Care and Feeding

My Son’s Baseball Coaches Are a Little Too Intense

How do I get them to dial it down with this team of 9-year-olds?

Photo illustration of a coach.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo EHStock/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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

Dear Care and Feeding,

I’m looking for some different perspectives on whether to talk to my kids’ baseball coach about the things I’m hearing from the sidelines.

Let me start by saying that I really appreciate how much energy and work these volunteers put into our kids’ team. There are four parent coaches for a team of 9- to 10-year-olds. What I’m concerned about is the really intense coaching from the sidelines by the coaches. Though most of it is positive and constructive, I’m also hearing things like “Keep it simple, stupid” and “Move your asses.” All at top volume, and throughout the entire game!

My kids claim not to be bothered by what they hear, but it feels way too intense to me. Do I talk to the head coach? Do I just talk to my kids? An additional wrinkle: My husband is also an assistant coach but is much more mellow. Should I have him talk to the other coaches?

—Or Just Sit Back and Enjoy the Game

Dear OJSBaEtG,

Oh, boy. Yeah, you call my kid stupid, we’re going to have words. And “stupid” and “asses” are just completely inappropriate things to be yelling at 9- to 10-year-olds. We are not remaking Hoosiers, we’re having a good time with our middle-schoolers. Nor is this a situation where the losing team is to be culled to preserve food resources on a dying dystopian planet.

I would first talk to my kids (it sounds as though you already have), and tell them they should not pay any attention to those words, because the coaches who use them are being overzealous. Kids love being told they can ignore an adult. It’ll go fine. (Make sure you confirm they do listen and comply with noninsulting requests by their coaches.)

Then, I would have your husband email the other coaches. (I firmly believe this is not a cop-out; emailing someone instead of having a big group face-to-face allows people to go through their mad-defensive-explanatory phase on their own time, and gives things time to simmer.) He can just say (accurately) that he has heard from parents that they really don’t want the phrases you have mentioned to be used anymore, and We’re Here to Have Fun, It’s Just a Game, Billy Martin, etc.

Orange slices for all!

Dear Care and Feeding,

We love my daughter’s day care center. The teachers are incredible, the principal is amazing, the classrooms are very diverse, it’s actually affordable (!!!), and it’s five minutes from my and my husband’s offices. Literally the only downside to this place is that it follows the academic year, so we have to find alternate child care for the summer.

We were ecstatic when one of the school’s teachers agreed to watch our daughter in her home this summer. The teacher, I’m going to call her Zoe, is very warm and sweet, and my more reserved 2-year-old really clicks with her. Zoe has a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old, and we were excited about my daughter spending time with kids of different ages. We’re three weeks in, and my daughter is having a blast. She is excited to go to Zoe’s every morning, and is becoming good friends with the 4-year-old.

The problem is screen time. My husband and I allow my daughter very little screen time at home, and the day care center has a policy of no more than 30 minutes of screen time per week. Aside from a handful of family movie nights, a very occasional “OK, you can watch a clip from Moana” potty training incentive, and some screen time during road trips, she has had no screen time at all.

We’re more strict about screen time than any parents I know, which I absolutely realize is related to the privilege we have as a two-parent household with one kid. I get that parents in other situations sometimes need screen time to get things done, and we certainly have our own parenting compromises in other areas. I promise we very rarely (if ever) discuss screen time with other parents. We try very hard not to be sanctimonious about this: It’s important to us, but we try not to be assholes.

In the three weeks our daughter has been at Zoe’s house, she’s watched some TV every day. Once (on a rainy day) it was an entire movie, though more typically it seems to be a couple episodes of a half-hour show. It’s often at the end of the day, just before pickup, and my husband and I both feel like it’s affecting her behavior. It’s often really hard to get her to leave Zoe’s house, because she’s glued to the TV. She seems to be both more emotional and hyperactive when she comes home for the evening, which makes bedtime tougher, too. Plus we just don’t like that she’s getting so much screen time, based on all the research that it’s bad for kids.

Zoe does an amazing job getting the kids outside, and they go on daily adventures around the neighborhood or to nearby parks. They also make crafts together and read. We just found out that Zoe will be our daughter’s classroom teacher in the fall, which we know will make for a great transition back to the center for our daughter. We really like and respect Zoe as a teacher and a mom.

Is there any way to ask Zoe to cut back on the TV (or stop it entirely) without damaging the relationship we have with her, which we know will continue for at least another year? She’s of course letting her own children watch TV with our daughter, which complicates the issue. On one hand I feel like we’re paying for her services, and we have a right to make a request, but on the other I feel like she’s doing a wonderful job overall, and is probably exhausted at the end of the day from her own kids, plus mine, and perhaps this falls into the “raising kids is a series of compromises” category. Most importantly, we feel like we’ve finally found child care we love at the center, and we really, really don’t want to screw that up in any way. Help??

—Don’t Want to Be a Screen Time Sanctimommy

Dear Not a Sanctimommy,

So, were it me, I would let it go, basically. You don’t actually know if it’s the screen time making your daughter more emotional and reactive; after all, she’s now negotiating spending the day with two other kids of very different ages, when she’s not used to having siblings, in a less-structured environment than day care. Summer kids are always a little different from school-year kids, as well.

It’s also just not that much TV. A full movie on a rainy day, a couple of half-hour TV shows before pickup? I think you could very nicely mention to Zoe that you’re trying to limit screen time and ask that it get capped at an hour per day (as mentioned, you are indeed paying her), but I think that Zoe sounds like a really good child care provider who is generally keeping a very respectable balance and getting the kids out and crafting and so on.

I’m leaving it up to you. I think it’s highly unlikely Zoe will be offended if you ask for a reasonable cap on screen time. An hour a day, as mentioned, is reasonable, whereas rainy days are their own creature, and I wouldn’t dream of complaining about an appropriate kid movie to get through one. I also think you could just let it go.

What I would say to Zoe is that it’s really hard to get your daughter to go home if the TV is on at the very end of the day, so you would appreciate it if the last hour of the day is made up of quieter activities. Best of luck!

• If you missed Wednesday’s Care and Feeding column, read it here.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I just recently found out I’m pregnant—hooray!—and am now navigating the information overload that comes with Googling anything to do with pregnancy and birth. I have many questions, but for now, I am having a hard time deciding on a care provider. I know I am interested in the midwifery model of care within a hospital setting, which narrows my options to 1) a midwifery group practice run out of a hospital across town, or 2) a midwife group/OB combo option that’s affiliated with my current primary care doctor’s office.

Option 1 is much farther away from home (45 minutes), so I’d have a significant commute for all my checkups and eventual delivery, but I know a lot of folks who’ve gone here and rave about the practice. Option 2 means I’d have all the checkups at my current doctor’s building literally two minutes from work and would deliver at a hospital only about 25 minutes from home, but I don’t know anyone who’s used the midwives there and don’t love the primary care practice it’s affiliated with—I’d actually been looking to switch PCPs anyway, though that ultimately has nothing to do with the OB-GYN part of the practice.

So I guess I’m weighing convenience vs. reputation? I did look up all the important maternity care stats for each hospital, and visited both, and they are about equal on every front as far as I can tell—the biggest difference is one allows water birth. I am leaning toward Option 1 based on the word of mouth, but am I going to hate schlepping across the city all the time or regret picking a delivery location so far away? I realize these are somewhat unanswerable questions at this early stage, but I’d appreciate advice about how care provider location can and should factor into this decision, the first of many to come for this new human!

—Call the Midwives!

Dear CtM,

Here’s the deal: Right now, you’re gonna be cruising into appointments very sporadically, but as you get bigger and bigger and grumpier and grumpier, they want to see you way more often. Every two weeks. Every week. Find yourself going overdue, you may be hauling your butt 45 minutes away and back every two days.

I’d stick with the two-minutes-away practice, especially considering their stats and outcomes are essentially equal. I think if you take my advice, you will be glad you did, come Week 38.

Congratulations, and good luck!

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Dear Care and Feeding,

We live in a close-knit townhouse community, share a garage with our immediate neighbor, and generally get along and enjoy our neighbors. But I’ve had a growing issue with the way a 16-year-old neighbor interacts and seeks out my 5-year-old daughter.

At first it was asking about her school day type of small talk, but now he tries to tickle her every time he sees her, almost aggressively, and follows her until I wedge myself in between and say it’s time to go. I have had to tell him to move away from the car passenger door so I could get her out because he was standing so close, to stop tickling her when she was walking up stairs and eating. If he sees she is not with us, he generally responds, “Oh, she’s not with you? OK, have a nice day.” We have taught our daughter clear boundaries since she could talk and that any touch she doesn’t like is unwelcome and she should loudly say to stop.

But she loves all of our neighbors and the attention! I’m completely uncomfortable with the way he seems to stalk her when she is present. I’m at odds on how to respond without ruining the good relationship we have with the family otherwise. I’ve been subtle and asked him to stop when it was a safety concern, and asked her in front of him if she wanted to be tickled. How do I address this? I don’t think he is aware of how creepy and icky it appears. Do I talk to the kid and explain it isn’t appropriate for him to follow her and touch her without asking? Do I talk to his mom? She is super sweet and also loves my daughter, but at a more appropriate level.

Making it even more difficult to act: There may be a difference of cultures, as they are first-generation immigrants, and there have been communication barriers before. Also, the son appears to severely lack social skills (making me think he might be on the spectrum). I definitely need to address this before I act out of anger and scare the kid permanently and ruin our relationship with the neighbors.

—Super Uncomfortable

Dear Super Uncomfortable,

I don’t love this. I think it’s inappropriate, physical, and escalating. I think your best bet is to be even clearer, at a time your child is not present, and ideally when his mother is present. You should say that you do not want him to physically touch your child, ever, and that you’re fine with waving hello, but that he cannot hang out by your car or wait for her when he knows she’s coming home, because these are the boundaries you wish to have for your child.

I wish this was an easy conversation! You may indeed ruin the relationship you have with your neighbors. He may be neuroatypical; he may have no ill intentions whatsoever toward your child. But I don’t think she should ever be unattended outside your half of the townhouse (you know this already), and “You are not allowed to touch our daughter or follow her, it makes us uncomfortable and is inappropriate” is the sort of clarity that can really benefit someone who won’t pick up on the hints and nudges and body language that you have been trying so far.

I’m sorry. This sucks. As you clearly understand, it’s better to be uncomfortable than to let this situation continue to build.


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