Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Submit it here.
Dear Care and Feeding,
I recently found out that a friend is letting her chiropractor “adjust” her 3-month-old infant. The chiropractor claims to find things that need adjustment every time. I don’t have any kids of my own or any parenting experience, but I do know that this a dangerous practice with no real benefit. Should I say anything, and if so, how?
— Concerned About Quack
Dear Concerned About Quack,
The debate over chiropractors is a long-standing one, with some members of the medical community crying “pseudoscience,” while others point to rates of patient satisfaction as proof of efficacy. However, I think most people would agree that it is absolutely ridiculous to allow someone to “adjust” a tiny baby. Unfortunately, parents are notoriously good at ignoring unsolicited advice, especially from people who don’t have kids. That shouldn’t stop you from voicing your concerns. Ask what sort of research has been done about this practice, and if your friend was aware of the fact that many adults have negative experiences with being adjusted.
Let her know that you don’t want to overstep your boundaries, but that this has been on your mind and that you can’t help but to be concerned. Hopefully, you won’t be the first one to let her know just how absurd this is, and she’ll be compelled to let it go.
Slate Plus Members Get More Advice From Jamilah Each Week
From this week’s letter, We’re All Prisoners to My Daughter’s Wild Meal-Time Habit: “Doors are slammed, beloved objects are thrown, things are broken and ripped, and humans she loves are scratched.”
Dear Care and Feeding,
My 6-year-old son played T-ball last year and seemed to enjoy it very much; he even made the all-star team, which at that age has more to do with being a good enthusiast teammate than it does being the best player. This year started off fine, and he was having fun until the middle of the fourth game, when the coach sort of called him out for not paying attention. The coach slightly raised his voice, and I’d say he encouraged him. I had zero issue with how the coach responded, but it seemed to upset my son very much. He sucked it up and finished the game. The next game, he suddenly didn’t want to play and after that game, he flat-out refused. He more emphatically asked if he could stop playing. Initially I refused and told him he’s gonna finish what he started, but then I started thinking. If I force him to play, he could resent it and start to hate the game. Am I embarrassing him by making him play? Will it be more embarrassing long-term by letting him quit? This is my first-born son, and I’m more of an old-school guy. I’m 43 and I played baseball my whole life. I wanted to win, and I did win. I say this because I don’t know how to think like I believe this situation requires. My dad was a coach and the league president in baseball. He thinks like me. But I’m afraid our thought process may be antiquated. I don’t really know who else to talk to.
Should I have my son apologize to his team? Go and sit and not play but support his team? Explain to the coach his reasons for not wanting to play? Are any of these theories things that happen in 2022? None of these would have been options for me at his age, and this wouldn’t have been an issue for me regardless. Coaches raised their voices back then. How can I make a point to my son about finishing what he starts without ruining a great sport for him for at least the very near future? It’s fine to not want to play. I’m just not sure how to fix this situation without possibly damaging him or having him feel like I don’t have his back, so to speak. Maybe I’m a dinosaur, but I just don’t feel like you walk away and let your team down because you basically “got coached.” I’m extremely torn and I just wanna do the right thing. Help me out here?
— In a Pickle
Dear In a Pickle,
I think it’s really great that you have these concerns, and that you want to make sure that your son’s emotional needs are attended to, even as you want to encourage him to pursue a sport and to take it seriously.
Talk to your son about what happened at that game with his coach. Explain to him that a big part of coaching is correcting behavior: pointing out mistakes, identifying better or different ways to do things, challenging a player to go further or harder than they have thus far. While the best coaches find ways to make players feel encouraged and supported at all times, even good coaching can sometimes feel like bad news. It can suck to be told that you need to change something you’re doing, or that you made an error. However, coaches don’t say these things to make us feel bad about ourselves or because we’re bad at our sport; it’s because it’s their job to make us better than we were when we started with them. Also, paying attention during a game isn’t just a matter of strategy, it’s a serious safety issue; he or someone else could be hurt if everyone isn’t focused on the matter at hand.
Ask him if there were any other things about T-ball that he doesn’t like. It is possible that there are other reasons for his sudden wish to quit and the coaching could have simply been the straw that broke the camel’s back. If he doesn’t have a list of complaints and was merely turned off by being challenged, talk to him about how the greatest players in sports are successful in part to the support of great coaches, who challenge them to be their best.
Talk about the things he liked about T-ball and try to get him enthusiastic about it again. At the very least, encourage him to at least give it another try. If he’s absolutely miserable, there’s no reason to keep him going week after week, but if he can shake off his attitude, perhaps he’ll fall back in love after a few games. I think it’s worth requiring him to give T-ball another try, say three more matches or so; but forcing him to stick with it once he’s proven that he absolutely hates it will, I think, have the effect that you are concerned about. It’s entirely possible that he could be done with it this season and be all ready to go next year. Give him the space to let you know what he truly needs.
Catch Up on Care and Feeding
Dear Care and Feeding,
You know how most people think babies are the hard part? I don’t. I miss babies. My kids are 9 and 11, and it sucks. They still whine, they are still dependent on us, they still need a babysitter if we want to go out, they aren’t yet interesting conversationalists on topics I care about, they are picky eaters, every friendship is full of drama, and they are so moody. Don’t get me wrong, I love them, and I would die for them. I would defend them to anyone. I have learned an incredible amount about Roblox and the YouTubers who vlog about it, warrior cats, Lego elves, MLB, and skateboarding so that we can have conversations, but those conversations are boring.
I miss babies. I miss being able to rock and coo a sweet-smelling creature. I miss my physical body providing comfort and nurture and nutrition. I miss singing lullabies and reading books. I am heartsick with every social snub, every group text jeer, every missed homework assignment. I want to yell every time I drive them across town (with cumulative professional losses) for an activity they requested/love only for them to whine about being there. I miss toddlers. I miss their laughs and smiles, their sheer delight in the discovery of new skills and pleasures. I miss playgrounds. I miss the joy of discovery at my 2-year-old’s first bite of pad Thai (if I were to offer anything like that to that same child now, six years later, it would be met with pure disdain and disgust). Teachers and friends and family compliment me on my lovely, well mannered, funny, happy, well-adjusted children. I don’t see it.
I want to turn back time. I guess I’m good at faking it, but I hate it. How do I not hate it? I would happily parent many more babies and toddlers, I would like to skip from age 6 to 16 or so. My 16-year-old nephew is a delight! Sure, sometimes he has an attitude, and he thinks he knows more than he does, but it’s fun to hang out with him. I just don’t know what to do. I’m miserable. I was never miserable with babies. I was tired, but I didn’t hate it. I loved parenting babies. I hate parenting this age.
— It Gets Worse
Dear It Gets Worse,
As someone parenting within the same peer group as you, I can relate to the near-grief I feel about no longer having a baby or a little kid. There was no social drama with other kids, no packed extra-curricular schedule, and, perhaps most importantly, our efforts were almost always met with adoration, rather than attitude and annoyance. It may have been harder, in terms of feeding and diapering, or having to constantly watch them at every moment, but it was easier in a lot of ways too. Those stages were incredible, and there was an overwhelming number of things to love about them.
However, there’s a lot to love about tweens, too, and while parenting has taken on some difficult new requirements, you shouldn’t have to feel this level of discontent about the work of raising your children. I think you should speak to a therapist about what you’re experiencing. I’m not negating the validity of your feelings of malcontent; it is certainly difficult to be enthusiastic about making lunches, running a taxi service while neglecting personal and professional needs, and doing all this for people who don’t always seem to appreciate it. And I don’t think we’re honest enough as a society about how absolutely shitty parenting can be at times, and that fulfilment is not a condition we all access with ease while doing it.
Nevertheless, I think that things can improve for you with the support of someone who can help you to devise ways to cope with parenthood’s less shining moments and to lean into the parts in which you find joy and comfort.
Additionally, I think it’s around your kids’ age where it can become more urgent for parents to figure out activities that the family can do together than are enjoyable for all. Yes, you have to learn your kids’ language and interests, but you should also have some things that you all have in common and can share in together so that there’s quality time being spent in between the more mundane responsibilities you have related to them. Whether it’s board games, trying new restaurants, or going for nature walks, there has to be time devoted to enjoying your children to the best of your ability. Good conversations with them are also a way to fall deeper in love with the people they are becoming, even as you miss the smaller people they used to be. All the best to you.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
I need a gut check on my plans for a baby. My partner and I would love to start planning for our first kid, but I’m extremely worried about the postpartum period because I have bipolar disorder. I sleep nine hours every night to keep my mental health in check, but absolutely require seven hours of uninterrupted sleep. The last time I got less than that, I had been really sick with the flu and was up all night. I ended up spiraling into a psychotic episode from ONE night of missed sleep and was hospitalized for three weeks. My mom is also bipolar and attempted suicide when I was 3 months old and she blames the lack of sleep. Is the postpartum lack of sleep as bad as people say it is? Is there any way at all to actually get enough sleep with a new baby, or should we just put our dream of a baby to rest for good?
— Sleep Is Serious
Dear Sleep Is Serious,
I have a confession to make, and it’s something I can’t help but to feel guilty about. I, a single mother since day one, did not have many sleepless nights during my child’s infancy. I kept my daughter up until late at night, maybe ten o’clock or so, and she typically slept until about seven in the morning. I also side nursed, so that when she did wake up to feed, she was able to make her way to my breast without me having to wake up completely (at times, I may have had to shift her to my other side, but that was about it.) I didn’t spend nights bouncing a crying baby praying for her to fall asleep. When other parents tell these stories, I can’t relate at all. I like to believe the universe sent me the sort of baby I needed: an easy one. I was deeply depressed and I needed rest, and I got a child that allowed me to have that. When I had to wean her at nine months, I had to deal with her crying until she fell asleep, but even that proved to be a rather simple transition.
There’s no way of guaranteeing what sort of schedule your baby will be on. However, what you can plan for is the way you plan to approach sleeping. If you choose to nurse, you may want to co-sleep so that the baby can access food at night without you having to wake all the way up. Knowing how incredibly important it is that you have uninterrupted sleep, it will be critical for your partner to take on the work of rising if the baby cries. You may have to sleep with ear plugs, or in a different part of the house.
It’s important for you to talk to your psychiatrist and your OB/gyn about your bipolar disorder and how it may impact your ability to care for a child. Speak openly and honestly about your concerns and both you and your mother’s experiences. The decision over whether or not to become a parent is one of the biggest ones that anyone could make, and it’s not to be made lightly. Read up on the experiences of parents living with bipolar disorder and choose what is right for you knowing that you put great thought and consideration into your decision. Wishing you all the best.