Care and Feeding

Can I Bring My Very New Boyfriend to a 4-Year-Old’s Birthday Party?

My best friend (the mom) says no.

A kid wearing a party hat smiles as an adult brings him a cake and another kid looks on at a birthday party
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by H. Armstrong Roberts/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’m 34 and have happily been seeing someone for three months. It’s still new, but it’s going well, and he’s very normal, mature, and together. My best friend is hosting a fourth birthday party for her son next month, and I asked if I could bring him as a plus-one. She declined because she isn’t ready to bring someone new into her son’s world and “still has PTSD” from my ex being in her baby shower photos (4.5 years ago!).

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She is absolutely justified in controlling who is around her son. I am a wildly overprotective “auntie” and do not have a reputation for bringing around randos. There are going to be lots of people at this party, and I’m confident her son isn’t going to know many of the adults (such as the parents of his new school friends). It feels inconsiderate and hurtful that she declined my request to bring my boyfriend, especially since I have to drive 1.5 hours each way and won’t know many people there except her parents.

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Am I out of line to feel miffed? I feel like she’s being very selfish and forgetting that adults typically don’t love attending children’s birthday parties where they don’t know anybody. Should I talk to her or let it go? Either way, I’ll respect her decision, and I can just go as Cool Auntie Solo if I have to.

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—Cool Auntie Solo

Dear CAS,

You are definitely out of line to expect that you should be able to bring your boyfriend of three months to your best friend’s child’s party. This isn’t a club, nor a wedding in which it is rather standard to bring a date; it’s a 4-year-old’s birthday party. What grown-ass man is sitting around dying to go to a birthday party for a 4-year-old he doesn’t even know? I bet yours is not. Also: You’ve been dating three months. … Have you all had the “boyfriend” talk, or are you using this nomenclature because it is the right way to describe how the relationship is functioning at this point? In other words, does he know he’s your boyfriend? And why do you mention that he is “very normal, mature, and together?” Are you, perhaps, not known for having partners who check those boxes off? That might contribute to the many reasons your friend would not want to feed an additional person who does not add to the guest list in any meaningful way aside from keeping you company.

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In any case, it’s a 1.5-hour drive, not a six-hour journey in which one would need to have someone to ride along; there are many movies longer than your ride to this party. Call your boo from the car to keep you company, or maybe he can ride there and back with you and do something else while you attend the event. As the best friend of the mom of the birthday boy, I’d imagine that you’d be an appreciated extra set of hands putting out food, cleaning up spills, and logging presents; if her family takes care of all of that, then just focus on being a guest at the party. Would you need a plus-one if you weren’t seeing this man? If not, you don’t need one now. If you would have brought one otherwise, perhaps a sister or a friend who knows your BFF but wouldn’t have been invited on their own, then that is whom you need to bring. Your man can attend your celebrations as you see fit, but these are definitely not the circumstances to force him on your homegirl. Have fun, Cool Auntie Solo!

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I am a recently divorced mom of three children. Two of them are out of the house, working, and at university. The third and youngest, “Kate,” lives with me and hasn’t seen her father in a couple of months. My ex-husband told Kate that he would give her money every month. In fact, he gives that money to me. He told her the exact amount. Now Kate is wondering where that money is. I don’t feel that it is her business how much her father gives me. On the other hand, I feel bad not saying anything. What do you think I should tell her?

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—Wanting to Do the Right Thing

Dear Right Thing,

I am confused as to why your ex told Kate he would be giving her money if it was not his intent to do exactly that. Based on your letter, I can imagine two different situations, and my responses to them are essentially opposite. If your ex intended this money as an allowance and is only passing it through you for banking or other logistical reasons, then you should indeed be passing it on to Kate. It’s hard to imagine why you wouldn’t, at least not from what you wrote. However, if this money is a contribution toward housing Kate and her other material needs, aka “child support,” it is not the same as giving a kid some money, and is as much Kate’s business as your utility, rent, and grocery costs are. Assuming the latter scenario, explain to Kate what this money is actually intended to do, and if the terms of your relationship are such that you can safely and effectively do so, perhaps you and your ex need to have a conversation about the function of child support and how he expresses that to his daughter so that she isn’t confused further. Good luck to you.

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• 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 husband, daughter, and I live in Maine, an extremely White and comparatively old state. There are lots of reasons we like living here, but I am concerned about the lack of diversity in our school system. I have very weird feelings about the fact that my daughter will likely only have one or two people of color in her classes and likely won’t have many non-White friends until college, or when she leaves the house. I’m also extremely wary of tokenizing anyone and don’t want to give the impression that diverse friends are like collectibles. Do you have any advice, beyond moving and exposing her to diverse media, on how to navigate raising an anti-racist child in a very vanilla state?

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—The Northeast Isn’t Explicitly Racist But …

Dear Northeast,

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that from the perspective of people of color, the Northeast is absolutely “explicit” in its racism, as is the vast majority of this country—it just isn’t explicit in ways that folks who don’t experience it would readily recognize. If it weren’t so racist, there would be more of us there, which brings us to your concerns about your child living in such a homogeneously White world. The most important thing you can do is speak openly and honestly to your daughter about racism. So often, parents want to shield their children from the ugliest, scariest parts of the world and call it “protecting their innocence,” but “innocent” White children who are not informed about how racism shapes their experiences and their perspective on non-White people are capable of great harm: bullying, getting non-White people in trouble with authority figures, physical attacks. In other words, the same sort of things White adults do after generations of being taught that they are inherently good and that if people of color are not inherently bad, they are at the very least deficient in some way.

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Explain to your child how race structures society in age-appropriate ways. Let her know that she has a responsibility to humanity to reject the idea that her whiteness makes her superior to anyone, and to call out unfairness whenever she sees it. Raise her to be empathetic, to not take up too much space when people of color are talking about their issues with race, and to listen to them. Do not make excuses for racist elders in your family, or friends whose values do not align with your own. Model living by the anti-racist principles you wish to instill in her. Use books, media, and other examples from the world around you to highlight the beauty and value in that which is unlike her own appearance, experiences, and culture, so that she sees herself as a part of a vast world, not the default for humanity. Wishing you all the best.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

How can I convince my mom to let me shave my legs? I asked her to start shaving them when I was about 12, and she told me that she really regretted starting to shave her legs at a young age and that I wasn’t allowed to. After a little bit, she told me that if I really wanted to, I could epilate my legs, so I started doing that.

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That was three years ago. Now, I’m 15, and I’m still not allowed to shave. The thing is, epilating makes the hair grow back slower. After I do my legs, I have to wait almost a month for the hair to get long enough to do them again, so I have nice smooth legs for a week, and then I have to go through two weeks of itchy, prickly ones before I can epilate again. I’ve tried just not doing anything and just letting my leg hair grow out, but I honestly prefer smooth legs; I have really thick leg hair that can get to be up to an inch long and is really itchy. Every time I bring up shaving my legs with my mom (and I don’t bring it up more than once every four or five months so I don’t annoy her), she tells me starting to shave her legs was her biggest regret—not because of the patriarchal and sexist history behind it (which is understandable), but because she thinks it’s really annoying to keep up with—and she won’t let me do that to myself. The thing is, in her situation, she was told she HAD to shave her legs starting around fifth grade, whereas I’m in high school and want to shave my legs.

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I understand that I’m still a kid and not completely mature, but I feel like this is a decision I should be able to make on my own. If I regret it, so be it; I feel like being annoyed that I started to shave my legs is a pretty small regret in the grand scheme of things. I don’t feel comfortable lying to my parents and buying a razor behind their back (and I’m not really sure how I would go about doing that in the first place), so is there any way to convince my mom to let me start shaving my legs, or do I just have to wait this out?

—Stumped and Stubbly

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Dear Stumped,

You are really to be commended for respecting your mother’s rules and wanting to engage her with respect. As you continue to advocate for yourself, be sure to continue to tap into that energy—I know it isn’t always easy!

Let your mother know that your leg stubble causes you significant discomfort. You may be experiencing some ingrown hairs in addition to the slow, bothersome hair growth, and that combination can be a nightmare. Do not relent, and do not wait four months to bring this subject up again; your mom needs to understand how important this is to you. Perhaps your leg hair is thicker than her own, and she can’t quite relate to how uncomfortable that growing-in process can get. Also, these feelings she has about the requirement she was forced to adhere to have clearly colored her handling of this matter quite a bit.

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Assure her that you are able to handle the ramifications of this decision. Also, ask if you could speak to your pediatrician about a safe removal process that might be easiest for someone with your lifestyle to handle; a depilatory cream like Nair may be easier than having to shave, for example. Keep advocating for yourself and don’t let this go unless it truly ceases to bother you someday. Good luck!

—Jamilah

More Advice From Slate

When my friend became pregnant she asked me if she could buy my kids’ old cot. I told her she could borrow it but made it clear I wanted it returned when she was finished. She knows the cot holds a lot of sentimental value for me, as my late grandfather made it. Unfortunately her baby boy died unexpectedly, and she is planning to burn everything he used due to religious beliefs. I recently went to her place and saw the cot pushed out into the garage along with everything else she is planning to burn. It wasn’t the time to say anything, so I held my tongue, but I really want my old cot back. I would be devastated if she burns this. Is it callous if I contact her and ask about the cot while she is mourning?

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