Care and Feeding

A Stranger Posted a Picture of My Baby Online

I feel violated. What should I do?

A mom holds a baby on her lap as the baby looks out an airplane window.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Dmitrii Guldin/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 was recently on a red-eye trans-Atlantic flight. After boarding, but before takeoff, I noticed that a passenger across the aisle took a picture of my 1-year-old child and posted it on a social media app. (I assume that he was mad that he had to sit next to a child on a long-haul flight.) I confronted him. He deleted the photo from his phone, but the photo was already posted on the internet. A month has passed, and I am still deeply disturbed by the incident. What should I do? Do I have any recourse in the matter?

—Feeling Violated

Dear Feeling Violated,

What … the hell. You were right to confront this dude. It’s already out of line to complain about babies on flights (families have the right to travel! Babies have the right to cry! Everyone was a baby once and being human means accepting that babies exist!) and to take a creepshot of someone else’s kid is a real violation.

You ought to have further insisted, in that moment, that he delete whatever he had shared. Alas, it’s too late to do that now—that’s just not how the internet works—so while I can understand your irritation, I’m afraid it’s not doing you any good to still feel disturbed by this. I’m sorry it happened and maybe it’s some comfort that I think it’s unlikely this will ever happen to you again. I think you just had some bad luck to be on a plane with a jerk.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My niece is about to turn 2 years old. I live in the city, and she and her parents live in the suburbs. I absolutely love her, and I go visit about once a week—I don’t mind trekking out for visits and babysitting, but it would be nice if occasionally my sister and her husband could come into the city (to see concerts, shopping, whatever) and leave her with me.

I would love this! The problem is my apartment. I’m in my mid-20s, I live with two roommates, and we have a tiny apartment crammed with furniture, most of which we found for free on the street. We’ve had cockroach problems. And then there’s our street, which has a very loud elevated train, and our neighborhood, which has a real drug use problem. I wouldn’t say my niece would be unsafe in my home, but it is definitely not kid friendly. Short of moving, which is not on the table, how can I make my little apartment more kid friendly? Her parents are not concerned about this issue, but I am.

— Castle Fit for a Princess

Dear CFfaP,

Aunt of the year! Your niece—and sister and brother-in-law—are lucky to have you. I don’t think scavenged furniture and roommates and the local crime rate will have a negative effect on a young visitor. But maybe it will be best for everyone involved if you spend the days you’re on aunt duty running around the city. Let your sister and her husband go see a movie; you can take your niece to a playground, to the zoo, to the library, or even to just wander around a mall. If you’ve got the stroller, she can nap right inside (if you’re lucky!). That said, if it’s the dead of winter and you two need to hole up in your place to bake brownies and have a dance party, do it. You don’t need nice furniture or a fancy apartment to take good care of a child.

Need holiday advice and gift ideas for parents? Nicole Cliffe gives the rundown on classic gifts for children of every age. Read teacher Carrie Bauer on the best educational (but fun!) gifts for your kids. Care and Feeding’s Jamilah Lemieux weighs in on self-care items to help keep you sane through the season. Need a present for your child’s teacher? Our Ask a Teacher columnists recommend some of their favorites. Bonus gift ideas: Click here for presents to help you bond with your teen, and here for an inspiring list of children’s books.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My partner’s mother, Susan, is a wonderful woman who loves us with her whole heart. Susan is family-famous for her delicious food. And she’s a feeder. She’s told us that when my partner was young, the pediatrician told her to stop feeding her so much because she was going to gain too much weight. Susan’s response was that food made the baby happy.

This overfeeding continued until my partner left home. As a consequence, in part, my partner struggled with being overweight throughout her childhood and early 20s, until she finally reached a healthy lifestyle that we have maintained the last several years. (This involved a first-time diagnosis of binge-eating disorder, which has a genetic/environmental component.)

I’ve observed Susan with her granddaughter (my niece), and food is a big part of their time together—treats at each meal, encouragement of multiple servings, even after the girl has stated she is full. Everyone in the family (granddaughter included) struggles with weight, though most are not obese.

This is a concern for me. My partner and I are planning on kids, and Susan is the ideal grandmother who would adore frequent overnights and would be a great babysitter. But is this something we should protect a child from? My partner has struggled a lot with the behaviors, and I worry that a child may inherit a genetic component to binge-eating disorder that could be triggered and groomed with such comfort-feeding behaviors. My partner has gently brought this up with Susan on multiple occasions, but this is a lifetime behavior that we’re unlikely to change.

—Stuffed With Love

Dear SWL,

I can understand your concern in light of your partner’s struggles with food and her mother’s role in those (however hard that might be to demonstrate conclusively). But I think you’re getting ahead of things. The relationship between your niece and her grandmother is for her parents to negotiate; the child you someday have will have their own relationship to grandma, and you can navigate that once you are parents.

Perhaps it will help for you to remember that however important grandparents (and other figures) can be in a child’s life, it’s a child’s primary caregivers who wield the most influence. Since you already view Susan’s behavior with food as a fixed pattern unlikely to change, the wisest thing will be for you to adapt accordingly—so that she can be a part of your life but one that doesn’t revolve solely around food.

I think that will have a lot to do with specifics—visits at your house instead of grandma’s, outings that don’t involve meals—and it makes no sense to worry about this when your child is still merely theoretical. For now, maybe try to forgive Susan this particular compulsion; try to view it as a complicated aspect of a woman you love dearly, and one that you can work around when the time comes.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My husband and I have a 1-year-old son, who will most likely be our only child by choice, so we chose to give him both our surnames, hyphenated.

My husband’s surname is short and common; mine is longer and foreign (but not impossible). The thing is my in-laws tend to misspell my part of the name, or forget it all together in correspondence.

It annoys me because it feels that they don’t respect me, or our son—it is his name. I am aware that it’s more convenient to use the short surname of my husband, but for me it feels like that’s not his name. When it was misspelled on a package, I did point out that it’s better that the name matches in case we have to pick it up at the post office, but I have a feeling it won’t end there. Should I let it go, or should I say something every single time?

—What’s in a Name?

Dear What’s in a Name,

Well, you feel like your in-laws’ version of your son’s name isn’t his name because … it isn’t. They’re wrong, and you’re right.

I wonder whether this is a matter of generational or cultural bias toward paternal naming conventions rather than an outright rejection of your name (and you by extension). Either way it’s disrespectful, so maybe the reason for your in-laws’ inattention doesn’t matter much.

I myself have the sort of name that is constantly misspelled and mispronounced. I often end up apologizing, or explaining, or making allowances, and I’m not sure why I do that. It’s not about convenience—it’s hardly saving your in-laws hours to not correctly address packages to their grandson. A person deserves to be called by their name.

This is the kind of thing that could fester. I think you should ask your husband to back you up on this and talk to your in-laws; they’re his parents, and maybe they’ll listen to him. If that doesn’t help, you could all sit down together and have a real face-to-face conversation about this. Be direct: “This is Teddy’s name, and it’s hurtful when you don’t use it.” I hope your in-laws hear that this is important and correct this behavior accordingly. Good luck!


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