Dear Care and Feeding,
My younger sister just had her first child. She and her husband did not find out the sex of the baby prior. I have two girls, and my older brother has one girl. Upon receiving the group text from my brother-in-law that they had a healthy baby boy, my mother immediately texted back that she was hoping for a boy. That hurt. Are her three granddaughters not good enough?
My husband—who was really hoping we’d have a boy, but is still smitten with our two girls—is really upset about the comment. I’m not sure how my brother or his wife took the comment. My sister is already the favorite with my parents, and my husband is convinced that she will now get even more favoritism. We have plans to visit my parents later this summer (we live across the country from my sister and parents), and now my husband no longer wants to go. My husband and I are both excited and very happy for my sister and brother-in-law, but this is just one more thing my mom has said to take an apparent dig at us. I guess my question is, would it be inappropriate to call my mom out on this inappropriate comment? How would I go about doing that?
—Just Not Good Enough
I wouldn’t say a word about it, but if I did, it would be a call and certainly not a “call out.” Why start a family squabble at a joyous time because your mother, in a moment of excitement, said something echoing your husband’s own wishes for your own child?
If the issue here is favoritism, address that when it happens. I understand your husband’s feelings, but I do not think the solution is to become further estranged over something so small. When you say “This is just one more thing my mom has said,” I think that bears a lot of weight here. When she says things that are actually clear digs, address them in the moment. You’re building up too much resentment, and it’s spilling over into benign interactions.
Dear Care and Feeding,
My dear friend and her husband were 36 weeks pregnant when she suffered a health crisis, and their beautiful child was stillborn. I want to support and comfort them in their grief, but I feel woefully inadequate to do so. My father died some years ago, and she was an amazing support to me. I’ll never forget when she shared some of her memories of my dad with me—it was so comforting. I know how much that meant to me while I was grieving and I want to offer that to her and her husband, but how does one do that when a child who was so loved but never had a chance to draw a breath in this world?
This has been profoundly painful and traumatic for them. I hope they seek out counseling in some form, but would I be overstepping to encourage that? After my father died I sought out grief counseling—is it intrusive to relate my own experience and gently suggest that there are resources available to help them process the grief and loss? They are both well-educated and financially stable, so access would not be an issue, but I don’t want to risk offending them after they have been through something so horrifying.
How does one offer comfort for such a cruel loss?
—Loss for Words
Dear Loss for Words,
What a horrible, horrible loss. What I hear most frequently from the bereaved (whether they have suffered a miscarriage, a stillbirth, a loss of a child, a sibling, a spouse, or an elderly partner) is that the hardest times come after other people forget. When the world seems to have spun past them and they’re still in the tar of grief.
So support them however you can now, but also make some calendar reminders to call a month out, six weeks out, two months out (remember the anniversary, always, as well as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day), and just ask how they are doing and listen to what they say. What they say will answer your question about suggesting grief counseling. You’ll know if that’s a conversation they’re open to.
I’m so terribly, terribly sorry for all involved.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
I have one of those questions that is equal parts “What do I do?” and “Am I an awful person for asking this?”
My daughter goes to school and dance class with a boy who hugs people a lot. Both are 9 years old and going into fourth grade. It’s not just that he hugs people, but with kids in particular, he kind of jumps on them and excitedly yells in their face. With adults, his hugs are more gentle, but I for one still find it uncomfortable to have to hug a kid I barely know.
I am the only one who has addressed this issue with him because my daughter really dislikes it. When my daughter tells him to stop, it’s like he doesn’t even hear her. So I have stepped in directly a couple of times and said he needs to ask to hug, that my daughter does not want to be hugged, that he needs to listen to her saying no, etc. He will usually give a cute little apology (the equivalent of, “Oops, did I do that?”)—to me, not my daughter—and then go right back to bombarding her with a hug the next time he sees her.
I am confused as to why other parents are not reiterating my message. This boy’s parents seem to find his hugging sweet and adorable. The other parents at dance accept his hugs and comment to his parents about how sweet he is. Perhaps none of the other children have a problem with the hugging, but I find that unlikely because many of them do not reciprocate, and a couple of them are loud and direct enough with him that they effectively fend him off without need for adult intervention. (I do encourage my daughter to be louder and more direct, but I don’t want her to think she is responsible for his behavior.)
I’m wondering if I should do more, but I feel a little nuts, like I am the only parent who has a problem with this. I feel like I might be both nuts and a bad person because I really don’t want to hug this kid myself anymore. I think it undermines what my own daughter is telling me about her discomfort and it doesn’t give this kid a good message about the importance of boundaries—other people’s or his own. Plus, I just don’t want to. Am I reading too much into this? Am I insensitive and unfeeling? And would you answer my question differently if you knew that this kid is more than a little hyperactive and socially immature, and possibly has some developmental disabilities (he has a very pronounced speech impediment and walks with a noticeable limp)? Am I awful?
—Unfeeling, P.C. Mother?
I think that the other parents and their children are not made uncomfortable by the (pretty harmless) hugging enthusiasm of a kid with some social issues and some disabilities, which is absolutely their prerogative. Your daughter is made uncomfortable, reasonably enough, and you can certainly prioritize that.
Tell the dance teacher that you would like some backup when your daughter explicitly states she doesn’t want those hugs, and if it continues, have a talk with the young lad’s parents. But certainly, stop looking to the other parents for something you won’t find. You should be placing your energies on making sure your daughter doesn’t continue having interactions with him that upset her.
I wish you the best.
Dear Care and Feeding,
Please help me navigate toddler social dynamics. When my 2 ½-year-old has a play date with a specific friend, it often devolves into a lot of crying, adult mediating, and occasionally hitting (the toddlers hitting each other, clearly), most often due to having a hard time sharing. My toddler in particular is not much of a toy snatcher, but feels very wronged when a toy is snatched from him, and this friend tends to want whatever is in another kid’s hands. Not all of my kid’s friend’s parents encourage taking turns, or not grabbing, by anything more than a “Hey my kid, play nice and share!” Which typically doesn’t result in much.
I don’t want to be too involved or helicoptery, but also these types of play dates are stressful all around. And after he’s had enough, my kid will be the one to hit the other. Hitting is obviously not OK, and so that results in separating the kids or ending the play date.
OK, so I realize though writing this that I would prefer if the other parent did more to stop their kid from snatching toys and help them share. But since we all have our own parenting style, can you help me find ways to either step in or step out of these dynamics in a helpful way? I know this is all age-appropriate stuff, but I have a very sensitive kid, and I’m afraid that a series of upsetting play dates will result in him not wanting to play with this friend anymore, and I don’t want that to happen.
—Lord of the Flies
Yes, this sounds exactly like a standard play date for 2 ½-year-olds, regrettably. My suggestion is that you get on the phone prior to your next planned playdate and say something along the lines of, “Little Edwin gets very emotional when his toys are taken out of his hands, and we’re really working on sharing right now. Can you help me back that up with your Charles when we come over?”
Edwin may just be a little sensitive. Charles may just be a little pushy. It doesn’t really matter: We’re looking to converge on facilitating a mutually enjoyable time and gradually building these skills that all of us had to learn, some more painfully than others.
A little planning ahead that places the “blame” on you and not your friend’s parenting will likely do some good. Give it a try!
More Advice From Slate
I used to be a very beautiful woman with a fit body and pretty features, but since I had a child 11 years ago I have become a hideous troll. At age 45, I’m overweight, I inherited a giant bullfrog neck and jowls from my grandmother, and my nose is growing into a perfect replica of my mother’s giant schnoz. I know I’ll never be 120 pounds and gorgeous again, but how can I accept the unsightly creature I’ve become? I feel so bad for my husband—he married a princess, but now he’s stuck with a giant toad.