Dear Care and Feeding,
I have a strange, not-really-a-problem problem. I had my daughter three months ago. I’ve always been tall and thin, and I had a 9-pound baby. I got back to my normal weight almost immediately, just due to good genes I guess. My issue is that women—co-workers, family, people on the street—are pretty mad at me. My co-worker this morning upon seeing me for the first time since returning to work said, “I hate you.” I know this is all meant as a compliment, but I’m really at a loss as to what to say. My mom died while I was pregnant so sometimes I’ve been saying it’s a gift from her (she was always naturally thin). I hate that I’m getting caught up in this scrutiny of women’s bodies and making people feel bad. Any advice?
—Please Shut Up
What a gift it would be if we could keep our mouths shut about changes in the bodies of others, unless they say, “Yes, I am indeed pregnant!” or “I have cancer; that’s why I’m so thin!”
It’s not a compliment. It’s also not about you. It’s about them, or rather the entirety of female lives and the media and all that jazz. My recommendation is to change the subject immediately, with a tight smile. You are not “making people feel bad” by possessing a human body.
Dear Care and Feeding,
Last year my wife and I eloped, and it was amazing. We did this partially to keep the celebration small, and mostly because my wife’s family is incredibly devoutly Catholic. When they expressed dismay we weren’t getting married in the church, we instantly decided to elope—my children and I practice an Eastern religion, and my wife stopped going to Mass when she was a teen and is now somewhere between atheist and agnostic.
We were relieved when they weren’t terribly upset at us for eloping, and when they asked if they could throw us a party, we were happy to acquiesce. But now as the party gets closer, I realize: They’re going to ask us to come to Mass with them.
They’ve never pressed the issue when coming to visit us, but they’ve asked us to attend every time we’ve visited them, and I’ve responded with a cheerful “No thanks!” But my kids weren’t with us those times—they were always with my ex.
I know they’re going to want to show off their new grandchildren. My kids (11 and 14) know the basics about Christianity and aren’t particularly impressed by it. Do I leave the decision up to them, or is it a cop-out because they may want to please their new grandparents?
Twist: I was devoutly Christian for most of my life and lost my faith for a long time, before converting to another religion entirely. I strongly disagree with the Catholic Church’s handling of abuse and could never conscience supporting them in any way—but my wife’s parents don’t like to discuss anything “controversial.”
Dear Bewildered Buddhist,
This is such a common query, and I myself faced a similar situation: I have major issues with the church’s leadership and manifold sins (which, unfortunately, occur in almost any large organization where power over the vulnerable exist) but also wanted to give my Catholic mother the gift of showing off her new grandchildren to the rural congregation that her family has belonged to for more than 100 years.
My solution, and possibly yours, is to boycott the basket. Your children can go and receive a blessing from the priest or remain quietly sitting in the pew. And then when the basket for contributions gets to you, just pass it down the aisle. If anything, you’ve gotten something for free! You’ve pulled off a heist.
I do think this would mean a lot to your parents, but I also want it not to be stomach-churning for you. So, if you find that boycotting the basket doesn’t cut the mustard, don’t go. As for your children: They are plenty old enough for you to make this decision with them and not for them. Show them this letter and my answer and have a serious talk.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
I have a 3-year-old boy who is a happy, easygoing kid. My husband and I are generally on the same page about most parenting decisions (or we can find a compromise), but we disagree on one very random topic. Once or twice a week, our son pretends to be a puppy—he crawls on the floor, barks, and asks us to throw toys for him to “fetch.” Like all toddlers, he usually gets bored and moves on to the next game in five minutes. For whatever reason, my husband can’t stand this, and he immediately tells him that he’s a boy, not a puppy, and to stop it. I think pretending to be a puppy is completely normal and not any different than when he pretends to be a scientist or a superhero (when my husband is happy to play along).
My husband acknowledges that he’s being irrational but says that because he feels strongly about it, I should back him up. He points out that he has backed me up on having a “no toy guns” policy because I feel very strongly about it, even though he thinks toy guns are fine. I understand what he’s saying (even though I think “no toy guns” is a pretty normal and rational parenting stance in 2019, while “no pretend dogs” is not). I don’t engage enthusiastically when our son morphs into canine mode, but I’m also not comfortable yelling at him to stop when I think he’s just doing a normal kid thing. On the other hand, we do loads of other pretend play, and I’m pretty sure that backing my husband on this isn’t going to cause irreparable damage, so maybe I should just let him have this one. What say you?
Dear Rover’s Mom,
There is zero connection between pretending to be a dog and pretending to shoot a gun! If your husband can’t pretend his 3-year-old son is a puppy for less than five minutes, he’s being a tool. Once or twice a week!
It will be confusing and weird for your son to have an already-cherished, phase-based activity taken away from him, as opposed to toy guns, which are something he doesn’t have and simply will not have access to.
Stand your ground on this one. But also sound your husband out on why this bothers him quite so much. It may also be that the toy gun ban upsets him more than he has let on. Try to really listen to him.
Dear Care and Feeding,
I babysit for a 6-year-old only child on a semiregular basis. When she goes to bed, she listens to these absolutely inane lullabies that genuinely give me a headache. In talking to her parents, I’ve found out that they also find these songs annoying. She also is unable to fall asleep without someone in the bed with her and gets frustrated if I don’t want to get under the covers. I have managed to wean her off this latter need and been able to just sit in the room with her as she falls asleep, but she still gets mad at me for doing so. As a sleep-deprived teenager, lying down in bed risks me falling asleep within minutes, and the combination of both frustrations makes me more annoyed than I want to be very quickly. I know this is low stakes, but any advice? We’re (two blocks away) neighbors, and I like both the parents and the kid when it’s not bedtime.
—No More Lullabies
I would just suck it up. Put on headphones and play your own music while you get under the covers as per her request. It should keep you awake and free of “Baby Shark” or whatever monstrosity she’s listening to.
In the words of Don Draper: “That’s what the money is for!”
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