Dear Care and Feeding,
My son is 10 years old, and he has recently started making CONSTANT Donald Trump jokes. He does a bad Trump impersonation all the time, calls people “losers” in a Trump voice, and jokingly claims to have “won” every game he plays with his siblings because it was “rigged.” We talk a lot about politics at home, and I don’t doubt he’s aware that his parents are strongly opposed to pretty much everything Trump says or does. My husband says this is a harmless phase and he’ll lose interest as soon as Trump is off the airwaves (very soon, we hope!), but I feel like it’s a good opportunity for a conversation about why many people might not find these jokes funny. What are your thoughts?
I hate this for you. And really, for all of us. If it were happening in my house, I’d have a hard time concealing my irritation, which would probably just fuel the fire. By all means, have the conversation about why you don’t think his jokes are funny! You know best how to approach this intervention so that it will actually work. If you’re dealing with a budding stand-up who will do whatever it takes to elicit a reaction, you might skip the appeal to reason and instead outline some mild consequences if he doesn’t cut it out. But there’s also a chance that he’s absorbing some of the stress you (and I and the majority of Americans) are feeling and trying to transform it into a joke to defuse the tension. You can’t scream “ACTING LIKE HE’S HILARIOUS IS HOW WE GOT INTO THIS MESS!” at a 10-year-old (unfortunately), but you can let him know, gently, that comedy is tragedy plus time, and time-wise, we’re not there yet. He’s old enough to get it. Then make sure to reward whatever his next bit is with rapt guffaws.
Dear Care and Feeding,
My 10-year-old daughter takes ballet classes at a really great ballet company in our area. Pre-quarantine, she would audition for smaller kid roles in shows the company puts on. She’s been in The Nutcracker, Coppelia, and Cinderella in the past couple of years, and loves performing. The only problem is that right before going onstage or at auditions, she gets horrible stage fright, including crying, throwing up, and hyperventilating, but as soon as she gets onstage she’s fine. I hate seeing her like this, and she usually starts panicking while we’re still en route to the theater. Since we’re at home, her teachers have decided to have each kid film an audition tape to send in, then give them a part to learn and film themselves dancing. I thought that since we’re at home, she’d be less nervous, but she still gets panic attacks before filming herself. She’s tried taking a certain amount of deep breaths, using a fidget bracelet or cube, but she still ends up very nervous and panicky. Is there anything more I can do to help her out with stage fright? Or will I just have to start packing a barf bag for her to take to performances?
Dear Stage Fright,
It’s downright heroic that your daughter is persevering with dance even as she deals with stage fright. Good for her, and good for you for supporting her! As you both probably already know, this is something many professional performers deal with. It might help her to read or listen to some of their accounts, just to know she’s far from alone, especially with regard to barfing—Adele and Harry Styles have both been very open about throwing up before performances!
Going forward, you can help your daughter practice breathing exercises and meditation every day, not just right before performing. This isn’t a quick fix, but it’s something that has the potential to help long-term. You can tell her that training her nervous system in how to calm down creates a muscle memory in the same way that her dance training does. That might resonate in a way that will help her stick to the practice. The barf bag might still come in handy, but in time, I hope it will become more of a talisman than a necessity.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
Your recent column entry on challenging game playing brought my problem to a head. Our family often has intense overreactions over otherwise small things, and of course COVID has amplified this. When playing a family game, my wife and son (14) often are volcanic in their interactions (often over rules interpretations, but also tactics and even actions unrelated to the game), to the point where the game is ruined (she even flipped over boards once—I know, she’s supposed to be an adult!) to the detriment of my daughter (9). We can’t reliably have a game night because everyone fears how others will act, which is also to our detriment during COVID. Some of the games are somewhat long (think one to three hours of Scrabble, Monopoly, Catan), but these are the games challenging enough to my son and understandable by my daughter. Some of the ones we generally enjoy most require all four of us, so playing without one of my wife/son doesn’t quite work. (Even when it does, this defeats the point of having a family game night.) I guess what I’m asking is for your thoughts on how can I “reset” expectations of everyone, so my daughter can get her long-sought full-family game time, and keep my wife and son under control and not cause further housewide tensions?
—Betting Against the Spread
Jeez Louise. I am this close to issuing, with the authority vested in me as an online advice columnist, a nationwide ban on family game night until we can all socialize normally again. It’s starting to seem like the games are doing more harm than good. Can you guys take a breather from them and work on an elaborate puzzle or something? Tie-dye some old shirts? Repot all your plants? Reenact an episode of Great British Baking Show? At least spend a few weeks recalibrating yourselves before you take the Catan box out of the closet again, I beg of you.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
My husband has no qualms with a Family Bed with myself and my 6-year-old (step)son. I don’t care for it (I’m a light, terrible sleeper, and son is a kicker) and have tried a number of times to support a full transition so my son can sleep in his own bed. We only have partial custody and so I was tolerant/accommodating while my son was younger, as I knew my husband wanted as much time as possible with him and really valued the time together. It just never really stopped. My son often does go to sleep in his own bed (at my insistence, which is usually supported by husband), but he will always wake up between 3 and 5 a.m. and come into the bed. We do not relocate him and never have.
I got so tired of getting frustrated with my husband about it I bought us a king-sized bed so I could have the space I desperately need to sleep comfortably. Long story medium, we’re expecting a baby in three months! I hope/plan to breastfeed and have a modified cosleeping plan in place featuring the kind of baby sleep gear that supports safe cosleeping, though it will still take up space in the bed. I know my husband understands that when baby comes, our son will need to not sleep in our bed simply because we won’t have space and the baby will be disruptive for him. However, I want to start that transition now, with hopes to avoid any resentment toward the baby along with all the other changes that will happen in three months. Husband doesn’t seem to think it’s going to be “that big of a deal.” I don’t know how much to put my foot down. Do I let son continue to get the last few sleeps in with us he can while there’s still room, or will it lead to enough of a harder transition to nip it in the bud?
—No Room at the Inn
Dear No Room,
Ahaha, “not that big of a deal.” You need this kid out of your bed pronto. Your husband, it seems, does not in fact want him out of your bed at all—that’s what I’m extrapolating, based on his reluctance to do anything about the problem, and to even admit that it is one. This is a bummer! Your husband is probably feeling sympathy for your son’s looming displacement as the baby of the family, but postponing his displacement from your bed won’t make the transition easier for any of you.
My family has also struggled with a kid who loves nothing more than a cozy 3 a.m. cuddle that ruins everyone’s REM sleep, so I’ll share some of what has worked for us—with the caveat that everyone’s different and there’s no fail-safe solution, unfortunately. But one thing is definitely worth trying: a bigger, comfier bed for the 6-year-old. When you first get the new bed, have your husband cuddle him to sleep there if he wants, and then repeat as necessary throughout the night as necessary, for as long as necessary.
Your sleep has always been important, but after you have this baby, it’s going to be much, much more important. Make sure your husband knows that his No. 1 job is to protect your sleep as much as he possibly can. Establishing some firm boundaries about what is and isn’t your job during the night will help a lot going forward!
More Advice From Slate
Our almost 9-year-old daughter returned to gymnastics last fall after a two-year hiatus (her choice). She loves it—she works on cartwheels and other tumbles all the time at home.
She has been asking about competing, so her gym let her try out a class at a slightly higher level than the class she currently takes. Now she is thinking about dropping out of gymnastics entirely—she says that the coaches in the other class were “mean” to her, pointing out the moves she couldn’t do. If I had to guess (parents are not permitted to observe the class), they were probably just challenging her more than she is used to. I don’t want to force her to continue, but she could stand to push herself a little outside her comfort zone. Plus, she has really been enjoying the class, and I don’t want her to lose the momentum she’s gained so far. Any advice on how to handle?
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