Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Submit it here.
Dear Care and Feeding,
I’m terrified my daughter is going to kill her unborn child. She is 32-weeks pregnant and continues to do HIIT workouts like sprint drills or Tae-Bo daily and is lifting weights three times a week! She even increased her weights from 10-pound dumbbells to 20 and a 44 barbell during her third trimester because she said the smaller ones weren’t cutting it anymore! She says her OB said it is fine, as long as she exercised at this level before (which she did) … but come on. She is going to hurt herself or the baby! And she continues to get laser facials (four this pregnancy) with topical numbing cream (she says the OB and dermatologist both said it was fine and less risky than getting a Novocain injection) and uses glycolic acid body lotions (again, she claims to have been told glycolic is safe) to prevent stretch marks. This is going to come back to bite her by hurting the physical or cognitive well-being of her kid! Please help me make her see some sense!
— Doomed from the Start
Dear Doomed from the Start,
I’m one of those “power of positive thinking” types, and I say let’s never use that first sentence from your letter ever again! Don’t claim or give energy to such a terrible thought. I understand why you are concerned, but it sounds like your daughter is working with her medical team to make sure that the things she’s doing during her pregnancy are safe. She isn’t the first nor the last to work out or get beauty treatments while carrying a baby, and you and I both know that pregnant people take far greater risks on a regular basis without the support of prenatal care. If you have specific articles or other texts that talk about the negative impact of these specific actions on a pregnancy, share them with her if you must. However, even with some evidence, you’re likely to be fighting a losing battle if she’s getting different information from her doctors. In fact, I’d be willing to be that if you did some research, you’d find more info to side with her and her team than you would to support the idea that she needs to sit down for nine months. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you’re deeply concerned, but I’d recommend stopping short of telling her that her baby is “doomed.” Instead, just let her know how much she and this baby mean to you and that you only want the safest possible pregnancy for them both. Wishing you luck, and calm.
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From this week’s letter, My Husband Thinks I’m Turning Our Kid Against His Culture: “I’m frustrated because my husband had many opportunities to discuss what he wanted our kid to learn.”
Dear Care and Feeding,
I’m a teen, and I hope it’s okay to ask this question in a parenting column, but I really need advice. I’m 15, and I have a great uncle who is probably an alcoholic. He drinks a lot, but he is really nice; he just gets lively when he is drunk, but he has never been a burden to us at those times. When he comes to visit us, he always asks for alcohol, and we have different opinions on this. My family mostly thinks we should not give him any alcohol, so they often lie to him, saying there isn’t any, even when he knows we always have some around. My dad and I feel really embarrassed about this because he’s 70 years old and he doesn’t have an addiction diagnosed by a professional, so aren’t we basically trying to parent someone who is old enough to make his own decisions? He is always nice about it, but I can tell he knows what my family thinks of him, and I feel for him. It’s also not a rule in general that we don’t drink alcohol; we usually drink when family comes to visit, as that’s part of our culture. I wonder if I should tell my family about my concerns. Even if he is addicted, won’t this just drive him away from us? Won’t he just drink at home or in a pub and not come to visit us?
— Compassionate Nephew
Dear Compassionate Nephew,
I’m sorry that it seems that your great uncle is struggling. It sounds like the adults in your family have some clear feelings about how to handle this and have likely discussed what they perceive to be his issue without you. You should speak to them about how you are feeling; this may not change how they choose to approach the situation, but I think it’s important that they hear from you on the matter because it’s hurting you, and because you care about this man.
I can’t tell you for certain that your family’s choice to withhold alcohol won’t impact your great uncle’s willingness to visit at some point, but please try and understand why they might take such an action. If they see him using a substance that has a negative impact on his life, providing him with that substance is almost like saying “Everything is fine with this.” Obviously, they do not believe things to be fine, even without a diagnosis from a doctor—and while mistaken assumptions are possible, you don’t have to be a medical professional to recognize behavior that implies an alcohol problem. If your dad and other loved ones see this in him, they may feel strongly that they must not enable him to do himself harm.
If your great uncle does have an addiction problem, then yes, he will likely go seek out other places to drink if the family won’t let him do it. However, that isn’t to say that their decision can’t help him to recognize something he may be denying. He’s an elder, and it is likely embarrassing to ask for a cocktail only to be told that the house is dry when he knows it isn’t. That’s something for him to think about. Ultimately, it sounds like he could use some support and perhaps you talking to your family about it will inspire them to take steps to help him. Wishing you all the best.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
My 15-year-old daughter is a member of a close-knit competitive sports team. Recently, one of the team’s assistant coaches was killed in a car accident. A few articles have been released indicating this coach was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident. As if this wasn’t tragic enough, he also killed a pedestrian.
My husband and I are at a complete loss as to how to help our daughter through this. She’s been withdrawn and quiet since the accident. She went with her friends to the funeral (she requested that we not attend) and has spent a lot of time in her room with the door closed. The team administrators said grief counselors would be provided at practice, but as our daughter hasn’t really said anything of substance to us, we aren’t sure if the counselors showed up or if our daughter talked with them. I understand this is probably traumatic for my daughter. I would like to start a conversation to at least see how she’s feeling, but anytime I try, she just shuts me down. I was discussing the situation with a neighbor yesterday and my daughter came out of her room, screamed at me to stop gossiping, then slammed the door. I apologized to her via text but got no response. I feel like I’m bungling this. How do I help my daughter through what is undoubtedly a complicated grieving process? I can’t find parenting articles that get at this specific situation.
— Mom of a Mourner
Dear Mom of a Mourner,
I am so sorry your family and community are going through this. I think the gravity of this loss may be a bit too much to rely on the services of grief counselors who may only be available briefly. Your daughter is coping with the death of someone she cared about, as well as the tragic impact his choices had on a stranger, and though her teammates are by her side trying to do the same, this is a very difficult set of circumstances for such young people. She’s withdrawing and may not feel comfortable opening up to her parents, especially since she’s aware that you and other adults may be looking at this person she admired through the lens of his last set of actions. She may feel too protective of him, or too confused by her feelings, to want to speak to you about them. I strongly recommend getting her to a professional, someone who is trained in helping children navigate grief. This is a deeply traumatic event that has altered multiple lives, and your daughter needs some serious support right now. Also, check in with the team leadership about the grief counselor: Though that may not offer everything these kids need, it’s a starting place, and if it was skipped over or if the counselors were ineffective, that should be addressed as well. Wishing you and your daughter all the best in getting through this difficult time.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
Every holiday season, I adopt a family or families in need. My family, friends, and I will all contribute money with which we get them a collection of new toys and gift cards for clothing stores. This year a friend offered me some clothing items and books that are new and didn’t fit her children. It was so generous, and I was very appreciative, but as I went through the items, I realized that most of them would not fit the kids in the family I adopted. My question is, what can I politely do with these items? There is a clothing collection bin in my town, and I am leaning towards contributing them there and just politely thanking my friend for her generosity, but I also don’t want to be rude or mislead her into thinking these items didn’t go where she intended them to go.
— Perplexed Elf
Dear Perplexed Elf,
Thank your friend again for her contribution, but let her know that you were matched with a family that required different items. Offer to return them to her if she’d like to gift them elsewhere, and let her know that you’ll otherwise donate them via the bin. She’s unlikely to be offended, and you’ll be giving her the ability to decide where the items end up. Happy holidays to you, and cheers for such a nice gesture for a family in need.
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My husband and I are driving six hours through the snowy mountains in a rental car with two other couples who are close friends to a wedding in a practically unreachable place (that’s a story for another advice column). One of the men in another couple went ahead and reserved the car rental for us as he travels frequently for work. The problem is we are all terrified of him as a driver—he drives too fast, doesn’t pay attention, and honestly doesn’t drive often enough to be any good at it. We would prefer that someone else drive, but he says time and time again that he’s happy to do it. How do we convince him to let someone else get behind the wheel without hurting his feelings? He’s very sensitive and we think he might be crushed with our lack of trust in him.