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Teen boy and girl doing homework on a laptop.

Teen boy and girl doing homework on a laptop.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Submit it here or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

We have had the same babysitter for two years now. She’s now 17 years old, and she’s great: reliable, kids love her, flexible if we’re late or need her last minute, cleans up after the kids. No frozen vodka.

Well, last week, when I was driving her home, she asked if it would be OK if after the kids were asleep, her boyfriend comes over “to study.”

I’m glad she asked, instead of just sneaking him in, but is this … OK?

—Fuddy-Duddy

Dear Fuddy-Duddy,

She sounds like a lovely young woman with her head on straight. Heck, they might even be planning to study together. Outline some ground rules and say you would like to meet the boyfriend (since he will probably wind up being around your kids when they come down for a glass of water or post-nightmare), and then say yes.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My son just had his 11th birthday. In addition to his normal present, I gave him a card stuffed with cheap scratch-off lottery tickets. Well, my wife’s mother was there, and she lost her mind. She’s Southern Baptist, a religion which is firmly opposed to gambling in all forms, and apparently scratch-offs count as gambling.

My wife is no longer devout, but she lets her mom push her around too much and wound up tossing the scratch-offs in the trash. I’m mad, my son is sad, my wife doesn’t want to talk about it, and my mother-in-law is sending me tracts. What the hell?

—Burning in a Lake of Fire

Dear Burning in a Lake of Fire,

Sweet suffering Jesus. What a terrible turn for a birthday gathering to take. I don’t want your son to think he can play you and your wife against each other, but I also think you should take him to the grocery store and replace the scratch-offs, explaining that Grandma is old-fashioned and has very strong views about gambling, because real gambling can be a problem for a lot of people.

The real issue here is that your wife threw your present for your son in the trash because her mom went wilding out over seven bucks’ worth of lotto tickets. That’s what needs to be addressed, right now. Is this kind of behavior a common thing? I’m guessing so, since you said “she lets her mom push her around too much.”

Your wife doesn’t really have the option of not talking about this with you. If you think it’ll be easier, table the entire birthday incident and instead initiate a larger conversation about the role her mother plays in your lives and what aspects of it are unhealthy. This may involve couples counseling; it may involve spending way less time with your mother-in-law; but it will definitely be better than the current situation.

Also, scratch-offs have been my family’s preferred stocking stuffers for decades. This is not advice; this is just me expressing solidarity with you.

• If you missed Sunday’s Care and Feeding column, read it here.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

Our 17-year-old daughter worked at Taco Bell all summer and, being thrifty, saved up a decent chunk of change to put into her college account. We were really proud of her and her work ethic.

Here’s the thing. We had her quit when the school year started because we’ve always believed that school is your job, but she misses making money and her old manager says he would love to have her back. We’re leaning toward saying no, but maybe we’re being unreasonable?

—She Did Bring Home Chalupas

Dear SDBHC,

Let her try it out! You can see how things are going in two months. She may find that a job plus high school leaves her too fried to hang with her friends. She may struggle to get her homework done, and her grades may slip. If any of those things happen, Taco Bell is over until next summer. This is a big year for getting the grades colleges will be looking at.

Ideally she will decide quickly that this will not work, or she’ll work exclusively weekends, or—perhaps—she’ll find that a few evening shifts a week suit her lifestyle just fine.

This is a problem that will swiftly resolve itself, I promise.

Dear Care and Feeding,

At the playground I take my kids to, there is a middle-aged man who often comes and sits on a bench to watch the kids (and occasionally do a crossword puzzle). He doesn’t have a camera or anything, but he’s not there because he’s related to any of the children. I’ve checked in with the other parents, some of whom are skeeved out by his presence but most of whom don’t see anything wrong with it. Should I ask him what he’s doing or suggest he find a new place to sit?

—What’s He Doing Here

Dear WHDH,

I would slow your roll. Some parks have explicit signage asking that adults only enter the playground if they are with a child. I assume yours does not, because you would have told me if he was actually breaking the rules.

You cannot be the sheriff of the playground.

As it stands, he’s as entitled to this public space as anyone else. Maybe he enjoys the shouts of happy children at play. Maybe he’s a creep. But he’s not doing anything wrong by sitting there, and you have no justification for asking him to leave.

My advice is to sit next to him one day and draw him into conversation. “I see you here often. You must love this park,” etc. This way he becomes more of a person to you and less of a potential threat. During this conversation you might, however, learn that he is substantially creepier in person, at which point my general advice to supervise your kids carefully at the park remains your best option.

If he tries to talk to or engage with your kids, that’s when you can firmly tell him to back off and explain to him that you’re working on “stranger danger.”

But no, you cannot be the sheriff of the playground.

—Nicole

More Advice From Slate

Last week, though, the 13-year-old son of a friend admitted that he has a crush on me. (He used the term “romantic feelings” … he’s a big reader.) I don’t want to stop demonstrating that I care for him, because he is already suffering abandonment issues. But I’m worried that hugging him or sitting with an arm around his shoulders is now inappropriate. Help!

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