Q. I am a 32-year-old mother of three. I have a restraining order against their father after years of emotional and physical abuse endured by myself and my children. I was stuck in the vicious cycle of abuse for a long time. He has had no contact with us for over two years.
My ex’s mother (my children’s “grandmother”) recently tried to contact my daughter via text, sending her photos of her father and the father’s new girlfriend, along with their daughter (she is the same age as my youngest son, so his current girlfriend and I were pregnant at the same time).
I have access to see these text messages and pictures before my daughter does and am curious about your take on whether I should delete them/block their numbers, or allow my 8-year-old daughter to decide for herself.
I don’t trust anyone in their family and never received any acknowledgment of the tremendous amount of pain and suffering her son caused me and my children.
A. These family members are not likely to apologize for the actions of your abuser. If they want to try to forge a relationship with your children, however, they need to understand that you are the gatekeeper.
I can’t speak to the intent, but based on what you report, it sounds as if your ex or his mother might be using her ability to send text messages to your daughter as a “workaround,” which could violate the valid restraining order you have against her son.
You should double-check the language on the court order. Your child should not be receiving text messages from anyone without you seeing the message first (I assume these may be coming in over a tablet device).
Regardless of the status of the restraining order, if you don’t want your children to have contact with your ex’s family, then it is within your rights to deny that contact across the board. You are the custodial parent. It is your responsibility to keep them safe and healthy.
If your children express a desire to have contact with these family members, you will have to use your best judgment to discern if it is in their best interests. For now, I suggest that you block this contact, given that it was uninvited and inappropriate.
If this grandmother wants to contact any of your children, she will have to go through you. She likely knows this (she’s a mother, after all), and this was a little test — which you have passed. Congratulations.
Q. I live abroad and came home one summer to visit family and see some friends. One of my best friends, “Jeremy,” has a garage sale every year that he and his wife get really excited about, so I went for an afternoon to hang out. One man who came to the garage sale asked Jeremy if he had any guns for sale. When the man asked, looking around, everyone was incredibly uncomfortable.
My thought was if my friend told him he had no guns (I don’t know whether he has guns or not) that the man may break into their home, knowing that they are unarmed. I can’t imagine my friend is the only person that man asked.
It could be the man is an honest person with no bad intentions. Please let me know your thoughts.
A. Researching your question, I was surprised (and alarmed) to learn that in most states, it is legal to buy (and sell) guns at a yard sale, with some caveats.
My suggestion is that anyone who is asked should simply respond, “I’m not selling any guns today.” This should avoid the issue of alerting any would-be criminals about an unarmed house.
I believe there is also an ethical question here. Even the most responsible gun owner cannot guarantee the suitability or stability of a stranger.
Q. “Fed Up” had asked repeatedly for his child’s church group to leave him off of group texts, and though the leaders comply, they continue to re-add his number every couple of weeks.
My solution, though probably not nice, is to tell the leaders that in the future he will add lewd pics and remarks if the practice continues. This ought to solve the problem, but I’m not sure other parents would appreciate their kids dealing with that.
A. That is a genuinely terrible idea, for many reasons. Sending lewd pictures to children is both morally wrong and illegal.
Amy Dickinson can be reached at email@example.com.