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My crazy ex wants to prepare our 8-year-old daughter for the apocalypse. Help!

October 4, 2013, at 8:45 AM
 

Dear Starshine,

My ex and I got divorced last year. He's a nice enough guy, but he is nuts for this "prepping" thing. All he can talk about is the end of the world. He spent almost all of our money stockpiling food and guns and all manner of craziness. Okay, whatever. It's a free country right? The thing is, he now insists that our 8-year-old daughter (50/50 custody) must learn how to survive by shooting guns, killing livestock (I am not kidding), and skinning game. She screams bloody murder every time I say she has to go to her dad's. She is a sweet little kid who still believes in the Easter Bunny. Please don't tell me to try therapy because he will never go.

I'll grant you the guy sounds like a paranoid nutter. And the preponderance of preppers throughout our great paranoid nutter nation does nothing to make him seem saner.

But I do have to feel for this fella because he's headed toward one of two god-awful certainties. After all, if society doesn't collapse from a tsunami, nuclear war, or global pandemic, then his daughter's going to grow up hating his thoroughly prepped guts.

Generally speaking, it's great for kids to be exposed to quirky relatives, to see that people have wildly disparate beliefs and busy themselves pursuing astoundingly odd passions. But there's a difference between, say, dragging your little girl to a NASCAR race against her will, and forcing her to shoot and skin animals while you fill her head with apocalyptic terror. That's beyond quirky; it's cruel.

Still, you say this Armageddon-ready daddy is a nice guy, and too few people can (or will) say that about their exes. So let's not dismiss his pastime summarily. Perhaps he's putting his kid through these ghastly paces because it's all he knows how to do, or can think about; he loves her and wants her to be safe when the locusts start dropping; and it makes him feel like a good dad.

So try meeting him halfway. Ask if, instead of blowing holes in the beasts she read about in Charlotte's Web, he can teach your daughter to build a shelter in the woods, or tie a tourniquet, or… I don't know, distinguish wild mushrooms from poisonous toadstools (do survivalists eat veggies??). Surely there are some valuable skills — Brownie badge-earning skills, even — to be gleaned from his all-manner-of-craziness worldview.

But if he won't compromise and continues to frighten her, you should ask a judge about adjusting that custody agreement. Best interest of the child? Emotional distress? The end might be coming even sooner than he thinks.

Send me your dilemmas via email: ToughLove@TheWeek.com. And follow me on Twitter: @ToughLoveAdvice.

 

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