Care and Feeding

Sipping With the Enemy

I’m a no-soda mom at home. When my kid visits friends, can I demand other parents respect my ban?

A young girl drinks directly out of a two-liter bottle of probably soda. Her no-soda mom is nowhere to be found.
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,

Through a combination of a grandparent gift and cutting cable and some financial aid, my oldest daughter has started going to a private school (I know this sounds like Gilmore Girls but it’s honestly real) and most of the culture shock has been reasonable, EXCEPT… these stupid, stupid slippers. The school has a uniform, obviously, but apparently in their downtime and at their parties and hangouts, everyone wears these ridiculous $500 slippers, and my daughter feels like a sore thumb. She’s a really good kid—she hasn’t even asked for them—but it’s just clear this is adding some stress to her whole transition into her new school.

Should we try to buy them? A pair for Christmas? Or not? Am I crazy for even thinking about this?

—SLIPPERS, WHY

Dear SW,

Five! Hundred! Dollar! Slippers! For! A! Child!

I have two answers! One is that you can actually get these slippers (barely touched) from a variety of online consignment sites for a fraction of the price (I just checked and there are dozens at $95, still silly), because the sticker shock and related regret comes to everyone in time. So if (and it’s a big if!) your daughter still desperately wanted them come Christmas and has not developed a more jaded impression of the acquisitiveness of her peers, spring for a single used pair.

My second answer is that there will always be a pointless marker of wealth your daughter will not be able to possess, and that’s OK because it’s pretty much universally nonsense. I grew up getting my clothes from donation bags, and I am not going to attempt to claim it built character (I am not overfilled with character), but it did help give me a gimlet eye for signaling bullshit.

What was this item in your youth, or your partner’s youth? Mine was mini-backpacks and name-brand sneakers! My husband’s parents couldn’t get him Levi’s. Ask your parents! I bet they still remember. It goes all the way back to Amy March not being able to buy pickled limes!

You have a good kid. Have a talk about this as a rite of passage, and I guarantee when she’s 40 she’s going to be like, remember when those dumbass affluenza teens had $500 slippers? and chuckle happily and wryly.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My fourth-grade daughter is going on a class field trip next week. She takes melatonin to help her get to sleep (she has ADHD, and it’s approved by her doctor), and I filled out all the permission forms saying I’d send the melatonin along for the camp nurse to give to her before bedtime. My child has asked if I can NOT send the melatonin because she doesn’t want to have to leave her classmates in the evening and be seen as “different.” I think she’ll be worn out enough from camp activities to sleep OK without the melatonin, but I’m hesitant to cave on this just because she doesn’t want to be That Kid Who Has Meds (when I’m pretty sure a lot of other kids have meds, too). So should I send her meds or no?

—Fitting In Is Hard to Do

Dear FIIHtD,

Thank you for being so thoughtful! In your place, I would send the melatonin and tell the camp nurse that your daughter will report to her for it if she feels she needs it (if this messes with their red tape, so be it). This gives her the chance to see how she does the first night or two and make her own call if the exhaustion of running around all day at camp is enough to do the trick.

As it happens, I think she’ll find that she is not even remotely the only kid at camp On Meds in the year of our Lord two-thousand-and-eighteen. You’re going to have insulin, you’re going to have Benadryl, you’re going to have albuterol, you’re going to have Concerta! I don’t think your daughter will feel odd at all, two days in, to be making a quick trip to the school nurse.

If the camp doesn’t want to dispense on an as-needs basis, then I would send the melatonin and explain that lots of her peers have their own meds and not to worry about it.

I hope she has a great time!

Dear Care and Feeding,

I am the no-soda mom (diet or not, it’s all terrible for you.) I have been holding firm on this since our oldest was born. My husband has always thought I’m ridiculous, but it hasn’t come up a lot until recently, when my daughter came back from a play date with a ring of orange around her mouth (it was Orange Crush). I immediately called the hosting parents and told them, in no uncertain terms, that my children were not to be given soda, ever, and that I’d appreciate a call next time before offering them a questionable food product.

My husband thinks I sounded crazy and like a jerk, but I’m a dental hygienist and the science is on my side, and this is really important to me. Is a soda ban really so beyond the pale? Will I be seen as THAT mom?

—Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead?

Dear DDtWID,

I grew up in a “you can have half a can of Mountain Dew once a year” family (keep in mind that in Canada, Mountain Dew was actually caffeine-free at that point in history), and I am now rarely without a Coke Zero in my hand. Which is apropos of nothing in particular, but just to say that I believe I can empathize with your daughter’s lust for carbonated freedom. I also do not let my kids have soda at home, so I can get where you’re coming from as well.

At home! Lady, I truly do understanding your reasoning, but (gestures outward) the world is the world. If you do not trust other parents to basically have your child’s best interests at heart, don’t let them play there. Would I feel differently if your child had an allergy or diabetes or some other medical condition? I would. But this is an individual parenting call, and those grind to a halt at someone else’s house (see also: playing video games, water guns, only getting ONE cookie, whether or not you can watch the Disney Channel, etc.).

You’ve probably already burned the bridge with this particular set of parents—please, please do apologize and bring them some muffins and tell them you had to watch your boss yank 12 teeth out of a fourth-grader or something that day and were on edge. Going forward, you can possibly mention upfront that you’d rather your kid didn’t drink soda, but I’m inclined to advise you to just make your peace with what you don’t know.

What I CAN tell you is that, even in 2018, soda is not such a universally hot-button topic that you can expect other parents to call you to ask permission for it. That’s unreasonable, and you’ll wind up in a lot of fights over it.

Dear Care and Feeding,

Should I make my kid practice the piano? He’s been angling to quit lessons for a year.

—Pulling Teeth

Dear PT,

No. I wish everyone could experience the sweet, electric joy of letting their kid quit something they hate that you also hate paying for and driving them to! It’s like a thousand orgasms.

Pick him up early from school, tell him the good news, and stop for ice cream on the way home. It’s been a YEAR.

—Nicole