Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Email email@example.com or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.
Dear Care and Feeding,
My 13-year-old daughter came out to me as “queer.” She said she’s not sure what her sexuality is but she has a crush on a girl, so she doesn’t think she is totally straight. I thanked her for telling me, told her I supported her in her self-discovery, and asked her to tell me all about this girl (in a fun, playful way I would ask any teenager to tell me about any crush).
Now, about me. I am a bisexual woman who, like many bisexual women, is married to a man. I have dated both men and women and have had boyfriends and girlfriends alike. Even now, I continue to enjoy sexual encounters with women with my husband’s enthusiastic consent.
Should I come out to my daughter as bi? Is telling her a supportive thing for a queer adult to share with a queer teen?
Go right ahead and tell her! Take her out for ice cream and tell her about your past boyfriends and girlfriends and your status as a queer adult. I would hold off on “even now I continue to enjoy sexual encounters with women with my husband’s enthusiastic consent” until she’s older, however. That’s varsity-level information, and your daughter is still on the JV squad. That’s one to tackle when she is old enough to drink.
Dear Care and Feeding,
My husband and I are expecting our second child next month and we’re still arguing about the name of our first one.
I kept my maiden name (not for professional reasons, I am baffled why more women don’t do it, it’s something I was born with, why don’t I just change my eye color why I’m at it?!) and expected to endow one of two kids with my last name.
Our first was a girl, and I basically let my husband pick all three names. I was never super excited about any of the names individually, but I did like how they sounded together, and I made clear that I’d be picking the entire name of the next child. I’d be happy except for the fact I’m having a boy, and my husband expects this kid to have his last name too!
I was initially pretty blasé about a boy having my last name so I tentatively agreed years ago that any boys could have his name. He tentatively agreed the second girl could have my last name. I’m now regretting it, and I’m sad neither of the people my body did the lion’s share of creating will share a name with me.
Further complicating the matter is our family situation. He is totally estranged from his parents; I should honestly probably be totally estranged from mine but try to keep cordial, if distant, relationships with them. Also, ha ha, it also turns out I’m probably not supposed to have the last name I have: I found out through DNA testing and genealogical research my paternal grandfather was most likely not his father’s biological child. So my attachment to my last name baffles my WASP-y, came-over-on-the-Mayflower husband, but I’ve had it for 35 years now and I like it. Needless to say, our advocacy for each of our names doesn’t really spring from ancestral pride or family tradition.
Do you have any ideas on a good compromise? I’m vaguely considering changing my daughter’s last name before she starts school (the idea of which makes his face all scrunchy and sad) but honestly, it seems kind of mean to change the name of the kid he’s already bonded with. I really hate the sound of my last name and the first name I’ve picked for my son, which I’ve chosen for highly fruity and sentimental reasons, so I’m reluctant to let it go.
I’m also cognizant of the fact that my kids will be their own people too, and any number of life circumstances will render this all moot and they may choose to eventually go by names that have nothing to do with the ones given to them at birth. In the meantime, however, please help!
—What’s in a Name?
This is a MESS. This is a big ol’ communication mess. This is a time-to-go-to-marriage-counseling mess. I myself kept my surname, and my kids have my surname as their (non-hyphenated) middle name, followed by my husband’s surname, but it sounds as though that’s not a compromise that works for you, and, of course, the deed is done (for your daughter).
If you want your son to have your last name, give him your last name, but I think changing your daughter’s at this point is a bit of a no-go.
The hardest issues to solve are those where we are a) deeply emotional and b) completely unclear on why we are so emotional.
I always feel like I’m copping out when I say “marriage counseling!” but I do think it’s your best chance for feeling accepted and understood and seen, regardless of outcome, in this scenario.
Also, please email me the first and last name of your soon-to-be son and I will tell you very honestly if it is goofy or not. If it is, I know you’re attached to it, but maybe tap your husband in to find one that suits your surname a little better.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
I’m 25 and I live on my own (no partner or kids right now). Increasingly, my friends and loved ones are starting to have kids, which is great. I am thrilled for them, love their babies, and want to continue my close relationships with these parents and be a source of support for their families. To that end, I would really like to make my home more kid-friendly and child-safe so that I can have the whole family over from time to time with minimal stress. However, since I don’t have kids myself, I’m not really sure where to begin. I need to anchor my tall bookshelves to the wall, for sure. I’d like to collect a handful of books, games, puzzles, etc. for various younger ages. My electrical sockets are already child-safe. Are there things I should be considering more before inviting folks over? Things I should keep on hand?
—Baby-Proofing for Dummies
You are already doing SO WELL, holy cow. You’re in the 99th percentile of hosts without children who welcome children into your home!!
Definitely do anchor those shelves, it’s good for everyone, but if you’ve protected your outlets and moved your breakables to a safe location, much less started gathering a collection of child-friendly toys, you’re freaking crushing it. I want to be your friend!
Apart from the anchoring, all I can say is to look up the developmental milestones that your friends’ kids are currently (ideally) hitting, so you know going in if a visiting child is likely to be a walking child, a crawling child, an eating-leaves child, a talking child, etc. Your friends will be thrilled you’re paying attention, and it will help you plan fun times for all.
Well done, you!
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Dear Care and Feeding,
I wanted to write in to say how much I appreciated your advice to “Do I Tell Her?”—who asked if she should talk to her 8-year-old about her dyslexia diagnosis. I have had hearing loss since birth. My mother did a great job of making sure I knew that, and of both advocating for me and helping me find ways to advocate for myself.
The details of all of that are unimportant for the sake of this letter, but having that honesty and transparency was absolutely instrumental in me being able to say, as a young person, whether or not a situation was working for me. And now that I am an adult with a small child, my wife and I are practicing those same conversations with her and with each other.
Anyways, it was really good advice and I’m glad you gave it. More generally, I’m thankful for this column. There are always ways for all of us to be just a little more consistent in practicing love, compassion, curiosity, exploration, and appropriate boundaries.
I know this is not a question, it’s more a letter saying how great I am, so answering it is cheating, but I got so many delightful emails from people with various disabilities and differences writing in to reinforce the power and autonomy they felt as children because their parents were transparent with them in age-appropriate ways. I also got a lot of emails from people whose parents made the opposite choice, and as a result, spent wasted years thinking they just couldn’t hack it at the work of being alive. So, let’s really underline this one: It’s important as heck. It means so much. You can do it. And if you feel really weird about doing it, it’s likely because you yourself are still struggling with the idea of your kid’s disability (this is not a criticism; it’s a journey) and you might benefit from talking to someone about it.
Thanks so much for writing in.
More advice from Slate
Q. Secretly a mom: Nearly two months ago, I met a guy on Tinder, expecting nothing more than a casual hookup. However, we ended up clicking really well and have gone on a lot of real dates since then. I think I’m falling in love with him (and vice versa), and we are exclusive. There’s just one little problem: I never told him I have a kid. I’ve just never found the right moment. How do I get out of this mess?