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,
My husband is a human who farts a lot. I cannot stress enough how often and how loudly he farts. I’ve gotten used to it, but I grew up in one of those repressed households where girls (like myself) were supposed to feel shame and apologize for any passing of gas or burping.
Our daughter is 6 and thinks farting is hilarious. Who can blame her? She farts a lot and with no shame or remorse. She’s started to get teased in kindergarten for “having the stinkiest farts.” When she told us this last week, my husband counseled her to say “So what?” and then if the kid persists, lean in, sniff his breath, and tell him: “Yeah? Well your breath smells like poo.”
Most of me says: “Yes, stand up for yourself, Small Child. Don’t take any crap.” But the prude in me who gets so tired of the farts wonders if this is the best way to handle the situation. I want our daughter to feel comfortable in her body and trust that she is natural and fine, but I also know that being tagged as “the kid who farts all the time” could make elementary school even harder than it has to be. We teach her to chew with her mouth closed and not yell in people’s faces; surely fart management is part of the social contract?
—Just So Many Farts
I laughed for at least (checks time) three minutes after reading this letter. This is objectively hilarious.
I celebrate your husband’s comfort with farting, but you are correct about the social contract. There are people who are not physically able to control their farts, but if you can, it’s appropriate and polite to walk away a few steps from others in order to do so. And if you cannot fart downwind of the people you are with, “excuse me” remains the gold standard.
Get your husband on board and your messaging united: At home, you and your father can fart with pride. At school, we have to live in a society.
Also, what are these two eating?
Dear Care and Feeding,
My parents are great with boundaries. They make it a point not to pry into my life unless invited, and this has led to a respectful relationship between us as adults. I have no clue how they got that way, because their extended families are fanatical gossips. Now that I’m expecting my first child, this divide is becoming pretty stark.
When I told my mom’s sister about my pregnancy, the first thing she did was preemptively guilt me if I had a baby shower and didn’t invite her. Within a few hours of that call, I started getting texts about my pregnancy from third cousins. The biggest issue is revealing the child’s gender. My plan was to keep it on the down-low and only tell my parents, my in-laws, and a few close friends. My extended family has badgered me and my parents for months about this. At this point I’ve become more comfortable revealing the gender to friends and colleagues than to my extended family, in part because they just won’t let up.
My husband agrees it’s annoying but thinks I should just tell them to let the pressure off us and my parents. My response is that if I tell them the gender, they’ll just start on the baby’s name, our plans for religious practices, etc., but I recognize that a lot of my resistance is because I set a boundary and haven’t seen it respected. Should I just tell them the gender? More generally, am I being a bitch here?
—Pregnant and Private
You’re definitely not being a bitch. Lots of people can relate to being like “THEN YOU SHALL HAVE NONE” when people push for information you have made it clear you’d rather keep to yourself. If I were a Chaotic Evil advice columnist, and not a Chaotic Good advice columnist, I would suggest telling half the cousins you’re having a boy and half the cousins you’re having a girl.
I think rewarding bad behavior is rarely a good idea, and you’re correct that coughing up the gender will not magically end the prying. Pregnant people seem to become public property, and the mere sight of one can cause some people to lose their manners, even without the tenuous connection of third-cousinhood.
That being said? I would just tell them. You’ve already told a lot of people. They’re whining at your parents. After you do, the information mill closes. If they do back off, great. If they don’t, just block their numbers until you are holding your beautiful baby.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
I am a stepmother to a wonderful 8-year-old and have been in her life since she was 4. Her father had a vasectomy while still in his first marriage, so I knew when I married him that we would not be expanding our family. While this was different than how I originally envisioned my life, he was very straightforward about it, and I accepted this wonderful family life I have now. I love being a stepmother, and my stepchild has embraced me as a third parent. However, I am also trying to allow myself to mourn the life I thought I would have with a biological child or children of my own in addition to her.
The issue is that my stepdaughter is very anti-sibling. She’s at the age where a lot of her school friends have younger siblings whom she also plays with when on play dates. She has made herself very clear that she never wants a younger brother or sister because they are annoying and take all the attention away. This in itself isn’t an issue–she’s entitled to her viewpoint. The issue is that she keeps asking me if I’m going to have a baby, and when I say no, she rejoices, dances, celebrates, sings songs—and I find this very painful. This is happening weekly. I know she’s a kid and she’s just being a kid, but this is personally distressing to me since this is something that I had wanted and am still mourning the loss of. How do I address this with her in an age-appropriate way?
That sounds very painful, and I’m sorry that it’s happening (weekly!). Being a parent doesn’t mean you no longer get to have feelings, or have those feelings hurt.
If it just happened occasionally, I would ride it out. She’s 8, after all, and clearly loves you. But because she loves you, I think you’d be doing her a favor by asking your husband to have a brief talk with her. Something as simple as “Your stepmother can’t have a baby, and I know you’re just kidding around, but I think it makes her a little sad when you keep asking about it.” She doesn’t want to make you sad. And I sure bet she doesn’t want to become an adult, realize that you would have liked more children than just one (not “your own” children, just … more children), and feel terrible that she brought it up so often and with such glee.
Our children are not on this planet to manage our emotions, but we are also allowed to ask them not to do things repeatedly that make us sad. It’s part of being a family.
All my best.
My Son’s Preschool Teachers Treat Him Better Because He’s White
Dan Kois and Jamilah Lemieux are joined by Laura Tisdel on this week’s episode of Slate’s parenting podcast, Mom and Dad Are Fighting.
Dear Care and Feeding,
After trying for several years, my sister is now five months pregnant with twins. She is thrilled, although not enjoying the pregnancy part so much. She’s very high-risk for many medical reasons and her husband has been acting as the “protector,” updating the family and taking on a lot of tasks so she can rest and focus on her needs. However, there’s something that he does that I worry about. I’ve noticed when I (or anyone) offer to help he says no, but then he will later complain about being exhausted from “having to do everything.” Sometimes things just aren’t getting done because he has too much on his plate. In those moments, I applaud him for what he has done and remind him that I offered to do X, Y, and Z and am still happy to do X, Y, and Z in the future. His reply is usually “No, it’s fine, I’ll do it” or “I’ll get to it.” When I ask my sister about these things, she just says she’s delegated that to her husband and to go talk to him.
It seems that he likes the attention of being the spokesperson for my sister and probably finds solace in having a little “control” during this period where everything feels like it is beyond his control. But I’m worried he’s turning into a bit of a martyr.
My sister and her husband are older, and both have limited child care experience. (In fact, I don’t think he’s held a baby.) He will be the full-time stay-at-home parent when the babies are here and I’m worried that his current operating procedure will isolate them. What should I say when he complains? Can I step in if something just isn’t getting done? Do I wait for things to implode? Just ignore all of this because it’s not actually any of my business? For what it’s worth, I have a lot of child care experience, especially babies, but I have no children of my own.
—Waiting for Baby Panic
Dear Waiting for Baby Panic,
“Just ignore all of this because it’s not actually any of my business” is excellent, go with that!
More Advice From Slate
My 9-year-old son is a great kid. So why do I feel like he’s being a jerk when he seems to be so uncooperative at home? He won’t help around the house and finds excuses to not do what we (husband and I) ask him to do (“I’ll do it later,” “in a minute,” “after I do this”) ALL. THE. TIME. Any advice on getting his ass in line?