Care and Feeding

Can I “Swap” My Twins to Get at Least One of Them Vaccinated?

Twin A already qualifies. Twin B doesn’t yet, but needs it more …

Collage of two twin teenage boys genially pointing at each other and a syringe going into a vaccine vial between them.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by 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 am a mom to 17-year-old identical twins. Twin A is super laid-back and has been doing pretty well throughout the whole pandemic; he also has ADHD, and the home environment has actually led to an improvement in his schoolwork. Twin B is much more high-strung: He is terrified of getting COVID, to the point where he almost has a nervous breakdown if he exhibits a single symptom of COVID, like coughing. In our state, ADHD qualifies you to get a vaccine, so Twin A is eligible. Twin B, however, will not be eligible until they open eligibility to everyone in about a month (and even then, appointments will be difficult to find). Twin A doesn’t seem to care about getting vaccinated, but it’s all Twin B has been able to talk about for months. Well, Twin A came up with the idea that he could make an appointment for himself, Twin B could use it, and Twin A would wait until general eligibility opened up and sign up as Twin B. The thing is, I don’t hate this idea. Twin B is just so anxious, and it would really help his mental health to get the vaccine, and Twin A doesn’t go out much anyway. They look enough alike that they wouldn’t raise an eye. Would this really be the worst idea ever?

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—Unvaxxed

Dear Unvaxxed,

Isn’t this the entire point of having identical twins in the first place? Kidding, kidding … sorta. This isn’t the worst idea, and I can absolutely see why you’d find it appealing. However, there are some risks: If you got caught, I am sure there are some not great consequences that could befall you for claiming a false identity; what they are will depend on your state, the venue of the shot, etc.—things I cannot advise you on. Honestly, though, the only scenario I can imagine in which this becomes an issue involves your son having an adverse reaction to the shot and requiring medical care, and then maybe you having to use a different name to register him to receive it. You know that what you are doing is technically wrong, but you probably also know that vaccine rollout has been a mess in most places and that by bending the rules a little, you could bring peace to at least one of your children. No one can really even say that you’re “stealing” a shot because an eligible person is sacrificing his dose. Ultimately, you’ll have to weigh out the ethics and legalities of this for yourself—wishing you all good health whatever you choose!

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Dear Care and Feeding,

Last year my daughter’s middle school had a religious lunch program. Basically, every Tuesday, a local church would send in a couple of youth group leaders who would provide free pizza and talk to the kids about Jesus and Christianity, and they would have activities and games. When COVID hit, her school went online, so they started holding the meetings over Zoom. I sat in on the first one, and I was very surprised by how overtly religious some of the things the group leader said were. It seemed to me that it was violating the separation of church and state since this is a public school, but when I asked the principal, but he said that it was OK because an outside group hosted the meetings, and they weren’t being promoted by the school. My daughter lost interest after the first meeting once there wasn’t the incentive of free pizza, so I let the issue drop. However, school is back to normal and the program will be resuming soon.

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I sent the principal an email with my concerns. The more I think about it, I really don’t agree with these kinds of programs in public schools. I also feel like having superfluous visitors in the school and a gathering of many kids from various classes all eating together without masks is super dangerous. Unfortunately, the principal told me that he evaluated it and has made the final decision to let this program go on. I’m now kind of stuck. My daughter desperately wants to do this program (for the pizza and time with friends, not for the religious content), and I know she will be heartbroken if I don’t let her do it since she is an eighth grader and it’s her last few months at this school. I don’t know if I should just sign the permission slip or if I should do more to try to stop this from going on. I haven’t heard anything from any other parents about it, so I assume they either don’t know or are OK with it. And I don’t want to be “that mom,” to be honest. I just worry that impressionable kids could be swayed into their specific religion, as my daughter tells me that they encourage the kids to attend programs and worship services at the hosting church on Sundays. I also REALLY worry about the possibility of extra exposure to COVID, as we have already had one 10-day quarantine after a student tested positive. None of these kids are old enough to get vaccinated at any point in the near future. Help?

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—Jesus Camp

Dear JC,

Listen, sometimes you have to be “that mom.” Continuing to fight the presence of this program at a school you’ll be done with after a few months may not feel like a worthy battle, however, and the seeming lack of concern from other parents could mean that you’d be fighting alone. I would at least check in with some other families just to be sure that you aren’t the only one feeling this way, if only for your own peace of mind. If it turns out that you are among a number of concerned parents, then there may be the makings of a dialogue with the principal.

Either way, I definitely think it is worth it to dig in your heels when it comes to prohibiting your daughter from participating. Allowing her to do it is being complicit with something that you know is wrong; it is absolutely unconscionable that this sort of messaging is being delivered to children at public schools, and I don’t think it’s right to allow your child to be there if you feel the same way. Furthermore, as you mentioned, this group also represents additional exposure to people during a time in which we are still wise to limit our unnecessary interactions.

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You’ll have to be very clear in explaining your reasoning to your daughter; make sure you talk about why the separation between church and state is important to you and what is so troubling for you (and me!) about this programming. Work with your daughter to figure out ways for her to connect safely with her friends outside of school and leave Jesus Camp behind.

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

• Discuss this column in the Slate Parenting Facebook group!

Dear Care and Feeding,

My stepson hurt my husband’s feelings today. We live 500 miles from our grandkids and see them a few times a year. We have been vaccinated and planned on visiting for our grandson’s first birthday. We missed our older grandson’s first birthday and attended via FaceTime with the rest of the family, so we were excited about this. Today we were told not to come; my daughter-in-law said the first birthday is for the mother, and her family is the priority, not us. They’ll be spending the day with her parents instead of us. Meanwhile, they already see her family a few times a week as they live close and babysit when needed. My husband talks to his son a few times a week, and we get lots of pictures of the kids every week, but we don’t get to see them regularly. It feels like such a snub from our DIL. We stay at a hotel when we visit and just wanted to be part of the celebration. I know I can’t say anything to keep the peace, but I hate seeing how disappointed my husband was after the phone call. He loves his kids and hates we live so far away. Is this really a thing where the kid’s first birthday is the “mother’s” day?

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—Not the Priority Grandparents

Dear NPG,

I am so sorry that your stepson and daughter-in-law have made a decision that hurt your feelings. While I’ve never heard anything about a tradition or ritual of allowing a child’s first birthday to be centered on the mother’s family, it isn’t uncommon for families to defer to what a new mommy wants—perhaps that’s what’s going on here? Also, not sure if the other grands are vaccinated, but COVID is still very real, and it probably would not have been ideal to get all of you together (especially with travel involved) right now.

That aside, what was decided and what was communicated were both deeply disappointing, and your husband should let your stepson know that his (and maybe your) feelings were hurt, and that you’d both really like to find another time to come and safely see their son. Hopefully, your stepson will be a little more gracious than his wife was and will understand how you all must have felt about having the much-anticipated trip canceled. Wishing you all the best, and congrats on the new grandbaby.

For more of Slate’s parenting coverage, listen to Mom and Dad Are Fighting

Dear Care and Feeding,

I’m a 14-year-old girl, and I’m worried. I’m allowed to have a little sip of my mom’s drinks now and then, and lately, I’ve been acquiring a taste for alcohol. But it’s gone a bit too far. I drank a little too much last night and woke up with a hangover. Keep in mind, I’m young, and a little bit is enough to get me tipsy. I almost missed school, and I was super out of sorts for the rest of the day. I keep sneaking glasses of wine, and I just can’t stop myself. I’m worried it’ll affect my grades, or I won’t be trusted by my family. Any advice?

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—Regretting the Rosé

Dear RR,

First, let me commend you for having the courage to write this letter, and for recognizing that something is not feeling right with you these days. There are families that allow their underage kids to have a sip of booze here and there at home, and while this may be legal depending on the state, in my personal observation, it often leads to teens feeling emboldened enough to take more than what their parents have allowed. While I don’t want you to fear that you have become an addict, I do think it’s important that you get some additional assistance in ensuring that you do not find yourself unable to stop drinking. The best way to do that would be to tell your parents. It may be the case that you simply aren’t ready for the temptation of access to alcohol, and that by being allowed to sample it, you’ve begun to develop a problematic taste for it and perhaps even the instinct to seek it out at specific times.

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Speaking of which, what’s going on with you these days otherwise? Are you stressed out? Anxious? Sad? Why do you think now is the time that you’ve found yourself exploring the family bar? Might this new interest in drinking be connected to something you’re dealing with? Either way, it’s the perfect time for what may be an uncomfortable conversation, but one you truly need to have with the people who love you most. You should not have to grapple with this alone; even if you are able to put these feelings to the side now, I’d hate for you to have a similar issue in the future. Let your parents know that you know you’ve made a mistake, that you regret it, and that you are deeply concerned with making sure that you don’t find yourself in a position in which this has gotten out of control. Best of luck to you, my dear.  

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—Jamilah

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