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,
Last weekend, my wife’s and my mutual friend had a pool party for her 16-year-old daughter’s birthday party (at our condo pool). The birthday girl invited male and female schoolmates to the party, all around 15-to-17-year-olds. My wife started to put on her one-piece swimsuit to join the swimming until I stopped her. I felt like it was inappropriate for her to consider swimming with a bunch of teenagers, since she is a teacher at that school. She stated that it was a one piece and only one kid there was a student of hers. Plus, this was outside of school. I still didn’t agree with it, and she decided not to do it, for me. Was I wrong on this?
P.S. There were just three adults. Our friend, my wife, and me. The friend would have swam if my wife got in also, but our friend isn’t a teacher at the school.
—Teacher in a Swimsuit
Yeah, you were wrong and she was right. It wasn’t a school function, there were three adults, it was your own pool, and she wasn’t exactly wearing tassels on her nipples. I would apologize for overreacting, and move forward. I can see why you were concerned, and I would feel differently if this was a one-on-one student-teacher outing, but under these circumstances, I have no concerns whatsoever.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
I’m six-months pregnant with my first child, and a few generous, lovely friends and family members have already requested our registry info and begun mailing us gifts. Now, we’re at a crisis point with the pregnancy, in the midst of ongoing emergency intervention, and I don’t know what to do or say to these kind people.
Ordinarily, I’d acknowledge their gifts and thank them immediately, but I fear that doing so will make them feel awful about gifts that are arriving at such an inopportune time. Obviously, they had no way of knowing, and we’re grateful for their generosity and thoughtfulness even in these circumstances, but what’s the right way to express that?
The chances are high that we’ll lose the baby, so for now we’ve remained silent and tucked the gifts away in the garage until we know more. I’ve disabled the registry to stop the flow, but it doesn’t feel like enough.
—Prepared to Be Bereft
I am so terribly sorry and am sending you all my very best hopes that you will not lose this pregnancy.
What I recommend is what I generally recommend in any situation where bad news needs to be spread to a certain list of people, but you cannot possibly emotionally handle doing it yourself. Decide which people you think should know (and that can be vague! “Pregnancy complications, etc.”) and then hand that list to your family and ask them to divide it up. Convey that you would rather not hear from the recipients of the news because it’s such a stressful time but you’re very grateful for the love and support they have given you.
Disabling the registry was a great move, and keeping gifts in the garage is a perfectly good idea. If the worst happens, you can deal with those painful reminders when the time comes, or ask a small number of loved ones to take on that task for you.
Again, I’m so very sorry, and you are in my thoughts.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
I am curious about your take on disclosing details about child guardianship in a will. Close friends of mine, “Pete” and “Jane” (both only children) have a toddler. Their kid is the first grandchild on both sides of the family and is doted on. Jane’s parents are divorced and remarried so there are a whole lot of grandparents. All of the grandparents are in relatively good health but have different lifestyles, careers, and housing. Pete and Jane told me that when they were writing their wills, the grandparents collectively were harassing them so much about who would “get” the baby, they decided to keep it secret.
The only person who knows the decision is their lawyer. They decided that since it’s such an unlikely chance that the situation would come to fruition, it was easier to hold that boundary and refuse to tell anyone. I respect that they made that decision, but I feel like deciding to give someone legal guardianship of your child without telling them has issues in its own right. Do you think the guardian should be told?
As I have mentioned before, you cannot actually automatically bequeath your minor children to a person or family member of your choosing. A judge will do that, and they are likely to try to follow your wishes, provided they can determine it’s a safe place for kids and if none of the other set of grandparents try to fight it tooth-and-nail. So, just something to keep in mind.
One of the things that will help a judge follow your wishes in this matter is to prepare your designated guardians for this possibility. They may want to develop a closer relationship with your child, they may want to think about how they would integrate your child into their lives, they may just need to get used to the idea!
You have to tell them, and you have to ask them to keep it private. That may or may not work (I am guessing it will not, based on the strife over the will conversation originally), but either way, they absolutely need to know that you want them to take over this role should the unthinkable happen.
Best wishes for a long and healthy life!
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Dear Care and Feeding,
I have a 7-year-old child, let’s call him Tommy. He likes TV/games. He has a really bad habit of not responding when he is doing these things and has to be asked multiple times, and often threatened. He does this with my husband as well, and I want to train this out of him before it gets worse.
—I’m Busy, Mom
Luckily, this is not a big problem. You are just going to have to parent through it. Sit him down, say that you’ve noticed he doesn’t respond to you if he’s engrossed in screen time, and that if it keeps up, you will have to drastically limit the screen time.
Then, when you need him to listen to you or do something, go stand between him and the screen (this is because there are a few conditions where people can only focus on one thing and truly, truly cannot hear outside noise, so if he is shaky on any other milestones, get him evaluated), and say what you want to say. If he responds, great, praise him. If he doesn’t, the screen gets taken away for a few hours/the day. Your husband has to do this with you.
Your son will get with the program.
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