Dear Care and Feeding,
My husband and I recently had our second child, and already have a toddler. We struggled with thinking of a name for our second child and went to the hospital each with a first-choice name and no agreement between us. He very much wanted to name our child after a family member, but it was a name I strongly dislike, so I said no repeatedly through the pregnancy. He asked me again shortly after the baby was born, and in a haze of hormones and drugs, I agreed. Within a few hours I regretted this, and he told me to just wait and see how I felt in a few days. In the meantime, he told everyone in his family the new name, including the person the baby is named after. I felt we couldn’t change the name without me being the bad guy.
It’s been six weeks now, and I still hate the name. I try my hardest to never say it. I don’t see any way to really change the name now, and there’s nothing objectively wrong with the name itself. I don’t know if this is some weird postpartum hormones, a pandemic, parenting two little kids … but I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m resentful and angry at my otherwise great spouse. Would love your thoughts on how to move past this.
I think that was a real dick move on your husband’s part, and he did take advantage of you. You’re allowed to be angry. Regardless of what you do regarding the name, you need to talk about how this went down, how you feel steamrolled by his behavior, and that you would like an acknowledgment and ideally an apology. I guarantee he knows he pulled a fast one, and you do not want to begin your journey as parents together without establishing that you’re a team, and he let the team down at a very fragile moment. I would bring it up on a good day when you feel emotionally stable and able to have a difficult conversation.
As to changing the name, it’s not impossible, so you do not have to completely take that off the table. The baby doesn’t know what his name is. I do suspect that once you have been honest and processed your feelings with your husband, the name will be less of a burden to you. Is there a short form of the name you like better? A nickname that won’t make your teeth itch? That’s probably your best path forward.
I’m very sorry this tainted your memory of what should have been a very beautiful, if hazy time. I hope that soon this name will be no more than the name of your very beloved baby, and I think that’s a very possible outcome. You’ll just have to see.
Dear Care and Feeding,
One of our three cats is able to open doors, and does it for fun or to wake us up at night. We switched the locks to the outside of the rooms that our two small children sleep in so she can’t get in and bother them at night. Our 3-year-old has just moved into a toddler bed and is struggling with naptime. He tries to get out during nap so we lock the door and he ends up falling asleep pretty quickly.
Is it cruel or unsafe to be locking him in? He doesn’t even notice at night, and it keeps the cat from going in to wake him. But at nap he cries to not lock him in, and I feel terrible. We have tried to skip nap but he ends up falling asleep on the couch a few hours later so it seems he still needs a nap.
— Naptime Lockdown
Go ahead and lock the door for naps! You’re not leaving the house, you (ideally!) have working smoke detectors and a baby monitor, and if it’s working, it’s working. Once he gets used to his toddler bed and is more accepting of it, he’s unlikely to keep making a tremendous fuss.
You are not Javert, he is not Jean Valjean, he still clearly needs a nap, and you have a cat burglar who is also … a cat. I endorse this system.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
I’ve been putting this question out to friends and Facebook groups, but realized I should ask my favorite parenting columnists as well. I’m 7 months pregnant with my first child and ready to transition from books about pregnancy and childbirth to books about parenting. I’m looking for recommended books about the baby’s first year that cover topics like care and developmental milestones from a feminist, empowering, informative but not condescending perspective (in other words not the mainstream/“what to expect” realm of books). I’ve been recommended Wonder Weeks by multiple parents I know and wondering if it lives up to the hype. But also interested in reading some philosophical books about being a parent. It’s so hard to wade through everything out there, and I don’t feel like I have time to waste reading a dud.
For point of comparison, my favorite pregnancy books so far have been The Birth Partner, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, and The First Forty Days. I also appreciated Emily Oster’s Expecting Better. I tend to value both tradition and evidence, and I want to raise a child who feels free to express himself fully, respects others, understands the world beyond his own experience, and is relatively happy.
Thank you for any recommendations!
—Expecting in Lockdown
Let me get this out of the way first: You’re going to raise the child you get, and you’re going to do the best you can. That child is going to be his own person from the day he draws his first breath until he exits this planet, and he is going to teach you how to raise him. You can read a million books, but the books that will matter will be the ones that actually relate to your actual experience with your individual baby. I have read all of the books you mention, and I probably grabbed something from each of them and also found massive swaths of their information to be completely useless to parenting my real children.
I’m thrilled you’re looking to read more about babies and toddlers, as I find that first-time parents waste a lot of time reading about pregnancy and childbirth, which lasts but a cosmic second in the grand scheme of parenting. A lot of people read three books that cover the (ideally) less than 48 hours it takes for your baby to begin and finish the process of leaving your body, and then realize they don’t have a clue what to do when they get the baby home and have to feed it and teach it to sleep and give it baths and all those very simple yet immensely overwhelming things which comprise life with a baby.
Don’t get hung up on finding a parenting philosophy to place onto your child. You will build your parenting philosophy around your child. You might have an angelic sleepy love-y baby; you might have a colicky baby; you might have a Wells for Boys son; you might have a son who chews his toast into the shape of a gun and runs around pretending to shoot things all day. You get what you get, and then you do your best to raise the best version of the child you have.
In terms of further reading recommendations, because you’re already an Oster fan (as am I), I suggest you check out her newer book, Cribsheet, which is honestly fantastic, and because you are a little woo-ier, I insist you buttress yourself with the “mainstream” Caring for Your Baby and Young Child, which comes directly from the American Academy of Pediatrics and will be a good counterweight to books that are a little too fluffy. You have a limited amount of time to consume information, so I will only recommend one other author, Dr. Harvey Karp, who has a series of very comforting, very helpful books on parenting in these early stages. Take what you like, take what resonates for you, ditch the books that don’t seem to relate to your baby, and remember to test the water temperature before putting your baby in it.
It’s going to be a hell of a ride, so now is the time to manage your expectations. I hope you get the feminist, consent-oriented, anti-racist, respectful, loving son of your dreams. I expect it’ll be a process.
How to Entertain Your Young Child if You Don’t Like Playing Pretend
Dan Kois, Jamilah Lemieux, and Elizabeth Newcamp host this week’s episode of Slate’s parenting podcast, Mom and Dad Are Fighting.
Dear Care and Feeding,
I was reading over some recent columns, and saw there were two in a row about having a kid who prefers one parent. Let me just say I was that kid. I was such a “momma’s girl” when I was little, and I KNOW it hurt my dad. I couldn’t tell you why, there has never been an explanation. And both parents were around and shared parenting duties. But at one point it changed.
Suddenly my mom’s work kept her away later at night and my brothers were older and moved out. So it was just me and my dad. He taught me how to cook, took me to sports practices, we would watch Grey’s Anatomy together. And then the usual teenage mother/daughter angst set in and I was even more of a daddy’s girl. Now, at nearly 30, I have a close relationship with both. My dad still expresses sometimes that I’m closer with my mom but that’s because I can call her up to discuss gossip and my friends, stuff he doesn’t really relate to. But he and I still cook together, and email each other recipes and music and movie recommendations. So if it’s any comfort to both letter writers, I was that kid and I knew both my parents loved me and I loved them both and over the years and as challenges arose my closeness with one or the other changed.
Thank you so much for sharing your experience! I think it will be very comforting to parents who are currently not the Chosen One. It feels incredibly personal at the time, but your child is not trying to hurt you, and the first key is to find things you can do with your child that will make the time you spend together unique and special. The second key is waiting. For everything there is a season, and you’ll have your season to shine.
More Advice From Slate
Could you please give me some candid advice about teacher gifts? I love my children’s teachers, and I know their jobs are incredibly difficult. But I’ve got four children, and four different teachers. We live in an affluent neighborhood, and I feel like the norm is to go over the top. Our family, however, is not as well-off and has trouble even affording Christmas for our family, and it really adds up. That said, I want to show them our appreciation. What do people typically give, and what is acceptable?