Dear Care and Feeding,
In college, my husband got his then-girlfriend, Julia, pregnant. They were both 25, and her parents forced her to keep the baby, but she ended up leaving their daughter with my husband and decided not to be a part of her life. My husband’s parents took care of the baby until my husband finished law school, and my husband and I got married when she was 3.
I’ve always been “Mom” to her, although she knows about Julia. She is 15 now, and Julia reached out to us a few weeks ago, hoping to get to know her. My daughter was nervous but excited and started texting with her, and she gave Julia her Instagram handle. Two days ago, my husband and I got a barrage of texts from Julia about our daughter’s pictures with her girlfriend. Our daughter is a lesbian, and for Pride month she posted an adorable video slideshow of their relationship. A lot of her posts feature them cuddling or kissing.
Julia is “disgusted we allowed her to post something like that” because “children could see it” and it’s “inappropriate to allow her to experiment at this age,” and she said she’d talk to my daughter “when she took those pictures down and got a boyfriend.” She did not say this to our daughter directly—she just told our daughter that she was busy and couldn’t text for a while.
I’m shocked and enraged by Julia, and my husband and I want to go low or have no contact. We haven’t told my daughter this yet, and we are unsure how much to tell her about Julia’s homophobic views. Julia telling her that they couldn’t talk for a while has already made her upset. My daughter is a very sweet and sensitive girl and this will absolutely crush her. But I think it’s better she learns this from us rather than from Julia. How do we talk to her about this? How much do we tell? What can we do to support her?
I agree that it’s best if your daughter hears this disappointing information from you and your husband. And while it will undoubtedly be difficult and painful, I think it might be wise to be forthright while also being sensitive.
Maybe begin by telling her that you share her excitement about her getting to know Julia. Then remind her that though Julia is an important part of how your family was made, she’s had her own life and that it’s best to be guarded as they forge a relationship.
Then I think you have to simply tell her the truth: that Julia has said these unkind things, that sometimes people are a disappointment, that you do not share Julia’s feelings at all, and that your daughter deserves much better. I think you should all discuss whether Julia should continue to be a part of your daughter’s life. You should share your honest opinions—whether you think no contact is better, if indeed that’s how you feel—but you should support your kid if she still wants to maintain a relationship with Julia.
This will hurt, I’m sure. The terrible truth is there’s no way for you to avoid that altogether. What you can do is be available to your kid, to listen and discuss and remind her that you are on her side no matter what. And do remember that you can call in an expert if you feel overwhelmed or ill-equipped to help her through this. All parents want only to protect their children; that you’re writing this letter establishes who truly has been a parent to your daughter. Good luck.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
My husband and I have been married for one month today. I’m 18 weeks pregnant and we are just now telling people because we both come from conservative families who would have had negative reactions (to put it mildly) to us getting pregnant before we got married. It was a completely accidental pregnancy, but I couldn’t be happier, and it has been so hard to keep it a secret! But now that we’re telling everyone, I’m scared of the reactions.
We told our parents first, and they all assume that we just found out and are about five to six weeks pregnant. I’m a little worried about what will happen when they find out the truth, but my biggest concern is my brother-in-law and his wife. They have been trying to get pregnant for over two years now without success. When my husband told him our news, his brother was hurt. They are now shutting us out entirely. My husband and his brother have always been close, and it is breaking my husband’s heart to be shut out like this.
How can I lessen the amount of pain my pregnancy is causing my in-laws without having to lessen my own excitement? I have dreamed of being a mother ever since I was 3, and I am over the moon to be having a Christmas-ish baby. But I don’t want to rub it in their faces or cause them further pain with my joy.
Dear Quietly Celebrating,
This is a tough situation. I’m sure your brother- and sister-in-law do not mean to hurt your husband or you, and it’s clear from your letter that you’re mindful of their feelings. I think the best thing to do in this case is be direct. As your husband and his brother are close, perhaps you could urge your husband to reach out to his brother; if “shutting out” means avoiding your phone calls, maybe an email or even a letter would get to them. Perhaps he could communicate that you don’t want your news to be a source of pain, that you love them and want to share your happiness but you understand if that’s difficult.
I don’t think you need to come clean about the timeline of your conception. If your family insists on playing detective, I suppose there’s nothing you can do about that; they might further resent the fact that you got pregnant so quickly, and by accident, but there’s nothing you can do beyond giving them a little space to have their own honest response to this and understanding it has more to do with them than you.
And I don’t think you need to lessen your own excitement! This is a wonderful and special moment in your life. I do think it would be generous to continue to be mindful of your brother-in-law and his wife—while a cute family Christmas card seems appropriate, maybe don’t text them photos of your sonograms.
I hope your in-laws are able to make a family of their own, soon, and I hope that in the interim they’re able to manage their own feelings of frustration and anger. But I empathize with them—and they’re fortunate that you do too. Good luck.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
How do I talk to my 3-year old about periods and feminine hygiene products? My daughter sees me grabbing tampons and going to the bathroom and in the past week or so has started asking me what they are for. What’s the age-appropriate way to talk about this? We try to be very open and answer questions, use proper names for body parts, etc., but I have to admit this one stumped me, so I punted and said we’d talk about it later. Thanks for any advice you have!
Dear Period Talk,
I think you answer this question honestly and directly but adjust for an audience you know well: your own particular kid. I’ve no need for such products in my life, but this has come up with my own kids, who spied a tampon dispenser in a public restroom and were intensely curious about it, as kids tend to be. I said, “Some people’s bodies need these every so often, the way you sometimes need a tissue to blow your nose.”
If you’re deep in the But why? Years, this might precipitate many more questions. (It did in my household!) You can go into as much detail as you think necessary, whether that’s to say it’s something Mommy needs, but not Daddy; it’s something private that we do in the bathroom; it’s a normal part of life. If using proper terminology and clear information is important to you, I think you should, but I think it’s fine if you provide the truth but not the whole truth if you think your 3-year-old isn’t quite ready for that. You’ll have years to give her a more complete understanding of this aspect of life.
Dear Care and Feeding,
I’m feeling insecure as a parent during quarantine. My daughter will be 4 in September. She just finished pre-K 3 and is scheduled to start pre-K 4 in the fall. I’m worried about all that she is missing as a result of quarantine. We have recently started having very small get-togethers outside, and she has had the opportunity to play with some of her cousins and friends, which is great. But I feel like we’re not doing enough for her at home.
She’s an only child, and I am working from home. I try to play with her often but she really wears me out. She’s been watching a lot more (educational) TV since the pandemic started. I’m sure I’m not alone, but I can’t help feeling inadequate. Should I be doing things differently? My daughter is very bright, social, and kind. She’s not acting out any more than any other 3-year-old would be.
—I Should Be Doing More
I think the one universal of parenthood is feeling like you could be doing better. What I’d say first is to remember that these are extraordinary times for everyone, parents included, and you’re doing your best. You’re not depriving your daughter to be cruel; you’re trying to be safe.
Playing with a toddler can indeed be tiring, and you shouldn’t feel guilty if you need to take the occasional break (I’m joking; you’re probably not taking a break at all but working or doing some household chore) while she sits in front of the television. If your kid seems happy and well adjusted, that’s no small thing!
I think you should consider what you might reasonably do differently. If you’re occasionally having play dates and visits, that’s probably helpful for both you and your kid, but if you’re maintaining social distance, that’s important too. If you are seeing people in this capacity, I wonder if there’s a babysitter who might safely be able to come back to work and give you a little backup, someone who enjoys playing games and singing songs and getting involved. It’s not the same as being in a classroom of peers, but it’s something.
The truth is we don’t know when conditions are going to change, and it’s probably wise to both make your peace with that and make some plans. Can your work schedule accommodate you spending some sustained time with her? Do you have a partner who can help with the important business of child care? Can you devise a realistic home-school plan for the fall if schools don’t reopen so your daughter continues to be stimulated? These are all a tall order. You should be gentle with yourself as you face this period of uncertainty and reassured that your daughter is doing well in this moment. Good luck.
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