Care and Feeding

Can I Be Friends With a Quack?

My new mom friend is a “Chinese medical practitioner” and may not vaccinate her child.

Photo illustration of two women pushing around strollers. One has an exasperated expression, and the other looks gleeful as she reaches into the stroller she's not pushing.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by shurkin_son/iStock/Getty Images Plus and LightFieldStudios/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’m the mom of a 15-month-old boy and have recently started hanging out with another woman with a boy around the same age. We’ve bonded over sharing stories of our harrowing deliveries, the stresses of working mom life, etc.

She’s an acupuncturist, and the last time we hung out she told me more about her practice and her beliefs. She’s a “Chinese medicine practitioner” who does things like burn special herbs to raise the white blood cell counts of chemo patients (to be clear, she’s white). She sees a naturopath as her own primary care doctor and thinks that alternative medicine is apparently the thing that will cure all the ills of modern society, like obesity. On this same visit, I noticed a book about vaccines, and when I looked up the title later, it turned out to be advocating a modified vaccination schedule where you skip some recommended vaccines and delay others.

I am a pro-science, pro-evidence-based-medicine person. So I guess I have two issues: 1) I have to ask her if her kid is vaccinated before he hangs out with my kid again, right? How do I broach this topic, and what do I do if the answer is that she’s doing this middle-of-the-road route of getting some vaccinations but not others? And 2) even if her kid has all his vaccinations, can I keep being friends with someone who is basically a professional medical quack?

—Pro-Science Mom Needs Mom Friends

Dear PSMNMF,

I think you’ll feel better if you check in with your doctor. I suspect what she’ll tell you is that you cannot realistically control with whom your child comes into contact, and therefore the most important step for his health is to make sure that he is immunized. So I think you’re all set, but I’m no doctor, of course.

The second question you pose is harder to answer. Parenthood can be a lonely gig (hilarious because you’re never actually alone) and sometimes you just need to be around someone who is going through something similar to what you’re going through. These people sometimes seem like friends, but I like to think of them as being more like colleagues. After all, your only real bond with many of them is the shared endeavor of being parents.

What if you were a devout Hindu and your friend was a Seventh-day Adventist; what if you were a vegan and your friend was a rancher; what if you were the executive director of Planned Parenthood and your friend was Karen Pence; what if you were a normal human being and your friend had a house full of guns for the coming zombie invasion? You’re the only one who can say what principles matter so much to you that they determine with whom you spend time.

Dear Care and Feeding,

Our 7-year old daughter is naturally very generous, a character trait I admire in her. Her best friend, though otherwise fine, is really greedy—especially when it comes to food.

The moment she comes over, she demands snacks. When we rendezvous in the park, she will help herself, without asking, to everyone else’s snacks, often finishing them—and rarely says thank you. I didn’t mind so much when she was younger, but by 7, I feel like her parents should have taught her some basic manners. I have more than once told her to leave some food for others, to no avail. My daughter doesn’t seem to notice her friend’s mooching.

Our local park hosts a farmers market, which is a great place to hang out with other families but the food is quite expensive. I always let my daughter buy a few treats, and of course she shares them. Lately she has wanted to spend her allowance on buying veggies and baked goods for all her friends. In the past couple weeks, she has spent most of the allowance she’s saved through the winter.

We’re going through a challenging financial time, and I’m trying to keep our family on a tight budget. I can tell her friend’s family is struggling financially too. In principle, it’s my daughter’s allowance that she saved, so I don’t feel like I should dictate what she spends her money on. Yet it bugs me that it is going to subsidizing expensive meals for her greedy friend. Should I try to rein in my daughter’s generosity or talk to her about it?

—Don’t Want to Be a Scrooge

Dear DWtBaS,

Your kid’s friend sounds super annoying. I understand that you need to vent, and now you have. Still, she’s a little girl, she’s your kid’s pal, and it’s clear you empathize with her, so while it’s OK to acknowledge in this letter that this kid is a mooch, and greedy, and ill-mannered, I think you should try to keep this between us. You’ve done the responsible thing in trying to keep her in check, and I think you can continue to do so. Correct her worse behavior the way you would any kid’s, but don’t dwell on it or let it drive you nuts.

I’m sorry you’re going through a tough time financially. One of the most nefarious things about this kind of problem is how all-consuming it is, how it can change the way you see everything.
I absolutely understand how it can be frustrating to watch your kid spend her allowance on a $5 brownie that some other kid gobbles up. It’s especially maddening if you’re in a place where every dollar really counts.

But in the long run, it doesn’t truly matter if your kid spends her entire allowance on fancy snacks that some other kid helps herself to. It’s your daughter’s money, and she finds joy in sharing. Let her have that. I wonder if it might help to think about something that cannot be quantified in dollar amounts. Your daughter’s instinct toward generosity and being untroubled by her friend’s transgressions speak to her character as a human being. To send a good person into the world is a great thing. When money is tight you see dollar signs everywhere, but look past those to see what a good job you’ve done as a parent.

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

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I have two awesome little boys, ages 4 and 2, who are the loves of my life. I am due with my third, and just found out that it is also a boy.

I always thought I would love being a mom to all boys, but I have found myself heartbroken. Two of my sisters are due the same time and are having girls. I am finding it hard to be around them, and I get sad every time I think about it. I feel so guilty about it all as I have two siblings who can’t have kids and would love to be where I am.

I know I will love this little one as much as my other two but can’t seem to get over the sadness and guilt. Am I a horrible person?

—Never to Have a Daughter

Dear NtHaD,

Of course you are not a horrible person. Adoring your youngest son has little to do with mourning that you never had a daughter. You’re feeling guilty because you know how lucky you are, yet still sense that you’ve missed out on something. I think that’s human nature. And I think it’s valid. I would tell you not to dwell on it, but since you’re about to have a newborn, you won’t have time to anyway. Until then, let yourself admit that you wish you had had a little girl, and let yourself be sad about it, and then let yourself let it go.

I have two sons myself, and they are the axes on which my world turns, but you know, there’s something about a chubby baby girl in polka-dot tights. So, you will have nieces you can spoil with all that awful stuff that offends our personal politics but is just so cute: frilly dresses, headbands for bald pates, dolls. (Yes, of course, boys can wear frilly dresses and headbands while playing with dolls.) Your sons may someday have girlfriends; they may someday have wives, and those girls and women might be important in your life. But it’s also true that someday you may not feel this way at all, or be surprised that you ever did.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My daughter just turned 2. She’s generally very happy and easy-going, but also a somewhat timid and cautious child. She has attended day care full-time at the same center since she was 5 months old.

When I drop her off each morning, she is typically the second child to arrive in her classroom (comprised of toddlers aged 18 months–2 1/2). A slightly older boy is there first. This boy is much more outgoing than my daughter. He loves to run to the door and greet everyone as they come in.

This is sweet and harmless (perhaps a little loud) but very intimidating to my daughter. She will get upset, and her reaction will intensify as he gets physically closer. Over the past couple of months, the teachers have consistently asked him to give her space each morning—and he has learned! He no longer rushes the door when we come in and instead gives us an enthusiastic hello from whichever corner of the room he is playing in.

You’d think this would have solved the problem, but she still reacts as if he was screaming in her face. She will cry and wave her arms and say “No, no, no!” simply at the sight of him (or sound of his voice from across the room). It’s starting to break my heart at each morning drop-off—this sweet, outgoing little boy is doing nothing wrong!

Her physical reaction is all the more puzzling to me because she is already quite verbal—she consistently speaks in 6–8 word sentences. At home, tantrums are few and far between because she is typically very good at communicating with us. And talking about this friend at home does not make her upset. She will say his name as she talks about her school friends.

I know she is easily intimidated, but she doesn’t react this way to strangers or other classmates. It all seems reserved for this one little boy. I feel like 2 is too young to decide that you don’t like someone—isn’t it? What can I do to help her understand that she has nothing to fear from him?

—He’s Just Being Nice!

Dear HJBN,

Kids, even the ones old enough to make chitchat, are bizarre little enigmas. I do think it’s possible that your daughter just doesn’t like this kid. Or she might be reacting this way because she once didn’t like him and now it’s muscle memory. Or she might be doing this because it elicits some reaction from you that she finds comforting.

I wonder if you are so attuned to this boy’s predilection for a big morning greeting that your daughter is somehow noticing and internalizing this? You could try changing up your drop-off routine to emphasize saying goodbye to you, and starting out her day that way, rather than worrying about this little boy. But I know that routines are dictated by time and other demands, so maybe that’s not realistic.

That said, if the providers haven’t indicated that there’s some larger problem—she’s miserable and in tears all day, or she and this boy fight, or what have you—I’d let it go. You’re kind to worry about this little boy’s feelings, but he’s still a toddler himself, and probably wholly unbothered by your daughter’s tears.

—Rumaan

More Care and Feeding

It’s well-known among parents in our child’s circle of friends that one mother is a pill pilferer (OxyContin, Xanax). She’s going through a divorce and homeschools her children. I’ve just become privy to this information, and I’m a wreck: What should I do?