Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Submit it here.
Dear Care and Feeding,
I have a problem with the way that my daughter (28) chooses to represent me and other family members on Instagram. She loves to post pictures of her life, and she recently shared photos from some family holiday celebrations. My daughter often edits her face and physique in the pictures she posts. She’s an adult, so as much as I might not like it, ultimately that’s her decision. However, I draw the line at editing others. In the recently uploaded family pictures, she edited all of us, making us look taller, giving the women smaller waists, smoothing everyone’s skin, and changing facial features. When I saw these pictures, I told my daughter that I did not want her posting edited photos of me and asked that she post unedited photos or take them down altogether. I also explained that I found it hurtful that she made these edits without consulting me, as if to say that she couldn’t be seen on social media with the real me. Her sister has said the same thing to her.
However, these pictures have remained up as is. My daughter says that she has the right to post whatever she wants on her Instagram. That’s true, but it’s also a bit disrespectful to us.
After my other daughter noted that she asked not to have edited photos of her posted, I told Instagram daughter that I will not be taking any more photos with her unless she promises that if those pictures go on social media, my likeness will not be edited. She did not respond well to this and is now accusing me of being overbearing and holding our relationship hostage. All I want is to not have my family post edited photos of me on Instagram without my consent—it does not need to be this complicated. What do I do? Is my relationship with my daughter salvageable?
—Photoshopped in Phoenix
There’s no reason to think your relationship can’t be saved, unless there’s something else going on that you didn’t mention (which may explain why your daughter had such an outsize reaction to your request). You and your other daughter made a very fair, very simple ask of her, and her choice not to abide by it is reason enough for you to refuse to take IG pictures with her. It’s definitely not cool to alter someone’s image without their permission. Let your daughter know that you had no intention of upsetting her, but those edits made you uncomfortable—and explain why in as much detail as you can. Is it the idea that she is deciding what your flaws are and “addressing” them? (That would upset me!) Or perhaps, as you touched on, it may feel like she’s deemed your true appearance unworthy of appearing on her social feed. Regardless of the specific reasons, let them be known clearly, remind your daughter that two of her loved ones have asked her to cut this out (i.e., it’s not just you), and invite her to act her age, not her shoe size. She needs to accept your choice and move on. Wishing you all the best.
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From this week’s letter, I’m Stunned by How My Sister Chose to Punish Her 6-Year-Old Stepson: “How big of a deal is this, and how big of a deal should I make out of this?”
Dear Care and Feeding,
My mother is concerned about my 6-year-old son and his “expressive” facial reactions. Like my husband, my son’s face is an open book. You know exactly what he’s feeling based on his facial expressions. It’s very cute when he’s happy, but Grandma doesn’t like that he grimaces when he’s annoyed or grossed out. She thinks it’s rude and that my husband and I need to work to correct him so that he doesn’t always show his disapproval. My husband and I don’t see this as a big deal, and besides, we don’t want him to push toxic masculinity and make him feel like he has to hide his feelings from the world. We have explained this to my mother; however, she keeps pushing the topic. Is she right that we need to address my son’s facial reactions?
Dear Face Time,
The only thing that needs to be checked here is the potential for your son’s big reactions to be hurtful. It’s OK to wrinkle up your nose in disgust at a gross plate illustrated in a storybook, but making the same face when being presented with food cooked for him would land a bit differently. Assure your mother that you are encouraging your son to express his feelings openly and honestly while also being mindful of how he can make other people feel in the process. As long as he’s being kind, this is simply a difference in opinion between two people; only one of them has the final say here. All the best to you.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
My 9-year-old son is extremely angry most of the time; he thinks I hate him and that I love his younger brother more. He always complains that nobody lets him do what he likes, such as going out or leaving him to play PlayStation for hours—even if we have already done so. There’s always something missing to him. He repeatedly argues about everything and complains in an aggressive manner.
—My Angry Boy
Dear Angry Boy,
If your son is feeling angry that often, that means that he’s spending much of his time unhappy. His complaints may not seem to be aligned with his life, but for some reason, he’s feeling that way. Furthermore, he’s taking out his frustrations by being aggressive. All this says to me that it is time, right now, to seek some professional help. He’s a little boy, and he deserves to be at peace with the world around him, but right now, he can’t access that. A therapist or child psychologist (perhaps at his school?) can help identify just what is preventing him from doing so and can provide you and him both with the tools to meet these feelings head-on. What you don’t want to do in this kind of situation is wait until things have gotten worse before you address them. Angry boys can be dangerous to themselves and others, and what many of them have in common is that their loved ones refused to take signs like the ones you mention seriously. Get the little guy some counseling so he can enjoy life like a kid his age should, without worrying that he’s loved or lashing out at the first sign of disappointment. Good luck to you both.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
I have been amicably divorced from my ex-wife “Heather” for eight years. Together, we have one son, “Logan,” age 12, of whom we share custody. Heather and I are still friends, and she’s a wonderful and caring mother to Logan. My fiancée, “Maria,” whom I have been involved with for three years, has lived with me for a year and a half. Maria has eagerly taken on an active role in Logan’s life, and she’s expressed that she enjoys being a mother figure to him. Maria and Heather have met a couple of times and seem to get along well.
However, Logan is at that age where he’s starting to go through puberty and become really interested in girls. The other day, Heather informed me and Maria that Logan confided that he has a bit of a crush on Maria. She is very beautiful and warm so it’s understandable, but that might just be my bias as her fiancé speaking. Heather and Maria disagree about how we should handle Logan’s crush. Heather believes that Logan is just dealing with hormones and will eventually grow out of his crush. Maria, on the other hand, thinks she should distance herself from Logan until it passes. Obviously, I think it’s important for Logan to get along with his future stepmother and to have her support as he navigates the challenges of adolescence, but I also don’t want Maria or Logan to feel uncomfortable around each other. I haven’t told Logan that I know about his crush. Maria was shocked when Heather told us about this and says she doesn’t know how to feel about Logan’s interest in her. How do I deal with this situation?
Dear Crush Complications,
It sounds like your most urgent concern is convincing Maria to relax a bit. It’s understandable that she may be a bit uncomfortable or nervous (and that maybe she didn’t need this information to begin with), but she should not worry that this means she shouldn’t have a presence in his life. Most likely, as he gets used to her as a maternal figure, his infatuation will dissipate. It’s important that the two of them build a meaningful bond; otherwise, it’s pretty easy to cast her as an object of desire or, worse, as someone he feels uncomfortable being around.
Unless something happens, I don’t think you should say anything to your son about what his mother told you. I’m sure he’ll be terribly embarrassed and maybe even a bit guilty. Focus on integrating Maria into the life you share with him in a way where her role is impossible to question. You’ll all be better for it. Sending you all the best.