Care and Feeding

Was It Wrong of Me to Explain to My Daughter the True Meaning of “WAP”?

A woman sits down in conversation with a preteen girl.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Ryan McVay/iStock/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 need to discuss WAP. Yes, that WAP. My 11-year-old daughter asked if we could have WAP for breakfast the other day. I asked her what she thought that meant, and she said a girl from her softball team had told her it meant “waffles and pancakes” (information that came from her parents). Fast forward a week, and my daughter came home from school asking if WAP also means “worship and prayer,” because that’s what her friend’s grandma had told her. Being the tell-it-like-it-is and sex/body-positive parent I am, I gave my daughter an age-appropriate version of what WAP actually means, told her about the song and the video, and said that is it probably better not to use the acronym at all because adults know what it really stands for and if she used it she might get in trouble at school or with her friends’ families. My daughter and I talk openly about sex, gender, sexual orientation, feelings, and everything else, so a candid discussion of WAP is within the comfort zone of our parent/child relationship. To my surprise, I have received a lot of blowback, both from within my family and from friends, about being forthright with my daughter about the meaning of WAP. The consensus is that I should have lied and either 1) supported the alternate meanings offered by the adults in other children’s lives, or 2) backpaddled hard and committed to it meaning anything other than what it actually means. Was is right for me to forewarn and forearm my daughter? Or should I have continued the babies-come-from-storks approach favored by other adults in my parent group?

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—Macaroni in a Pot

Dear MiaP,

Let me say first what it seems to me you already know: Of course you were right. Regular readers of this column know that I flat-out don’t believe in parents lying to children (and yes, I do know that many parents disagree—and many are eager to offer up lists of the small, harmless [to the kids], helpful [to the parents] lies they tell their kids every day—but I am not in the least convinced by such lists). To be completely transparent, I should confess that I don’t believe it’s ever right to lie to anyone. (Sure, there are times when there is a good reason to avoid a direct answer to a complicated question from a child—or even a simple one from an adult, like, “Do you think I look terrible in this haircut/new dress?”)

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And furthermore I believe that telling children, in an age-appropriate way, about bodies and their functions, is healthy. So really the only part of your letter that gives me pause is that you got “a lot of blowback” from family and friends—not because they questioned your choice to be forthright with your kid (no surprise there, as most people, I’ve found, are not forthright with their children, especially not about sex and bodies) but because this means you contacted various members of your circle to announce that you had been forthright. Since it seems unlikely to me that WAP—the phenomenon or the song itself—just happened to come up in the course of ordinary conversation with all these people, I can only assume that you went to them and repeated this exchange. Did you do this because you had doubts that you’d done the right thing? Or because you had no doubts but were bragging a little bit about your superior (to the waffle family and the worship family) child-rearing skills/instincts? Whatever the reason was: Don’t do that. When you and your 11-year-old have a conversation about bodies, sex, gender, etc., it’s between the two of you. You will definitely want to keep this advice in mind, going forward. Otherwise you will end up with a teenager who doesn’t trust you with such conversations.

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(One final note here: Are you absolutely certain your 11-year-old wasn’t just yanking your chain? That she really did believe the waffles and pancakes and worship and prayer explanations? I mean, she might have; she might be very innocent—lots of 11-year-olds are. But since other 11-year-olds know a good bit more than their parents think they do, I can’t help wondering if she was testing you. You don’t mention how she responded to your explanation of the true meaning of WAP. Is it possible she already knew—or half-knew—and just wanted to hear you say it?)

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

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I’m almost 14, and I have something on my chest that I want to tell my parents. I’m bisexual and nonbinary, and I’m very proud of the fact that I am. But I’m worried that if I tell my parents, they’ll react badly. Most of my friends know, and two teachers do too, but if they accidentally slip (like one of my friends has) about me being a part of the LGBTQ+ community, I’m afraid I’ll get yelled at or, worse, kicked out. Both of my parents are conservative Christians (my dad voted for Trump), but both reacted somewhat positively to my uncle getting married to his husband, which might suggest that they aren’t against gay people. I might just be freaking out over nothing, but I don’t know if I want to keep this a secret from them until I’m 20, or if I should come out tomorrow.

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—Bi as in Bisexual, Not Bible Studies

Dear BaiBNBS,

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I wish you didn’t have to struggle with this—I wish you could be completely honest with your parents about who you are without fear of punishment (or fear of losing them altogether!). But I don’t think the binary in this case is to tell them now or wait until you’re 20. It is a good sign that they celebrated (sort of?) your uncle’s marriage. I would be on the lookout for other good signs. I would find ways to bring up the topics of gender identity and sexuality and see if it’s possible to have authentic conversations with them. In other words, slowly pave the way toward your own coming out. It’s unfortunate that they haven’t done this work themselves, yes—that they have not been able to let you know, in words and deeds, that no matter what you might discover/understand/reveal about yourself, they will be there to love and support you. But perhaps—since you see a little glint of hope—you can help them do that now.

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And then you can decide when you feel ready to come out to them.

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Please do not feel pressured by anyone else to come out before you feel ready (and safe). Right now you are dependent on your parents, and if you feel there is any possibility that they would kick you out, don’t rush. It’s not shameful to be self-protective. I will tell you, for what it’s worth, that many young people I know who have (anxiously, with a great deal of trepidation) come out to their parents as gay, bi, trans, or nonbinary have been happily surprised by the reaction. I’m not trying to sell you a fairy tale—I know it doesn’t always happen that way. But it can. And so it may. Take your time. This is your identity, no one else’s, and you get to decide whom you want to reveal yourself to, and when.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My 6-year-old son, while extremely bright, has a significant speech and motor delay and a birthday that falls late in the school year. He’s an only child who tends to prefer playing with children slightly younger than himself. After lengthy conversations with his teachers and therapists last year, my husband and I decided to have him repeat kindergarten. It turned out to be a wonderful decision. He moved to a new school this year and his kindergarten teacher is an amazing person who creates lessons that are engaging and fun, and he’s with a group of children who feel like his peers for the first time. He’s showing confidence I never would have imagined, and we’re able to focus on his speech and motor issues since academics are coming easily.

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But suddenly, this week, he has begun asking why he isn’t in the first grade. He’s said he’s embarrassed to be in kindergarten again when his friends from last year are in first grade. I was surprised to hear this because I honestly wasn’t sure how much repeating kindergarten had even registered with him. We talked about it with him when we registered for his new school (simply stating that now he’ll get to be the oldest kid in class instead of the youngest, which he happily agreed to) and he hadn’t mentioned it since then. He really loves school, has made close friends in his class, and adores his teacher, but he has suddenly latched on to the idea that he isn’t where he’s supposed to be. My husband and I are 100 percent confident that we made the right decision, but how do we explain that to him?

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—Twice the Kindergarten Was Just Right

Dear Twice,

It may well not have fully registered with him until now. My guess is that it came up in conversation with one or more of the other children—that he said something about his old kindergarten and someone let him know that doing kindergarten twice is not the way it usually goes. I’m glad that things are working out so well for him and that you are certain you made the right decision (from what you’ve said, so am I!). I would “explain” the situation only in terms of its positives, and in a way that he’ll be able to understand—in other words, by telling him the truth, but only the part of the truth that is going to be helpful to him. “We wanted you to have the chance to do kindergarten at this fantastic new school with this great teacher and all these wonderful new friends.” You might even add, “It’s too bad all your old friends didn’t have that chance, isn’t it?” It’s pretty clear he is exactly where he is supposed to be. That’s what I would emphasize. If he keeps talking about this—which I doubt he will—I would point out to him all the ways that he is thriving and happy. He’ll connect the dots himself (would he rather be in first grade at his old school, with the kids he used to be in class with? I’m betting he would not) without your having to ask that question.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I have what I’m sure is a classic dilemma. My co-worker had a baby in April, and it is all she will talk about, to the point where it can be insensitive. For instance, another co-worker was expressing concerns about her very ill cat and the stress of going to a vet’s office, and this co-worker’s contribution to the conversation was that her baby always giggles at the doctor’s office. I get it! She’s a first-time mom! He’s a very cute baby! We’re in a mismanaged global pandemic and we need things to be happy about! But it’s really, really wearing. To the point where other co-workers are joking behind her back about a drinking game: Take a sip every time she mentions her baby! Finish your drink if her mom drove 10 hours to see her because the baby sneezed once (a real thing that happened)!

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This is particularly irksome because when she was trying to get pregnant, she banned all conversation about babies and kids around her, because it made her anxious. I know that I can’t change her behavior—and I’m sure there’s nothing new moms love more than being told by childless co-workers that they talk about their kid too much—so how do I manage my response? It alternately makes me want to pull my hair out and makes me want to cry, because I, too, would love to have a baby, but I’m so far away from being able to do that financially and logistically (I’m queer) that it feels impossible. Please help!

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—Not a Baby Hater, Just Tired of Hearing About It!

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Dear NaBHJToHAI,

What if y’all just went about your work instead of talking all the time? (OK, OK, I know—who does that? But seriously: Shouldn’t work be for working, and friendship—the parts of the day when we’re not at work—be for talking about kids and pets, etc.?)

Even more seriously: If you don’t want to hear about her baby, and all she wants to do is talk about her baby, stop talking with her for a while. You work together; you aren’t each other’s best friends. She had no business “banning” talk of babies and kids before she had one. (Why on earth did you all—all you people who are not her family or her friends but her co-workers—agree to that ban?) And I’m very sorry that it’s (also) painful (along with being boring and frustrating) to you to hear about her baby now that she has one. If she were your sister or a close friend, I would definitely suggest that you gently ask her to cool it a little and confess that it makes you sad that the conversation between the two of you is now all babies all the time because you fear you won’t be able to have one of your own anytime soon and you really want to. But she is neither sister nor friend. If you’re working together in person, walk away if she’s bugging you. If you can’t walk away, change the damn subject. And the drinking game sounds like a fun way to blow off the steam of your irritation—if also pretty mean.

—Michelle

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