Dear Margo: When You Don’t Owe A Child Free Rein

How can I get my teenage daughter to stop seeing an older man with a rap sheet? Margo Howard’s advice

When You Don’t Owe a Child Free Rein

Dear Margo: Our daughter got a job at a local pizza place when she was 16. She is now 17 and a senior in high school. While working there, she met a 29-year-old man we’ve come to find has been convicted on two drug charges, an assault charge and a theft charge. While lying to us about her relationship, as well as his age, we’ve now found out she had a sexual relationship with this person for a year and a half. I filed charges and had him arrested. Both admitted the inappropriate relationship to the police, and the trial is scheduled.

The problem I am having is that she is “in love” with this person and wants to have a relationship with him again. They made a “plan” to wait until she is 21 and almost finished with college to try it again. Until then, she is supposed to see other people so that she will know what she wants. I have told her that as long as her father and I are responsible for her, she will have nothing more to do with him, and I refuse to drop the charges. Her father is ready to kick her to the curb when she turns 18, but I cannot find it in me to turn her away. Am I doing the right thing? –Stressed to the Limit

Dear Stress: Encourage her “plan” to wait until she’s 21 and well into college life. In the next four years, if she can’t come up with a better love interest than someone who’s 13 years older with a rap sheet, then there’s nothing to be done. If she sticks to the bargain, things are in your favor — well, really in her favor. You and your husband would be doing the right thing by using tough love (the curb thing) if she doesn’t uphold her end of the bargain. –Margo, watchfully

Stinky “Friends”

Dear Margo: I am 47, the mother of three great kids, with a wonderful husband. Now that my kids are older, I’ve decided to pursue the career I always wanted: nursing. I was accepted into a nursing program, and it turned out that I was able to get financial aid to help pay for it. I couldn’t be happier that I have been given this amazing opportunity.

The problem? I had every intention of keeping my job as a teacher’s aide at a high school in another town, but after attending a few of the nursing classes and speaking with the career counselor, I realized the workload would be too much and I needed to choose one or the other. I chose nursing. I knew it was last minute, so I offered to work until a replacement was found, but they accepted my resignation “effective immediately.”

Now my former colleagues, who I thought were my friends, will not call me back. I have called and sent e-mails and Facebook messages asking how they are doing, but I have yet to receive an answer. Needless to say, I am heartbroken. My husband says there is nothing more I can do and I should just let it go, but I am struggling with this, feeling both guilty and sad. –Future Nurse

Dear Fu: I hope you can bag feeling guilty, because you have not only chosen a noble profession, but it was your dream. Being a teacher’s aide, in your situation, would not give you the satisfaction that nursing would. People are allowed to change jobs. The short notice is unfortunate, but there you are. The colleagues, alas, were not really friends, and your husband is correct. I find it rather unattractive that the people at school could not see the big picture and be happy for you. –Margo, fulfillingly


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


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115 Responses so far.

  1. avatar D says:

    I am assuming that LW1 lives in a state where the age of consent is at least 17 or she would not have been able to bring the guy up on charges.  I am curious as to what LW1 expects to gain by not dropping the charges.  It seems to me that this is more about the daughter having sex than the fact that the daughter had illegal sex.  Having the guy arrested was a bonus.  The fact remains that her daughter had sex – willingly.  She might have been slightly underage and the dude may be an slightly older guy with a past, but the deed was done.  Even if the guy goes to jail, the daughter still had sex and might do so again before college.  The next time the daughter has sex, there is not a thing legally that the mother can do about because she has reached the age of consent.
    I am curious as to whose idea the “plan” actually was.  If it was his, that is his saying “I am going to screw someone else.  Been nice knowing you.”  If it was hers, that is her way of saying “I am going to screw someone else.  Been nice knowing you.”  If it was hers, then her parents need to sit down with her and have a conversation about the value of sex because she is going to be quite active sexually.

    • avatar Rita@ Goldivas says:

      Not dropping the charges means that the 29 year-old will be kept away from the daughter until the daughter has a chance to grow some brains.

      • avatar jayHG says:

        Exactly, Rita…….enough said.   Thanks!!!!!!!

      • avatar P S says:

        Thank you, exactly!
        When I was 18 I found myself attracted to someone very similar as the daughter’s boyfriend. Also much older, also an ex-con… left my family biting their nails that I even smiled at this guy.
        They never had to worry. Thankfully he had *somewhat* more of a brain and a conscience than the scumbag in question here. We talked to each other on the phone for an hour one weekend, during which time he was totally honest with me about why he was in jail, his history, his life today, etc., and I did the same. We agreed at the end of the conversation that we had nothing in common, so we never pursued a relationship, wished each other well and said goodbye.
        Thank God for that (and here’s where the somewhat of a conscience died). He got fired not too long after for physically assaulting a supervisor at his workplace. Given that could have been me, easily, if we had dated, I dodged a SERIOUS bullet.
        In my situation I was an adult and able to make an informed decision. The LW’s daughter is neither an adult nor, apparently, able to make informed or sensible decisions… and yes, like it or not, her “boyfriend” manipulated her and committed statutory rape. I know very few 29 year olds in their RIGHT minds who would see a 16 or 17 year old as anything more than a kid, and certainly would understand a minor child is jail bait. Period.
        LW1’s daughter is not recognizing that feelings aren’t facts, and neither are adolescent hormones. Like a lot of teenagers she can’t see past next week, let alone consider 4 years from now. It also doesn’t matter if she started having sex with others at an earlier age – that still doesn’t qualify her as being capable of consent or understanding the ramifications of sex the way adults do. Hell there are adults who never manage to grasp it.
        I don’t know about anyone else but I remember the world looked vastly different to me when I compare how I saw things at 16 versus 18 and up. It was precisely because of going to college and getting exposed to a larger world, different people’s cultures/experiences/learning/etc. Yes, I still made stupid decisions and was immature, but I guarantee I would not have handled my situation as well as I did if it had happened two years earlier.
        I have little doubt it will be the same for the daughter. She’ll get into college, make new friends, get excited about her studies (or not), party (or not), and most likely some REAL cute guy will make her forget about Mr. Felon pretty quickly.
        Her parents are doing the right thing pursuing charges. The jackass has a rap sheet and proved he hasn’t reformed by taking advantage of a child. Enough said.

    • avatar Katy Dias says:

      D-in a lot of states even if the age of consent is 16 the other person needs to be within at least 3 years age of the minor, 29 and 16 is clearly not 3 years. And no I do not think the issue is just that the daughter had sex, its a parents responsiblilty to look out for their children. 13 years is a huge age difference at 16, no parent would want that for their child.

      • avatar D C says:

        There’s a mistaken assumption that charges can even be dropped. Once a person is accused of statuatory rape and the police have enough evidence to put together a case, in most places, charges can’t be dropped. The district attorney, not the mother is the person who decides if the case should go to trial.
        If this man is convicted, he will be a registered sex offender for the rest of his life and for a good reason. He is a sex offender. How he will be permitted to interact with his own children, should he ever have any, will be guided by his registry status. He is old enough, and definitely experienced enough, to know the consequences of having sex with a minor. If he had the best interests of their relationship in mind, he would have waited to begin with.

    • avatar dscheibli says:

      @D – you are totally off-base about LW#1.  SHE is the victim HE is the perpetrator. 

    • avatar trush says:

      I understand the parents issue – who wants to know that not only is their little girl doing the dirty, but doing the dirty with an older loser.  But reality – he probably wasn’t her first (most teens are having sex by 13 now). 

      I think 29 is too old, but there are those girls that lie about their age and it’s so hard to tell… Here’s my issue, and being he’s almost 30 (now?  or is he 31 now?) it doesn’t necessarily apply to him – I hate the statatory rape charge.  There are too many young men with a sex offender registry FOREVER because their girlfriend, who was willing and able, was anywhere from 6 months to a year or two younger than him, and the parents didn’t approve.  These young men’s lives are forever damaged over a parent being vindictive.  And I say that as a parent of a teen girl… just sayin’.

      • avatar Grace Malat says:

        I would really like to know where you get your statistics that ‘most teens are having sex by 13 now’ That’s a really sweeping and derogatory statement to make.
        From the articles I’ve read teens are actually waiting longer now than before. I have 2 daughters the oldest is 31, she did have sex the first time when she was just shy of her 17th birthday. My youngest is 17 and she’s not had sex yet, and yes I’m sure, she just recently had to have a hymenectomy, not a common thing to have done it’s usually not necessary but in her case it was. And for those who don’t understand because it is kind of weird, the gyn had to surgically remove her hymen. It was so thick that she couldn’t even use tampons. We were surprised as by this age the hymen has usually thinned considerably and broken due to sports, bike riding, etc. And my daughter is very active athletically.
        But getting back to your statement, out of all my daughters female friends maybe, maybe a fourth of them have had sex. Now granted it’s not a scientific poll, but due to her sports and other activities she has and talks with probably close to 100 girls and they talk about everything. Her best friend just became sexually active and because she’s like a daughter to me came and talked to me about it and I encouraged her to discuss it with her mother which she did. But some of these girls come to me before they decide to talk, many of them decide not to.
        I just found your remark very insulting.

        • avatar Nancy Pea says:

          grace my daughter had that procedure also. a cousin had to have it done also at birth because she was completely closed. my grandson also had a genital birth defect that required surgery to fix. my daughter literally wouldn’t do anything with her fiance even after she turned 18 (she just just shy of it by a few months when they met and got engaged) because she knew something was wrong. that’s when i ended up taking her to the dr to have it checked. it was 6yrs later that she finally got it fixed.
          but i do have to agree with that data about kids having sex earlier and earlier. i see these children in our neighborhood running around in each others arms and they aren’t being  platonic about it either. i just hope they are using condoms and birth control. there is another sexual act that is going around where girls are told if they give blow jobs they aren’t having sex and they can stay virgins til they are married. a lot of girls are going through school this way and the boys of course get everything out of it. but it’s just wrong and very dangerous because STD’s can still be spread by it. then the girl in the end gets a reputation even tho she is still a virgin because she is considered a slut. it’s horrible. but if parents aren’t aware of this kind of thing it can be fall their kids.

          • avatar uborkas says:

            It might mortify your daughters to know you are talking about their hymens on a public discussion board.  I would have a problem with it if my mom was doing it.  Just sayin.  Have a nice day!

          • avatar Nancy Pea says:

            my daughter doesn’t consider it a problem as it’s a birth defect and a clinical surgical procedure that took place in a drs office. few ppl know about these defects and usually are very uninformed about them. which can lead to problems later, especially if they don’t know about it. i can just imagine what would have happened if the feelings she got were absent and she tried to go all the way. i think it would have been devastating to both of them.
            my grandson’s other grandmother was under the illusion that my grandson’s defect was because my daughter didn’t eat enough leafy vegetables during her pregnancy. which is totally false because i stuffed her with anything green i could find. instead it’s a hereditary defect that sometimes skips generations and is very annoying to say the least. sometimes it can be dangerous. my daughter has learned to look on the experience with humor and understanding of others.

          • avatar Grace Malat says:

            Uborkas ~ Nope my daughter wouldn’t mind, it’s not a big deal. It was a medical procedure that she had to have done, just like when she had her wisdom teeth removed, although she did not tell everyone on facebook about it LOL But she does talk about it, she’s open about it, it’s not a big deal.
            To Nancy Pea ~ You are correct that oral sex especially where the girls are the how shall we say the performers while the males are the recipients is on the rise. Back in the 40’s and so it was well I don’t know a delicate way to put it, but it was hand jobs. And part of this is because of a lack of education and knowledge, and societal beliefs and thinking that males are more sexual and need the ‘release’ more than females.
            But the evidence is showing that teens are waiting longer, we did recently have a small spike in teen pregnancy but it’s gone back down and it’s back down and had dropped quite a bit.
            Here’s my concern, parents in a misguided belief believe that the schools have taught their children about sex and birth control, and that is the furthest thing from the truth. It’s a one time thing in middle school unless you take a parenting class in high school. Sex and information and education needs to be an ongoing conversation and a natural one. In my home sex is talked about openly and honestly, is it difficult? Yes sometimes there are blushing moments, but we get through them with humor and grace.
            It’s funny in a way, parents don’t want to think of their children as sexual beings, and children don’t want to believe that their parents actually ‘did that’. And when we talk about sex we need to include information about not just the physical act but also the emotional, psychological and physiological parts of it, sex is not just about the physical.
            I’ve encouraged both my daughters to be open with me and with their friends. And my youngest daughter especially (I learned with time how to better do this) to be open with her friends and to talk and more importantly to listen to what they say. And the most important thing she has heard from those who have had sex is that yes it was great, but I wish I had waited. She has even heard this from her male friends.
            We as a society and as parents need to realize and understand that our children are sexual beings, and we need to educate and inform them more clearly about sex and what it means and birth control, and that means going out and buying condoms and putting them on bananas or cucumbers LOL Because the majority of people including adults don’t know how to use them properly.

  2. avatar Jennifer juniper says:

    Lots missing from that first letter.  Why on earth would a father be ready to ‘kick her to the curb’ when you have a daughter that is going to be going to college and holds down a job?  Is it simply for the fact that she was involved in this relationship?  That implies that at least your husband holds her partly culpable for the choice to be in the relationship.  So why are you going to send a man to jail for a decision you think your daughter had a choice in?  The solution sounds pretty reasonable as well.  Because let’s face it – if she has to wait until 21 to continue a relationship with this guy – it just isn’t going to happen.

    • avatar JC Dill says:

      The odds of both of them wanting to continue the relationship 3 years from now, after a 3-year break (during which she will date other guys, and unless he’s in prison during that entire time he will be dating other girls) is very, very low. Mom and Dad should be THRILLED BEYOND BELIEF at this plan, and move forward with supporting their daughter as she finishes high school and starts college.

      Key to success is to not keep dissing this guy. If the parents keep talking about how bad he is, it will strengthen her resolve to resume the relationship when she turns 21 (if he hasn’t dumped her by then). Instead, they should just say things like “2014 is a long way off, let’s concentrate on your college issues right now” if she should bring up his name in conversation.

    • avatar Susan G says:

      I agree. Many a woman MUCH older than this kid have been conned romantically by a con.

  3. avatar marywells says:

    D and Jennifer: I’m not really sure about the girl. Young people can be very romantic, and she may be really enternaining the idea of waiting for her first lover til she’s old enough to marry him without her parent’s consent. She may be seeing him wiht adoring, idealizing eyes and fantasizing about how her and her prince would be blissful after waiting for the right time.
    So what may be bugging the mom is not her daughter having sex but her daughter getting seriously involved with someone with a past. Of course former felons can change and become respectable citizens and good hubbies but most parents would be worried about it.
    If this is the case, Juliet needs a reality check ASAP. I agree that the father’s reaction is too strong. Maybe talking to a therapist would help.
    LW#1 – Margo is right again: they were your colleagues but never your friends. Pity they missed
    the chance of cultivating a good, sincere friend like you.

  4. avatar Deborah Key says:

    Yes, its all about the sex, D.  It can’t possibly be because their daughter got involved with a felon who is almost twice her age!    What objections could they possibly have to a 29 hood “dating” their daughter? I’d be over the moon if it were my daughter. 

    Seriously, they hope that he will go to jail and their daughter will move on. 

  5. avatar Jim Martin says:

    It appalls me that other commenters are finding excuses for a 29-year-old man’s predatory treatment of a 16-year-old girl. He took advantage of her inexperience to satisfy himself, while putting not only her physical and mental health but her future in jeopardy. She was old enough to know she wanted sex, but she was not old enough to understand all its consequences, while he was. This is exactly why there are laws against statutory rape, and why her willingness to do what they did is no excuse. He SHOULD be prosecuted and he should be punished for what he did.

    Hopefully the fact that her parents “found out” is a sign that she IS old enough now to see where her relationship with that loser is headed, and letting her parents know about it is her first step toward breaking it off while not having to bear the full responsibility for the decision by herself.

    It is encouraging that she has survived this experience while holding a job and doing well enough in school that college is still a prospect. She sounds like a sensible, level-headed young woman, and I seriously doubt that her father’s threatened rejection of her will be necessary.

    • avatar D says:

      In this case, the man’s age is the issue, not his past.  I do not think that her parents would have been okay with this relationship if the man had a college degree with no record.  I also do not think the parents would have been okay with this had the guy been eighteen.   The difference between eighteen and twenty-eight is that eighteen does not get arrested and twenty-eight does.
      I cannot agree with you on your opinion that “she sounds like a sensible, level-headed young woman”.  Sensible and level-headed does not have sex as a sixteen-year old with a twenty-eight year old for a year and a half and lie about it in the process.  You are also assuming that this was the girl’s first time, which I have a hard time believing.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        “She sounds like a sensible, level-headed young woman…”
        Are you JOKING?
        As for LW2: congratulations, you just found out the definition of “frenemy.” Now go Google “man up” and move on—your new job is going to require someone who has a thick skin.

      • avatar Jim Martin says:

        D, you are still making excuses for inexcusable behavior. The reason a 29-year-old man gets arrested while an 18-year-old may not (I’m not saying should not) is that an 18-year-old boy has no more sense about life than does a 16-year-old girl. A 29-year-old man should know better, and if he doesn’t he should be put away until he learns better.
        You clearly are advocating his case at the expense of the girl’s, since you say that his past is not relevant but that hers (the previous sexual experience you imagine) is. You have a right to take whatever position you want to take, and I have a right to take mine. He is the perpetrator of a crime both technically and morally and should be punished for it. She is not guilty of anything but being young. She is a victim; he is not.

        • avatar Anji says:

          I completely agree with you, Jim. As a mother of kids ranging from 14 – 23, I cannot imagine how these parents feel. He is an obvious predator and needs to be punished for his actions. A 16 year old teenager does not have the emotional capacity to handle such situations and make logical, rational decisions. Teenagers are often vulnerable ann naive and it is people like this guy who prey upon such weaknesses.
          He is a PREDATOR and that is the bottom line.

      • avatar dscheibli says:

        @D – your assumption that age isn’t a factor is just wrong and off-base once again.  You can’t take apart the real story and make assumptions.  The facts are the facts, the parents don’t approve of this man and they have every reason to: he’s much older and should have known better, he’s 29 w/o a good future, he’s an felon.  Seriously, he committed statutory rape, he is a predator.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Respectfully Jim, I must disagree. The daughter does sound as if she has a level head, and a high degree of planning capability and logical thought for one so young. She was able to keep the true nature of her relationship with this man hidden for over a year, which suggests that she took necessary and full precautions to avoid pregnancy and other complications. She also maintained her grades well enough to allow college to remain a viable option. And now she is rolling with the changes in a seemingly logical manner.
      All of this contradicts the idea of a romantic, unprepared, irresponsible typical teen girl who was simply led astray by a crafty predator. I am appalled at how ready some people are to send him to jail, and seal his fate with a permanent record as a sex offender. Even if he gets not a day of jail time…he will remain forever on that list. Everywhere he lives, he will be on a registry, and people will suspect him of stalking their toddlers, or want him, and possibly pressure him to move. It is almost impossible to get a reasonable job, even after paying one’s debt in full, no matter the nature of the crime, when one has a “sex offender” jacket. And all of this for having sex with a consenting 16-year-old girl.
      I am speaking as a woman who was brutally sexually assaulted by a family friend at 16, for three long weeks. I gave no consent, and did not understand why…and ultimately paid an enormous price. But this girl has admitted to choosing this partner. If she had been thirteen, I would understand (and yes, he would be “twice her age”), but 16 is the age of consent in certain states, and in others, people can marry at that age with parental permission. If the man had been 22, or had a clean record, or both, would some of you be so outraged? More importantly, would her parents? I suspect that the answer is a resounding “No”.
      I do believe that the father’s willingness to “kick the girl to the curb” is telling. Does he simply want her out of his life when she turns eighteen…or is the idea of Daddy’s Little Girl having sex so morally repugnant to him that as soon as he is legally able he is going to excise her from his life? When she goes to college, is he going to put a duenna on her with a video camera, and tap her phones to make certain of what she is doing, and with whom? I won’t say that this is necessarily a control issue, but it does sound as if it revolves around the fact that she independently decided to become sexually active, and I don’t think it would have mattered if the man had a criminal past or not…had there been the required difference in age (which I believe is 2 full years in most states)…they would have filed charges, had the man arrested, and prosecuted as a sex offender. Imagine if she had been 16…and he 18…very young himself, and forever marked.
      Remember, the LW states that she and the father “came to find out” that the man had a criminal past, and that their daughter lied about his age, and about her sexual activity with him after a year and a half. I have to be curious about which bit of knowledge came first…but I suspect it was the sexual information…which prompted Internet searches in order to find a way to get a handle on their straying child. The fact that she also states that her daughter admitted all to the police makes it abundantly clear that none of the parents’ information came from her. What would prompt parents to start digging into the life of their 17 year old, obviously soon-to-be college bound daughter’s life? Is that love and concern…or control, anger and feelings of betrayal?
      I’m certainly not projecting. or making up scenarios, but this is an over-reaction, and one that could potentially destroy another person’s life. Mother loses control when her daughter turns 18…and I will say this, if her parents are so hell-bent on controlling her decisions that “kicking her to the curb” because they don’t like her independently chosen boyfriend means not only not allowing her to live with them, but cutting off funding for college, and severing ties (despite the LW’s whine, “…but I cannot find it in me to turn her away…”), they may not get the results that they want…but she may benefit immeasurably. Ultimatums are a miserable way to deal with issues, and it sounds like LW1 is looking for an excuse to lay one down.

      • avatar Jim Martin says:


        Your points are very well made and balanced. While I disagree with some of your conclusions, I certainly respect what you wrote. But despite your disclaimer to the contrary, ALL of us are projecting, making up scenarios, imagining what may “really” have happened, etc.

        I may be overreacting, but I do not believe I am wrong to hold a 29-year-old man accountable for what nearly all of us agree was an inappropriate sexual relationship with a girl not much more than half his age. He really should have known better, and even the girl’s lying to her parents is almost surely something he encouraged her to do. Again, she is very much more likely to have been young and impressionable than he was. If there is a victim in this situation – and I believe there was – surely you agree that it was the girl, not the man.

        Fortunately for all of them, what we say doesn’t matter at all. We have never met any of them and are not qualified to judge any of them. The parents, the girl, and possibly the courts will decide whether the young man deserves a life labele