S1: This ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership. The following podcast contains explicit language.
S2: Welcome to Mom or Dad or Fighting Flight Parenting podcast for Thursday, February. Twenty seventh hyphenation headache edition. I’m Dan Coats.
S3: I’m a writer at Slate and the author of the book How to be a Family Man. The Data Lyra is 14 and Harper, he’s twelve. We live in Arlington, Virginia.
S4: I’m Elizabeth MUCHAND. I write the Family Travelling Home School blog, Dutch Jetskis. I’m Mom to three boys, Henry 7, Oliver 5 and Teddy 3. My husband’s in the Air Force, so we’re currently calling Navar, Florida home.
S3: And I’m Gabriel Roth. I’m the editorial director of Slate podcast. I’m the father to Eliza, who’s 9 years old, and Leo, who is now five and a half. And I’m coming to you from Slate’s studio in Brooklyn, New York.
S4: Welcome back, Gabe. It’s good to be here.
S3: Today on the show, we have a question from a mom who just doesn’t know what to do about picking her baby’s last name.
S2: Is it sexist to default to the dad’s last name? And we have a question from dad, who’s wondering if he should keep paying for travel hockey when his kid sucks at hockey plus trips and fails and recommendations. Let’s start with the great Gabriel Roth. Do you ever try and for fail for us this week?
S1: Well, I think it’s a triumph. My wife would tell you that it’s a fail. I would like you out there in radio land to referee this marital dispute for me.
S5: If you wouldn’t mind. So we went away for the weekend with some friends of the kids from school and their parents. And we had a lovely weekend. We live in New York. We don’t need a car. And so when we go away on trips, we rent a car. And that is what works for us. And so I’m not used to parking a car. We got back from the trip and we’re driving his rental car and I drop everybody off and it’s like it’s nighttime and we’ve just finished driving whenever a bunch of stuff to get out of the car. Everyone’s a bit flummoxed. And I park the car in what seems like a good parking space. But obviously I’m not a parking expert because I don’t own a car. So I don’t know, like all the little ins and outs and all the sort of nuances of where it’s OK to park and where it isn’t okay to park.
S6: And so I find a parking space right across the street from my house, which is really convenient because with the kids and the luggage and everything and I park there and we get everything out. But it turns out that may be part of the reason why that parking space was available is that it’s too close to a bus stop. It’s not marked or anything. I want to really stress this. There’s no marking anywhere that says, no, you can’t park here. The curb is completely nude. But when I get up the next morning to go get the car, to take it back to the rental place, the car is not there.
S7: So do I call the tow yard and the car has been taken to the tow yard, etc. So far it seems totally like a triumph. Thank you. Here’s the thing. So when I see that, it’s not there. You know, huge bummer. Hopefully it hasn’t been stolen, right? That would be a catastrophe.
S5: Hopefully it’s only been towed. I don’t know if you have ever had your car towed, but the one time I had my car towed in the past when I was a much younger man living in San Francisco, it ate up like literally a day and a half of my life, like going in on the bus to the tow yard way on the other side of town and then hunting around the tow yard for the car. There’s like a million cars there. Took me like an hour of like walking around looking for my car before I found it. And then the battery was dead and I had to have like a mechanic come out to the Toyota anyway. It’s a complete nightmare. So now I found the family car is towed and I’m thinking, oh, my God, this means another day and a half of my life is just done. Eat up. And I’m like mentally rearranging all of my obligations in my work stuff in my head. How am I going to like get this car back? And then there’s gonna be the extra charge from the rental company as well as the towing charge and the parking ticket. What a nightmare. So I do this thing that I do in my head where like when something like that happens, when there’s gonna be a big hassle or big inconvenience, I just sort of swallow and I’m like, okay, this is my life for the next 24 hours is just dealing with this towed car bullshit. I’m gonna sort this out and I go and I figure out what to do. And I look up the yard and I call them and I give them the number plate and they say, yes, we have it right here. And I call the rental car company and they say, that’s fine. You’ve got the car until four o’clock anyway. And I go to the tow yard and it’s like right around the corner from my house. And I take one of those little electric scooters that you can get with your phone. Now, I’d just zip up to the tow yard and the thing at the tow yard is there’s nobody in line. And I wait there and the guy like finds my car right away. And then there’s a cop in like a parking cop car who drives you straight to your car now. And so they drive me straight to my car and they tell ya and I get in. And for a second, I think it’s not going to start, but then it does start because the battery is not dead. And then I’d like pay the ticket, which will you know, it’s a hundred bucks. It’s like annoying to have to pay a hundred bucks. But then I like drive the car out. And the whole thing has taken me like about an hour, maybe slightly less than an hour. And then I go and return it to the rental car company. And it was a minor inconvenience. And obviously, like now I’m out 100 hundred bucks and that’s a bummer. Was so much better then the thing that I had made it into in my head.
S7: It beat expectations. It was like a Pete BUETER Judge Day.
S6: It beat expectations by such a huge margin that now it felt like a complete triumph. And so I came home and, you know, I texted my wife, like the car’s butone are going to deal with the car. Can you believe this bullshit? And I came home that evening and she’s like, oh, God, I’m so sorry you had to deal with this stuff with the car getting towed. And I was like, no, no, it was great. It only took like an hour. What a fantastic day. And so I think that that’s a triumph of like expectations management and sort of self care and mood management. But my wife thinks that the way I do that in my head, like, justifies costing us 100 bucks and like sets us up for failure in the future because I should feel bad about having the car gotten towed because we’re increasing the chance that next time I have to park the car, I will once again park it in a stupid place. So I want to know if you think that’s a triumph or a fail triumph.
S8: I think any citation management is the key to happiness and that if you can always say things are going to be worse, you will always feel better about what’s happened and thus you are happier person and your wife got you coming home happy instead of mad.
S9: Thank you. But she was frustrated because she feels like my happiness is at the expense of our future wealth.
S10: It could’ve been so much worse. Thank you, Gabe.
S11: I also think this is a triumph for one simple reason, which is the night before when you pull in your car from wherever you guys were vacationing. It’s nighttime and you’ve got kids to get in the house and stuff to unload and you had to find a place to park the stupid car. If someone who walked up to you at that moment about like for $100, you can just park across the street and not have to worry about it. You would’ve been like. I will seriously consider that offer. That’s probably worth it. Instead of like driving around for half an hour looking for space or whatever. Who knows? That was totally worth it. And so that’s a clear trial.
S12: Who? I like this. The hour was already gone anyway. Right. You just spent it in the morning instead of that night.
S1: Another great point. Thank you. Weigh in on our Facebook page. If you think that, in fact, it was a huge foul, I would like to hear the case for that.
S11: And I look forward to your wife logging into the Facebook page to tell us, Elizabeth. Do you ever try and fail for us this week?
S12: I have a triumph that also might look like a fail, but I went away for my five day trip to Disney to run my 10K. I was hesitant about leaving the kids, not because Jeff is not a great father. He is wonderful. But in the past, when I have left them like I think the first time I left Teddy, we were living in the Netherlands and before I had even boarded the plane, Teddy fell into a canal and Jeff was forced to call me because he was worried about the bacteria that he swallowed and that had gotten into the abrasion in his eye from hitting the bottom of the canal. And then I think the most recent time I’ve left the children, Jeff makes are dishwasher pellets. I know. And so he makes he makes them. Yeah. I mean, that’s a whole nother situation out of what, borax and lemon juice and, you know, all kinds of natural things.
S13: And so as a result, I mean, this this is literally an entirely other. Yes. Well, what the fuck?
S14: You have no idea. He makes them in mini muffin tins. And then what? When our 5 year old sampled wine again calling me before I look like a muffin. I mean, they’re white, they’re in muffin tins. They get put in the oven. Can you blame the 5 year old?
S13: Anyway, this is the stupidest thing I’ve ever known. You know what? You know what he will tell us?
S12: I’m going to say the never wrong and he’s gonna be mad. How much each costs us versus like buying a box of the cascade.
S11: So I bet he makes them on turbo. Jeff, Mo, he doesn’t. Yeah. Yeah. Seconds.
S15: At what rate are you pricing his labor there?
S12: Well, no. No, he works that turbo Jeff speed. So it is like disaster around him. But things get done very quickly. He does a bunch of things like this. These are things that bring him joy. So he does them. And then every time we use one, he thinks this is money safe. So anyway, this is the situation in which I am leaving my children. I think I’ve talked about Henry’s anxiety, but he’s kind of a high needs kid. He has this neurological condition called pandas that can sometimes make him very difficult to d._o._s. And my parents actually flew down because I was leaving Thursday morning really early and not coming back till Monday. And I went on this trip and I basically was like, do you not call me unless a child is in the hospital? Like if they found a canal. If they eat dishwasher ballots, like, just deal with it. I’m going to go on this mom’s trip. I need this going to be bathing and running this 10k. It was total chaos while I was gone. Nobody ended up in the hospital. But like, pictures were knocked off the wall and there were outbursts and hurt feelings and all this. But here is why. It is a triumph, because I went anyway. It was amazing. If you go on a trip with a whole bunch of moms, it is incredible. Like anytime anyone gets up to do anything, they check on everybody else’s needs. Literally, I was like room sharing with two of my best friends and it was like someone would get up and be like. Can I bring anyone water? Is the light good? Are we ready to shut the door? Do you need another blanket? It was a made. Sounds very upright. It was incredible. I survived my 10K and I got home. And you know what? We’re all fine. The house needs some touch up paint, but other than that, we’re really great. So this is my triumph. And I want to say from this, if you are thinking that you need to get away and you feel like you cannot leave your family, you can and it will be OK. And I’m a better mom. Being back this week, though, success.
S11: Good job. Good try of finishing that 10K. I’m very impressed. That is nine more k than I am willing to run. Yeah. Congratulations.
S12: Well, thanks. I feel good about it. You know, and when I’m gone, this is also when he makes all the things, so. Right.
S16: So now you are fresh. So many delicious white muffins.
S12: Well, he makes the laundry detergent too, which again is like a whole nother thing. Mother fucker. OK.
S16: I also have a triumph. What a glorious day of triumph. We have your mom and dad are fighting. This serves as a kind of update to a previous fail that I reported maybe six months ago. Our kids got braces. I was unable to find a rationale for not getting them braces. We have so little money. It’s amazing. But so Lyra has to wear rubber bands. I don’t know if either of you had braces or if you have experienced rubber bands. Yes, there I have braces. I was supposed to wear rubber bands, but never did, which is why my teeth look exactly the same as they did before I got braces. But Lyra wears her rubber bands and she has to wear them in this insane configuration. It’s like on both sides of her mouth, like connected to five or six different hooks inside her mouth. It looks like a cat’s cradle in her face. And so when she first got braces, I would like try to help her with the rubber bands at night. But I have these big clumsy meat fingers and I chew my nails. I, like, didn’t have nails. I couldn’t, like, grip the rubber bands. And I kept snapping her in the gums with rubber bands.
S13: And I would just be like, OK, forget it. I don’t even want to get price wise.
S16: And I know that that is not helpful to anyone in my home, like my daughter or my wife, who just ended up always having to do the rubber bands. And Lara did like learn how to do the rubber bands herself eventually. But last week, because all was out of town, I gritted my teeth. I rolled up my sleeves. I have stopped biting my nails. So I now have fingernails. And I use that little plastic tool that they give us that you can use to like manipulate rubber bands inside a kid’s mouth. And I figured out how to do my daughter’s stupid rubber bands, so I’m no longer useless. I got over myself. It is a belated triumph. Thank you very much.
S17: You’re still working on doing it with a happy heart part, right?
S16: I will never do with a happy heart. But that’s not I don’t think anyone expects that. Elizabeth, please. It’s good that they got braces right at the same time. Remind me why.
S6: Well, if one of them gets braces and the other one doesn’t, then the one who gets braces is like, oh, that sucks. I have braces. How come I have to have braces? And the other one doesn’t.
S11: Yeah, but then we would have money. Yeah. Fair point.
S18: I mean you would spend the same amount of money but stretched out over more time here and with more sibling antagonists.
S19: You’re right. You’re right. It’s like your hour saved in the evening versus the morning. All right. Let’s do some business. After our multiple triumphs on every front, we really are just fantastic parents this week. I want to give it up to all of us. So. Newsletter is the best place to be notified about all of our parenting contents here on Slate.com, including this very podcast. Mom and dad are fighting Karen feeding our parenting advice column. And much, much more. It is also a personal e-mail from me every single week, except last week when I forgot to sign up at Slate.com slash parenting email. I promise I’ll remember this week. Also, come join us on Facebook. Just search for slate parenting and the little search doo hickey. It’s a really fun community. We keep close watch over it. We answer questions. We post podcasts. We respond to comments. We banned jerks. We do it all. It’s a great place to be. Search for sleep parenting on Facebook.
S7: This is the best Facebook group. I really love this Facebook group. And I never thought I would be a person who would be super enthusiastic about a parenting Facebook group. It’s very, very good.
S19: Also sometimes will steal your questions and use them on the show. Good point. All right. We have two listener questions this week. Let’s listen to the first one. It is being read, as always, by the incomparable Shasha Leonhard.
S20: Dear mom and dad, my husband and I are having our first baby this summer, and I’m struggling with picking his last name. The default is to use the father’s, but I can’t think of any non-sexist justification for sticking with that tradition. The problem is, I don’t love any other solutions like a new or blended name. If we hyphenate, what will he do if and when he’s having his own kid? Are there legitimate practical reasons not to use the mother’s last name? I’d love to know how or if you thought about this and pros and cons of different ways of handling it. Thanks.
S11: Let’s start with you, Elizabeth. You gave your kids your husband’s last name. In fact, you took his last name. You are not a sexist, as far as I know. Why did you make those decisions?
S12: Correct. So I actually grew up as a hyphenate. My maiden name was to Blonsky Deal. My mother did not change her name when she was married. She was a attorney. She’d gone to Harvard Law School. There were all these amazing things that she had done. And so when she got married, she kept her name. My parents decided together to hyphenate our names. And I spent my entire childhood as a hyphenate, which I think now is very different than it was in the 80s. A hyphen was not available on any standardized tests. When I got a driver’s license, it was not available when I applied to college. It was not available. They would just smush it all together into this Chip Lonski deal situation. And sometimes there weren’t enough letters of Lonski deal. So I was gibi Lonski die. Most of the time because that’s where the letters ran. I don’t have a lot of warm fuzzies about growing up as a hyphenate, but I will say this. I think there is a lot of power in choosing a name and that yes, it is absolutely a sexist practice to just assign the father’s last name. But I think one of the beauties of feminism is about allowing families and particularly women to make the choice. And so when I had the opportunity to get married, one of the things I really wanted was to be like the new camps and just have our whole family have the same name, because that’s not how I grew up. Frequently when traveling with a parent would need to make sure to have some kind of documents because I did not share the same last name as my parents. When I got to law school, teachers often thought I was already married or the expectation when I would show up some place if someone had just seen me on paper would be that I was Hispanic or came from Spain or somewhere else where the hyphenation was more common, which is totally fine. But then it’s like this has become the conversation about this name when that has nothing to do with like who I am or why I’m showing up here. That being said, in this day and age, I think it’s much more common. I think you don’t necessarily need to make the decision based on what your child will do, like at that point that they’re having a child or they’re getting married. They’re in a position where they can make a decision about their name. And I actually ended up taking my mother’s portion of the name as my middle name as sort of a Armitage to her keeping her name. I took deal as my middle name and then my husband’s name as my last name. But, you know, as a hyphenate, you probably don’t have a Google doppelganger. If I search my maiden name, it’s just me and my sister that come up. There are reasons to assign the father’s name if you’re going to carry this baby and be a huge part of this baby’s life sometimes. You could say why want him to have the father’s name to feel part of that? You could also say, I’m doing all the work, I should get to give my name, but I think that should be a discussion that they have. And I just think there are so many options now. There’s really no kind of downside to whatever you decide. And at the end of the day, your kids probably can be mad about it anyway, regardless of what you did.
S15: So, Elizabeth, I can’t believe you decided to get rid of the proud name of JR Blonsky.
S12: There are actually a lot of Java Lansky’s out there.
S11: A good poll you’re going to hear from every fucking one of them.
S12: Yeah, I know you guys have been a barrel of apples. My father jokes that I had to name my first child after him and he wanted to be called Baby Jabel. Yeah, jab also jab. Jaballah that we had all kinds of. Yes. I’m very happy with my decision now.
S11: You know, we made similar decisions in our family. Aleya kept her last name, but we didn’t hyphenate our kids last names. We just gave them my name. As I recall, and I’m excited to hear later whether my recollection is correct, the decision was based not so much on feeling like, well, it’s just the way it is that kids have the dad’s last name and more of that aleya. While she loves her family, did not feel that her last name was anything particularly exciting. Her last name is Smith, and there’s no shortage of Smiths in the world. And my last name is a little bit more unique. And she thought it would be more fun to have our kids have that last name. But I might report back next week with news that in fact, I was like, they must have my last name for you have given birth to them. And I must feel connected in some way. I don’t know. That seems crazy. You are correct, Elizabeth, that they should absolutely not make the decision based on worrying about what their child might do. Thirty years from now, when he has his own kid, like who gives a shit about that, by then last names will be obsolete or will all have serial numbers, or he’ll be underwater anyway. I don’t know. Make the decision based on what you guys want to do. I’m also very curious what her husband thinks, which is something that she does not notably put anywhere in this letter. Gabe, what do you think?
S6: I did something similar to what you, Dan, are afraid you might have done, but don’t recall yourself doing. Our kids have my last name. My wife did not change her name. I decided while she was pregnant and we were talking about this stuff that I was thinking about my father who died when I was younger, who had no siblings, who survived to have children. And so it felt as though it was important to me to preserve the name Roth for the next generation of my family. That does seem important to me. It also like is one of those slightly unanswerable arguments, like I think my wife would have liked to have the kids have her name. And other than Patriarca. There’s no intrinsic reason why they shouldn’t. But I was able to make this argument from grief and emotion in a way that maybe helped me swing the argument. So do I feel great about that in retrospect? Not really. Would I feel sad if my kids didn’t have the last name, Roffe? I think I probably would, although by now maybe I would have gotten over it. Who the hell knows? This is one of those respects in which patriarchy is just completely fucked us, because unless you just feel fine about entirely breaking with convention and travesty in the memory of your dead father or whatever, then there’s no easy alternative but to do the sexist thing. So I guess mostly I’m saying to the letter writer, I feel you and this is hard and there’s no great solution.
S7: Then whatever you come up with, it’s going to feel wrong on some front, whether it’s a gender politics front or a family legacy front, or is this too weird kind of for I don’t know. So I’m really the last person who should be asking for advice about this, basically.
S16: It sounds like they should hyphenate like it just seems like my problems with hyphenation are exactly the same as Elizabeth’s problems. I wasn’t hyphenated, but we both come from an era in which it was weird. It was the weird kids whose names were hyphenated and everyone to be like that. That kid, he’s got to less factly.
S9: I do think she makes a good point, though, that like hyphenation is a tool that’s useful. You get one shot at that, and rarely does she really want to use up her lineages. Shot at hyphenation. Sure. The compromise that you’re making is you’re balancing everything for your generation and fucking it up for future generations.
S11: But isn’t that basically what we do with everything? Why not do that with names?
S12: You remain very forward to them. I guess I just felt like it didn’t matter as much to me. Like my mom keeping her name. It very much mattered to her. I also went to law school before I, you know, got married. I also had done this stuff, but what I valued personally was being this. Yeah, probably in response to what had happened to me. But being a family unit, being able to address a Christmas card or have it addressed stamp. That said, the new camps, that was important to me. It wasn’t important to her. I think that’s OK. Like to presume that this name will be that important to the child may not be true.
S11: Right. You have no idea how kid is gonna feel about this other than that Elizabeth is right that he’ll complain no matter what you do. It seems from the letter like what’s important to her is like to not be forced into a success situation. So then the answer is hyphenate. Choose a new name or give the kid your name. Like those are all legitimate choices. And I hope your husband has some. I’d say in this question, but I do think it’s not impossible that the two of you could agree on one of those possibilities.
S17: Yeah, I felt like I just wanted to relieve the letter writer of the burden of worrying about what happens next.
S11: Right. What happens next is we all get taken over by the machines. All right. Good luck, letter writer. I feel comfortable that you will be able to find a solution to this that makes you happy, that makes your husband happy, and that makes your kid miserable at first. But then later, they don’t care. If you have a question for us, please email us at mom or dad at Slate.com or posted to these late parenting Facebook group, which is where we found this second listener question which has once again been read by the one and only Shasha Leonhard.
S20: Dear mom and dad, my 7 year old son is bad at hockey. Not just from a skills perspective. It’s a great skater, but he lags and everything else. But from the perspective of just, you know, playing the game, he forgets which position he is playing. He decides to practice pirouettes or he’s just skating in circles without regard to what’s going on with the puck. The same issues were apparent last year when he was playing in erect division. But after his coach told them about travel team tryouts, he wanted in. Having watched him float his way through a year of rec hockey, we explained tryouts to him that it would be a chance to show that he was ready to play travel hockey, and if the coaches thought he wasn’t ready, he’d get cut. Given past performance, we expected he’d get cut and that he’d learned a hard but valuable lesson about effort and attention. No surprise, he completely bombed the tryout and then the coaches told us that they weren’t making any cuts. He made the team. We explained to my son that if he wanted to play travel hockey, he’d have to give up a lot of other activities, hanging out with his friends, drawing crafts for hockey. We explained that the coaches would expect more effort and attention from him than he was giving. We explained that other kids were going to be more competitive and might get upset with him if he wasn’t paying attention. He didn’t care. He was excited about playing more hockey. My wife and I don’t hate it. We like the other parents. The program is focused on character and sportsmanship rather than being super competitive and about winning games. The other kids are great and are some of my son’s best friends. The coaches are all relentlessly positive with him and continually reassure us that he’ll get it eventually. For the most part, my son loves it. He never complains about having a go. Even when we have to get up at 5:30 a.m. on a weekend to be at a rink an hour away at 7 a.m., this is literally the only time he will ever get up, get dressed and to the breakfast table on his own. By the way, but when I ask him what he likes about hockey, it’s unrelated to hockey. He likes the time in the car, his teammates, the uniforms, the skating, but not really playing hockey. He also complains that he just doesn’t have enough time to do other stuff he enjoys. But when we suggest that he might want to play rec next year or heck, just take up skating, he flat out says he doesn’t want to do that. He wants to play hockey. And yet he still just looks like a dingbat on the ice. While we can afford the cost and the time, I have to weigh that against the fact that I could watch and be a dingbat while he’s playing raq hockey at a third of the cost and half the time commitment which would leave all of us, him included. More time for other stuff. Tryouts for next year are coming up, and if I had any confidence they were going to make any cuts, I’d let him try out and let the chips fall where they may. But I don’t. My wife thinks we give it one more year and hope that the extra year of maturity will make him more attentive and coachable. I think we allow him trial, but only if he demonstrates a commitment to practicing hockey skills on his own once regular practices end.
S9: What should we do? I love this question so much. This is like a fantastic story. Like I can see this kid perfectly. I was this kid not about hockey, but about whatever other stuff I was trying to do. My kids. You don’t even remember what it was. I don’t know what it was. I wasn’t paying attention. I was too busy, like hanging out with my friends or like daydreaming or skating around in little circles.
S15: I don’t feel confident about this, but I think the answer is that you should let the kid keep doing hockey for as long as he wants to do. Hockey and hockey institution will allow him to play hockey and not select him out. What’s at the heart of this is the particular human endeavor of concentration and applying oneself and trying to master an activity that’s intrinsically difficult.
S1: And I feel like I didn’t really pay any attention to that as a thing until I was maybe in my mid. He’s like I feel like as a kid, there were some things that were easy for me and there were other things that were hard for me and I would be like exactly as good at the thing as I was without like the idea of I’m going to really work to get better at doing this thing.
S6: I’m going to practice my strokes and I’m going to concentrate on skating and I’m gonna really try to follow the puck. And there’s no way I could have done that. This kid is 7 years old. There’s no way I could have done it at 7. And there’s probably no way I could’ve done it at 12. My hope for this kid is that at some point the incentive of like scoring a goal at hockey or being congratulated by his teammates is going to make something sort of flip in his head.
S18: And he’s going to say, hey, maybe I should pay attention to the position of the puck and try and get my stick there. But if it doesn’t happen while he’s 7 or 8 or 9 or 12, then that’s all right, too. And I totally get the parents desire not to spend this money and select the kid around to do all this stuff. But the kid likes it as a thing that he does. He likes the social stuff and he likes skating around and everybody else likes him and nobody minds in the parents. I don’t hate doing it either. And it just feels like either your kid is going to learn something really valuable about how to apply oneself to something difficult and improve at it. Or you guys are going to sort of wasted a little bit of money and some free weekend time and that’s going to be OK. What do you think then?
S11: I mean, it should not be any surprise where I fall in this kind of question. I mean, the answer is you never should have tried out for travel. Exactly. Ideally, in an ideal world, your child would never know that travel hockey exists.
S21: It was such a copout to let him try out. They wanted him to get cut.
S19: Right. Which I mean, it’s crazy that he didn’t get cut, but that was an error. However. Her child gets out of bed early to go to travel hockey games where he doesn’t even really play very well yet loves it so much. You have the money and the time the coaches and the program sound great. His friends do it. I hate to tell you letter writer, but you have not argued a particularly good case for pulling your kid out of travel hockey. It is a beloved activity where he is surrounded by supportive friends, learns good things, and has a wonderful time that you don’t hate. It’s not going to get any better in terms of extracurricular activities that your kid could be doing. So I feel like you probably just need to let him try out again and maybe they cut him or maybe they don’t. The other thing I’ll say is that this is not a forever problem. They are not going to forever continue to not cut kids from travel hockey. No matter how much funding they want for their program, probably next year or the year after. Kids are gonna get cut. And if your kid is that kid, you are in fact going to face a whole set of other problems, which is that he will be sad and you will lose access to those friends who will suddenly be unavailable because they are off playing travel hockey. And that will be a whole set of other bombers. So I think you just gotta embrace the scenario. This is your cross to bear at this point, and it’s not that bad of a cross. So I think that you just got to stick with it. Elizabeth, what do you think?
S21: I disagree. You disagree greatly with both of you. I just think your 7 year old doesn’t run the family. The one thing you’ve introduced him to is hockey. So, yes, he loves like hanging out with friends.
S8: He likes the snacks and the uniforms, like you have just described every activity. We should try something else. Dan, I get it. The initial mistake was made when you hoped that he would get cut for something that you didn’t want to do, so that you didn’t have to tell him no. The subtext here is I don’t want to do this, but I don’t want to make my child sad. And I feel a little bit like it’s not a parent’s responsibility to make sure your kid is always being happy. And there are lots of opportunities to find the thing that jives with your child if he doesn’t pick it up. Eventually he gets cut. Now he’s 10 and the only thing he’s ever done is travel hockey. You haven’t tried something else or found that thing that he really enjoys and has an opportunity to be good at. I don’t think you should cut out hockey altogether. I think this rec league sounds great, but I also think there are other things to try and to do that have these aspects that he really enjoys and give your child a chance to find a thing that he also excels at and that you don’t feel like is a waste of your time. Our 7 year old Henry is very good at gymnastics and they came and said we’d like him to be on the team. And I went to the meeting and it’s like my son absolutely wants to be on the team. All his friends are doing this. And then I look and I say like, yeah, we can afford this and we can do this. But I don’t want to travel to these meats. I don’t want to be driving him to practice, you know, three times a week for however many hours and have the other kids with me. And so it’s a hard conversation. But to say, listen, at 7, you don’t understand what this commitment really looks like for the effort you need to put in. And so as your parent, I am laying down this boundary that just says we are not doing this now. And I understand maybe I run the risk of like I have just, you know, thwarted some kind of like gymnastics gold medal. But I really think that’s unlikely.
S11: Now, that’s not a risk to be worried about, right? Like no reasonable person should be betting anything on the notion that the reason you’re doing these travels sports is that your kid is going to win a gold medal or get a college scholarship or what. Right. I’ve had an infinite number of conversations with Harper about how, no, you may not try out for this travel thing because we don’t want to do travel sports. But I think that is a totally different kind of decision than the decision of, yes, we let you do travel sports and you did it for a year and you loved it and they love you. But we’re not going to let you do it this year. We don’t like it anymore like that. It seems like a very different situation and I don’t think I would pull that on my kid.
S15: Right. The thing that you guys are both saying, the thing that Elizabeth is saying is I didn’t let my kid do gymnastics, even though he was good at it because I didn’t want to schlep him to gymnastics every weekend.
S22: That’s totally reasonable. And if this letter writer were saying, I am so sick of taking him to hockey every weekend, we have to drive here and there and it’s destroying our family life. I gotta pull him out of hockey, I would say. Yeah, absolutely. Pull the kid out of hockey. But what the letter writer is saying is, I don’t hate doing it, but my kid is not good enough at hockey for me to think he deserves a place on this travel hockey team and that focus on whether the kid is good at the activity or not. Seems to me absolutely misplaced. Like as Dan said, the kid is not going to be a professional hockey player no matter what. None of the kids on the team are gonna be a professional hockey player. Maybe one of them has a shot at a hockey scholarship to college or some. Things like that, but that’s not why they’re doing this. It’s not about like future rewards for excellence. And I think your decision as to whether your kid is allowed to participate in travel hockey shouldn’t hinge on whether he looks like a dingbat or not. It’s fine for him to look like a dingbat. He’s having fun and nobody else seems to mind except for you.
S8: But I guess it does say, like he complains, that he doesn’t have enough time to do the other stuff he enjoys.
S21: That’s the one little justification we have a feeling like when the letter writer says like, well, we go and we don’t hate it. I guess I just feel like the subtext is like it’s not the worst thing.
S8: But we’re also not like, you know, really excited to have this be part of our family structure.
S21: I guess I just think it’s okay to just say we’re gonna play this rock hockey and if you get better or these things like.
S8: But we’re also going to try some things that have the same elements that you like and see if you like it more.
S21: Yeah. They ask him what he likes about hockey. None of it is the hockey. Well, but that’s because he’s seven. Exactly. So if your child is seven and he doesn’t like the hockey part and you don’t want to be taking him to hockey, which is why he’s writing us this letter, because he doesn’t really want to take his child to it.
S11: So you believe this letter is actually a call for help and he is desperate for us?
S21: You like him? I wrote it with are seeking permission not to play travel sports. I give it to you.
S11: I give you permission to have said no to travel sports a year ago. But you fuckin blew it. Exactly.
S12: I did write down like a whole list of things I think are great about team sports. And I do agree with you that just because you are not good at it does not mean that there is not value.
S1: Letter writer If the truth behind your letter is that actually you do in fact hate doing this or strongly dislike doing it. Definitely stop doing it. It’s not worth it. But if the truth is that you are for some reason really opposed to your son looking like a dingbat out there on the ice, I think you should get over.
S11: I’m on board with that answer. First, are we all in agreement that he should absolutely not make his son’s participation contingent on extra curricular skills practice? Yes. Yes. Yes. Seems like it would just mean he would have to spend more of his time watching his kids suck at hockey like in their backyard.
S1: Yeah. Okay. You can still play hockey, but only if you do it in a way that you hate doing. Yeah, exactly.
S19: Other listeners. I hope the lesson you take from this is never sign your kid up for travel, sports, hockey dad. We hope this is helpful. Help us. Help you. Email us at mom or dad at slate.com or post on the Slate Parenting Facebook group. Has this parent did. All right. Let us move on to some recommendations. Elizabeth, what you have for us?
S12: I’m recommending paint by sticker books. These are great quiet activities for a kind of slightly older kids and they have like junior ones and then more advanced ones. We use them a lot for like when we’re going to a restaurant or in a waiting room. And I don’t necessarily want to rely on a tablet. And basically, it’s just like paint by number. But there is little stickers that you peel off and put down. And what I love is that there are like ones that are famous paintings. There are ones that are birds. There’s also like fun, just like random animals. But they feel pretty educational. My kids have learned quite a few famous paintings as a result of completing these. And they like the challenge of the stickers are small and you have to stick small together and it keeps them quiet.
S19: I like it. A paint by. When he’s first started talking, I thought your kind of tell us about how Geoff mixes his own paints from ancient pigments and dyes.
S10: No, but then I can’t even I like dice, you know, and things with vegetables.
S12: It’s like a joke among my friends because they will come over and they will say, where did you get this? And I’m like, Oh, I did it with beets.
S10: Were weird people. Hey, what are you recommending today?
S15: All right. I’m going to recommend particular book that Eliza has, and that has been great. We got her recently an iPod Touch specifically only to use as like a music device. The only app she has on it is Spotify because we start getting into music. So now she’s listening to music. And the cool thing about Spotify is she can check out like any music artist that she’s ever heard of, just out of curiosity. Let’s hear what that sounds like. And mostly she’s been listening to Taylor Swift because she loves terrorists. Swift, that’s great. Then Spotify will recommend lots of other pop things and that’s great. And then I saw on Twitter a guy who I have known on Twitter for a million years. I don’t know him in real life, but he’d tweeted like, hey, I wrote this book. It’s a book to introduce kids to different musical artists. And I was like, oh, she would love that. And I immediately pre-ordered it. And then before it had arrived, after I’d pre-ordered it, we were in a bookstore and she saw a copy of the very same book in the bookstore. And she’s like, I want this. Can I have this? I had to be like, actually, I ordered that for you. So you have to wait like three days. And she was really bummed about it, but then it arrived. The book is called Music Is My Life. It’s written by Miles Tanzer. It’s illustrated by Ali Mac. It’s like 80 profiles of different musical artists from every period of like 20th and 21st century popular music. Each one is illustrated in that sort of painted illustration style that you usually see in books that are like pictures of inspirational women from history or whatever, but this one reads like women aid as yes, exactly that same illustration style that we do like biographies, things for kids. Now it divides up the artist and it explains like what mood you might be in to want to listen to this particular music when you’re feeling angry. Listen to this artist, when you’re feeling sad. Listen to this. When you’re feeling happy and you want to jump around, listen to this huge range of stuff. She has loved reading it.
S7: And then the other day we were in the rental car that I was about to park in a bus stop. We were driving home from this trip and we were doing the thing we do in the car, which is everybody picks two songs and then the next person picks two songs. And that’s how we decide what we’re gonna listen to. And it came to her turn to pick her two songs. She had picked some Taylor Swift. She had picked various things. And then it gets to her turn and she said, Have you guys ever heard of Sleater-Kinney when one day.
S22: I mean, what? And the idea that now we get to listen to Sleater-Kinney in the car like and it’s her choice. It’s not us like imposing it are fantastic. We had to try very hard not to. We’ve seen Sleater-Kinney dozens of times. You know, I I had an idol, you know, unlike takes later Kenny away from her. But like now it just it opens up so much stuff for her. Fantastic.
S18: Music is my life. The author is Miles Tanzer and the illustrator is Ali Mac.
S19: Miles Tanzer is a great guy and a super fun writer. And I’ll definitely check that book out. I hope based on my experience in a recent week, that includes Bong Water’s crucial song, The Power of Pussy.
S15: I’m almost sure that he doesn’t.
S19: This week, I am recommending a comic, a graphic novel, if you will, by an author named Cat Lady. L e y h. It’s a middle grade. I would say comic called Snapdragon. And it is about a girl in a small town who finds a witch in her neighborhood. But the witch is definitely unexpected in a number of different ways. It’s a totally delightful, very progressive, very spooky and interesting comic with a young girl of color at its center with a gender queer best friend, but with a witch who’s more a witch and sort of the in touch with the natural world way than in the writing on broomsticks. Way this witch rides a motorcycle, hides very, very, very charming. I think a kid anywhere from like eleven to fifteen would get a lot out of this book.
S11: Cathles Cartooning is super fun and energetic and lively and it’s really great. I really liked it. I recommended Snapdragon by Cantlay. It is in bookstores now. Check it out.
S15: I literally just ordered it while you were talking about Mesa, right?
S19: Tomorrow your daughter will see it in a store and then you’ll be like, tough shit, kid. You get it in two to four weeks. Good stuff. One more time.
S23: If you have a question you’d like to ask us on the air, leave us a message at 3:56 255, 73, 3. Or email us at bombed-out at slate.com. And of course, join us on Facebook. Just search for slate parenting. It’s Gabe Roth’s favorite book, Combat Enter Fighting is produced by Roseberry Bellson Merete. Jacob was our audio engineer for gay brothels with boot camp in place. Thanks for listening.
S19: Hello, Slate Plus listeners. Thank you so much for being members of Slate, plus our membership program. Your support helps us do so many of the things that we do in print and in audio every single week. We’re really, really, really grateful. As always, you get a bonus segment. This time, we’re going to talk to Elisabeth about homeschooling. In the U.S. More than 3 percent of children are homeschooled. That’s a solid 2 million kids. Now, I have definitely tended to write those parents off as just like way overinvolved because, you know, having to organize and plan my kids school is like my personal nightmare. But we have a homeschooling mom right here on the show. So this time for me to get over my knee jerk rejection of something the 3 percent of the kids in this fine country enjoy. Elizabeth, why do you homeschool?
S17: So I feel like I should start with a disclaimer, though, to say, like, at no point in this conversation do I want to make anyone feel like the schooling they have chosen for their child is not right for their child. I really love and am passionate about how we are currently schooling our kids. But every kid is different. Every situation is different. So I just don’t want anyone to feel that. I think that where you have your child for your situation is not right for you because I don’t know anything about that. So with that being said, we moved back here from the Netherlands about a year and a half ago and my children were in Dutch public schools in the Netherlands. And we just loved everything about them. They were outside. This particular school we went to was sort of Montessori based. It was based on this Dutch philosopher. But they were outside. It was self-directed. They were in like family groups that were sort of grouped from four to seven or eight and then seven or eight. And up until you kind of got to. The Middle School Ages, and we just loved that and then sorted for like Dutch lessons and math lessons by ability, and you could move freely between these groups or for different activities at any point in the year. So when we got back to the United States and moved to northwest Florida and I went in and toured the schools, I was like, this is not going to work for my children. My, you know, 7 year old had literally never asked to go to the bathroom. He was just assumed that he could go. He had never seen a classroom with desks in a row. Just everything about it. The more I met with them, there was this whole issue of them wanting to have him and her school as English as a second language. And I basically was just like, thank you so much for your time. I’m going to make a different choice. And what we’ve kind of ended up doing is this Charlotte Mason approach, which is where everything we do is based on a book. We choose a book. And then like history, science, all of that comes from this book. We did something called The Playful Pioneers last year where we read the entire Little House on the Prairie series and this is where we died silk’s with vegetables, which clearly stuck. And then we also built our own like raft to sail to see if we could float a covered wagon in the bathtub like things like that. Very hands on our spelling and writing and grammar all comes from copy work. This year we’re doing Harry Potter. There are actual curriculums out there and this one’s called warlocks, wizards and ones. And we have sections like our chemistry is called potions. And so it’s just very immersive. We read a couple chapters. I read them out loud. We do something called poetry tea time. We do. I mean, Dan, this probably sounds like your nightmare, but it sure does it.
S21: So basically we do all this.
S12: But the crazy part is like it doesn’t take very long because I have three kids at three different levels that we kind of integrate. There is tons of playtime. We are outside. We do nature journaling where we go out, we go on a walk, we pick something, we watercolor it, we write about it. So it just looks totally different than kind of what your traditional school here looks like. And it’s a good fit for us like now with these ages in these situations. I also have the added benefit of being able to deal with my son’s like medical issues without having to pull an out of school. It’s very seamless in terms of getting therapies and getting to what we need. It can all be part of our just like daily routine. That is what I’m doing now and what it kind of looks like. And I am ready to take your questions and I will not be fan of care.
S1: I have a question. First of all, I have a comment, which is this sounds wild like that just feels like a completely different life and different relationship to your kids in their childhood than I have. Or then I don’t know anybody who home schools their kids other than you. I don’t know. It just seems so completely different. My first question really is I would think of the aspect of your life that comprises homeschooling your children as essentially like a very busy full time job, not because you’re necessarily spending nine hours a day doing the homeschooling thing, but because the curriculum and the preparation and the assembling the materials, all the stuff that you do when the kids aren’t there and then all the stuff that you do when they are there. I would think you’re like running a small school and being the only teacher in the school. You’re both the principal and administrator and also the teacher of the school that feels like it would take up like at least two thirds of your life. Is that your experience?
S12: It definitely is. I think very kind of like immersive, but no different than I think what anybody else does. Like if you’re going to work and getting your kids out the door, like, I don’t have any of that. So I get a lot of the time back that way. I know like everybody’s homeschooling experience is gonna be different. There are people that work from home and homeschool. I think I’m not at good ages for that because it is very like I spend a lot of time prepping and teaching and doing all of that. But that’s also just like our schedule. Like I spend time during breaks or wherever. I’ve kind of broken up the curriculum, preparing things. And then each night I’m kind of setting out the stuff to start the next day. But we’re also in a routine like when you have a 7 year old and you’ve taught them, let’s say, multiplication. Then there’s a few weeks where they are just doing the multiplication. And I don’t really have to do anything like I open the book, like, do you have a question? He’s like, no. Like, complete your work. I go, I do laundry. I do whatever. I come back. He’s like, please check these. I’m like, okay, we’re done. So there’s a whole bunch of elements of schooling that are just like quick and done now the days when I need to teach him something new. Those are more kind of like intense days. Right. But we also are not on any schedule. Like if I sit down to teach him something and it’s not taking, I can be like, let’s go outside and play and we will revisit this. And I can. You know, tomorrow try again or later that afternoon, so I do have that kind of flexibility within my day that you don’t necessarily have at a school. Does that answer your question?
S15: Sure. Yes. Mostly the answer in the affirmative with a few little trims around the edges.
S19: We met a family on our trip who was homeschooling their kids. It drove them completely insane because their kids just were not having it. Those kids did not want this. And so every single interaction between them at the time of the day that was meant to be for school was weighted with all this parent child drama around the decision to homeschool and their lack of interest in doing it and their lack of interest in the subjects. And it just made every moment of every day a series of endless fights. Now, somehow you have avoided such a thing. How do you avoid a situation like that? What do you do if your kid is just like, no, you’re not my teacher?
S12: So the first year is is just that. That is the first year of homeschoolers is hard, if that. I mean, it didn’t really take us a whole year, but I think, like, imagine I was not a teacher. I was not homeschooled. So I didn’t really know what this was supposed to look like and what sort of every homeschool mom that I reached out to said is like the first year figuring it out. It’s your first year teaching. It’s their first year being students and figuring out where that balances. I also struggled in that first year with believing that my homeschool needed to look like the school that I had gone to. We did have a lot of fights when it was like that, when it was like we’re gonna sit down and we’re gonna work from this time to this time and then we’re gonna do this thing and I’m gonna like grade it. And when we sort of found a rhythm in which I set out a few activities for them to start on the morning while I get towards done, we have this thing called a morning basket and they can pick something from it. At first I had to lead them there. Now they just do that because they understand that if they do all of the things we have like a little checklist for each child. So they wake up in the morning, there’s a notebook. The notebook has a checklist on it. If they complete all of that, the time for the rest of the day is theirs. Otherwise, this is what we’re doing. And whatever, you know, that doesn’t get done kind of rolls over till tomorrow. But that time is basically mine. Then they are all motivated to have the time be theirs because that can be I have some i-Pad time that can be like playing. That can be when they’re friends. Either get home from school or we have a bunch of homeschool friends like that can be playtime and they know that most of their homeschool friends are pretty much done by 12 or 1, so they can realistically have the entire afternoon free to play and do whatever they want within reason if they get these things done. It took a while to get there. I also the Charlotte Mason approach says that we don’t spend more than 15 minutes on anything that we’re struggling with. So when the fights come up, I just set a timer and I’m like, we’re gonna sit with this for fifteen minutes and see where that gets us. And if we don’t complete a lesson or we didn’t learn something, that’s totally fine. But honestly, like my 7 year old can complete everything in the same amount of time, like a couple hours, which might be the same amount of time that people are bringing homework home.
S18: How do you feel like the process of homeschooling your kids has changed your relationship with them and particularly the way that they see you? Do you feel like your identity has sort of broadened from mom to something else for them?
S12: Yeah, I think for a while, especially when I was trying to teach more like a teacher in a classroom, I definitely became kind of like, well, is this mom, mom or is this teacher mom? And as we have eased more into the Charlotte Mason in this reading, I actually think I’ve gone back to just like a mom in which at any moment you could be being homeschooled and you might not know it. Like that is a comment that comes up a lot like we will be out on like a nature walk. And then Henry will be like, is this a lesson? And I’m like, yes, we have just completed, you know, a lesson. I think I’ve kind of morphed back, especially as I relax. Like at first I thought we needed to, like, sit in the chair and read this book. And now if everybody is like cozy and it’s raining outside and we all read like sitting in my bed under the covers to get our reading done, that’s what we do. There are days where, like, nobody wants to get dressed and I’m just like, bring the books into the bed or like, let’s do everything outside or like, let’s go to the beach and we can homeschool there. That has kind of enabled me to sway back into just like this is mom and what we do with mom and dad. I mean, Jeff definitely participates in this as well, is that we’re always learning in this environment, too, and they go to classes and things like that. They are not constantly with me. I’m not their only source of education. We have other homeschool moms who are a part of kind of our learning experience. We have just finished a watercolor class that we all took together about water coloring in nature. So there’s lots of other opportunities to get these kind of classes that I can’t provide or I don’t have the skills for as you sort of I think suggested at first it did really change. My role and now we have sort of moved past that into this is just how we work.
S11: All right. Final question. Yeah. Do you think, you know, you’re an Air Force family. Eventually you’re gonna move somewhere else when you move somewhere else if you choose. At that point, to send them to just a regular school. Are they gonna be all fucked up?
S12: I don’t think so. I’ve talked to other homeschool moms who have done this because we definitely approach homeschool as a like each place, each child, each situation. I don’t know that I’m going to homeschool forever. And I’m always keeping in mind now in Florida, we’re required to be evaluated by a teacher each year, have the students sit down with them. And I like that feedback. I like the teacher to tell me, like, we’re on track. We’re not on track. I think there would definitely be an adjustment to some of the, like, socialized aspects of like, you’re going to come in, you’re going to sit down, you’re going to complete your work. When you’re complete, you’re gonna sit here quietly or find a book to read because those constraints don’t exist in homeschool. Like when they’re done, they’re done and the time is theirs. But certainly academically, like they can keep up their reading, you know, on par. Their math is on par. They hand-write, they can spell, they can do all of those kind of things from school. And like I said, they go to these classes like there’s homeschool classes at the science center. They go to camps in the summer. They’re not having any trouble with anything. They don’t stand out is like, oh, you’re homeschooled other than honestly things like asking to go to the bathroom. Like, I have to remind them when they go to places where there’s another teacher like, hey, by the way, if you need to leave the room for something, you need to check in with the adults.
S19: All right. It still sounds like my nightmare. I fully believe you that you have got this shit on lock and that you are like doing this in a way that if I was a student in your home school, I would love it. But it’s not even that I don’t believe that I wouldn’t be able to do it. I just am so firmly convinced that I would be just a disaster to my children in those kinds of circumstances that I am unwilling to ever subject my children to that kind of interaction with their father. But you you’re good at it. So thankfully you are now.
S12: That’s, I think, why I felt like I needed a disclaimer. I don’t think it’s for everyone. I think if you think it’s going to make you miserable, it’s not for you if it’s making your child miserable. And I also think it’s so nice to know that you can make these choices and you can unmake these choices so you can decide you’re going to homeschool for whatever reason. The freedom, the flexibility, like I’m able to take the kids wherever I want to go. That’s great. You can also then decide this is no longer working. I’m going to put them in school. There is no shame in that. People get committed like, well, I’m a home schooler. I think that’s silly. Kids need different things at different times in their lives.
S9: I gotta say, I think it sounds kind of idea like I’m obviously never going to do it. It fit into my life in any way and I would probably hate it. But the way you’re describing it sounds kind of idyllic both for you and for the kids. And certainly it’s not as though the like system that we have where both parents go to work at jobs to make money and then the kids go to a school run by a bunch of other people is like such a perfect system that we couldn’t possibly try anything other than this great, wonderful system that we’ve built. So I would not change my life in any way, but I will sort of fantasize sometimes about how neat it would be if I was like going on. Nature walks with my kids instead of going to my office after dropping them off at school, reading Harry Potter in bed, snuggled up with their children in that school on a rainy Monday.
S12: Now, you know, I do realize, like, how incredibly lucky we are to be in a situation where this is a possibility at these ages. I do want to say, in case I made it seem to idealic like when considering this, the thing that was my biggest concern was that I was going to be with my children all the time. It has worked out OK. It actually there also with me all the time. So they don’t want to be with me as much. They do a good job of it, like playing a lot. And there’s three of them. So, you know, they’re their own little crew and plenty of other homeschool moms. But yes, sometimes they get on my nerves and we’re together all the time. All right.
S19: That is it for this week’s Slate Plus segment. Thank you, Elizabeth. Thank you. Gabe, thank you. Slate Plus members. We appreciate everything you do. Talk to you next time.