Ask Alma: A tough call


— Dear Alma,

I’m friends with my next door neighbor. She’s not my BFF, but we hang from time to time. Her husband is in the military and she doesn’t have family in the area. She and I have a lot in common — we’re around the same age and like the same things. She has a son, and I have a daughter. The kids both go to the same high school. Yesterday my neighbor stopped by to tell me they are moving. Her husband has been transferred to another state. She asked me if I would let her 17-year-old son live with us while he finished his last year of school here in our town. She said they would pay room and board for him. I’m not married, and I’m not sure how it would be with a teen boy in my house. What do you think?

Name withheld

Good googalie woogalie, my Mama use to say. That’s a whole lot of turkey, greens, potatoes and gravy served up on your fine china. Hmmm, let’s ponder, should you try to eat all of it, fork-full by spoon-full or just push yourself away from the table without a bite? Listen to your stomach. Do you have an appetite for this?

Yes, it’s a risky situation, we both would agree. I don’t know this young man, and since you didn’t speak of his personality or character, this leaves me to assume. I’m going with a positive approach, concluding he’s a pretty good kid.

Here’s what I’d suggest, make a list. Yep, write down the pros and cons of this possible yearlong endeavor. Identify every thought that comes to mind — what you expect and what scares you the most. I’d say work on this for more than a couple of days. You need to be prayerfully on your knees for at least a week.

You also have to consider your daughter. This would be life-changing for her as well. All three adults need to sit down at the table hashing out the good, bad and the ugly.

Thoroughly examine what room and board will cover. Obviously rent and utilities, but what about food? Boys his age can eat you out of house and home. This I know for sure. Will he stay with you during the week and go home on the weekends? What about extracurricular activities? Are you responsible for getting him there, or does he have a car? Does he have a girlfriend? Are you friends with him, or does he see you as an authoritative adult? Like I said, we’re talking a full plate here. It could be a sacrifice and or a blessing to all involved.

Taking in this teen doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It’s only temporary, and he has parents. Many teens who were taken in by outside adults have gone on to do great things. One example is Michael Oher, the professional football player whose story inspired the movie “The Blind Side.” Remember? He was cared for by a family so he could finish high school. If you like this young man and wouldn’t mind him living in your home, tell his parents you’re willing to give it a try for the first semester — that’s three months. If things seem to work out, commit to the next semester. That way, he knows he has to follow the rules and live up to your and his parents’ expectations. This is a huge responsibility, and the answer to the question of “will this work” is up to him.

I salute you, single mama. You must be holding it down. Otherwise, his parents wouldn’t have asked. In the same vain, you are not obligated. If you don’t want to, don’t do it, and don’t feel badly about it. Tell his parents it just wouldn’t work for you and your daughter right now. Best wishes and blessings to you while you pray on your decision, whatever you decide is the right thing to do.


Alma Gill’s newsroom experience spans more than 25 years, including various roles at USA Today, Newsday and the Washington Post. Email questions to: Follow her on Facebook at “Ask Alma” and twitter @almaaskalma.