Care and Feeding

My 16-Year-Old Daughter Stole My Vibrator

I don’t want her to feel ashamed about her sexuality—but also, don’t steal my vibrator!

Photo illustration of an unimpressed mom looking into her closet.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by AaronAmat/iStock/Getty Images Plus and Hemera Technologies/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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

Dear Care and Feeding,

I just discovered that my 16-year-old daughter stole my “personal massager.” This particular item was very well-hidden in my closet, so it clearly took a considerable amount of rummaging to find it. I feel like my personal space was violated, and I’m angry that she took something of mine; but it’s more important to me to address her budding sexuality in a way that doesn’t make it seem shameful.

What do I say to my daughter? Should I say anything? Should I buy her a personal massager of her own? I’m totally out of my element here. Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

—Mom Is All Abuzz

Dear MIAA,

What your daughter did was normal, and though the personal space violation may feel crappy (as would having to go buy a new vibrator, because I doubt you want to use it now), those crazy teenage hormones can drive a girl to desperate measures to get a little pleasure.

I’m gathering that you two aren’t the sort of mom and daughter who speak openly about sex. You don’t want to humiliate her more than you have to here—and she will absolutely be humiliated when you let her know that you found your toy in her room. Tell her how it happened, why it’s important to you that she respects your belongings, and that she must not take anything she couldn’t ask to borrow. But also give her a gift card or cash to buy a toy of her own. Make it clear that there’s nothing shameful about masturbation, but that a woman’s vibrator is a deeply personal item and not meant to be shared in this manner. Encourage her to continue exploring and let her know that you’re available to talk about these things as much as she’d like to. Be mindful not to say anything that feels like shaming. Best of luck to you!

Dear Care and Feeding,

What is the etiquette when it comes to posting pictures of other people’s children on social media? My husband and I have a 7-month-old daughter. We sometimes put pictures on our very private Instagram accounts (I know, nothing is truly private) but very few, if any, on Facebook. However, every time his sister sees our daughter, she posts multiple pictures of her on her own page. I have no idea what her privacy settings are or who she allows to see the things she posts. I think it’s reasonable to ask her, and others, not to post pictures of our child. My husband thinks that I’m being ridiculous. Thoughts?

—Camera-Shy Mom

Dear CSM,

The appropriate thing to do before posting anyone else’s child’s photo on social media is to ask permission. Granted, it’s easy to fall short at times (i.e., posting party pics or clips from a class performance), but it is always the right thing to do until you establish with the other parent(s) that they are cool with you putting up pics as you see fit. Let your sister-in-law know that you aren’t crazy about your kid being all over Facebook or any other platform, and that you’d like to be asked in the future before she posts any images.

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

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I have one of those good-to-have problems I guess. My daughter, now 2, is the picture of Western “Hollywood beauty.” Big blue eyes, cheeks for days, and ’80s glam rock flowing blonde hair. My husband and I are average-looking at best. I was so shy as a child if anyone looked at me I’d hide. Ever since my daughter was born we’ve been bombarded with comments on her looks. “Oh my God, her eyes are gorgeous! That hair! You’re so beautiful!” I mainly mutter a thank you because it’s the cashier or the person behind me in line whom I can’t escape. How do I deal with this going forward? I don’t want my very intelligent daughter to manipulate people with her looks or think that being pretty is more important than other things. She’s smart and kind now, so how do I keep her this way? And what if anything can I say to people who fawn over her in the checkout line?

—But She’s Smart Too

Dear BSST,

Your daughter is considered beautiful, and as ugly as it may be, we know that beautiful people have an advantage in this world. Teaching her to know her worth beyond her looks, and to be cognizant of her unearned pretty privilege, is likely less daunting than having to tend to the self-esteem of a child who is met with taunts or derision because of how she looks. Continue to emphasize her intelligence and other gifts, when you speak to both her and others, but also be mindful to highlight things that are actual accomplishments: potty-training milestones, learning her numbers, taking the time to color neatly, etc. Explain to her that her looks are good fortune, but that a beauty with a poor attitude or nasty disposition is not a beauty at all.

As she gets older, speak to her about why it’s unfair the Westernized “Hollywood” standard exists at all, and make it clear that while it isn’t her fault she benefits from it, she does have a responsibility to see it for what it is, to be mindful of what it may mean when people fawn over her, and to be sensitive to those who may not benefit from the beauty standard. Teach her that yes, she is beautiful, but so is everyone else in their own way.

Discourage other adults from fussing over her, and let them know that she gets a lot of attention for how cute she is and that you want her to have a healthy perspective about her looks. And when her chubby cheeks get you a pass for being a few minutes late, or an extra cookie at the bakery? Just be gracious about it.

—Jamilah

More Advice From Slate

My husband and I have a 7-year-old daughter. We are friends with another family who have a child the same age. They are a nice couple. The husband is not very talkative but never gave me any odd vibe. A while ago I was trying to find the number for their home business and when I searched his name the sex offender registry came up! My husband talked to him, he was very upset and said when he was 18 years old he had a 14-year-old girlfriend and the parents reported him when they found out they were having sex. What should I do?