Dear Care and Feeding,
My 11-year-old daughter wants to do the Master Cleanse with her friends. You know, the lemon juice/cayenne pepper/maple syrup thing that Beyoncé did that one time. We’ve always been big about bodily autonomy, but somehow I did not envision this being the first time we would butt heads over it. Is this a “harmless experiment” I should tolerate for 48 hours or a “no”?
—Is This Real Life?
Oh, my sainted aunt. No. Absolutely not. If she were 15, it might be a good “knock yourself out, kiddo, you’re going to feel like trash” lesson, but there’s no earth on which an 11-year-old should be subsisting on that nonsense for 48 hours. It’s a no from me. I would also 100 percent narc this plan out to her friends’ parents because prepubescent children should not be messing with their bodies like this. Go ahead, be that mom. Are these new friends? How well do you know them?
Present her with the reams of medical literature that explain, increasingly impatiently, that your liver is the ultimate Master Cleanse and that all you are doing is peeing out water your body would really prefer to hang on to.
Please keep a very close eye on her, as well as her friend group, and make sure she’s eating adequately and her weight remains stable. It may be helpful to have her pediatrician talk to her about how much her body needs those “puppy fat” reserves to fuel the unbelievable physical work of puberty she’s unconsciously gearing up for. I would also suggest to her teacher that it might be wise to have a registered dietitian visit their class (if they are school friends) and talk about the importance of food and exercise and balance.
No Master Cleanse. Not happening. You cannot force an 11-year-old to eat, but this is a time to hike up your pants and talk her down with parental authority. Please keep me posted.
Dear Care & Feeding,
I had a healthy baby girl three weeks ago and I’m starting to wonder: When does being a parent improve? I love my daughter, and I feel guilty even writing this because I am incredibly fortunate: I had an easy delivery and recovery, I have tons of support from friends and family (including parents who live around the corner and a husband who works from home and does plenty of baby-soothing and diaper-changing), and my baby is sweet and wonderful. But I’m starting to feel like the rest of my life will involve being trapped on the couch with a boob out for 12 hours a day, mindlessly scrolling through Instagram while it seems like everyone else is on a great vacation or enjoying a carefree summer. I know I should be savoring this fleeting phase (people keep telling me that!), but I just want to fast-forward to the part where my child can engage with me beyond her fervent interest in my nipple. When will I feel like a person again instead of a sleep-deprived dairy cow?
—When Do Babies Get Interesting?
Three weeks, my darling, you are truly in the belly of the beast. Your body will not be finished healing for another three weeks at least, however easy your delivery, and it will be a few weeks after that before your milk supply is fully developed and your days can become a little more predictable.
You are accomplishing so much every day, even as it feels like nothing. I promise that in a matter of months you will barely remember this time, because your baby will begin to wake up and brighten and want to engage with you and you will want to engage with her.
At three weeks, I do not suggest lugging her and yourself to hang out with other babies, but trying out a few different slings and wraps and breaking up your day by getting out of the house and walking around the block. I used to take my tiny baby to Walmart, because it was the only place open at 5 a.m., and just pace with her up and down and up and down the aisles until I felt a bit more like a person and a bit less like a blob who didn’t even shower that day. Feel a little sun on your face.
I never tell people things like “They grow up so fast! Cherish this moment!” because it only adds to your sense that you are failing to appreciate something magical and fleeting that you will never get back again.
Speak honestly to your partner and to your physician. Boredom is endemic to these early weeks, but if your feelings change or you begin to experience, however fleetingly, a sense of despair, it’s time to run the problem up the flagpole.
Right now? It’s just a waiting game. Those first gummy smiles are worth it. She will become fascinating to you, I promise.
• If you missed Thursday’s Care and Feeding column, read it here.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
I was in an abusive relationship for four years. Within the first year of dating, I had a child with the abuser. I left the relationship and married, and my husband legally adopted my daughter. She has had no contact with her biological father since she was 5 years old.
Flash-forward 10 years, my daughter is now 15 years old. I just found out her biological father is in prison for raping a 15-year-old and possessing child pornography. I am disgusted but not surprised. It’s unlikely my daughter will hear about this, as we live in a different state than where it occurred.
Do I tell my daughter her biological father is in prison? Do I tell her why? Should I not say anything at all? It’s unclear to me what the correct response is to this horrible revelation.
Dear Confused Mom,
I think you can tell your daughter freely, if you haven’t already, that you left her biological father due to his abuse. You can do this in the context of talking about abusive relationships and the ease with which any person can fall into one unwittingly. That’s a good and important conversation for all parents to have with their children, and yours comes with the sad benefit of personal experience.
As to his current whereabouts, this is a question you have to answer for yourself. You have the knowledge I do not: your daughter’s maturity level. There are so many different ways of being a 15-year-old. You could have a daughter who is ready to process this information, or you could have a daughter who needs another year or two to know the extent of her biological father’s crimes.
Certainly, should she mention anything about wanting to contact him, you must sit her down and tell her the extent of your knowledge at once. I am so sorry for your past suffering and so glad you have been able to provide your daughter a childhood filled with love and stability.
Dear Care and Feeding,
Our 13-month-old daughter was away from our family dog for two months over the summer. Now that we’re back home, every time we sit the kid in her highchair to eat, she throws her food to the dog. All of it. If the dog happens to be outside, the baby will eat, so it’s not that she’s not hungry—but if we lock the dog out, she barks and whines incessantly (she’s a rescue with some abandonment issues). Neither telling both dog and baby “no” in a firm voice nor catching the food ourselves has stopped the “sharing.” I’m worried because, although her pediatrician says her growth is fine, our daughter can still be a bit reluctant to eat solid food and often prefers nursing. Should we just wait this out, let the dog enjoy it, and assume that when the baby gets hungry enough, she’ll eat the food herself? Or are there some more proactive measures we could take?
—Dog and Pony Show
Dear Dog and Pony Show,
The dog is going to have to wait outside the kitchen during your daughter’s meals. Get the pup a Kong or puzzle-type toy with peanut butter in it, put up with the whining for a time, and focus on feeding your daughter. Once she’s enjoying eating real meals, you can try again.
It’ll be good for the dog, too, in the long run.
More Advice From Slate
I have two kids, ages 12 and 10. My 12-year-old seems to know when my husband and I are having sex and routinely comes out of her room to use the bathroom, get a drink, or grab a snack JUST as we are getting cleaned up in our shared bathroom. I just want to scream, “GET BACK IN YOUR ROOM!” every time. We have tried using our guest bedroom, but she still uses her “Spidey sense” and appears afterward for various reasons. What’s the best way to address this?