Care and Feeding

If I Can Buy Up a Bunch of the Season’s Hot Toy … Should I?

I’d resell it to fellow parents at cost!

Cocomelon JJ dolls with price tags on them
Slate

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,

Would it be ethical to buy up quantities of this season’s hot toy (this year, it’s the Cocomelon JJ doll) if I find it on sale so that I can thwart evil scalpers and sell them at cost to pure-hearted fellow parents with kids who want them for real? Or does this just contribute to the false scarcity problem the scalpers are creating?

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—JJ Justice

Dear JJ Justice,

I imagine the quantities of Cocomelon JJ dolls we’re talking about here are low enough to have little effect on the overall market—I think you can probably go for it if this is really how you want to spend your time! But before you clear out your attic or rent a storage unit somewhere, maybe ask yourself how important this is to you? It just sounds like it could take up a ton of your time and energy, and there are likely easier, better ways to improve the holiday for pure-hearted parents and kids.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

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Do I have to buy Christmas gifts for kids who are essentially my stepnephews? My sister (“Sarah”) texted me a few days ago. The contents of the text surprised me: She had gotten married! She and another woman, “Jessica,” who live together with their children, had gotten married in what I assume was a courthouse wedding. I’d like to point out that their children do not know that their mothers were in romantic relations and are now married. Honestly, this does not seem like the type of thing you don’t tell your kids! Sarah and her ex-husband divorced at the beginning of this year. Previously she and Jessica were merely “friends,” but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it was more than that.

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To be clear, my issue is not that they are married, as my family is open and supportive of the LGBTQ community. Instead, I am unsure of what to do about gifts for birthdays and Christmas, as well as inviting them to family functions. In the past, we have just gotten Sarah’s biological children gifts (there are two girls). However, do we need to start getting Jessica’s children gifts as well? There are four of them, and since they live out of town, we have to ship their gifts. I don’t love the idea of a bunch of $20 gift cards since it seems impersonal, but I don’t know what to buy them! Shipping costs were not a big deal when there were only a few gifts, but shipping all these gifts will add up. And we barely even know these boys’ ages or names—we just have a guess.

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I’m feeling a little strange and possibly rude sending gifts just to Sarah’s kids, but I don’t really want to buy gifts for the other children and their mother. The one time we met them, they were rude, broke several items of high value, harassed my children, one child kept talking about Hitler, and they spilled tons of spaghetti all over my in-laws’ new, white carpet. And we don’t really know them that well! I’m also appalled at the fact that my sister told both me, other family members, and her own parents about the wedding via text. Personally, that does not seem like the type of thing you’d send over text. But do I find out the boys and Jessica’s birthdays, ages, names, etc., and start sending gifts and calling on their birthdays? Or can I just pretend this never happened and proceed as normal? And do I do anything about the fact that the children don’t know about the wedding/relationship?

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—To Gift or Not to Gift

Dear TGoNtG,

While I agree it’s weird that the kids don’t yet know that their mothers are married, it also sounds like your sister’s wedding might’ve only just taken place, so for now, I’d try to relax, let them get settled, and give them a chance to figure out how to tell their kids (which I really hope they do soon!).

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I’m hearing that you didn’t like Jessica’s kids much when you met them, but it was only one visit, and they’re part of your family now. I do think it would be rude and potentially quite hurtful to leave them out if you send gifts to Sarah and her kids. If you can find small gifts for everyone that are easily shipped, fine; if not, you can get a group gift or two for all the kids to share. Jessica and Sarah can also receive a joint gift if you aren’t sure what to individually send them. If you don’t know everyone’s names or ages, definitely ask (this is a fine use of a text message, FYI!), as that really seems like information you should have, independent of holiday gift-giving. You don’t have to go overboard on presents this year or any year—it’s not about how much you spend, but how you acknowledge and treat everyone, and I would generally strive to treat Jessica’s sons similarly to how you treat your nieces.

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You seem to be harboring resentment toward your sister over her marriage—certainly the way you were informed of it—but these decisions weren’t made by the kids, and it would be wrong to deal with them differently in order to convey disapproval of their parents’ actions. You also say that you aren’t sure about inviting Jessica and her kids to family functions. What kind of a message do you think it will send if you invite your sister and her daughters and not the rest of their family? If Sarah has picked up on your feelings about her family, that could be one reason you heard about her wedding via text message as opposed to a call? Or it could simply be that coming out and rearranging families and households in situations like this can be incredibly complicated, and ideal etiquette may not be top of mind. Whatever the case, examine your own behavior and ask yourself whether there are things you need to talk through instead of resorting to passive-aggressive acts—like withholding children’s Christmas gifts and invitations to family get-togethers—to express your feelings. Like it or not, your sister has a new family now, and if you want to maintain your relationship with her, you need to make an effort to be decent and kind to them.

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

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My 3-year-old has recently put together that her maternal grandparents are “Mommy’s mommy and daddy,” and every time we Zoom with my mother-in-law, our 3-year-old says something along the lines of “That’s Daddy’s mommy. Where’s his daddy?” My father-in-law died before she was born, and now that she has the awareness of his absence, we have absolutely no idea how to address it with her. What should we do next time she brings it up? We’ve been quickly changing the subject, but she’s persistent.

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—Too Young to Understand?

Dear TYtU,

Your 3-year-old knows that someone is missing. She is asking for you to tell her the truth. You don’t need to explain everything all at once—there is a lot she won’t be able to understand about illness or death at her age; her comprehension and her thoughts and feelings about these things will change as she grows. But she is clearly old enough to be aware, to ask you for the truth, and you should give it to her. Don’t keep changing the subject just because it’s a hard one. Tell her that her daddy’s daddy died before she was born, and that’s why he’s not here now.

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I would have some pictures ready to show her, some stories to share about him. Be prepared to explain, in whatever practical details you think she can grasp, what death means: our minds and bodies don’t work anymore, her grandfather can’t see or meet or talk to her, etc. If you want, you can tell her that he would have loved her and enjoyed doing different things with her and watching her grow up. She might be sad when you explain this. You might be sad when you explain this. It really is OK for our kids to see us miss those we’ve lost, see us cry and grieve—it’s how they will learn how to grieve.

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When your daughter asks, as she probably will, whether you’re going to die, whether she will one day die, you’ll have to say yes (I remember telling my kids that this probably wouldn’t happen for a long, long time—I obviously couldn’t know that, but I said it anyway). You can add that, while death is something we will all experience, of course we find it painful to be without the people we love, and it’s OK to be sad or scared about this even though we also know it’s a normal part of life. What you tell her beyond this will depend a lot on her specific follow-up questions, what you think she can understand, and your own traditions/beliefs. Keep your answers simple and truthful for now, and know you can and will expand on them as she gets older. You might find it helpful to find and read some children’s books that include the death of a grandparent. When in doubt, I’ve often used books not as a substitute for conversation with my kids, but as a way of beginning or continuing one.

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Expect this subject to come up again, and again. Even if no one else she knows dies for a long time, your child will have more questions about her grandfather; she will hear about characters dying in books or movies; other people she loves will one day die too. This is an ongoing discussion, and that means you don’t need to have all the answers or say everything just right in one go. Nor does your daughter have to understand it all at once—she will be figuring out how she feels and what she thinks about death for the rest of her life, just as we all do. In the meantime, it’s important to acknowledge this family member’s life and your feelings about his death and recognize that, in a way, this is your child’s loss too. Maybe she won’t be able to miss a grandparent she never knew, but that in itself is something to miss.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I have a 28-year-old daughter who has an autoimmune condition that makes it difficult for her to walk (if she’s having a flare-up). When she’s not having a flare-up, about 50 percent of the time, she can walk unassisted, but the other 50 percent of the time she uses a cane or a wheelchair. She has a very successful life and career in the city we live in, and is able to live independently, but her whole life she’s dreamt of moving to a very large city. She told me she’s planning on moving there at the end of 2021.

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I’m extremely nervous because the area where we live has a very low crime rate and most people drive so it’s not like anyone’s out walking alone at night. The city she wants to live in is dangerous, and everyone walks everywhere. She’d be a huge target for crime. She can’t really take self-defense classes because she wouldn’t even be able to go or use the skills she learned half the time. I don’t want her to move. I know it’ll crush her dream, but I think she’s old enough and mature enough to understand that some dreams have to be given up on. She’ll do whatever I advise her. Am I a bad mother for telling her not to move?

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—Stay Put

Dear Stay Put,

Time to take a deep breath. I know you’re worried, but this move won’t be happening, if it does, for a year or more. Don’t borrow too much trouble now, and don’t spend the next year trying to talk your daughter out of it. She is an adult, with the right to make her own choices about where she lives and what’s important to her, and you need to recognize and respect that. It’s fine to talk with her about it, listen, even share some of your concerns and/or help her make a good old-fashioned pro-and-con list, but in the end it’s really not for you to tell her which of her dreams are OK and which should be abandoned. (I also think that attempting to do so could backfire. In my experience, few things make someone more determined to do something more than someone telling them they shouldn’t or can’t!)

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This move is something your daughter really wants, and it’s not a spur-of-the-moment decision; she has been thinking about it for a long time. Neither her medical condition nor using a cane or wheelchair makes her helpless or unable to live and take care of herself in a city. (And speaking of cities, it’s worth noting that most are not nearly as dangerous as outsiders tend to think—checking the actual crime statistics, if you haven’t, may give you some ease on that point.) I think you need to work on seeing her for the capable, successful, independent adult she is and respect the choices she makes. If she did forgo this move—forgo her dream—because you told her to, I think you’d both wind up regretting it.

—Nicole

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