Dear Care and Feeding,
I’m wondering how to address my gun ownership with my new neighbors. My spouse and I both grew up in families who hunted to supplement our diets, and we have continued to do so as adults. We’ve always lived in rural areas or the suburbs where this was common or at least not unusual, so it’s never been an issue, though new friends have often been surprised to learn we are gun owners as we are very progressive in our politics, very opposed to the gun lobby industry, and very vocally pro-strong gun laws. We don’t see this as mutually exclusive and are always happy to explain. We don’t have kids of our own and are still young enough that none of our friends do either, so “kids and gun safety” has always been an abstract topic … until now.
We recently moved to a small city and have become friendly with a family down the road who have two early elementary school-aged kids. So far we’ve just been socializing outside—and sometimes I watch the kids in our backyard while their parents get projects done (I work with kids and love to have them around!). As it gets hotter out and the kids finally get vaccinated, I expect socializing and babysitting will start to move indoors. They moved here from a much larger city where hunting is definitely not the norm and would probably be surprised to learn we have guns in the house. They are locked in the attic (which is only accessible from a pull down ladder that even my 6-foot tall spouse can’t reach without a step stool). What do we do here? Should I warn the parents unprompted? If so how do I disclose this without potentially scaring off our new friends, whom we really like? “I know you didn’t ask but I thought you might want to know we have a few rifles in the attic” seems really out of left field.
—I Promise We Aren’t Gun Nuts
Dear I Promise,
You’re asking the perfect person, because I’m extremely anti-gun, and I have two young kids. If I enjoyed your company and I spent a lot of time over at your house, I would appreciate it if you said exactly what you described as out of left field. Explain why you have the guns, appease my fears (that you’re pro-strong gun laws), tell me where you keep the guns, and explain how difficult it would be to access them.
Personally, I would like and respect you so much more for offering up that information proactively instead of it coming from someone else. It shows that you like me, respect me, care about the safety of my children, and want to ensure I’m comfortable. In that case, I’d still be more than happy to hang out with you at your place.
I can’t speak for your friends, but I’d venture to guess they would probably feel the same way that I do. If they don’t, then I think it’s fair to compromise. Maybe you’ll hang out at their house more often than they will hang out at yours. Either way, you seem like a gun owner of sound mind, so I’d be surprised if it impacted your relationship negatively.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
My daughter has been in remote kindergarten all year. I work from home at the minute, and keep half an ear on class. The class is a mix of white, Asian, and Latinx kids, and there are two Black girls. They live together and join class together. They seem to have a tough home life. When they unmute, there’s always very loud TV in the background, and no parent seems to be around. They’ve complained occasionally about being hungry and not having eaten breakfast. And the teacher… is really mean to them. She “others” them badly, mentioning frequently how they had their materials hand delivered to them (as opposed to picking them up) so they must have them. Meanwhile, there are hundreds of pages pre-printed for this class, and frequent additional things that need printing. There’s no way a 5-year-old could prepare themselves for class without adult help. And she’s just sharp with them. The other day she went off on them for 10 minutes for hurting her feelings by having the camera off, “and if they wanted her to feel sad, then they didn’t need to turn the camera back on.” This is obviously horrible and unhelpful to these two little girls, and horrible for the rest of the class to absorb. I think I’ve gaslit myself that I’ve missed context, because I’m only ever half listening, but … this is appalling, right? I need to do something? I should have done something months ago?
—Silence Is Complicit
I have strong opinions on when to be silent and when to speak up. If you’re thinking about offering unsolicited parenting advice to someone whose kids are not in danger, then you should probably keep your mouth shut. If you want to be an advocate for children when it seems like no one is being an advocate for them, then yes, you should say something. In this case I believe you have every right to bring this to the teacher’s attention.
However, before you do anything, you really need to be sure that your assumptions match the reality of the situation. If possible, take a day to listen in to your daughter’s class without multitasking to observe the teacher’s behavior. If you see that she’s singling out the two Black girls, then I’d ask to speak with the teacher offline. In doing so, you can say, “Hi, Mrs. Smith, I sat in on your class today, and I have to admit that I felt uncomfortable by the way you addressed Patty and Susie. I know I wouldn’t like it if my daughter was spoken to that way. I wanted you to know in case it’s a blind spot for you.” Of course, you’ll need to follow up with specific examples of the behavior so she’ll understand what was said.
Hopefully it truly is a blind spot and she’ll be as mortified as you are when she learns about it. Racial biases are real, and we all have them. The goal is to recognize those biases before they negatively affect others—and in this case, we’re talking about vulnerable kindergartners. Additionally, if you do find that the teacher is treating the girls unfairly, I’d bring it up with their parents as well so they’re in the loop. Be warned that the parents may snap at you and tell you to mind your own business, but you shouldn’t let that deter you from speaking up if you feel the kids are being treated poorly.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
My son “MC” (our only child) turned 3 earlier this year. I have been thinking about sending him to part-time preschool starting in the fall of this year, or the beginning of next year before he turns 4. I’ve been less than stellar about navigating wait lists, so I figured his start to preschool would be delayed. I mentioned this to my mother-in-law, and she found him a preschool and said they have a part-time slot open right away, and she scheduled a meeting for them to meet my son in the next few days. She called and informed me of this and advised me on what my son and I should wear to this meeting. She stated she hadn’t looked at the tuition cost, but did it really matter?
I looked it up, and it’s not cheap. I’m aware of the going rate for preschool where we live and the tuition isn’t exceptional, but it’s a bit of a stretch for us. (They do not offer financial assistance.) The program seems solid and I want him to have the socialization and academic preparedness for kindergarten, but I worry about the cost. He currently attends swim lessons and a toddler movement class at our local YMCA. His grandparents take him to these activities in the mornings and watch him the rest of the day. They spend three days a week with him at my MIL’S insistence. I recently became a stay-at-home mom, and I take him on the days they don’t have him. The preschool days would be the days I have him at home with me. My MIL still wants to have him go to the YMCA classes in addition to the preschool days. (If it matters she regularly buys him clothes and toys to the point that he has a separate wardrobe and toy area at their house. Because she refuses to coordinate these purchases with us, we have stopped buying him things so he doesn’t end up with too much stuff.) I know studies have shown that preschool is important, but is it really important to prepare for kindergarten? Is it OK if he only goes for one year instead of two? Also, how many activities is too many activities for a 3-year-old?
—Parent of a Future Preschooler
Hold up. Can we address the elephant in the room before we talk about preschool? Why are you allowing your in-laws to raise your kid instead of you? So what if your in-laws spend three days a week with your child. You’re going to allow them to dictate when and where your child should go to preschool (and what you should wear to the interview, at that?)? You’re OK with this? You need to put your foot down right now before this gets completely out of control.
Take a minute to determine what you want for your son, talk it over with your spouse to get on the same page, and then do it without the grandparents’ input. You don’t have to check in with them or get their permission, either. It seems like they’ve taken total control of your son’s life, and you need to get that control back immediately. Your spouse should have your back on this, and you should confront your mother-in-law together. The conversation should simply be along the lines of “I know you mean well, but every decision and every action involving our son must be approved by us first.”
I also value the importance of preschool, but I’ve seen some tuitions that would make college administrators blush. If it would break you financially to put your kid in that school, don’t do it. There are plenty of cost-effective ways to prepare a child for kindergarten. More importantly, stand up for yourself, because your child’s future—and your relationship with your child—is at stake.
Dear Care and Feeding,
This has been bugging me for years. I’ve been divorced from my ex-wife for five years and we have a 7-year-old daughter together. Every Father’s Day she chooses to celebrate herself because as she says on social media “I’m the mom and the dad for my daughter.” I probably shouldn’t let this bug me as much as it does, but I’m her dad! I think it’s incredibly disrespectful, and I don’t want my daughter getting confused. Any advice for me?
—The One and Only Dad
Dear One and Only,
Yeah, that would definitely irk me too. Since this has been going on for years, I’m assuming you’ve already talked to her about this, right? If so, whatever you said to her isn’t convincing enough to get her to change her ways.
I’m also aware that there are two sides to every story, and maybe she doesn’t feel that you stepped up enough as a father to your daughter and feels she’s had to play both parenting roles on her own. Even if that’s the case, you’re that child’s father, not her, and your ex-wife’s passive-aggressive behavior is only going to hurt your daughter in the long run.
I hate to say it, but I don’t think it’s worth raising this with your ex-wife—I don’t think your feelings are going to change her behavior. Instead, focus on your daughter and your relationship with her. Nurture your bond every day—not just Father’s Day—and your daughter will know who’s really supposed to be celebrated on Father’s Day.
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My 7-year-old’s father (my ex-husband) grew up amongst outgoing friends who constantly interrupted, talked over one another, competed for the wittiest remark, and thought nothing of all of it. Even now, as an adult, these are the type of friends he’s drawn to, which has resulted in him thinking this is “normal” behavior. I, however, find it very rude. Who’s right?