figure out what you do want, I would coast. Time has a way of revealing answers that often seem unknowable. I do feel strongly, however, that the issue must be resolved before you move to the next phase. — Margo, decisively

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

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83 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#1:  You have to tell the mother what your son told you.  I don’t know about the hip thrusting in an of itself being a big sign but the oral sex on the brother is not what I would call *experiementation*.  As far as letting you son continue playing with Sam, I think I would restrict his playtime with Sam to playtime at your house or at public places.  I don’t think I would let him spend time at Sam’s house.   But, perhaps, being childless, I am over-protective. 

    LW#2:  I don’t see any reason for you to make a decision about having children or not having children at this point in your relationship.   But you know where he stands.  He wants kids someday.  To marry him if you are not willing to have children would be grossly unfair.   Deciding to break up because you want kids and your partner does not, is not a foolish or selfish thing to do.  It is a smart thing to do.  It may seem like he would be *leaving you for someone who does not exist* but if it comes to that, he will be leaving you because he wants a different life than you do.    

    • avatar boisguilbert says:

      LW#2, I was once in a siuation similar to yours.  BACKGROUND:  My husband, who was somewhat older than I, had been married briefly before he married me; he had failed to impregnate his first wife, so he feared he wasn’t fertile, and so on.  We were students when we married; we each obtained PhD’s from a leading private university; we taught at various institutions for many years.

      Having made the remarks above, I shall address your present situation–again, by way of background, describing mine.  I am very professionally oriented; I knew that having children would impede my establishing myself in a career.  Yet at the same time, I knew that I eventually would want children and that if I waited, as many women now do, to have them in my forties, they would be twenty when I was sixty.  The upshot was that I DID have children.  Much of the time, I am glad that I did.



      • avatar Lila says:

        Boisguilbert, my Dad was 41 years older than me, and a close friend had her son at age 42.  As it turned out, a 40-year age difference was not a big deal in either case.  My grandparents also had several children when they were in their 40s (in the era of very large families).
        However, I do think there is definitely such a thing as too young or too old reasonably to become a parent, and the woman especially must consider that her fertility will typically be in swift decline past about age 35.

  2. avatar toni says:

    LW1: protect your son! Do NOT allow unsupervised ‘play’ time w the other child. Your son told you this for a reason. Protect him. Btw that 8 yr old told your son for a reason too. And that reason was an interest in show and don’t tell.

    • avatar mac13 says:

      How did you deduce the reason the kid told her son. It could easily have been he was wanting to get an opinion of how wrong the oral sex was. If he has been exposed to it for awhile, he might be trying to find out if it is normal or is he needs to complain to his parents. I get the feeling the kid will have a tough life ahead of him if he doesn’t get help. I agree she needs to protect her son, but don’t put ill motives on an already abused boy.

    • avatar Priscilla L says:

      Toni, you are wrong. I was molested when I was a child, and I told another child what happened to me. I told her, not because I wanted to molest her, but because I was freaked out and scared by what had happened to me. 

      It is probable that “Sam” is also feeling scared and confused and he told the LW’s son what happened because he didn’t feel safe telling anyone in his own family.  

      I agree that the LW should protect her son from the molestor, and furthermore, she should take steps to protect “Sam”too. But your accusation against “Sam”, who is a VICTIM, is unkind and frankly, ignorant.  

  3. avatar Janice Haines says:

    LW1-I disagree with the advice that the LW’s son isn’t in danger.    I wonder if the other child was mentioning the oral sex because he wanted to do this to the son, and if the brother or someone is molesting the other child then you son is in danger whenever he’s out of your sight around this other kid or his relatives.     I would tell the mother, and when she ignores it, or minimizes it then I would call CPS.    And it would be a cold day in hell that my child would be around the other kids, they would be on my property, or anyone of them would have access to my child for a single second.   Someone is molesting the child, and if it’s the brother he learned it somewhere too, and it could very possibly be at home.      You need to protect your child now.

  4. avatar americanabroad says:

    I COMPLETELY disagree with Margo (a rarity) in regards to the safety of LW#1’s son.  To echo what is shaping up to be popular sentiment, your son is not safe.  While it does speak well of your son to recognize wrong behaviour and come tell you about it, it does nothing to protect him.  As clever, understanding and reasonable he might seem, he is only 7.  You need to step in and protect him now- he is not equiped to deal with the situation.  Yes, it might be difficult and uncomfortable for you to address your concerns with the boy’s mother, but it needs to happen ASAP.  She needs to hear it to protect her own sons (and get them whatever treatment they might need, that is, if she’s willing to take on board what you are saying).  At the same time, explain that you can no longer allow your child to play with his friend.  Yes, your son might be heartbroken that he can’t play with his friend any longer, but would you really want to take the risk?  It’s too late once something happens.

    • avatar Lila says:

      “… explain that you can no longer allow your child to play with his friend.”  I disagree.  Protect, yes.  Supervise, yes.  Forbid play at the neighbor’s house, yes.  But not just shutting that kid out, when he is a victim who hasn’t done anything to the LW’s child, other than reveal that he has been victimized.
      Like Malasha writes, the LW’s son may think “I told the truth and now I can’t play with my friend.”  Something else he might learn from that:  “Don’t be friends with victims.”
      How about what the victim might conclude?  “I told someone what happened to me, and now no one will be my friend.”  So molestation at home makes one a playground pariah as well.  Better cover that up and never tell anyone again.  If I tell a teacher, will I not be allowed to come to school?  If I tell a coach, will I be kicked off the team?  If I tell anyone else, will I lose my other friends?  Will I end up in foster care? 
      Cut off the kid’s friendship in response to his revelation, and he won’t reveal anything else.  Cut off the kid’s avenues to the outside world of normalcy, and he’s trapped.

      • avatar bright eyes says:

        I agree with you Lila- talk with your son about what is going on. Explain to him that it’s not right and that if something like that happens to him (preferably before it happens) and that it’s not right. Have the kid over and do supervise but allow the child to play with your son. Supervise so that if something inappropriate is said, then you can intervene and talk with the kid. (from what little I know) Most kids who suffer abuse are isolated from their friends and from people so that they won’t tell. You need to establish a safe place for this kid to go so that if nothing is done – either by talking with the mother or by calling CPS, then he will at least have a safe place to go to. And it may be heartbreaking for the Mother to listen to (if something is really going on) but she can document times, places, etc if nothing is done by calling CPS and her son is still allowed contact with the other child – then you have proof enough to go back to CPS. 

    • avatar boisguilbert says:

      americanabroad, I agree with what you say. The LW’s son is not safe.  He should be kept away from his erstwhile playmate.  Period.

  5. avatar jlou says:

    I have to disagree with Margo on letter 1. The neighbor is being molested in his home. Telling his mother, who may be aware, will give the family time to close ranks. The boy has admitted molestation in the home – call CPS now! To do otherwise is unconscionable. He has cried out for help – so help him!

  6. avatar Malasha Martinez says:

    For LW 1. Tell the mother and call CPS if she downplays. As for all the people who say cut of your childs interaction with this child I think that may be the wrong approach. Children can be very concrete thinkers at this age even when they are as intelligent as your child is. If you completely cut off the relationship your son may think I told the truth and lost my friend and he may not trust you with the truth anymore. Instead I think supervised play is the better option. Only have the child come over to your house and they don’t play in your son’s room. Also talk to your son and let him know he did the right thing. Children should also be taught there bodies are their own and no one should be touching them without their permission, that even means if he does not want to hug grandma they don’t have to.

    Start talking to your son about sex before he continues to learn from inappropriate sources as he has already started to. There are plentyo f books at the public library that can get you started. I know there are people who equate ignorance and innocence but I think you child learning through you or books would protect his innocence more than his learning through a molestation or inappropriate sexual play. Knowledge is power and it is up to you to provide your child with the tools he needs.

    • avatar Lila says:

      Malasha, I think you have a good point – the kids are only 7 and 8, so they are likely to misinterpret the adults’ reactions.  Also – the neighbor boy needs some outside friends, a view of what other families are like, and some refuge from whatever might be going on at home.  Supervised play will give him that. 
      I’d like to tell the LW not to cut this child off and abandon him just because something happened to him.  That’s victimizing him twice. 
      Although – if the LW ends up calling CPS and the neighbors realize who it was, they would probably forbid their child from playing with the LW’s son anyway.

    • avatar boisguilbert says:

      Malasha, your advice to the LW that she should start talking to her son is good.  When my son and daughter were in elementary school, my father-in-law sent my husband and me some books from a source styled “The Life-Cycle Library,” which described various matters involving sex, reproduction, et cetera.  I don’t know if the books are still available, but you should be able to find excellent sources on the subject.  Ask a physician or a librarian for advice.

  7. avatar Malasha Martinez says:

    Sorry “cut off”  not cut of

  8. avatar harmer says:

    Wow, you know you’re on the Internet too much when. LW #2 posted this exact question on a totally unrelated website I frequent…

    • avatar boisguilbert says:

      Margo’s column appears in more than one site.  What is your “totally unrelated website?” 

      • avatar harmer says:

        It wasn’t in a Dear Margo article on another site; I’m not an idiot. For the sake of the privacy of LW2, I’m not going to disclose the other website.

  9. avatar Karin Smith says:

    LW1: Like several others have said, do not let your son play unsupervised at Sam’s house; there is clearly something unhealthy going on there, and since you have no way of knowing who is responsible and whether or not the parents are enabling, it’s best to keep your son safe and away from that house.

    Also, I think the best course of action is to contact the police, find out who you need to contact to report a claim of sexual abuse, and set up an in-person meeting with you, your son, and the officer/social worker/whoever. Double-check and make SURE ahead of time that the person taking the report is qualified/specialized to work with children, because you don’t want your son to be traumatized by being questioned by someone who doesn’t know how to work with kids.

    Finally, I completely disagree with Margo’s statement that she doubts that Sam has “unfettered access to porn”. If, at age 8, he is the youngest of three boys, it is very likely that an older brother already has access to porn (today’s kids are EXTREMELY computer savvy), which is how Sam has become exposed to that kind of sexuality. With the proliferation of porn online and its relatively easy access, an increasing number of boys are becoming addicted to porn and sex; one of the main symptoms is re-enacting what they see. If the older brother access pornography and showed it to Sam, that would explain why Sam performed (willingly or not) a sex act on his sibling.  This behavior needs to be stopped for the entire family’s sake.

  10. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: Margo’s advice. You must say something, however awkward and unpleasant it will be. Good luck.

    L #2: Have you asked him why the sudden change of heart? What occurred on that weekend trip home (apart from you) which prompted this change in him? Was there a birth in his family he went to celebrate, or perhaps he bonded with a niece or nephew? I hope you guys can sort this out.

  11. avatar mabel says:

    Holy moley! How much older are Sam’s older brothers??? If there’s more than a year or so age difference there is almost certainly some element of coercion here! This parent ought to place an anoymous call to social services and, without adding any interpretation or speculation, just tell them what your son told you! Even if the brothers are about the same age, an 8-year-old shouldn’t be having that kind of contact with ANYBODY! If what he said is true, there desperately needs to be an intervention! And if what he said isn’t true and social workers descend on the house to interview everybody in the family, that’s not your fault. Any child who would make up these kinds of stories for attention probably has serious issues that would benefit from professional help, so either way you’re probably getting the kid the kind of assistance he desparately needs. And do NOT send your son over there to play. There’s an older brother who’s a potential predator, and often young kids who are victims of sexual abuse proceed to abuse other kids! I normally adore Margo, but I think her response should have been quite a bit more forceful on this.

    P.S. I had a couple of childhood playmates in my neighborhood (from a “nice” family who lived in a “nice” house) who told me around this age that they had this kind of contact with their father. I thought they were making it up and never told anyone. A couple of years later they and their buddies held me against my will out in the woods and made me strip for them, and they only let me go without doing anything worse because the younger brother was so clearly uncomfortable with it – although they later went around bragging that they had sexually assaulted me. Looking back, all the pieces fit together all too well, and I suspect that what they said about their father was probably true. DO NOT LET YOUR CHILD PLAY UNSUPERVISED WITH A CHILD WHO MIGHT BE GETTING MOLESTED. Just don’t do it!

    • avatar mabel says:

      P.S. Skip talking to the mother. I would guess than 90% of mothers would refuse to believe something like that about one of their kids. Let an unbiased 3rd party (i.e. social services) figure out what’s true and what’s not.

  12. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW1: Insist that Sam and your son play at your place only, and be sure to ask Sam what this hip thrusting is all about. Tell the mother. Depending on her response, call CPS and get input from that agency on how to proceed without naming names. Think twice about naming those names. You have no idea what kind of retaliation might be in store for you or your son. Do these boys go to the same school? Consider alerting school authorities.  

    • avatar mabel says:

      This is why I would recommend she go straight to CPS. If you tell the mother and she responds badly and you call CPS she’s going to know who called. If you call them first you can stay anonymous.  

      • avatar sandra b says:

        Who cares if she knows who called. I would talk to her and if she blew me off I would pretty much tell her that she left me with no choice but call CPS.

      • avatar chuck alien says:

        oh no!  and take responsibility for my actions?!?  deal with the people involved like… people?!?   NEVER!!!!

  13. avatar mmht says:

    LW#1:  I am COMPLETELY FLOORED by Margo’s response to this letter.  Yes, tell the mother, if she doesn’t believe you there isn’t anything you can do about that.  As for your child DO NOT allow him in that household.  Margo’s belief that because he’s telling you means he won’t be molested is so beyond illogical.  Children aren’t molested because they don’t understand what is happening is wrong, they are molested because a PREDATOR is forcing them into these acts.  The brother is a predator and if he’s doing to his brother then there is a chance he could do it to your son.  Allow Sam over at your house but his house is off limits to your son.  Period.  And, let his mother know this when you tell her what your son told you.

  14. avatar David Bolton says:

    LW1: It’s devil’s advocate time. We have no idea what this “oral sex” actually entailed, how old the brother is, what their dynamic is, and so on. Children experiment and mock and sometimes realize instinctively that something goes somewhere—regardless of the sexes of the participants involved. The little boy may have seen something pornographic and suggestive in a movie, a magazine or on television—and has on idea what it means from a sexual standpoint. While I can empathize with the mother that it makes her uncomfortable, and forces her to think about the idea of her hildren potentially engaging in this kind of play—I think she does NOT need to call social services yet. What she SHOULD do is definitely tell the child’s mother that she has observed him engaging in—in her opinion, some sexually overt behavior, and she’d like to let the other mother know that she doesn’t feel like her own children are ready to be exposed to that yet. This not only lets the other mother know something is going on, but allows her to adjust her child’s exposure to anything potentially harmful and to sit him down and tell him what’s appropriate and what’s not. 

    LW2: Your letter stopped me twice: “I am trying to figure out whether to break up with my amazing long term boyfriend…” and “the idea of adoption appeals to me on an intellectual level.”  I think both of these statements quite clearly indicate this “amazing boyfriend” who wants children is not for you. 

    • avatar wendykh says:

      I agree. My first thought was more likely the kid has seen or discussed porn with his older brothers and there was some teasing and “rude” talk going on, perhaps with older boys who are friends of the older brothers, and maybe is blabbing like this to seem cool. It’s still not appropriate, and still needs to be reported to the mother (and honestly… I think I might just call CPS and let them do the reporting because I know more than a few mothers who would slam a door in the face and bar the kid from their homes for suggesting their Precious could be doing such a thing). But I’m not convinced this kid is actually performing oral sex on anyone. I suspect if he actually were, he wouldn’t be telling because he’d be so traumatized.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        Now that I’ve read your response, it could even be that the kid just said he did it—not even knowing what it means but thinking that it’s cool and grown-up.

        As an adolescent I knew what oral sex was because I read Cosmo, et al. a lot—my brother was 16 and thought “it was when you talked about it.” Again, I think the mothers should communicate with each other before CPS or anything even close to it is involved. 

  15. avatar Barbara says:

    LW#2 – I would recommend counseling for you and your boyfriend.  He is thinking about the future and trying to imagine possibilities that include children.  You think maybe adoption but view this all as an intellectual discussion.  All the while you have the backdrop of him being “amazing.”  If he is so amazing, why are you so quick to think the solution is to break up?
    First, you sound very self-centered in your thought process.  Try thinking outside yourself a bit.  What is it intellectually that you like about adopting children but don’t include the possibility of having them yourself?  Are you afraid of childbirth?  You seem to equate having children with just the beginning process of having a baby.  Are there pluses and minuses of including children in a family that you have not considered?
    Second, I didn’t see anything in your letter about having a conversation about this with your amazing boyfriend.  Did he just make a statement and you’ve decided to break up, or was there more of an interchange of ideas.
    Overall, it is clear to me that whatever you do, you need someone to help you think things through.

  16. avatar Lila says:

    For Spook: I disagree somewhat with Margo on this one.  She writes that “right now, you do not see yourself as a mother, and you believe he will love you less if he loves a child…. There are women who think ‘absolutely not me,’ and then, often by accident, they have a child and wonder how they ever could have thought as they did.”
    Careful with this.  The only thing worse than regretting NOT having children is regretting HAVING them.  And it does happen. 
    I have known since my teens that motherhood was not for me.  When Hubby proposed, I told him that I absolutely did not want kids.  Like your BF, he said he could go either way, it wasn’t all that important, etc.  So I looked him in the eye and said something to the effect:  “If, years from now, you start insisting on children, I will divorce you so that you can find someone who will be a mother, because I won’t do it.”  That stopped him cold.  He thought on it for a few days and then agreed that kids would not be in our future.  And actually, the older we get, the more certain he is that this was the right choice.  Like me, he has no real desire to deal with everything that goes with being a parent.
    You need to figure out what YOU really want: child-free, or not; biological, or adopted.  Make sure your BF is really in agreement.  Or, one or the other of you will get dragged into an unwanted family situation years from now.  It’s just as unfair to deny kids to a spouse who wants them, as it is to force kids on a spouse who doesn’t.

    • avatar JC Dill says:

      Lila, well said.  Nothing is worse than when someone who KNOWS they want to be child-free finds themselves being pushed to having kids.  Find a like-minded mate.  If you aren’t sure you want to be child-free by choice, figure this out (for yourself) before you get married.
      I hope all child-free singles do as you did when your BF proposed, and put the “cold water” question right there, on the table, so that their partners understand that this isn’t a “phase” or that you can be “convinced later” etc.

    • avatar chuck alien says:

      the beauty of it is really you can’t know what it’s like to be a parent.

      so while you assuring yourself you are right is not based on anything but supposition, as long as you accept it as the truth, you are happy.

      a very handy bit of mental trickery, in service of being content.  can’t complain about that.

      • avatar Lila says:

        Chuck, true that I will never REALLY know what it is to be a parent, but how horrible would it be if I “tried it” and discovered that… I really, really DON’T like it?  Yes, I am basing my decision on a supposition, but there is no way to undo parenthood.  If there is any doubt about the desire for children, it’s much, much better NOT to have them, then to have them and then resent them and regret the decision.
        It does happen.  Search “regret having children” and see the hits that pop up.  The poor kids.  My own aunt, who has three, once told me: “I’d lay down my life for my kids, but if I felt like I’d had a choice, I wouldn’t have had a one of ’em.”  And even knowing what she knows now, if she had it to do over again?  No.  She would choose not to be a mother.  It’s not for everyone, and some of those folks know who they are.
        On the other hand, I do know very well what it is like not to have children, and have always been quite happy with it.

        • avatar chuck alien says:

          the important thing is being happy with your decision… and as you are, i say good work.

        • avatar David Bolton says:

          Oh Lila, Lila… you will never be complete unless you have a man and a child. 

          Have you never been to me? I mean—you? 

          • avatar Lila says:

            David, it’s tough duty, but I will be the poster child for the child-free.

            Um… I have been me, most of the time anyway. I don’t think I’ve been to me, or you…?

          • avatar David Bolton says:

            Obviously you’re no Charlene fan. 

          • avatar Lila says:

            David, had to look this up.  Nope, had not heard it before.  Still not me, though!  
            If I could write songs, mine would go:  I got a man but I got no biological clock, and I am complete all by myself.

          • avatar David Bolton says:

            It would spark a lesbian music renaissance. 

        • avatar bright eyes says:

          Lila – if you tried it and realized you don’t like it – you’d still have a kid for 18 more years. I’m a single parent to a 13 year old and I decided a long time ago that if I didn’t have another child by the time he was 5 – that I’d never have another child. Why? My son isn’t a difficult child by any means, but I knew that I didn’t want to ‘start over’ with formula, diapers, etc. once my son got started in school. 
          I have friends who are now having their 2nd and 3rd child. I’m happy for them but glad it’s not me. I do love my son and love spending time with him. But I feel that I was never meant to have more than one child, no matter what else life chose to throw at me.
          I just wanted to say it’s awesome that you step up and say how you feel about having kids because a lot of women feel that way, but are made to feel as if something is wrong with them because they don’t feel the need to get married and have a few kids. Even knowing I would be a single parent, family members would ask when I was going to get married and have another kid. My answer? When you give me the money it would cost to raise the kid – including college tuition. 🙂 

          • avatar Lila says:

            Bright Eyes, yes, amazing how so many completely irrelevant folks like to decide that we should have kids, never once thinking about our means, our personalities, our priorities, OUR lives, etc.  Usually once the subject came up, the reaction from these casual acquaintances was to badger me with all the reasons that I “needed” to have kids, and that knowing smirk, “You’ll change your mind.”  Only a couple of times have I been accused of being horrible and selfish for not having babies.  I suppose these folks thought that I had souls on a waiting list in Purgatory or something, and I was callously denying them their chance to escape. 

    • avatar boisguilbert says:

      Fine advice.  Thanks for posting it.

  17. avatar christineb says:

    I am a big fan of free-range parenting (letting kids go out and explore, realizing that they are actually not in that much “stranger danger”, etc) but as the parent of a child around Sam’s age, I would definitely tell his mother and absolutely not under any circumstances allow my child play at his house. This is not normal behavior (how old is this brother and how do either of them know what oral sex is at this age?). It’s one thing to always be afraid of that child molester who you just know is lurking around every corner. It’s completely different for an 8 year old to be experimenting with this. And there is the possibility that Sam will want to show your child what it is. I just wouldn’t take that chance without having an extremely clear idea of what is going on.

    • avatar christineb says:

      Please note, I did not mean to imply that Sam would be unwelcome at my house. I think the LW can be a powerful advocate-especially if the mother already knows or doesn’t do anything. I like the people who said call CPS but it might be worth seeing the mother’s reaction. There could (although I doubt it) be a reasonable explanation. Talk to the mother and then call CPS but no matter what, keep trying to communicate with Sam. Let him know that he can talk to you and you’ll listen. If he is being molested you could be the one who saves him.

    • avatar boisguilbert says:

      Find remarks, christineb.

  18. avatar mayma says:

    I say this with love:  Margo could not be more wrong.  I would not, under any circumstances, let my kid play at that house.  The very suggestion boggles the mind.  

  19. avatar Annie H says:

    LW #1 I am wondering why this person wrote a letter to an advice column and not called the police/CPS?  As a survivor of sexual abuse from a family member, that Mom will more than likely scoff at the thought that anything is going on.  If I heard this from a child, I would have already filed a police report and NOT given a rat’s rear who knew that I called.  This child telling someone what happened is a cry for help.  Answer it.  I would not allow her son anywhere near their house.  I would not in anyway, shape, or form cut off the child that told.  Never, ever.  He needs support and help.  NOW, actually he needed it awhile ago..

  20. avatar chuck alien says:

    “But all the arguments I’ve heard for having children seem pretty sentimental, while the ones against seem more rational.”

    It’s a strangely robotic way to look at it…  but i’m trying to think if there ARE any rational arguments for having kids.

    1) perpetuate the race. probably don’t need you specifically for that, but this is in general… so yes, reproduction itself is a rational reason. 

    2) support when you’re old?  it’s not a given, but it is a rational reason.

    3) um. what else? is there anything else?

    i’m not sure what she’s looking for as far as rational, i guess…   like, good for your career?  isn’t it rational if it makes you happier?  i don’t know… this is a really weird way to look at it.

    what are the rational arguments for NOT having kids?  they are expensive?  they… cause trouble, sometimes?  the world is overpopulated?


    • avatar Lila says:

      Chuck, oh, I can list many reasons for having kids because from my teen years, I have been told that I would change my mind and would be a wonderful mother; and as soon as I was married, the incessant badgering began.  Not from family, mind; from casual acquaintances who had no business inquiring of such things, but somehow they made it their mission to convince me to procreate.  The last such attack came at age 45, when I thought I should have been safe from such.
      So, the reasons:  Who will take care of you when you’re old?  Who will carry on your legacy?  Who will inherit your stuff?  Don’t your parents want grandkids?  And… I kid you not, this was recent… We have to have more babies because the Muslims are out-breeding us.  I think I might have barfed a little on that one.  At any rate, all of these reasons are pretty selfish and the children are mere pawns.  It’s all about what the parents want, not about the actual living, breathing, human, individual child with his own hopes and dreams and feelings.
      Reasons not to have kids:  Expense (and yeah, I think parents need to really consider their financial means before bringing kids into poverty).  Giving up your own activities, career, etc.  You don’t enjoy the company of children.  You don’t want the responsibility.  You want a high-powered career which will leave you little or no parenting time.  You are selfish and you know it.  Or you are over-controlling and inflexible. (Either one of those last two will make for an excruciating family life).
      I was in my teens and contemplating what pregnancy would be like (rather like the chest-bursting scene in Alien, no doubt), and suddenly it hit me:  pregnancy was hardly the concern.  The concern was what comes after pregnancy.  You are left with this little completely dependent stranger, not a chip off the old block, but a real human being for whom you are totally responsible, and you have to teach them everything:  from speech, to not pooping in their pants, to how to bathe, to how to socialize, how to be responsible… and it takes years of repetition, repetition, repetition.  Years stuck with a pooping, babbling toddler, years of sullen teen angst.  And it would not end at age 18… it was forever.  And the only thing worse than it being forever, would be if something happened to that child.  Oh, yes, that would be much worse.
      Studies show that a large percentage of kids born in the US these days are from unplanned pregnancies.  “It just happened.”  I guess if you always pictured yourself being a parent one day, this is OK.  But if someone is going to consciously choose parenthood, I personally think the only good reason is that you want to nurture someone, share life with them, show them and teach them about the world, raise them to be healthy men and women, and try to set them up for happiness and success.

      • avatar Lila says:

        Oh, PS:  yes, the world is overpopulated.  If I felt a maternal urge (ha!), I would seek to foster or adopt a kid in need. 

        • avatar chuck alien says:

          PS: oh, no… that woman on tv with all the kids said it’s not over-populated because it’s really not that crowded in her neighborhood.

          and since that seems incredibly intelligent (as does having 19 kids), i think you may be wrong. 

          • avatar Lila says:

            Ha!  I saw that… wrote about it, too.  What’s the saying..?  Oh, right:  “Ignorance is bliss.”  She is blissful, isn’t she?

      • avatar chuck alien says:

        “You don’t enjoy the company of children.  You don’t want the responsibility….”

        those are good reasons, but i guess i don’t think of those as rational arguments… which is what she said in the letter.  she is listening to “rational arguments” for and against.

        but, i guess….  “if you don’t like kids, you shouldn’t have them” is in fact a rational decision, if you don’t like kids. 

        basically, your reasons are personal reasons, not rational arguments.  i think. 

        i’m thinking a rational argument is more along the lines of “your life will be better in this way” or “objectively, this is for the greater good” …   and “you’re an irresponsible child-hating workaholic” aren’t really arguments, they are personal evaluations / preferences.

        or not.  i said, it’s a weird way to look at it.  just… very objective.

        • avatar Lila says:

          OK, I am officially confused.  Maybe it’s because family life is very personal for everyone.
          “If you don’t like kids, you shouldn’t have them” is a value judgment, isn’t it?  I guess “rational,” cold, logical reasons to have kids would be… uh…. hmm.  The only one I can come up with is some kind of national or species survival reason, obligating procreation.  But if anything, our species is in more danger right now from overpopulation, than the reverse, so… I guess there is no rational reason to have kids.  Either you have them by accident, you have them because you want them for some personal reason, or you don’t for some personal reason.  Anything else would almost be eugenics of a sort.

          • avatar wendykh says:

            I don’t think it’s a value judgement. It’s like if you don’t like beer you shouldn’t drink it. That’s simply logic.

          • avatar Lila says:

            Well, if I drink half the beer and hate it, and throw the other half away, the beer won’t know. Do a halfhearted job raising a kid and resenting it, that’s another story…

      • avatar wendykh says:

        It’s not unplanned if the people didn’t use birth control. I so object to those pregnancies being included. Most pregnancies happen perfectly expectedly, because people were having sex without birth control. And in more than a few of those cases, I suspect they say “unplanned” because they don’t want to listen to people saying how irresponsible it was to not use the birth control or have sex at all at that time/with that person.

        • avatar bright eyes says:

          What if you are using Birth Control and although it’s 99.9% effective, it still doesn’t work? I know a lady who got pregnant 3 times because the Condom didn’t work, the Depo didn’t work, Birth Control pill didn’t work. The next step – one of them got surgery! 

      • avatar boisguilbert says:

        Good remarks, Lila.

      • avatar bright eyes says:

        Lila- that’s funny (The Alien comment) because personally that’s what I thought of when the doctor told me that my son was taking all of my calcium so I needed an increase. 

        • avatar Lila says:

          Bright Eyes, heh.  I remember that from my biology classes – the teacher said you’d better get good nutrition in pregnancy because “the fetus is going to take what he needs, and if it’s not coming from your diet, he’ll get it from you.” 

    • avatar mjd4 says:

      Whatever the rational reasons might be, please do not have a child because of them.  Have a child because you want to.  LW2 obviously doesn’t want to. 

  21. avatar toni says:

    LW1: CPS first. We were those kids. It took us to 45 to realize it wasn’t Doctor.
    Protect your son first above all things.

  22. avatar BeanCounter says:

    What the H3LL Margo?   Did Dear Abby just step in and write the response to LW1?    absolutely ridiculous.   the LW’s son COULD be in danger from the close friend’s older brother.   and it could happen quickly.   wow.   talk about dropping the ball.

  23. avatar Nikki Sunset says:

    re: Alarmed Mom who was concerned that her 7 year old son was being exposed to a hypersexualized playmate. I was very disturbed by your letter for a few hours. Then I remembered the sexual advances of a lesbian schoolmate when I was 9. And I made choices in accordance with the valies of my family and was not scarred by the experience. I hope the same for your child. 

    • avatar mmht says:

      Nikki, I do not believe you read the letter correctly.  She was concerned b/c the boy told her son that he has performed oral sex on his older brother, not because the child was hitting on him in any way.  She doesn’t know if she should tell the mother that her youngest is possibly being molested by his older brother and she doesn’t know about the safety of her own child in that home. 

  24. avatar Nikki Sunset says:

    That was values, not valiies. 

    • avatar boisguilbert says:

      Nikki Sunset, I think most of your readers understood that you menat “values, not values.”  I am not good at typing {I type too rapdily, so I make many mistakes}.

      • avatar boisguilbert says:

        Nikki H:  As you see!–I am not good at typing {I type too rapdily, so I make many mistakes}.  “Rapdily” should of course be “rapidly.”

  25. avatar Violet says:

    I think it would be crazy to permit one’s son to play with a child who had oral sex w/ his brother at 8 years old. First, there might be someone in the home or a relative who is a molester. Second, the child is acting I appropriately sexual toward her son, which puts him at risk. Wouldn’t the best message to the son be that you do not play with anyone who acts like that, and second, the mom had an obligation to report the behavior. Who knows if there isn’t and adult molesting other. With or hood kids. I think Margo was much too cavalier about this. If the neighbor boy is being molested and no one intervenes, he’s at risk for serious mental health problems, and becoming a molester himself at some point.

    I would be extrememly alarmed if I were that mother.

  26. avatar mjd4 says:

    LW1 – a 7 year old told you that an 8 year old told him that he had oral sex with his brother.  There is plenty of room for confusion here.  Do either of them have any idea what oral sex even means?  

    Not that there is no cause for alarm.  Even a kid who has been exposed to a lot of inappropriate language would not necessarily come up with a story like that.  Even if the oral sex with brother part is nto true, there could something going on.  This is definitely a warning sign.  Not to mention, there is the possibility that it is the literal truth.  

    By the way, in a long-ago column, there seemed to be some confusion about when to call CPS.  A number of commenters felt that you should be sure you know what is going on before you make that call.  But CPS will not take any action based on your conclusions.  CPS doesn’t even want to know your conclusions – they want to know what you heard or saw.  Then they decide if it merits an investigation, and then they make the determination.   

  27. avatar mjd4 says:

    ” I would venture that … you believe he will love you less if he loves a child”  

    Um, that is quite a leap.  

  28. avatar Lym BO says:

    For those who are suggesting the molested bout might be making it up I would doubt it unless the kid is the type who constantly tries to shock others. 
    We had an incident in our school when my son was a KINDERGARTENER where one boy had another boy give him a BJ in the bathroom. Flipped me out because at the time, I could totally seeing my kid being coerced into this. Boys on the bus paid him a dime to kiss an older boy & he did it without a second thought. It was a dime after all. FOr those who no longer have small kids, a dime is the same as a one million dollar bill to a young kid. They also had him pay them a quarter to make paper airplanes.   Kids are naive and if they aren’t taught wrong and right they know no different. Who knew this needed to be taught in kindergarten. Nonetheless, the kid was removed from the school at the urging of many of the parents. I hope the kid got the help he so desperately needed & not just shuffled to the next school.   
    As for little Sam, supervised play for sure and no contact with the older brothers. As Briana mentioned once the mother knows she will likely cut off her boy. Some parents believe no negatives about their children, others can not be so defensive. It’s a tough call whether to contact the mother. As a mother, I would want to know & deal with it privately. Telling her is the route I would likely go. Even if she denies it hopefully that is only her front & she will deal with it.
     The easiest option outside telling mother or calling CPS is to have your son tell his teacher or counselor so they can investigate. Sam will know who told so there’s that, but he will get counseling.  And any healthcare or education person is required to report to CPS. 
    I will say a boy was calling my son a nasty name (at 7) involving the F word. His Liuetenant police mom drilled him & reported back to me that her son claimed he never did & she believed him. My kid didn’t know what it meant nor had ever heard it before so I know he wasn’t making it up. THe kid’s father uses it every other word so it’s pretty believable.