Are These Books Age-Appropriate? Edition

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership,

S2: just to give you a heads up, one of us is bound to say something not suitable for little ears. It is, after all, the one hour a day I spend away from my children. Welcome to Mom and dad are fighting Slate’s parenting podcast for Thursday, July 20 seconds that are the books age appropriate edition. I’m Elizabeth New. Can’t I write the school and Family Travel blog? Dutch excuse. I’m the mom to three little Henry who’s nine, Oliver who’s seven, and Teddy who’s four. And we live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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S1: Dan Coats, I’m a writer at Slate and the author of the book How to Be a Family. And then out of Laura, who’s 16, and a Harper who’s 13. And we live in Arlington, Virginia.

S2: And unfortunately, Jameel is out today. But on this week’s show, we have a question from a parent whose eight year old daughter is a total bookworm, but her mom worries if she’s reading things that aren’t age appropriate. Then we have some advice for a parent who is unsure if she should start potty training her two year old right before vacation on Slate. Plus, you get an extra special bonus segment about the dozen or so mothers set to compete in this year’s Tokyo Olympics. We love those supermoms slash.

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S1: We fear the Superbowl.

S2: Yeah, we were super impressed by them and all their extra hardware, but we’re going to kick off the show with some triumph and fail. So, Dan, you first.

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S1: My parenting triumph is that I’m in a hotel with Alere in Knoxville, Tennessee, and my kids are at camp. Well, that’s delightful, but I actually have a real triumph. My real triumph is that for the fourth consecutive summer, I lost to Lyrup in our annual beach reading contest. So each summer when we go to the beach with Holly’s family, we each bring a pile of books and then we make a big piece of poster board where we draw pictures of each other and keep track of how many pages we read, like one of those, like charity thermometers. How far have you gone over the course of the week? And once again, she beat me. This year, the score was four thousand one hundred twenty five pages to three thousand five hundred forty seven pages. And so she crushed me by a lot this year. I didn’t even have the excuse of, well, you’re just reading children’s books the way I usually do because she didn’t read any children’s books. She read grown up books. She read Rubyfruit Jungle, The Secret History, pure and Easy. She read Kurt Vonnegut. And then she also read Howl World by Aluko Neil, his collection of essays about how everything sucks. She just straight up beat me this year and I view this as a triumph, even though I generally I hate losing to my children at stuff. I view this as a triumph because at this point at 16, much of the rest of the year we are begging Lyra to read more books. You know, once upon a time she was a crazy bookworm. All she did was read little kid books. But then she got older and she discovered the Internet and video games and discovered friends. And now it can be a real struggle sometimes to get her to read books. But every year, this one week at the beach, I think tradition and her competitiveness drives her to just read like crazy. And every year I’m filled with joy to see it. And so may I keep on losing at this competition forever.

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S2: That is a great triumph. But is there a prize or is it just bragging rights?

S1: Just bragging rights? And believe me, she takes full advantage of those bragging rights. I don’t think a prize would change anything. What she wants is to have evidence that she is humiliated, her father, and that’s what she gets.

S2: Does she just spend more time reading than you or is she like a faster reader? Is there is there there any hope for you

S1: know, probably not that she’s faster than me for sure. I think she also spends a little more time than me this year. I sort of add some fake umbrage about it in the same way that I often have fake emerge about Harper beating me on our fit bits with steps. I’m like, well, that’s not cool, Harper, because your legs are shorter. So we want the same distance and you get more steps. I was like, Lyra, it’s not cool. We read the same amount of time, but your eyes are closer together, so you got more pages. I know she’s just faster than me and it’s not like she doesn’t retain it. Like for years I thought just like my teacher I thought when I was a kid, because I’m also a very fast reader. My teachers would be like, well, you didn’t really read that. You read it too fast. You don’t remember it. But so for years I thought that about Lyra because she read like inhumanly fast and that I would question about a book KGB. She would tell me everything that happened in it from beginning to end. And I’d be like, okay, I see that you got it. So no, there’s no hope, thank

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S2: God, no hope. But I look forward to a time where I can compete with the kids on pages read we’re not quite there but soon and then lose. I think you’re right. It’s pretty glorious a success to have the failure. Well, I am also taking a triumph this week. It’s really my parents triumph, but I’m going to take it to my parents have been here. It’s a

S1: parenting

S2: parenting triumph. Yes, my parents have. In here a little over a week, but sometimes when they come to visit, like when we were in Florida, we saw them a lot and we were in their space. And that’s not always great because, you know, they have like their routines. And then I bring these kids in our house. There was a little bit smaller. The house here is a little bit larger. So they have space. But we were trying to think of like how to manage the visit so that, like, everyone had a good experience and we don’t feel is like stressed out by the presence because they love being with the kids. But like, they had two girls and there are five years between me and my sister and I have like three boys in that same white gap. So it’s just kind of crazy. Two minutes between them. Yes. Yes. It feels like two minutes between them. And they’re like a roving gang in the house, you know. And so my dad, who’s one of of five, said that his grandparents used to take one kid on the weekend. They lived in the same neighborhood. So one kid would get like the opportunity to go be with grandma and grandpa. So my dad asked if they could do that. And in the weeks leading up to their visit, they asked each of the kids to like, you know, as much as they could do some research or come up with an idea of like a day date. And my parents would take them and it would be what the kids wanted. And like Jeff and I would not be involved. And this went like incredibly well, like not only did my kids pick great things, but then, like, my parents fully committed and and did the activities with them. So Teddy chose there’s a penny arcade in Manitou Springs, which is like a little mountain town that’s, you know, half an hour from here. And they went and got coins and just let him do whatever he wanted to do at this point, OK, like we have taken him when we first got here, but it was kind of like, OK, let you know that’s not good value or like that’s kind of dumb because they have all the, like, old arcade games too, where you, like, put it in and the little monkey dances or you can put it in and push buttons and a marionette, you know, dances. But they just let they went, they played air hockey with him, they let him play all those silly games and he had just the best time. They took him out to lunch. Of course, they got him ice cream. Henry wanted to go play putt putt. And there’s this course that we drive by off the highway that he wanted to go to. And they went and both of them played him, played, you know, he got to choose the course. He got to choose where they went to eat afterwards, which he wanted to go to. Red Rob, do you like hamburger place? And just like had a great time, Oliver chose to go paint your own pottery and he chose what everyone was going to paint. So my mom painted a plate for Henry and there was a little figurine of a teddy bear with a T that my dad painted for Teddy. And Oliver chose a giant ceramic cat with a baby cat to paint. But they it was just so it was so nice and everybody had a good time. And so it felt like such a win, like there weren’t these fights that sometimes happened when my parents are here, like, well, this isn’t fair. Like, who wants to go run this, Erin? Because it was all like mapped out and the kids had fun planning it. But it’s definitely something I want to do again in the future.

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S1: That’s such a good idea. I mean, hey, first of all, I want to say, Oliver, very thoughtful, making sure that everyone gets some patron pottery. I have really loved it when grandparents sort of have taken initiative and they created some kind of little magical experience with grandkids. Ali, mom is very, very good at that. I still remember when Lyra was for her, maybe just turned five. She had Kiki reteam camp where she just brought Lyra down for a week. And Kiki, who is a former elementary school reading specialist, just like did reading exercises with her for a week. And it was like close grandma grandkid time with a very specific point that she liked doing. And they really bonded at that time. And like those moments when, you know, it’s great when we all do things together, but when they take it upon themselves to forge one on one moments with kids like that is really magical and fantastic. So great job you facilitating that. Yeah.

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S2: Yeah. Way to kick them all out the door. I’m happy to take it as a triumph though, because I, I just took a experience that in the past has been really stressful and made it feel just like, like we won this one, you know, we like won the time with my parents, we won the time with my kids. It was great. It was so great. So I highly recommend. All right. On to our first listener question. It’s being read, as always, by the marvelous Shasha Leonhard.

S3: Hi, Mom and dad. I have a voracious eight year old reader. She’s pretty advanced for her reading level and probably very average for her maturity and sophistication level. Oh, and she’ll only read graphic novels. I’ve taken hundreds. I mean. Many, many hundreds of graphic novels out of the library for her when they finally reopen the library in person. I was famous there tonight. I found her reading some compilation comics called something like Raven, the Pirate Princess, two boys, five girls and three love stories. What the heck is this thing? I don’t know. I’m the one who found it and took it out the library for her. But looking at this book, I realize I have no idea what it’s about, what it covers, if it’s too mature and if there’s anything in here I’d find objectionable, etc.. So my question is, does it matter? I still read out loud to her sometimes and we have a pretty communicative relationship. But I think I always fantasized about reading the books my kids read, or at least knowing the general plot. I just can’t keep up with her. Is this fine? Can I just relax about this and congratulate myself for having a bookworm, or do I need to engage more and check in on what some of these books are out of the loop and graphic novel exhausted.

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S1: So as longtime listeners may know, I have a very strong opinion on this topic. That opinion is that there is no such thing as an age inappropriate book. They don’t exist. For example, I just handed my kid Rubyfruit Jungle at the beach and it was fine. You should let your kids read whatever books they want. The enormous benefit the kids get from reading above their age level from being ambitious about what they read. So dwarf’s the tiny possible amount of damage that they might suffer from, like reading the sex scenes and clan of the cave bear. And anyways, they won’t even understand the sex scenes and clatter of the cable. So it will be fine. And that’s my big advice. Whenever anyone asks this, there’s the fact there’s a big debate about this on the Facebook group maybe two weeks ago. And, you know, lots of people disagree with me. Lots of people feel like, well, what if they read something traumatic or bad? I really firmly believe, based on my experience growing up, based on Liers experience growing up, based on that, the childhood of every big reader. I know that it’s so thrilling to read something a little bit beyond you and that thrill and the what it can bring you matter so much more than the times that you read something that’s a little bit out of your grasp or a little bit like has too many Suares or whatever. So that’s my strong feeling. But what do you think?

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S2: So I feel the same way. Like I, I think that anything that gets your kid reading and the advantage of reading and books is that your child is like limited in their understanding to their understanding. Right. Like you’re pulling on your own knowledge. And because the book just gives you the words, you get to fill in so many of those gaps. And so I really just don’t see any harm in it.

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S1: It’s slightly different here because they’re graphic novels. Right. So there are pictures.

S2: Yeah. But I also think that, like, these are wonderful opportunities to start having discussions about that stuff. And so when she says, like, do I need to monitor this, I feel like you don’t need to monitor what they’re reading in terms of, like, censoring it. But I think it’s important to be engaged in what your kids are reading, particularly when they’re reading above grade level or in more complex topics. And I don’t know that that means, like, if your child is willing to talk about what they’re reading and you’re having conversations and checking in, then I don’t necessarily know that you need to be reading every book they read. And obviously, you know, your child, like I did peek into these. Henry is a girl who’s nine now is very into these like Olympian graphic novels, and he really likes Greek mythology. So I was like, cool. We checked him out from the library and then he had a whole bunch of questions because all of these, like gods are sleeping with all these people. And so all of a sudden there was a lot of discussion like about that. And so I I did then pick up the books to read them so that I had some context for where his questions were coming from and could answer them, you know, within context of where he was. So I think when she talks about, like being engaged, I think it’s more about making sure that there’s like open lines of communication because any, like, perceived harm, I mean, I don’t see any harm in reading stuff that is, like you say, some swear words or some sex scenes or some violence, like if that’s drawing them in and reading, like that’s the stuff we like to see in movies and adults like to read about. So of course, kids like to read about it, you know, but I think it’s important that you are on the page and understanding what they’re getting so that you can then discuss it with them. And with a graphic novel, it’s pretty easy to, like, flip through, you know, that was one of the things I was interested in with this Olympian’s thing was like, well, how much of this is being portrayed in the in the pictures? Right. And how much of this is, like stuff he’s picking up from from the reading?

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S1: Yeah, I think that’s a really important delineation to draw the difference between staying engaged with what your kids are reading and feeling obligated to read along with them every single thing they do. The latter is not necessarily what what matters is knowing when to dip in and following the cues that your kids give you based on the questions that they have and the things they want to talk about. Most kids I know who are huge bookworms love talking about the things that they read often ad nauseum for parents. So it should not be too hard to get your kid to talk about what it is that they find interesting or confusing in these books. In your case, letter writer, there’s basically zero chance of your daughter reading something way out of her league or way beyond her because you’re pulling them all out of the library. You’re getting all these books out of the U.S. library, you know, and those librarians know what they’re doing. And so anything they’re going to give you is basically fine. Sometimes there might be a Y.A. graphic novel with some sort of teenager themes or that’s a little spooky or scary, but that’s also fine. It’s it’s totally fine. They’re not going to be giving your kid like hardcore pornography from the library. You’re going to be all right. Specifically, the Prince Less Raven. The Pirate Princess series is totally appropriate for all ages. It might help you in sort of navigating this. And any parent who’s sort of navigating this, especially right at this age, to familiarize yourself a little bit with some of the big kids comics publishers. This one is published by a smaller house, you know, that does a mix of stuff. But there are a bunch of publishers that that really only do middle grade and why a graphic novels and comics. So, you know, something like First, Second or Papercuts or the graphics imprint, which is done by Scholastic, the big children’s book publisher. Anything with those logos on the spine is got to be totally fine, like you have nothing to worry about. They’ll also probably be at least pretty good. You know, all of these imprints have pretty good quality control. So they won’t just be appropriate. They’ll also probably be good, which, you know, it doesn’t actually often matter that much to kids. What might matter to you if you have some if you’re going to end up talking about it with your kids, you might hope that it’s not totally boring. And, you know, I could give a million different recommendations for graphic novels. My hunch is that your kids probably read anything that I would recommend. But you, again, also have a great tool here, which is that the library is open now. And so you should exploit your fame. Let a writer, they they already know you and love you because your kid is taken out every book they have. So bring your daughter in to the library with you and she should tell those librarians what she is love the most. And she should ask what they should read next. And they will love her. She will be a celebrity. Those librarians have spent a year doing nothing. They are dying to recommend some books to your daughter. So take her in there and take advantage of that.

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S2: Yeah, I absolutely agree. I think that bringing her in to find the books like My Kids Love, just like combing the shelves and looking for something and and getting a little taste of some different things in the library. Right. And then deciding what to come home. I also really think that you can always utilize like Goodreads or Amazon reviews if you’re not really sure, even just like the general themes of the book. And you are just kind of trying to figure out like, well, what you know, like in this case, what did I just tanta I don’t necessarily want to read the whole book, like a lot of those will give you just a flavor of it to know what you have handed her. And in this case I look this up and there are lots of women on there saying, like, I really enjoyed this book and I, I am giving this to my niece, I’m giving this to my daughter or whoever to read. So I, I think sometimes if you’re nervous, little things like that can just help you feel like, OK, this is this isn’t the trash. That may be the title. I think that you’re worried from the title like it. It turns out to be something that a lot of older women really enjoy as well and is very empowering of women in the book and has a variety of different characters. And and those are all things you want to be encouraging. So I feel like, bottom line, you should definitely just be congratulating yourself that you have this awesome bookworm. And like Dan said, exploit that library fame and, you know, get your daughter in there to to talk with the librarians and get some more books and see what else she can discover.

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S1: I agree that Goodreads is a great source of information. As long as you steel yourself for the one comment that’s going to be like these. These characters aren’t married and yet they’re talking to men. There’s. Always one of those,

S2: but there’s always weird with the man was like, no, no, you got to read for me like general of the general people like you. That’s what I always think. Does this person sound like me? And what my opinions are. And those ones should make you laugh. And if anything, actually should make you feel better about recommending the book. Right. You’re trying to raise someone who’s who is open minded. And I mean, that’s the beauty of books exposing exposing kids to other viewpoints and other worlds and and just different ways of thinking.

S1: One last thing I want to talk about this question. I want to talk about that sign-off graphic novel, exhausted. I think mostly the letter writer is referring to, just like the endless trips to the library and back and and how quickly kids burned through graphic novels. You know, a good reader will read one of those like ten minutes, you know, like, Jesus, I just went to the library. But I do think that there are a lot of parents out there. You know, I’ve seen this in the comments on Facebook. I hear it all the time from readers, even hear it occasionally from librarians, although most librarians don’t feel this way anymore. This idea that graphic novels are like cheating. And I wish that the kids were reading real, you know, quote unquote real books. I think most librarians at this point, along with most teachers, are of the opinion, which I agree with, that books are books, and that if your kids are reading books like Thank God, that is what they are doing, thank God they are engaged by storytelling, whether they’re comics or not comics, that’s great. But if as a parent you are feeling a little bit burned out on graphic novels and you are dreaming of a day when your child might, you know, read chapter books, books that are a little easier to read with them or to read aloud to them than comic books are. That’s also another great thing that you can go to librarians for. Librarians have a lot of practice in gently easing children from comic books to chapter books when the time has come, whether because of school assignments or parents wishes or kids interest to make that move. And they’re going to have a million great recommendations for books that are lively and engaging and maybe even incorporate drawings, you know, interstitial comics in some way that are out mix and amalgam of comics and text that will help broaden your kid’s reading palette a little bit because, you know, it is nice to feel like your child is not only reading above their age level, but reading a little outside their comfort level and bringing new kinds of reading experiences into their life. And librarians can really help with that, too.

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S2: I think that’s such a great point because I definitely had a conversation with my friend who is a middle school English teacher about kind of that, because I was so worried because Henry is much like this child, just very into graphic novels like that’s what he wants to check out all the time. And where is that balance between, you know, pushing them to read something else, but also not discouraging, you know, reading? And Dad, that’s the advice that everyone has given me, is just I mean, we have utilized the librarians to find some what they what I would call like transitional books that have some of those pictures and the elements of graphic novels, but have more words on each page. But also, you know, everyone just repeated don’t take away the graphic novels like they still want to check out ten graphic novels, check out the ten graphic novels. And if they’re reading all of those every week or whatever, consider yourself yourself lucky. So I think that’s that’s a really great point. Well, letter writer, we hope that helps. And if you listeners have suggestions of great graphic novels, we’d love for you to come to this late parenting Facebook group and give us your advice for wonderful graphic novels that kids could enjoy. Or if you have a question, you can email us at mom and dad at Slate Dotcom or of course, post that to this late parenting Facebook group. All right. On to our next question. Let’s hear it.

S3: Shasha, dear mom and dad, this Friday is my two year old’s last day of preschool before a three week summer break. I’d like to use this time off to potty train. The only potential issue I see is that the third week of her break is going to be a family vacation. We’ll be driving about five hours to the beach where we’ll be staying in an Airbnb for six days. She will have a full two weeks at home with me before we leave for vacation. On the plus side, we’ll have four adults at the beach for two kids. So lots of supervision that might make keeping on top of potty training easier on the downside will be away from home and off. Our regular routine, which could throw everything off is two weeks at home long enough to get the basics down? Is potty training before vacation a terrible idea? Apart from the vacation issue? I think she’s ready. What do you think?

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S1: Well, it’s been a long time since I potty trained a human being. We did it around this age. I think our kids were about three when we started. But, you know, somewhere in your shoes is not an unreasonable time to start potty training. But I definitely would like to hear from you, Elizabeth, the person who is much more recently than potty training humans.

S2: Yeah, I think the potty training is like one of the worst bits of parenting. So I first of all, I really hate the idea that like three day potty training method or any of this kind of nonsense, because potty training is like a a phase of parenting is not going to be two weeks is not going to be three weeks. It is it is going to be a phase in which you are potty training and there are lots of accidents. And there there are lots of starts and stops and times when it’s super inconvenient because in essence, potty training is a meeting of your child being interested in using the toilet and you being OK with the fact that you now are beholden to their bladder. And at any moment they can demand that you take them to the bathroom. And I actually think that’s the worst bit of it. Your kid has to be ready, of course, but also you as the parent have to be ready because the freedom of like, I’ll change your diaper when it’s convenient is over and your child will never need to use the bathroom when it’s convenient. So that being said, I potty trained

S1: always right at the beginning of a conference call,

S2: always the conference call or they will use it when they want your attention because they know that that is the moment they will use it to get out of out of bed. They will use it any opportunity they can. They will use this. I need to go to the bathroom. They will say it a thousand times to you why you’re driving. So all of that being said, I don’t really think it matters whether you’re going on vacation or not. I potty trained two of mine while kind of extensively traveling, and there’s never a good time to do this. You can do the leg, you know, pants off running around who they now know what going to the bathroom looks like. Your child is that potty trained until they learn to use the bathroom when you are not at home. Right. Like, how often are you when you’re at home and there’s an accident, it’s not a big deal. And so they don’t even really need to be potty trained at home. They need to be potty trained when you’re on the go. So I think kind of a concise answer is if you think she’s ready and you are ready, then just do it. And honestly, it is OK. If it doesn’t take, if it doesn’t take and this whole thing is a disaster and you bring a pack up pull ups or whatever with you or diapers, and halfway through the vacation you decide, forget it, I’m putting her back in diapers. That’s totally fine. It’s completely fine. And then you try again. But if you wait for the perfect, like six weeks at home or whatever that is, it’s just never going to happen. Like you say, routine. It’s like, yeah, it’s nice when they can go on a routine, but like when they’re at school or like life is not very routine with kids. So I say go for it. And I think the thing is like just be mentally prepared for all the accidents, all the stops and know that, like, if you’re potty trained at home and you get in the car and you have like these planned stops and you’re going to make her sit down and try to go to the bathroom and three minutes later than she asks to go and you stop and then she doesn’t go. That is that is exactly. That’s Patti. Potty training. That’s the training part. Yeah. They think it’s very confusing when they need to go. I think the best thing about this is that you have two more adults, the four adults, because to me it was just incredibly frustrating, like to be the one that was always at the beck and call of I have to go potty. But I think if you think she’s ready, I say, do it. I will tell you that Henry decided to potty train. He had just turned to and literally I brought Baby all of her home and he was like, I don’t use diapers anymore. And I was like, What? I’m not a baby. Yeah. Like, forget this. Like this. I’m potty training. I was like, Huh? And he was great. He trained, like, super fast. No problem. I was like, this is great. I have a newborn. I’ve potty trained my two year old. And I went on our like first solo outing. I had the baby. I had, you know, my potty trained toddler. And I was going to meet a friend. I thought, OK, I can manage lunch at Chick Fillet and then playing at the play place. And so we went there and things were going great. I had the baby in the carrier and took Henry to the bathroom and then I put him in the play place. And I’m sitting there talking with my friend and I notice that he is like crouched over high up in the tube in the like, toddler pooping in the corner position. And I like can’t get up to the tube because I’ve got this baby and my other my friend who is with me is like, you know, days from giving birth to her second so she can’t get into the tube. And I’m like slapping the two. Get down here, get down here and I mean, it was a it was a disaster, he he it was awful. It was so awful. And then as I was, like, trying to clean up his mess, the baby pooped. It was awful. You know what, though? They’re all potty trained now and it’s totally fine and it’s funny. So just know that this type of experience is coming for you. And as long as you’re OK with that, I think you’re ready for potty training.

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S1: Great reminder never to go into the play. Place a check like I wouldn’t even call potty train a phase because a phase suggests some like finite period. You know, I sort of think of potty training as when you’re shooting a movie and sometimes you put a colored filter over the lens. I sort of think of potty training as a filter you put over your life. Yeah. And for some period into the future, that filter is going to affect how everything in your life looks and feels. The filter obviously is color brown and yellow. But the point is that you have to be living your ordinary life. It’s just that also this other thing is happening all the time. And as Elizabeth said, you’re constantly taking kids to the bathroom and worrying about your kids to the bathroom and cleaning up when they didn’t get to the bathroom and encouraging them and making posters and doing all the one million different things you do. And so this letter writer, you know, asking a question like, is two weeks at home long enough to get the basics down? The answer to that is who the fuck want to eat at home? Could be long enough for your child to get understand what a potty is and what you want her to do. But getting the basics down is a thing that happens and then unhappiness multiple times over the course of potty training. And so even if your kid feels as though she has gotten the basics down many times over the coming months, it will turn out she didn’t have the basics down at all. As you will discover when she takes a shit and the Chick fil A potty training is like a a literal shit show. No matter when you start, it fucks up your routine no matter what you do. So it does not matter that you’re going on vacation. And yeah, you should just give it a shot. It’s it’s going to probably suck. But if you are ready and she is ready and believe me, if it turns out she’s not ready, she will give you all the signs, but you might as well give it a try and use all those extra dollars you have and prepare yourself for the next X number of weeks where this filter is over your life. And it’s a filter that, in retrospect, ends up being very funny often, although in my case, I literally have erased all memories of specific memories of potty training from my brain because it was so terrible. But you might as well go for it.

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S2: I think at some point during potty training, I thought, why am I doing this? Like, the diapers were so easy.

S1: I know diapers are great.

S2: They’re so great. Why do I care if this child uses the bath? Yeah, I just think like a lot of underwear.

S1: Why why don’t I use diapers. Yeah. For adults.

S2: Exactly. Like, you will just really appreciate how often going to the bathroom is annoying and like your kids will appreciate that too. And that’s why sometimes they won’t go and then they will go. But I think pack lots of underwear. You know, I will say in that week, those couple of days you have at home or or whatever, the best thing to do is like really hydrate them because it’s all about opportunity. And if you have a child that is either not very hydrated or can hold it for a long time, you’re not going to have a lot of opportunities. So I just like did a free for all. We’re not a huge juice family. It was potty training was like free for all juice and people were all the time. And we had a lot of opportunity for success, a lot of failure, but a lot of opportunity for success.

S1: So failure was an opportunity for success. Yeah, that’s true. Easily my parenting philosophy overall. Yeah.

S2: My parenting philosophy is definitely have very low expectations so that you can only exceed them. And I feel that that may be the best advice for this. I assume it’s going to be a nightmare.

S1: And I suggested that you as a marriage philosophy as well. But she did.

S2: She rejected it. I mean, I think in this case. Right, like if you’re just like your

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S1: standards,

S2: if this is going to be awful and then she potty trained in like three days and gets it, you’re going to be like, yes. And if it is terrible, you’re just like, you know,

S1: us, write us a letter if that happens and be like, screw you guys. You’re just bad at it. Yeah, I’m great at it.

S2: Whatever happens here, we want to know we expect to hear from you at the end of your summer break. We want to know how it went. If you didn’t start, if you started and it was awful or if, like Dan said, you are just so much better at this than we are. We want to know. So thank you so much for writing in and. Seriously, I will be personally hurt if we do not hear how this went. So there you go. Anyone else out there, if you’re looking for some excellent parenting advice or us just telling you that it’s going to be terrible no matter what? That’s what we’re here for. So e-mail us at mom and dad at Slate Dotcom. All right. Moving on. We have recommendations. Dan, what do you have for us?

S1: Well, I did lose the reading competition badly, but I did read a lot of great books at the beach. And there’s one in particular I want to pull out. This is not a book for kids. It’s a book for adults. I was also reading Grown-Up books like My Daughter. But each summer at the beach for the last couple of years, I’ve packed one book by an author named Patrick DeWitt. He’s a Canadian author who lives in Portland now, I think, and he’s written four novels. And for the last three years I’ve read a Patrick Twit novel. And every summer at the beach, the Patrick Stewart novel has been my favorite. They’re just unbelievably entertaining. The summer I read one called French Exit, which was adapted this winter into a movie with Lucas Hedges and Michelle Pfeiffer. It’s a very fun movie. The book is even better. It’s about a extremely rich woman who has lost all her money and she and her ne’er do well. 30 year old son decamp from New York to Paris to spend the last of the dough that they got from selling all their possessions. But every Patrick DeWitt novel is different. Last year, I read a book of his called Under Majordomo Minor, which is like a medieval fairy tale about an extremely stupid count at a big castle and all his incompetent employees. And then the year before that, I read a book called The Sisters Brothers, which was also made a new movie with John C. Reilly, a terrific movie about to homicidal brothers in Old West California who are thinking about giving up killing people. But they just love it so much. They’re great. They’re just incredibly entertaining and funny and surprisingly thoughtful and deep. Every time I read what I’m so happy and I’m so sorry that next year I’ll read the final currently existing Patrick DeWitt novel on my vacation. I love it.

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S2: You’re going to be out of Patrick DeWitt novels.

S1: Hopefully by then he’ll write a new one.

S2: Hopefully he listens and now is, you know, going to make sure so.

S1: Yes. Although if he has kids and listen to this podcast, there’s no way he’s ever have time to write a novel.

S2: So, OK, well, that is a great recommendation. It sounds like there’s something for everyone, like even if the topic of the one you read the summer doesn’t. They’re so varied.

S1: Yeah. I can’t figure out what these books have in common other than that. They’re all very funny. They resemble each other, not even a little bit.

S2: That’s so interesting. OK, I’m going to check one out and I’ll I’ll get back to you. I’m going to go look and see which one. Thanks. I’ll let you know how it goes. I am recommending, like some these glow in the Dark Star. There’s actually all kinds of glow in the dark stuff. So the kids are still kind of settling into their room. And and Teddy loves space and he wanted Glow in the dark stars. And I just remember, like from my childhood, they were like hard plastic and they stuck up with putty and you could never really get them down. I think one of the homes we moved into, like, still had them stuck to the ceiling. And so I was really hesitant. And they only glow. They only go for fifteen minutes. Like, I was like, I’m not doing this. And I found this glow in the dark wall stickers from the company’s called Gloplay, and they are made from the same stuff that that airline that lines like shows you the way to the exit is made of. And so they they literally glow for hours. Like when I go in to check hours after the sun has set, these things are still glowing. They also stick. And Ristic apparently we’ve just gotten better at adhesives, but I was able to like put them up on the wall and then we pulled a bunch down and put them up somewhere else. And we’ve been doing that for over a week now and they’re still sticking and the kids are moving them around. They’re also water like on the back. It said use in your bathtub. And I was like, well, that’s weird, but we put some in the bathtub to see you can, like, put them in and they are water resistant. They’re just they’re just really cool. And I love that they come not only like they could

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S1: take a nighttime bath and they gloplay.

S2: They glow. They glow. Yeah. You could turn the lights off and they glow and they glow really bright. They even think all so bright that, like, when they’re charged, they’re almost glowing during the day. Like you can see them even with the sun and the lights on, kind of glowing. There’s their magic is what I think they are. But they’re not just stars. Like I got some for Teddy. And then Henry really likes water, sea creatures. And they had a sea creature set. So we got those. And he did like a little aquarium kind of on his wall. So during the day it looks like a little aquarium and then at night just they go up. But they’re very cool. And I’m I’m very impressed with them. So they’re called Gloplay Wall stickers and they’re really lovely. You should check them out.

S1: Great recommendation. Glad that are that America’s glow in the dark sticker technology has improved since 1978.

S2: I have bad news, I don’t think they’re made in the US. I think they’re glad

S1: they’re meeting somebody finally surpassed the U.S. in the dark stickered technology.

S2: Oh, well, you know, that’s it for our show. So one last time, if you have a question, please email us at mom and dad at Slate Dotcom. Or of course, you can post it to this late parenting Facebook group. Just search for slainte parenting. Mom and Dad are fighting is produced by Morgan Flannery. For Dan Kois, I’m Elizabeth, New Hampshire. All right, hello, sleepless listeners were so excited that you’re with us. Thank you so much for subscribing. I don’t know about you, but I’m a huge fan of the Olympics. And I think Dan is a huge fan of of sports in general. So hopefully the Olympics are no exception. But we thought that we should talk about the moms competing this year at the Tokyo Olympics. At least a dozen moms are going to compete for Team USA this year. And among them are some of the most accomplished and famous female athletes of their era, like Allyson Felix, Alex Morgan and Diana Taurasi, just to name a few. Plus, there are countless other Olympian moms who will compete in Tokyo for other nations. These women are just absolutely amazing. And it’s particularly significant because a recent Washington Post article pointed out that it’s taken decades for motherhood to be considered a normal part of a female athletes journey and for the public and maybe more importantly, corporate America, to regard it as something more than a liability for a women’s career. So I just think that even though things are better, it seems like these women and I, you know, no surprise here have to do like even more to be at the Olympics and compete at the Olympics. And even with these strides, like just recently, there was a, you know, story that the Olympic Committee wasn’t going to allow or the Tokyo 20 20 committee wasn’t going to allow breastfeeding moms to bring their babies. And then there was kind of this public outcry and now they are. But there’s childcare issues. I don’t know. It just feels like why are we making it so hard for moms?

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S1: I mean, the breastfeeding thing seems like a just a general miscalculation on Tokyo’s part, dealing with one of the many miscalculations they made about covid, though, in the opposite direction, as most of the other miscalculations. And, you know, they eventually came around and decided, yes, the value to these children of being with their mothers overcomes the potential covid risk that their presence might cause. But, yeah, in general, you know, the Washington Post story that you referred to is actually quite remarkable. Multimedia package of multiple stories about the experiences of mothers in Olympic history, like Wilma Rudolph, who won a number of gold medals in track events while her basically secret daughter was being cared for by her mother back home to athletes who are mothers now and these Olympics to all the way to athletes who have competed in the Olympics while pregnant, which seems absolutely astonishing to me. But it’s really a pretty remarkable package. And it does, as you say, make clear that we’re in a much better time. But it is still insanely difficult to be a mother and an Olympian on top of it, already being insanely difficult just to be an Olympian, on top of it being insanely difficult to be a mother. So, like all of put together, it really makes for this remarkable stew in the women they interview are just like total superstars. I mean, I’m thinking of this marathoner, Alafia in Tillamook, an American marathoner. She has a seven month old named Zio, who’s Roly-Poly and adorable. But she was one of the athletes who was battling to have her daughter be able to come and breastfeed with her, but had to, like, mordantly laugh when I was reading her story that, of course, she’s a marathoner. So she had a 50 hour labor that she had to, like, pace her way through and like that, just thinking about what a body goes through and gestating and then giving birth to a child, whether through C-section or vaginal birth or whatever, like to then come back seven months later and run a marathon in the Olympics or compete in beach volleyball or be on the women’s soccer team is just like absolutely mind boggling to me. And then for the committee to sort of throw these various impediments is mind boggling. On top of that, the one great thing from this story, like the the real sign of progress, and it’s so perfectly American that that the real progress has come only because corporations have finally bought on. But there’s a lot of discussion in this story about a battle a couple of years ago between several US Olympians, including Allyson Felix and Caricature with Nike who wanted to reduce their sponsorship compensation. You know, many of these athletes are very dependent on corporate sponsorship to essentially fund their training and fund their living expenses at nearly endless competition and training cycle that all these athletes go through between Olympic Games and Nike was reducing compensation when female athletes who signed to the shoemaker got pregnant and these athletes protested at Nike reversed their policy after it became obvious that they were being assholes and everyone called them on it. A bunch of other companies similarly changed. Policies around this and a number of the athletes who are competing this year, you know, including Tolima, refer to this specifically as this changed everything for me, that at least this no longer stands in my way of being a parent. And in fact, it has led to a different kind of coverage instead of the coverage of like how could a mother do this and abandon her child while she does the Olympics? These like, you know, soft focus stories about what a wonderful thing to be a mother and be competing in the Olympics, which also doesn’t exactly capture everything.

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S2: You know, so much of this reflects society. Right. Like this is a glimpse of of what we see happening. But even things like this, paying for child care and having to, like, lobby and get these companies and form a foundation, it just seems like when we help athletes go to the Olympics or when we are like footing the bill for these teams, then and there are all these things that we look into in that they pay for and that they’re taking care of and like, wow, look at you know, we’ve got to make sure that Team USA has the best swimsuits and the best this and the best gear. And in so many ways like this stuff is the child care and the making sure, you know, that you can bring your breastfeeding baby like I think I’m blown away that like it takes these Olympic moms who are doing all this other stuff. Like you said, they’re having these babies, which is no small feat, and then recovering and training and being these Olympic athletes. And yet they still have to stand out there and say, like, I want to bring my kid. What do you mean I can’t bring my kid? I now I have to also foot the bill for the child care. And you pay us less than you pay male athletes. Like I find all of that insanely frustrating, despite the fact that things are getting better. Right. It’s good that we don’t have to hide children anymore, but it seems like such a low bar, like how are we not considering these things? It just blows my mind. Like, this woman just had a baby and now she runs faster than anyone else, you know, any other woman in this country. And we’re like, oh, we don’t really know how you can bring your baby. Don’t know who’s going to watch your baby like all of that. It just seems like we’re unable to look at women and women athletes and say, like, what do you need to be able to be, you know, the mom that we want you to be and this athlete that we want you to be?

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S1: Well, as you say, that is entirely reflective of society in which any woman with a job cannot get the support she needs to be the mother she wants to be and the employee we want her to be. I know. So how fitting? I know Olympic athletes. They’re just like us.

S2: They’re just like us.

S1: There’s another little tidbit in this Washington Post story that I wanted to point out, which is not about my current outrage about how women athletes are treated or my current joy at how wonderful it is that there are moms who are competing in the Olympic Games. But about the nineteen hundred Paris Olympics in which the very first mother competed in golf, her name was Mary Abbott. She competed in women’s golf. She was the mother of Margaret Abbott, who also competed in women’s golf and in fact won, beating her mother, who finished seventh. How embarrassing to lose to your daughter at the Olympics. I bet Mary never let Margaret live this down.

S2: I mean, I wouldn’t.

S1: Yeah, absolutely. And I would definitely I would shame my kid forever if they had the gall to show up at the Olympics and beat me in front of, like, the king of France or whatever, like how rude I gave you life. How would you do that? To me,

S2: that is an amazing piece of trivia and story

S1: I would love. I want a biopic out of that or like a like a great with Stillman comedy about these two women at the Olympics driving each other crazy and eventually the daughter winning the golf competition, not the gold balance. They didn’t do gold medals yet in nineteen hundred she just got like a silver cup or some shit.

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S2: But she also got bragging rights and I

S1: mean she got bragging rights for the rest of her life. That’s correct.

S2: Oh, well, we are looking forward to seeing all of these wonderful moms compete. And I at least despite my anger over all of this, I, I am excited that things are better. And I look forward to these like not being issues, you know, as we approach like the fast coming Winter Olympics as well. But I hope all these moms do well and that these children are insanely proud of their moms and that we also can lift them all up and just for being super human. So, as always, Slate Plus, thank you for joining us. We just appreciate you. So until next time.