Care and Feeding

My Second-Grader’s Friend Is Policing Her Diet

Chocolate milk has “too many calories,” according to this child! Can I ask her parents to intervene?

A young girl sits in front of a school lunch tray with an apple and milk.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by 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 am a mom of a daughter currently in second grade. She has been telling me that at lunchtime, one of her friends has been giving her a hard time about what she’s eating for lunch. This includes saying things like, “You shouldn’t have chocolate milk, it has too many calories.”

My daughter repeats these comments at home: “Susie said I can’t have crackers because they’re not healthy.” This is making me literally lose my mind. I am reinforcing healthy messages about food at home, and I let my daughter know that this girl is incorrect. I explained that at her age, calories are energy and fuel for her body; she absolutely can have chocolate milk and also that it’s OK to tell this friend to stop commenting on her food. But these comments continue. Is it ever appropriate to reach out to the other parent to say, “Hey, this thing is happening, please tell your kid to knock it off”? And is it possible to do that in a neutral way?


Dear SG,

You may not be able to say this in a neutral way, but the situation is not neutral. I, myself, would be trying to climb down from the rafters if my young child was coming home with this nonsense.

Reach out! “Susie has been telling Annie that her lunches have too many calories in them on a daily basis, and I would rather she stop commenting on her food. Isn’t it extraordinary how kids their age are hearing about this stuff already?”

If it’s coming from Susie’s parents, they can be offended. If they are not the source and unaware Susie is parroting this (possibly from a babysitter or an older sibling), you have given them a gift.

In either case, my hope is that it will stop. Please check back in if it doesn’t, and we’ll figure something else out. In the meantime, keep parenting excellently. Chocolate milk is delicious and a fine recovery beverage after physical exertion and, most of all, not Susie’s damn business.

Dear Care and Feeding,

I love reading your advice (despite not having kids) and would appreciate your advice on this. My mother texted a picture to me (and my brother) of my cousin’s wife, Ellen, holding their beautiful new baby, with her whole breast mostly exposed. I am pretty confident this was not a picture Ellen would have wanted shared, let alone texted around widely to others. I believe my aunt sent this picture to my mom, and I am mildly horrified!

It’s possible that Ellen was OK with sharing this (it was obvious she was not the one taking the picture), but I think it’s more likely she would NOT want her privacy invaded this way. What should I do? I am inclined to admonish my mother but would love some perspective.

— Privacy?

Dear Privacy,

Oh, my Lord. Well, this is a situation where a time machine would be helpful, but barring that, I think we’re just stuck with damage control.

I would tell my mother (politely: she didn’t start the fire) that Ellen looks radiantly happy but might not want her boob further dispersed across the globe. Whether to say anything to your aunt depends a great deal on both your relationship with your aunt and her general reasonableness. The photo is not, as far as I can tell, on Facebook, so I think letting it drop after telling your mother to cease this particular chain letter is a good option.

Ellen may, in fact, be swarmed with maternal hormones and very delighted in her bounteous physique and not care at all. I have a video of myself still in the delivery room in which I am trying to cram my nipple into my youngest child’s mouth, which my entire family has seen and bothers me not a jot. I wouldn’t want to squash Ellen’s joy by making her feel that something inappropriate has been done unless I was 100 percent sure the photo was taken and shared without her knowledge.

If she is breastfeeding in the picture, then I absolutely suggest taking this no further than suggesting your mother stop circulating it. If she just appears wan and puffy and loopy and is not looking at the camera … I might call my aunt.

You’ll have to fill in the gaps in this advice with your own information, I’m afraid.

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

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My husband and I have three children, 6, 3.5, and a brand-new baby. We also both come from large, close, incredibly generous families. Despite our insistence on birthdays and holidays that our kids don’t need more things, we continuously find ourselves buried in toys. We still have toys from two years ago that are unopened because our kids just haven’t shown interest in them.

One of my goals during maternity leave is to declutter our house, because the amount of stuff (not just from the kids) we have is overwhelming and unmanageable. Ideally, I’d like to have a yard sale to purge some things and put that money toward a family vacation. My question is, is it totally awful of me to sell these unopened toys in a yard sale? I know I would feel guilty if a family member came by and saw us selling something they bought for our kids, which is a possibility. But I don’t want to let it sit unused, or open it just for it to get played with once and then broken. What should we do with these toys?

—Lost in Toyland

Dear LiT,

Sell them, with my blessing. Craigslist or a more regional internet marketplace will prevent (or at least lessen) the chance of a disastrous familial drive-by. Please do not get suckered into delivering things, and I hope you make enough money for one of those Viking River Cruises they advertise on PBS. I do not see a lot of children in those ads, however, so you should make your own choices.

Some people feel that you can donate but not sell gifts, but I assume those people are just being snooty.

Dear Care and Feeding,

Does the person who writes this column have children? The tone is so “capital T truth” that I have a hard time believing that the author isn’t a twentysomething with firm ideas and no experience.


Dear Skeptical,

I am 5,000 years old and have had 2,500 children, each of whom is now an astronaut and a Juilliard-trained harpist and an Eagle Scout and possesses excellent posture and is a caring and skilled parent of their own children.

I cannot speak for the other columnists who answer the column, best to specify in the future. I do generally feel that an indecisive advice columnist is a bit of an undercooked soufflé, but to each their own!

Have a blessed weekend.


More Advice From Slate

My partner and I, who are in a gay relationship, are close friends with a lesbian couple. “Mary” and “Jean” desperately want a baby, and after some discussion my partner decided to donate his sperm. We have no interest in being parents but are happy to be uncles. Unfortunately Mary experienced a significant illness and Jane got laid off from work, and now they are worried they can’t afford in vitro fertilization. Mary is infertile, and Jane is already 38, so waiting until their financial situation improves might not be an option. Mary and Jane have now asked whether Jane can conceive a baby with my partner the old-fashioned way. My partner and Jane used to date in their 20s so it won’t be anything new. I totally trust my partner, but this is just too much for me. Am I being too old-fashioned?