Dear Luv Doc,
I met a really great guy through a dating app last fall and we hit it off right from the start. He’s smart, he’s funny, he takes great care of himself, he’s stable, and he’s fun to be around. Last weekend, he asked me to move in with him and I told him I needed to think about it because I have a dog and two cats, but the real reason is that his kids drive me nuts. He has two sons from his previous marriage and even though he only has them every other weekend, they are a handful. They are in their early teens and they are always moody, disrespectful, and just unpleasant to be around. I tolerate them because I like their dad so much, but I don’t know if I could be in the same house with them – even for two weekends a month. He’s a really sweet guy … maybe too sweet … and when he asked me to move in with him, he had to stop in the middle to scream at his sons to quit leaving the door open. Yes, it’s like that. What do I do? Move in, or stay put?
– Evil? Step-girlfriend
First of all, let me just say that screaming is probably the most lenient response for someone leaving a door open – especially in the summer in Texas. It’s the moral equivalent of drinking directly out of the milk jug or clipping your toenails on someone’s sofa. (Pssst: If you’re thinking “What’s the big deal?” maybe you should ask yourself why you don’t have any friends.)
Training children to not behave like fucking animals seems easy enough – especially when you’re armchair quarterbacking – but I can assure you it’s an ugly, thankless business ill-suited for those who lack conviction. Back in the day, parenting was a lot more heartless and brutal and probably bred succeeding generations of sociopaths, but at least it took less time and energy.
My dad used to beat me and my brothers with a belt for what would nowadays seem like menial transgressions (like leaving the door open too many times). We, in turn, would beat up on each other when he wasn’t around for equally meaningless reasons (watching Star Trek vs. Gunsmoke, for instance), which would necessitate him having to whip us again when he got home … you know … for fighting. This pointless cycle of intermittent violence continued throughout most of my childhood, and I am not sure whether it achieved anything, but I do know this: I at least know to shut the goddamned door.
Now, I am not suggesting that you ask your boyfriend to start belt-whipping his sons to get them to behave. Rather, I am suggesting that a little compassion is in order. You can’t just beat children anymore unless you want CPS all up in your chili. There are no quick “fixes” anymore. You have to spend time with kids and actually listen to them … actively. Frankly, it’s a lot of work. If you’re not up to it, that’s completely legit – understandable, even – and you should let your boyfriend know you would rather actively listen to your dog because your dog never sasses you or leaves the door open. Besides, maybe in a few years, those kids will be off to the Marine Corps or prison or something, and you’ll finally get your chance at blissful cohabitation.