Care and Feeding

My Toddler Likes to Make Himself Throw Up for Fun

What can I do, and what kind of child-size tarp should I buy?

Mom alarmed at toddler in car.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Thinkstock.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Email careandfeeding@slate.com.

Dear Care and Feeding,

This is a bit gross so read at your own risk.

My kid is 15 months old and has discovered he can make himself vomit by sticking his finger down his throat. He only does this when he is in a high chair or car seat. If I try to stop him from doing it, he enjoys the attention and will escalate the behavior, so I’m thinking I need to let it happen, but it’s pretty hard to be chill when your kid is covered in vomit. Advice? Commiseration?

—Vom Mom

Dear VM,

EURGHH, KIDS ARE SO DISGUSTING, set your car afire and throw your entire kid away.

(Calms self.)

He’ll move on. Or he’ll grow up to be the next GG Allin, which will be a complicated and periodically rewarding journey for you!

After he yurps, my advice is to immediately, unceremoniously remove him from his high chair (and car seat, when possible) and give him a bath. That will get tiresome fast. In the meantime, let’s focus on preparing for the deluge. Cleaning puke out of a car seat is one of the worst things about having kids, and now that I am on my third, I know every ride could culminate in yurp and prep accordingly. I invest in extra protectors that can be hosed off and washed (you can get protectors for the straps as well, make sure they’re waterproof!) and with a baby your size, you’ll want to tuck something bib-y or tarp-y under his chin (carefully!) to minimize spatter. Always have a go-bag for car puke: paper towels, trash bags, enzymatic cleaner, change of clothes, etc. Tarp that high chair, too. And never react, just silently remove him from his filth zone and give him a bath, betraying neither disgust nor amusement.

This too shall pass. It’s just super annoying right now. Pledge to tell this story to every date he brings home for the rest of his life, it’ll help cheer you up.

Dear Care and Feeding,

We’re getting ready to take our 4-year-old and 10-month-old on a trip. Any tips on sharing a room when kids have different sleep schedules?

—Two Double Beds, Nonscreaming

Dear TDBN,

Well, yes, it’s a hellscape, essentially. It’s going to go badly. Travel will already upend everything even without shared accommodations: The rooms will be too light or too dark, time zones will change, days will be busier. Even the water is different! And the baby will notice it.

If you have two rooms, I would stick the 4-year-old in bed with you and give the little one their own room. If you just have the one room, well … everyone will probably get some sleep eventually. You know your kids best, so if one of them is a more reliably quiet going-to-sleeper, put the challenging one down first, and once they’re out, you can move in the other kid.

I know this sounds a little dire, but the important thing is that they will transition back to their usual schedules within a week of returning to their routines at home. Sometimes just knowing that, while sleep will be challenging, it won’t permanently derail your hard work is enough to get through. Good luck!

More Care and Feeding:

My 15-Year-Old Is Totally Unmotivated. How Do I Get Him to Care?

My Daughter Prefers Me to Her Dad. I Don’t Blame Her!

My Nail-Biting Kid Won’t Get Her Fingers Out of Her Mouth!

Dear Care and Feeding,

My 3½-year-old is deliberately doing “baby talk.” She is in fact capable of speaking in a clear, toddler-level voice, and even uses pretty advanced words at times. I have repeatedly asked her to “use your big kid voice” because “I love your big voice,” and this seems to make no difference. I get frustrated and embarrassed when she does this, so she may be looking for a reaction. However, ignoring it seems not to help either. We also have a 10-year-old who also went through a similar phase, but he outgrew it after we pointed it out to him. It must be me doing something if both my kids had the same issue. But what is it?

—Goo Goo Ga Ga

Dear Goo,

This is pretty common for small kids, regardless of your parenting. I recommend you do the same thing that works so well for whining: Explain that adult ears simply cannot hear words spoken at that frequency, especially now at your advanced age, and proceed to pretend you’re not getting it. Really chew the scenery: tilt your head, look quizzical, pull your earlobe … and when she adjusts her voice to age-appropriate standards, smile beatifically and immediately attempt to sort out whatever she’s asking.

I prefer this method to ignoring, because it has the benefit of withholding something she wants—your attention or assistance—but is also fun for you. Why should parenting never be fun for you? Channel your community theater soul!

Dear Care and Feeding,

My 5-year-old daughter is hellbent on taking horseback-riding lessons. My husband is terrified she’ll get hurt if she’s thrown off, as horses can spook and be unpredictable. My best friend also feels it is too dangerous. I spoke to the manager at the place where she would take lessons, and it seems like they take all necessary precautions: Beginner riders ride on larger, calmer horses, they wear riding helmets, etc. I want her to try it as I don’t want to stifle any of her passions, but of course I’ll never stop blaming myself if, God forbid, something happens.

What should I do?

—Of Course, It’s a Horse

Dear Of Course,

Ah, you stand at the crossroads of a great journey. To choose one path is to say, “No, it’s expensive and dangerous, you are doing ballet instead and you are NOT to develop a related eating disorder, do you hear me?” To choose the other is to run the terrible risk of raising a Horse Girl. Now, at least 40 percent of little girls who spend an hour futzing around on the back of a nearly dead nag once a week get bored real fast, especially if they are barely allowed to trot. That’s great, you’re rooting for that. If, however, the seed is planted, you will spend every cent you have and will spend numerous hours in the ER after she upgrades to, God forbid, jumping.

How do you know, Nicole? I know because I was a Horse Girl. I still have to pay for the upkeep of an expensive and fragile and dangerous horse myself, due to a nearly fatal case of Horse Girl caused by one single trail ride as a small child, and in the words of Tim Meadows in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story: You don’t want no part of this shit.

Good luck with ballet.

—Nicole