Care and Feeding

How Can I Tell My Mom My Daughter Can’t Visit Her?

Our child was seriously injured in an accident at my mom’s house. Now my partner doesn’t want her back there. What do I do?

Confused grandmother.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Thinkstock.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Email careandfeeding@slate.com or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

We are experiencing a bit of a bedtime crisis. Our 3- and 5-year-olds share a room. We have a bedtime routine of teethbrushing, picking out books, reading, and then lights out. Our trouble lately is that our kids won’t then just stay in their beds and go to sleep! They either turn the lights back on and wreak havoc or run out of the bedroom giggling. They don’t take naps, and we’ve tried waking them up earlier in the morning. We also limit their sugar intake, especially in the afternoons. Somehow they are just never tired, even when we’ve had a long day of outings. Help!

—Make Them Stop

Dear MTS,

I am delighted to pass on a very good piece of advice I got from Bryan Caplan’s Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, which I have put into action with excellent results. His twins were prone to chatting and playing for hours after lights out, and he was constantly seeing and hearing them on the monitor, going in, breaking it up, making baleful threats, etc. What worked for him was turning off the monitor and assuming everything was fine.

Keep them in their room—what a delightful number of mechanical options there are for that, from Iron Maidens to a propped chair under a doorknob, which you can remove before you go to bed and decide that what happens in there (barring the sound of breaking glass or blood seeping out from under the door) is probably fine. They’re not showing signs of sleepiness during the day; they just have a lot of energy. You can find a way to keep the lights from being turned back on (KILL THE BREAKER) and soon enough things will start to seem less worth being awake for.

My other piece of advice is that if you have any alternative to a 3- and 5-year-old sharing a room and a bedtime, explore it. Could the little one go to bed, alone, an hour or so before their sibling? They’d be fairly likely to conk out from boredom before the 5-year-old pilots in. You may find, in general, that this bedtime is just too early for one or both of them at this point in their development.

Set them up for success by re-examining your schedule, and when in doubt, tune them out.

More Care and Feeding:

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Dear Care and Feeding,

Three years ago, our then–2-year-old daughter was in an accident while visiting my family for the first time without us, which resulted in her losing two fingers. Her father and I went through a very rough patch as a couple due to the fact that he was against her going in the first place, but we got through it. Fast forward to now: My mom, who moved out of state recently, is coming to visit relatives back home and asked if our daughter could come to visit while she is here. Due to a scheduling conflict, neither of us would be able to go with our daughter.

My mom has asked several times since the accident, but I’ve always gently shut her down out of respect for my partner, because he still feels the same as he did three years ago. I feel terrible, but she hasn’t really gotten the hint that it’s a contentious issue and she just keeps asking. I am now at a place where I am reasonably comfortable with our daughter visiting without us being there, but he is not, and it is causing conflict. What should I do? My stress level is really high because I want to please both of them but I don’t think I can.

—What Can I Do?

Dear WCID,

This is awful, I’m so sorry! What a terrible accident, and what a difficult situation. I think your partner is perfectly within his ancestral parenting rights to insist on his “one no” vetoing unsupervised trips to your family, and that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.* She’s still young enough to need a lot of supervision and oversight, and you can rehash again in a few years.

You need to be honest with your mother. I’m surprised that she hasn’t yet figured out why she can’t have your daughter back without one of her parents tagging along. I’d like to see you have a firm talk about how the two of you would rather not have her visit solo until she’s “at least a few years older.” You can pair this with an invitation for her to come out for a week or with a suggestion that you and your daughter fly out at her soonest convenience. The emphasis here can be on what WILL work, not what won’t. Please be careful not to cast your husband as the bad guy here: This is a time when a couple needs to vote as a bloc.

If your mother pushes and pushes and asks but why can’t she come solo (even after being told “because that’s what works for our family” at least three straight times), that’s when you can tell her the truth. She’ll be upset! She’ll probably cry. It’s going to be unpleasant. Life sucks.

The situation you really don’t want is one where it sounds like you prize your mother’s feelings over your husband’s genuine discomfort for a safety issue involving his own child.

Dear Care and Feeding,

I’m currently pregnant with our third, and we know we don’t want any more. I don’t want to do hormonal birth control, and, as I have to have a C-section, I’m researching and seriously considering tubal ligation.

My husband, who has an extremely physical and demanding job, is not willing to have a vasectomy. The recovery period for him would be extremely hard to negotiate with that job, and also, well, he just doesn’t want to.

This seems mildly unfair to me, since I’ve given birth three times and would like to stop being the person taking all the hits for our reproductive agenda. What do you think?

—The Baby Factory Is Closing

Dear TBFIC,

Congratulations on being ready to move on to the next (usually quieter) phase of your lives!

I think you have a couple of different options. I personally do not believe that one of them should be pressuring anyone else to have a surgery on their junk that they don’t want to have, even if their reasons sound arbitrary or silly (not that your husband’s are, although most vasectomy patients really only need a few days on the couch with a bag of frozen peas).

Many women are very ready to be like (gleeful voice) “OK, it’s your turn now, my guy” after you’re done building your family, which is entirely reasonable. It seems more than fair for your partner to take on the responsibility for birth control from here on out. It doesn’t seem fair to dictate that surgery is the way to go.

I must admit that if I were having a C-section and wanted a permanent form of birth control, I would absolutely go ahead and have them tie my tubes once they’re in my body up to their elbows anyway, but you may disagree.

So, condoms. Is your husband open to consistently and uncomplainingly wearing condoms from here on out? If he is, fantastic. It’s a reliable and noninvasive solution that lets him shoulder the responsibility for contraception while also respecting his bodily autonomy. If he isn’t, and his solution continues to be “You take care of this,” he’s being a bit of a dick and you should go into goal-based counseling to resolve this issue.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My daughter-law is lovely, but extremely “progressive,” and refuses to dress her twin girl toddlers in matching outfits, ever. I purchased (and sewed!) numerous very sweet pairs of dresses and rompers in anticipation of their birth and toddlerhood, and it’s been extremely deflating to never get to see them both in the same outfit at the same time. I’m not going to interfere or complain, but am I right to be disappointed?

—Two Peas in a Pod

Dear TPiaP,

You can be disappointed by anything you like! It’s one of the great things about being an autonomous human being.

The twins I know as adults recommend not dressing twins in identical outfits, as part of the general goal of raising them as separate and unique human beings. This seems correct to me, but I also think that until they’re old enough to form memories, parents can absolutely dress them like the little girls from The Shining all they like. Unfortunately for you, your “progressive” daughter-in-law doesn’t want to do this. Take comfort from the fact that your granddaughters are still wearing your beautiful clothes, just not at the same time. I don’t think you’d be overstepping to request a once-yearly photo opportunity in matching outfits as long as you’re prepared to hear an unqualified “No” and accept it as such.

If you would like to use your skills to identically dress my three children like the Von Trapp Family Singers, they are currently 6, 3, and 1.

—Nicole

Update, Aug. 24, 2018: The labeling of the relationship of a letter writer to the father of her child was changed for consistency.