Care and Feeding

This One Kid Just Stares at My Baby All the Time

It’s, uh, pretty creepy!

A kid, seen from the back, staring at a mom holding her baby.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images Plus and RonTech2000/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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,

I have a 4-year-old daughter and a 4-month-old son. We recently enrolled my daughter in weekly ballet lessons. We love everything about it … except an issue with a sibling of one of her classmates. The dance studio has a large room with several couches, tables, and chairs where the parents and siblings hang out during class. One of my daughter’s classmates has a brother (approximately 6 years old), and I suspect he is neuroatypical. The problem is that he is obsessed with babies.

During the first ballet class, this boy was counting all the babies in the room (there were three) and crawled underneath a table to check out my baby, who was sleeping in his stroller in the corner of the room. A bit odd, but I didn’t think much of it. The next class, I sat in a chair more in the middle of the room, again with my baby napping in his stroller. This time, he was the only baby present. The boy came up and stood right in front of him, staring at him for most of the hour. It made me really uncomfortable, but he wasn’t touching the baby or disrupting his sleep, so I didn’t know what to say. The boy’s father tried to lure him away from my baby several times with no success.

Today was the third class, and I sat on a love seat next to a sofa. My baby was awake, so I was holding him in my arms. It seems that several families took the week off, so tons of seats were available. Shortly after we settled in, the boy bounded in and sat right next to us, staring. The father came in a few minutes after and sat on the adjacent sofa, but allowed the boy to sit next to us on the love seat. The boy then started rolling around all over the love seat with his legs hitting me several times, and I was afraid he might accidentally kick the baby. The dad attempted to read books to him, but he was still right next to us, alternating between staring and rolling around.

I hate confrontation, but this makes me so uncomfortable! I have been trying to ignore the boy so far, and that approach clearly isn’t working. What can I do or say to alleviate this situation?

—Staring Isn’t Caring

Dear Staring Isn’t Caring,

Just talk to the father directly. It doesn’t have to be a confrontation! “Your son sure loves babies! Would you mind having him sit a little farther away, or making sure you’re between us? We keep narrowly avoiding kicks.”

It’s easier to deliver than “Your son’s staring is creeping me out,” which is also something the father has far less control over than his son’s geographical location. It sounds like he’s aware his son has boundary issues and just needs a push to be reminded that they’re actively affecting others. You may have to put up with a little staring, which is, ultimately, in the harmless but annoying realm, but there’s no reason he needs to be sharing your physical space.

Dear Care and Feeding,

I have been with my girlfriend for six years. Recently we have been getting more serious about having a child: We have had a dog for years, we just bought a house, and we have been making plans to start trying to conceive.

I knew she wanted to have a girl, but I didn’t know quite how much. She just told me that she will get an abortion if she conceives a boy. I am strongly pro-choice, and I know it is totally her choice to have the abortion if she does get pregnant. But I can’t see myself trying to conceive with her if there is a 50 percent chance that she will have an abortion just because she doesn’t want a boy. I am troubled enough by this that I might have to end the relationship, but it really pains me, given that we have been together for so long and this may be my only chance to be a father. Am I overreacting?

—Anxious Father-Not-to-Be

Dear AFNTB,

*HURLS you into joint counseling*

This is not normal. This is not normal behavior. I do not think you are overreacting, and you may indeed wind up leaving this relationship over it. Before doing so, considering you have spent six apparently pleasant-enough years together, it’s worth doing your best to figure out why she feels this way, if she still feels this way after really drilling down on it with a professional, and then deciding for yourself if you can handle the uncertainty of her conceiving a boy and perhaps still choosing to have an abortion.

If she is not open to therapy, then she is not sufficiently committed to your partnership to consider conceiving a child together. It is unlikely that this will be your only chance to be a father, biology giving you a wider (though not infinite) window. And six years has nothing on, say, eight years and then a relationship-ending abortion of what would have been for you a wanted child.

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

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I recently tried to night-wean my 2½-year-old and it turned out to be the worst parenting move I’ve ever attempted. Over the past six months, I’ve already gotten him to start the night in his own bed and room (we had always bed-shared) and even helped him learn to fall asleep without nursing, which he had never done. In what seemed like a logical and fairly easy next step, I wanted to extend his sleep in his bed a bit (it varied widely from 45 minutes to 5 hours, usually closer to the former) before I brought him into my bed.

Well, it backfired, despite preparing him for it like we have done in the past. After nine nights I stopped trying to night-wean and went back to the status quo, but the damage has been done. Honestly everything is kind of terrible. Our once peaceful bedtime is now hysteria, with him pleading for just one more of anything, or anything I’ve ever said yes once to. He’s not sleeping much in his bed before waking, he’s fighting his nap, and he’s melting down during the day like he’s never done. I have totally screwed our lives up. I made so many concessions during the night weaning process and let some of our boundaries relax, thinking it would help him adjust to the change. Sometimes just out of desperation. So now there’s a lawlessness that doesn’t work for anyone, but resetting our old boundaries and undoing new habits all at once seems impossible. I don’t know how to fix this. It’s only been a couple of nights since we stopped night weaning but nothing has changed, and I don’t know where to begin.

—Can I Put the Genie Back in the Bottle?

Dear Genie,

Look, if the alternative to pushing past nine nights is now to live in an intolerable state forever, go the hell back to night weaning. He’s 2½. Night weaning does not mean you “have totally screwed our lives up.” You made an extremely age-appropriate attempt to end your nursing relationship with your child.

I would also make sure his development is generally on track, as this is a pretty outsize and drawn-out reaction. Is there any other disruption in his life at the moment? Talk to your pediatrician about this behavior to rule out something more than just “I am hella mad that I don’t get to do this anymore,” and then I want you to hold the line. No concessions, no boundary relaxing. You’re just not nursing him in the middle of the night anymore. Be kind and loving and warm and empathetic, but if what you want is to be able to start sleeping alone and through the night without being woken up to nurse, you will have to buckle down.

One of your uses of we seemed like it might indicate you have a partner. I would literally go stay at a Motel 6 for a few nights if you can’t stop yourself from backsliding.

You’re just going to get more upset with each other if you drag this out. He’s not trying to consciously manipulate you, but he does now know that nine nights of flipping out is the first bar to clear.

Best of luck.

Dear Care and Feeding,

We’re flying with our 2-year-old for the first time this summer, and I’m already dreading it. My friends swear by a low dose of Benadryl, but I brought the idea up in front of my sister-in-law and she reacted like I had suggested ethering a baby. What’s your stance?

—A LITTLE Benadryl?

Dear ALB,

Two can be the most difficult age for flights. Babies (mostly) sleep, especially if you can nurse them. Older kids can be distracted with coloring books and so on. But 2-year-olds are old enough to get bored and also have too much energy to conk out easily.

Ask your pediatrician about dosage on Benadryl. More importantly, a certain percentage of kids react to Benadryl by acting like little cokeheads, the exact opposite of your intention, so do a dry run at home if your pediatrician gives you the green light. That way you’ll know you’ll get a drowsy kid and not one who is going to cause a national incident.

—Nicole

More Advice From Slate

My husband is an incredible man, and has a huge heart. However, he has on several occasions picked up hitchhikers on the side of the road and given them rides to wherever they need to go. I have forbidden him from doing this with our son in the car, but this has not stopped him from doing this with his young sister or his elderly grandmother with him. He even gave a ride to three men at once! Outnumbered! Maybe these travelers are harmless or in trouble, but what if they are armed or dangerous? I think he is too naïve, and he thinks I am cold-hearted. Who is right?