S1: This ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership. The following podcast contains explicit language.
S2: Welcome to Mom and Dad are Fighting Fleets Parenting podcast for Thursday, December 5th, the Home Alone edition. I’m Jamilah Lemieux, a writer contributor to Slate. Karen Feting Parenting column and mom tonight, Emma, who’s thick that we live in Los Angeles, California.
S3: I’m Dan Kois. I’m a writer and editor at Slate and the author of How to Be a Family. I’m the dad of Lyra, who’s 14, and Harper, who’s twelve and living in Virginia. And I’m Kathryn Goldstein. I am the creator and host of the double-checked podcast, which is a show about a new generation of working mothers. And I live in Durham, North Carolina. I am the mom to Ashar, who is almost four and a half. And I’m expecting twins in February. Thank you so much for joining us, Catherine. And congratulations on the two new babies on the way.
S4: He very much the third new baby if you count the new season of the season, which is extremely good.
S5: Did twins run in your family?
S6: Twins do not run in my family. I like to call it the plot twist of a lifetime here in our home, North Carolina. But yeah, I will definitely be talking a little bit more about my new role and identity as a twin mom in our Triumphs and Fails and in our Slate Plus segment. So you’re gonna get some good twin talk from me.
S7: I cannot wait. Cannot wait to hear that. Okay. So today on the show, you’ve got a question about surviving family visits, which is very appropriate during the holiday season. So our second question actually comes from our Facebook group this week. And we’ve got a neighbor who is concerned about the safety of the kids next door.
S8: We want to know.
S7: Is it OK to leave the kids in charge when you and your partner decide to go? Let’s say to Aruba, we’ll also be doing triumphs and failures and recommendations, as we always do. So let’s start with triumphs and fails then. Are you winning or losing at parent thing this week?
S9: I have a triumph to share this week. But I must confess to begin with that it is not my triumph. I’m co-opting my wife this week because I’m so impressed by her genius and this idea she came up with. I want to share with everyone. So this Thanksgiving at our house, we hosted a bunch of folks. We had our kids, as always. And but we also had my mom as mom and my brother. So we had sort of an interesting mix of people. You know, one problem with a group like that, as I think many people have, you’re not always necessarily worried that people are going to like are rushed into arguments at the dinner table. But you do want to keep the kids engaged in the conversation at the dinner table. If they’re old enough that they could contribute, right. You want them to not be bored and to not be rude guests. You want them to participate. And it’s nice on Thanksgiving to sort of keep the conversation, if possible, revolving around the actual reason for the holiday. So all you want to figure out some activity we could do at the dinner table, some conversation we could do that would keep the kids engaged and they would focus on thankfulness. So she had this genius idea, which is what I have been thinking of as the thanks box. She took a shoe box and she made Lyra decorate it on Thanksgiving morning once she had run out of screen time. So Lyra like made cards with funny Thanksgiving things on them and taped them all over it. And then she gave everyone index cards and made everyone, all seven of us write down on index cards, not things that you’re thankful for, but categories, categories of things you could be thankful for. So what you ended up writing on the card was blank. You’re thankful for like a friend you’re thankful for or a fictional character you’re thankful for or something triangular that you’re thankful for. And then during Thanksgiving dinner, once everyone had gotten their plates and we sat down at the table and read, said Grace and everything, we would each pull out a card and you’d read it. And then we would go round the table with everyone saying like an article of clothing that you’re thankful for. And it was really great. It was fun. I learned a lot about my mom and my brother and my mother in law. And the kids were not like horribly bored. And I like I just liked this idea is like a continuing tradition. This thanks box that we would do every year. We actually as the weekend went on, every time we would end up at the table eating leftover Cheetos, our standard Thanksgiving, leftover preparation. We would bring the box back out and we would take out if you work hard and say if you weren’t, things we were thankful for. So like a really simple idea that I think Aleo was very worried everyone would scoff at, but people bought into it and it was great. I loved it. Great job, Aleya. Great triumph me for marrying her.
S7: That is that. Yes. Great triumph to you for not only marrying her, but sustaining the marriage. How long? 21 years. Baby is very impressive. Somebody who could come up with an idea like that. But for 21 years you’ve managed to keep her happy is very impressive. So thank you. This is your tribe. This is your time.
S4: I mean, it’s obviously the actual trial of my time. I can’t do that ever.
S7: Very good day. What about you, Catherine? Do you have a trial? Or if there’s no such thing as failing while you’re carrying twins? Everything you do is OK.
S6: All right. OK. I do have a triumph, as you know. So Dan sometimes says like a failure is just paving the way for a future triumph. This is probably a triumph. Oh, triumph. Paving the way for a future failure. But definitely, I’ve just got to call it a triumph right now.
S10: So one thing that I had been really worried about was telling our son, who’s for about the coming twins. And I really obsessed about it. And I don’t usually super overthink various like parenting tactics and strategies. But I was really worried about this. He’s one of those kids that, you know, some little kids really love babies and are really interested in babies. He is not one of those. Like, we be like, look at the cute baby thing. That baby doesn’t know how to cover its mouth when it coughs in. Just like didn’t care about baby. Not right. It’s not right. Didn’t care about babies. He never expressed an interest in being a big brother or having siblings. And, you know, telling kids this news is just it’s very developmental at different stages, like how a two year old is going to react is gonna be different than a 4 year old than a 6 year old. All that stuff. So I was just really like stressed about it. And I kept putting it off and kept putting it off. And I was like, let’s get him settled at his new school and then we’ll tell him. And then I’m like, let’s get this genetic test back. And then we’ll tell him. And because I’m pregnant with twins, I guess it’s pretty obvious I was pregnant like earlier than definitely I was with my first pregnancy. So it’s like by, you know, twelve weeks, most people could tell that I was pregnant by 16 weeks. I was like extremely obvious. And so there was one point where we were like out at a picnic and someone’s like, oh, it looks like ASHers gonna be a big brother. And I’m like, she had told. Like, I’m like big like Syed’s like, please, because it feels like, OK. We have to do this. We have to just tell him. And I was just so worried. And so one day at dinner, you know, we were all having dinner together and we said, Asher, you know, we think that you have really become such a big boy. And we think it’s time for you to become a big brother. And he kind of was like a little bit puzzled. And then we’re like and we’re having two more babies. And it was really interesting. It was kind of like a light went off in his mind and he was like, realize like it was like you could sort of watch the wheels processing in his mind and like how all these things were lurking around. So one really interesting thing was that most people, when we tell them that we’re having twins, the biggest reaction is not that we’re having another child or that I’m pregnant. It’s that we’re having twins because that’s like the more unusual thing. So for him, the twins was like, no big deal. Like, who cares? Like one baby, two babies. Like, no difference in his mind about that.
S11: And then kind of was like thinking about it. And he was like. And, you know, another thing is, of course, is like with four year old, like delayed gratification and like telling them things in the future, they’re not always so great about processing that. So we said, like, we’re gonna be having two babies after Christmas. And so he kind of thought about this and he was like. And then his first comment was, if they’re coming after Christmas, that means they’re going to miss Christmas and they’re gonna miss Santa. So we have to be sure we get them presents so they’re not left out.
S10: It’s just like my heart, like, broke open and notes on the floor because that was like his first thought was like already like, OK, well, we have to sort of like, look out for these babies because they’re kind of Miss Santa. And so from there, it’s been really interesting. He’s become really excited about the babies. He’s actually gotten a lot more interested in other babies. Like he’s now like, okay, babies. This is something I need to know about. And so when we see other babies, he’s like trying to interact with them and learn about them. Yes, a lot of questions. So I think it coincides with like some developmental abilities of him sort of being more empathetic and like but it feels like it actually has like triggered like a new level of maturity in him. And he’s like very excited about this new role as a big brother. So for the moment, it feels like very triumphant. He’s super excited when you guys can have me back on after the babies are born and I can tell you how fast until he asked for setting them back, which I’m sure that it’s a void. But for this moment, I feel like it actually has allowed him to be a bit more mature and sort of like it definitely showed me a side of him that like I was very nervous. Wasn’t.
S7: In terms of like empathy and caring and interest in being a big brother, I think that’s a very great triumph and that’s very sweet that he was thinking, you know. My concern was like, is he already doing the math? Like, Wait, right now all the Christmas presents are for me. So does that mean the next year I’m going to have to split this bounty up by three? But he’s thinking of making sure that they have Christmas presents, so that that’s definitely a triumph. I have a present related fail, unfortunately. So lastly, Carnamah and I went to Chicago where her father and I both grew up and spent Thanksgiving with our families and we had a really nice time. The night before Thanksgiving, we went out to dinner. It was myself, my older sister. I miss her son who is five months older than my daughter. So they’re in the same grade. They’re very close, despite living across the country from each other.
S12: And my father had it mentioned. So my sister, her kid, my kid, my dad, and then my little one’s father and her younger brothers that bites were at the end of the meal for a little bit. Had a really nice time at the Met Ritchie in Hyde Park, which is one of our favorite restaurants. And my nephew turns 7 November 4th. And I hadn’t seen him, of course, so I’d brought his present, so he unwrapped it. So my favorite toy store in Hyde Park, toys, etc. Same place I got all my toys growing up. So it’s really nice to go in there and pick him out something. And I got him a magic kit.
S13: He’s he’s a very, you know, creative and there’s a little budding showman in him, you know. And so it’s like, okay, great. He’ll learn to do magic and he can do magic shows the family is so cool. And so I gave it to him and I said, I hope you like it. And then I said, Well, I hope you don’t already have it. And in that moment, it hit me. And he lifted me and he said, I do. And I said, Do you already have it? Because this is what I gave you for your sixth birthday last year. And he is. And so my sister was like, no, no, I’ve never seen this. No, no, this is it. You know, maybe you got a magic kit night last year, but no, it’s not the same thing. I’ve never seen this toy before. And so I said, do you like magic? He’s that. Not really. And so then I’m putting it together. So my dad’s cracking up. He’s like, yeah, you’ve never seen it before. Because he got it. And like, put it in a corner somewhere and you want it again. And so we go to their house after dinner and I haven’t posted the picture.
S12: I have a very cute picture of my daughter and my nephew coming down the stairs and they’re each holding the same magic kit be 2019 gift and the 2018 birthday present. And my daughter for a little extra razzle dazzle is wearing the top hat. They came in the magic kit. So, yes, I did buy my nephew the same gift two years in a row for his birthday. And I’m so sorry. So now I have to like be completely over the top for Kwanzaa and come up with something that he’s really gonna like.
S5: And I attempted to re gift the presence of my daughter’s little brother when he came to the restaurant because he wasn’t having a very he was a little tired as a little late and he was cranky and he didn’t really want to hang out with us. I think he just wants to be with his dad. So I said, oh, David, I didn’t see you for your birthday. I’ve got you.
S14: And I and I tried to give it to him and then he got in trouble so his dad wouldn’t let him have it. He was excited at first and then he didn’t get to have it. So I am the owner of a child’s magic kit.
S15: I don’t know what I’m going to do with it. Maybe I’m gonna just teach myself some tricks.
S4: I’m marking my calendar now. December 1st. Twenty twenty, asks Jameela if her nephew liked the magic.
S5: It was so cool looking. And there was no sense of deja vu when I purchased it.
S12: And now I think about it. I’m like, oh, it was in the exact same place. It’s a very small toy store. They didn’t move it. Not a new box. They didn’t. It wasn’t on sale. It’s right where I found it last time. I went to the exact same spot and picked it out again. So my bad. OK. Before we move hot, let’s do some business. Slate’s parenting newsletter is the best place to be notified about all of our great parenting content, including mom and dad or fighting, a.k.a. your weekly tally of how much Jamelia has messed up at adulthood care and feeding our parenting advice column where Jameela, who messes up at adulthood, then attempts to tell other parents how they can be better at their jobs and so much more. It is also a personal email from Dan every week.
S7: It’s like your own B.F. F in your head is there to tell you how to be a more empathetic and kind parents. And it’s Dan qua-.
S15: It is absurd.
S14: Oh, I forget that. So we can see each other and you all can’t see us. So the video component that you’re missing is very enjoyable for me. But you’re not getting it. Sorry, but what you can get from us is available at slate.com bag flash parenting e-mail. So you two can have Dan staring you down just electronically. Also. Can find us on Facebook if you want more. More, Dan, intimidation, third slate parenting. Maybe he’ll let you in the group. Maybe he won’t. But it is a very fun community if you can get in. And it’s, well, moderated. So you don’t have to worry about anybody making you feel bad. If you are among the chosen few that are allowed to participate, go on Facebook and search slate parenting. All right. Now it’s time for listener questions. This particular question was emailed to us.
S7: And if you would like to e-mail us the question for consideration, send it to mom and dad at Slate that come today. We’ve got questions being read by the one and only Shasha Leonhard.
S16: Dear mom and dad, I’m writing to ask for any tips you might have about managing my emotions during visits with my family. My parents live on the other side of the country, so we only see them once or twice a year. Last time we went to their house, it went south fast due to their purchase of a new dog. The week before, and my discovery of a loaded B.B. gun in the kids room, we ended up leaving early to stay with relatives nearby. A decision that they still blame on my wife, despite my repeated assurances that it was my decision. The last time they came to our house, it didn’t go much better. The two of them infuriate me for different reasons. My dad, for his hands off attitude and lack of any attempt to engage with the kids and my mother for her poking and prodding, high drama, earned or imagined and passive aggressive comments during a weak moment with a sick wife and crying kids. I snapped at my parents, and they went home, insulted and enraged. How do I keep my cool around my parents? I’ve made many suggestions to them over the years, including staying at an urban bee, visiting for shorter periods of time, giving us some quiet time in the evening, etc. But they’re both incredibly resistant to change and blame everything on my stress level. Perhaps a heavy dose of CBD is an order. Next time they’re in town.
S12: Well, you’re speaking my language. Letter writer heavy dose of CBD sounds like a very good idea. But I would also recommend pairing it with a little THC. If you add I mean, put the drugs in your drugs. I know. I’m sorry that you’re going through this. I have experience moments like this with my own mother. We’re very close, but we have at times had a volatile relationship and can be passive aggressive and dramatic and like a working class version of Dynasty on the south side of Chicago.
S17: And my daughter gets all into it. So we’ve learned to control that a bit.
S15: I think that having someone stay in air.
S14: BMB Everything that you said, you know, should I do this?
S18: You should do, but you should do all of them. So there should be an air BMB or a hotel. There should be a short visit during the holidays, which is already a stressful time of year on its own without family trouble.
S7: There should be some evening time or perhaps morning time that is dedicated to you and your partner and your children being away from your parents.
S18: And you may want to use little CBT or a glass of wine or you know, it could be something you get from the health food store, which is something that helps to address your anxiety.
S14: It could be a nice cup of lavender tea when you know you’re getting ready to go into a conversation with your parents just because your parents live far away and you only really see them at the holidays.
S7: Doesn’t mean that you should subject yourself and your family to a situation that’s going to create unhappy memories. We have a limited amount of time on this planet ourselves, but you know, more often than not with our parents and when we watch them become grandparents, they’re in a different time in their lives than they were when they were raising us. And the combination of those things does not always make for happy, seamless times. And perhaps that was the way that you interacted with them, you know, prior to becoming married and becoming a parent.
S18: But I don’t think that you should feel that this time has to be rich with lots and lots of mom and dad’s time. Maybe you all do. Christmas Eve, dinner and brunch on Christmas. Then that’s it. And that’s all the time you all need together. And that’s fine. Ben And I think it’s important that you continue to defend yourself and your wife and that you are reasonable and respectful of your family and try to avoid exposing your children to this tension as much as you possibly can, but that this should probably be a pretty short visit. What do you think then?
S19: It’s hard to recommend that this be a short visit only because the parents live all the way across the country like you can’t fly them out for Christmas and then be like, all right, see on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and that’s it. I guess that’s just not practical for most people as appealing of a solution as that is for parents who do live closer. And I totally agree with you that if the parents are close, I mean, one obvious answer is just like minimize contact more than you’re currently doing. But you have this sort of perfect storm, right, where you don’t see the parents very often. So you don’t really have that much time to get acclimated to each other. You’re not used to each other in close quarters. You’re stuck in these close quarters. That visit means a lot to everyone because it only happens once or twice a year and it can’t really be short. It’s hard to make it short. Longtime listeners to this podcast will remember that I have had a number of fales that revolve around my inability to keep my cool around my mom, who is a wonderful, lovely woman who did a great job raising me, but who, for whatever teenage based reasons, just completely at times gets on my nerves in ways that I’m not proud of at all, and that lead me to just behave like a real fucking asshole to a woman who is now 73 and certainly doesn’t deserve that shit no matter how much she gets on my nerves. And I would like to make the gentle suggestion.
S20: That the stuff that you are describing your parents doing when they stay at your house is honestly not that bad. I agree that if you go to your parents house and they just got a new fucking giant dog and then tell you and there’s a gun in it. Yes.
S21: Great idea to not replicate that misadventure. Yeah, but if you are bringing your parents to your house for a week, one of the only weeks you’re going to see them, I think it is really imperative that you do find a way to calm yourself and not fly off the handle at the stuff you’re describing, which to my mind reaches merely reaches a level of annoying and not damaging. It is not damaging that someone just makes passive aggressive comments. It’s annoying. It is not truly damaging that someone that your dad doesn’t pay as much attention to the kids as you want him to. You know what? That is a problem with many grandpas and grandmas all over the world. You just do your best. Now, it’s easy for me to say you just gotta do better. We are writing to us asking how do I do better? And so I actually like Gibreel, think that weed isn’t a terrible idea. You might also consider giving it to your parents. But I also think something that has helped me and this is like a dumb mind trick, but it has helped me at least build a little bit of empathy in moments where I would otherwise be likely to fly off the handle at little tiny things my mom says or does. It really helps me. This is going to sound so stupid when I say it to him. Imagine myself at 73 and my beloved children sitting at a table with me, rolling their eyes at what a fuckin pain in the ass I have become, because I know that will happen. I know I will be that guy. I know the little things I do will drive my children insane. And all I will want from them at that time is to just keep it together and not tell me how much I enjoy them. That is all I will watch for that holiday. And so that has been a great help for me in recent years in summoning up all of the patients I can muster and applying it to situations where I must state. My mom is not doing anything wrong. I’m just being rubbed the wrong way by her for reasons that are now 40 years old. So that’s dumb. It’s a little. And it might also help you to just be reminded from an outside source. There’s way worse shit that these people could be doing in your house. Yeah, it’s great that they’re not doing that. So do your best to cut him some slack. Catherine, what do you think?
S11: So I think a lot of good things have been said so far. I would say the word that I want to like to reverberate around this question is the word is boundaries. So I think that’s part of what’s happening, is that there’s a lot of pressure on these visits because, you know, across the country, once a year, all that stuff. And so in some ways, that just makes everything more tense. But I think, you know, though, the letter writer mentions that his parents are resistant to change, but he can take initiative with setting the terms of how the visits are gonna go. So I think obviously not staying at the parents house anymore. I think the B.B. gun is basically like a never go back situation in terms of staying there. So the next time you’re visiting, you’re saying like here the terms of our visit, we are coming for five days and we’re staying with Cousin Nancy. And I also think we don’t know the full depth of this relationship, but perhaps there’s an opportunity to level with the parents about how past years has not gone well. I think if it’s to the point not just where there’s like some eye rolls or a few slam doors, but people are leaving early. I think everyone recognizes it hasn’t gone well. And that’s probably also a disappointment for them. I mean, I think that they probably, as Dan says, if you think about it, try to be empathetic to their situation like that. They could be devastated by that or they could be really disappointed about, you know, whether or not they’re right or wrong in their assessments. They may be really disappointed that they’re flying across the country and it’s going so badly that they’re leaving early. So is there an opportunity to try to have an honest conversation with them and say, listen, the last couple of visits haven’t gone well and we want to talk to you about some ways that we can make this visit more enjoyable for everyone and maybe, you know, thinking not just about the things that do that annoy them. I think getting out of the same house is really important. I don’t know if it’s financially feasible, but is there a neutral place that you all could meet, like, you know, somewhere for the holidays? That’s neither anyone’s houses that you know of a little vacation or something like that. Of course, that might be a lot more expensive and not optimal, but try to center the conversation around like what has gone well in the past. Like maybe you guys all like to go look at Christmas lights or maybe you guys like to watch sports or whatever it is and say, like, these are the moments that we’ve enjoyed. So like, let’s structure the vacation around doing more of those and take away some of the pain points. So, you know, I can’t say how that conversation is going to go, but I think that an acknowledgement and trying to have an honest conversation before you’re all in the same house, just replicating the same situation over and over and over again could be really helpful and trying to basically just like level with them like adults about how to make it better in the future.
S22: That’s all really great. And talking about what’s happened in the past is something that it does sound like this family really needs to do to grapple with what transpired the last few times that they were together and how that made everyone feels that this next visit can be more positive. And before I toss it back to you, damage, I have one small caveat. I think I may have assumed that Shemin, obviously the B.B. gun, that’s quite bad. Having people leave early is bad. I think I may have interpreted the behavior of the parents being a little bit worse than it may have been.
S12: And while listening to Dan talk and how so much, it sounds like my whole experiences with my 71 year old mom and putting yourself in your mother’s shoes is really or in your parents shoes is incredibly helpful. And it’s something that has saved our relationship. But if you’re just talking about run-of-the-mill Elder, a path of aggression, yeah, that’s what parents do. But you got to up a little bit, especially if they only live across they don’t live all the way on this side of country like way. They just got on your nerves.
S8: That’s what they do. I thought this was like really bad. Anyway. They said they may be.
S23: And it may be that this letter writer was sort of loath to put into into words the things that are truly bad or abusive about. Yeah. And in that case, that’s different advice, right? Right. Different situation. Catherine, I think you’re really, really right about this being an opportunity to talk in a non-judgmental way about some of these past events and think about them, because, of course, the parents feel just as upset and worried about this as this letter writer does write. I think that that’s really good advice. There’s one other tiny little piece of advice that I would give, which is that one of the things you might consider planning for this holiday season is feel as much of the time as you can, maybe a couple of hours each day, if possible, with things that your parents can take your kids out to do. Obviously, it’s great to see your parents in general. Sometimes it’s terrible because you get on each other’s nerves. But, you know, obviously. One idea of the visit is that they’re seeing you. But the real reason for these visits is for grandparents to connect with grandkids. That is what you as the parents and honestly probably them as the grandparents most want out of this event. So create and construct times in which they can do those things together. And you don’t even have to fucking be there. Yes, you can be at home while they take the kids to see frozen too. While they do music, while they take them out to dinner or take them to get their nails done or whatever like. There are very simple things that your parents can do with your kids as long as you trust them out in the world with them, which hopefully is the case that both accomplish what you truly want out of this visit and take some of the pressure off the like 24/7 nature of them being in the house with you. So make a bunch of plans for that. That will really help.
S18: That’s such a good idea. Yeah, definitely. And that made me think the idea of being on neutral territory could also be going to an air BMB together. You know, like if you all rent a house for the week as opposed to in your home. I don’t know. I just feel like you can retreat to spaces that may be kind of exciting or interesting to be in. So just having a little time to yourself in someone else’s bedroom as opposed to, you know, being in your own space where you may feel trapped or, you know, like it’s tight anyway, even when your parents aren’t there.
S14: I think there’s something to just getting out of our environment or not having that kind of tension or complicated energy in your own home.
S7: So happy holidays, letter writer. Hope things work out for you. It is only once or twice a year. And for all of us. And all of us with their parents. Yes, a man. And I said we received a letter via email. And if you would like to receive some advice from us, you can also send us an email at mom and dad at flight that car. Okay. Our second question didn’t come in via email. This is from the Facebook group and it sparked a lot of conversation there. And so we decided to bring it over here.
S16: Dear mom and dad are fighting. The parents of three kids in our neighborhood went to Aruba for a week and left their 16 year old daughter in charge of their 12 and 9 year old. This is the second time they’ve done this. I offered to help watch the young ones after school a few times, but I’m worried about safety. Should I call the police for context? I work in a school, so I’m a mandatory reporter. If I saw this happening to a child at work, I’d have to report the parents.
S24: OK. This question did spark a lot of conversation on the Facebook group and I will start off our conversation with the exact same thing I posted in that Facebook group, which is you should not call the police. Do not call the police.
S23: Under this circumstance in general, you should really limit the number of circumstances under which you might call the police. I know that that’s tricky when you’re a mandatory reporter, but nonetheless, this is not a circumstance for calling the police. I also think that even if you think that 16 is too young to take care of these children, which I don’t necessarily I still think there’s an argument to be made for not calling the police, which is almost certainly going to not make this situation better in any way for anyone involved at all. So that’s the first part of this. And I’m curious to hear what you guys have to say about that. But let’s move before that to the second part of this question, which is the larger question, which is, is it okay in the grand or not? Do I call the police sense? But the. Is this good parenting sense to go to Aruba for a week and leave your 16 year old in charge of age 12, a 9 year old? And my inclination is to say that it very well could be that there were circumstances when I was 16 and taking care of myself for long periods of time where I was totally fine. There are plenty of 16 year olds out in the world who have their own children and take care of them just fine all the time. And that should be judged from the outside without any evidence that like things are going awry or the house is out of fire or the kids are walking around without pants or something that this is negligent.
S24: Is, I think, putting too much stock in your understanding of how a family should be and not in this family’s actual experience? I think it does not seem completely bananas to think that a 16 year old could take care of these kids. Now, I’ll say that often when these things come up, it’s because a parent has to work or a parent is in jail or has some kind of other possibly socio economically derived problem that forces a 16 year old into this situation. Not that the parents went to Aruba, but I mean, good for them. Jamelia, what do you think?
S17: I did go and read some of the Facebook discussion about this. And you raised, as did other folks, a really good point that there are 16 year olds who are parents and parent effectively and and do so every day. There are also a lot of 16 year olds who are primary caregivers to children for a number of other reasons. Like you said, somebody could be incarcerated parents to work overnight. And so little one. You know, the medium one goes and picks up the little one from school and the big ones cooking dinner.
S25: Now you need some kind of fucking police. Are you there? No. Please don’t.
S7: Please, please, please. That is a trigger that you pull at. I’m, you know, double entendre, I suppose, only when absolutely necessary.
S17: And so unless you feel that there’s a particular danger that the child has invited into the home, maybe they’ve had some other people coming in and out. I also would hope that if you felt comfortable enough to intervene in this way, that you would have contact info for those parents. I also would hope that while they are in Aruba, that they are accessible and that they would have a direct line from the adult that is physically closest to their child while they’re gone. So if there was something that you saw that raised a red flag, you should be able to reach the parents or you should, you know, hopefully be in a position to say something to the kid like, hey, I notice you’ve been ordering pizza. How about we coordinate that so you don’t have a stranger coming to your house when there’s no one else there or even talking to the parents about that? Okay. I see, you know, the teenage daughters using seamless and GrubHub. Would you be cool with maybe directing delivery to me and I could just walk the food over. So that way you don’t have to worry about somebody casing the joint and noticing that you all are off suntanning. You’re perineum somewhere while you’re big kid is raising your small children.
S7: Now, as then so eloquently laid it out, the other question that we have is, is this good parenting? Is it for you? Facebook friend of the show and slate parenting. To say that this is good parenting in that home. I agree with Dan. We don’t know what goes on in their home, so we can only hope for the best. Keep an eye out. Be prepared to offer support if needed. As for me and my home, I’m filing this under white folks madness. Just like the time Dan said it was OK to let your kid backpacker Europe without a cell phone or whatever. What was some cool group or something? I don’t know. I just remember thinking like yep, not. Nope, nope, nope, nope. Not for me and not for my. And it’s so funny because I have a couple of girlfriends who listen to the show. Hi, Patricia.
S8: I Carmen, there’s another sister whose name escapes me who’ve reached out on several occasions, if you like. I’m so glad that you’re there because there are moments where there some permissiveness that culturally black women were like, nope, nope, nope.
S7: You know, so if you think of black motherhood as being different from the ways that other cultures pair, don’t think of it as being the screaming spanking prison warden like depictions you see in the media. But do if you take anything from us and how we love and nurture, please take our sense of caution and good. Since being risk adverse is not always the worst thing to be. I cannot fathom raising no matter how mature and responsible my children are. And if I become a parent of multiple people at some point, I hope that I can say that of them. I think the one I have right now is doing pretty OK for six. I can’t think of a 16 year old that I would feel comfortable. I’ve known phenomenal 16 year olds. I was just OK. It’s 16. I’ve never met a 6 year old that I would want to leave with. It’s 12 and a 9 year old so that I could go to Aruba. You know, if this were a matter of grandma sick. Nothing has happened. You know, I have to be gone for a night or have to go to work. And I need you to stay here. That’s one thing. But to go off and do that to me is themes. Anything could happen at any time. Your kids school could get shut up and you’re gone and you’re in Aruba and there’s nobody there to support them through that. They could witness a car accident on the way home. You know, I mean, it just seems like you’re inviting things that are not the norm, that don’t happen everyday, but you’re inviting the potential for your children to be in need of real adult support that they don’t have. And so I think it’s great to take vacations. I think it’s great to be away from your children. But I think that’s a lot of pressure for a 16 year old to have to deal with. And I think that the two younger children, maybe you feel comfortable leaving us. Here for a week. But but those two little ones, I think really need to have a grown up grown up. Who is president because this isn’t a 60 year old parent. It’d be one thing if you had a relative who was a 60 year old parent. Right. Who’s used to caring for children alone. And you said, can you come watch these kids for a week or, you know. But a 16 year old parent is not the same as the 6 year old who has two full time parents who live in the house. In terms of maturity and what they’re used to having to deal with, that’s just how I feel about it. Catherine, what do you think?
S11: So one really interesting thing that’s coming up in this conversation and that I noticed on the Facebook page as well, is how we view the context of the parents going to Aruba. That the sense that they’re going on a vacation is somehow placing the children in more danger than if they were called away for a family emergency. So but and I think that actually speaks to how we judge other parents. And there’s actually some really interesting studies that they like asked people to judge whether or not it’s safe to leave a kid in the car for a certain amount of time. And people, for example, judge mothers much more harshly for doing that than fathers. The reason they’re doing it as being more or less dangerous. So the reason that they’re leaving doesn’t actually influence like whether or not the kids are in danger or like the amount of danger is basically the same. But it definitely informs like how we judge them as parents. So I think that’s something to like think about a little bit. I mean, I just feel even if this was at their school, this would not be something that required mandatory reporting. We don’t know who’s checking up on these kids. We don’t know what kind of local contacts they have. Maybe that’s not a choice that some of us would make. But the concern about this, I think, also just speaks to where we are as a helicopter parenting, hyper vigilant culture. I think there’s this wouldn’t even be like something that people about an eyelash at in the 1970s, I would say probably. So I think that the concern around this, I think is much more about how we judge parents than actual danger and risk.
S9: But Fisher, those studies that you’re referring to, Kathryn, are really interesting.
S23: I remember that people judge parents were significantly more harshly if they’re told that they are leaving a kid in a car to go to a doctor’s appointment than they do if they’re leaving a kid in a car to go shopping than they do if they’re leaving and a kid in a car to go like having a yes. The scale of how people get judged, as you say, has everything to do with our beliefs about what the responsibilities of parents are. And I think it’s very tied up with this very human notion that we judge behavior based on how would we feel if the worst thing happened. Would you be able to live with yourself if the worst thing happened when you’re thinking of the ways that you’re doing it right. There’s this vision of the future we have in which we see something terrible happening to those kids and the parents coming home from Aruba and feeling just awful about what they’d done in a way that they wouldn’t feel if they were taking care of a sick relative or at work. And they were, you know, quote unquote, forced into this scenario. Right. And that does really impact how we judge people and consider these situations. All that is true. And I also, as I said, feel like you should not judge this family or make assumptions about this family and how it’s working. All that is true. And I can also say I would also never go to Aruba and leave, you know, Lyra at 16 and Harper, 14, home by themselves, because that reaches the level to me where I also would not be able to live with myself if something really shitty happened. And I don’t know why exactly why that like guilt crops up in a way it didn’t with, for example, the kid going overseas where I view that as even though there are like measurably greater risks potentially. I just thought that was worth it and it didn’t bother me even a tiny bit. But one thing that I would like to point out and I hope this Facebook I mean, this was a week ago. So hopefully these people are back from Aruba and the kids are fine.
S26: But I hope this Facebook poster bears in mind is this is the second time they’ve done this.
S23: So like the first time it went OK. Right. I mean, seemed like didn’t cause the kids to hate the parents or anything to go wrong or the house to burn down then. So like there’s evidence that maybe this is, in fact, empirically totally fine. But Kathyrn. Would you ever do this?
S6: I mean, right now I’m think about newborns, so I just like it. It’s hard for me to have in teenagers who can be at home by themselves. I don’t know. By that point, you know, I’m going to have three kids and I’m going to want to go to Aruba. So who knows what I’ll be thinking about the time I owe this ethics to very. So we could have an 18 year old and 14 year olds like, you know, what could go wrong with one 18 year old and then two 14 year olds? Obviously, that’s just sounds good. It sounds like a party at our house.
S7: Sounds like a very fun party. Well, a Facebook friend. I just hope that your. I don’t want to say that. You hot’s to the police thing. But that thing and you that said made me, you know, should I call the police? I hope that that is simply tied to you being a mandated reporter. And I’ve been one before. And it’s stressful. And I understand. But that that isn’t sure approach to your neighbors in general because. That can take a whole lot of twists and turns then. Yeah. You haven’t seen any smoke coming out of the house. We haven’t seen any teenage boys riding up on motorcycles with leather jacket looking like the young Jason Priestley or Luke Perry. I think you’ll be fine. I think they’ll be fine. And that the parents are incredibly selfish. But whatever it’s called, do whatever you want. Thank you for sharing your conundrum. And if you want us to discuss your parenting questions in a public forum, you can share it on the Facebook group as well. Go to Facebook and search slate parenting. Just be prepared for a whole lot of feedback, perhaps feedback. You may want. And the possibility they will rate the question on the show, which I think it’s typically been a pretty positive experience for folks who share their inner feelings about parenting with us, their deepest insecurities. We just put it on our podcast. And if you want to make it more likely that we’d take your question and read it to our thousands and thousands and thousands of listeners across the world. Send us an email at mom and dad at Slate that come before we get out of here. We’re going to make some recommendations. So, Kathryn, what do you have for us? What are you recommending this week?
S11: I would like to revive a recommendation from the wonderful Gabriel Roth, who I believe I co-hosted with him a couple of years ago, and he made a recommendation for Shrinky Dinks. So for those who do not know Shrinky Dinks are these little plastic things. You color them in. You put them in the oven and you watch them shrink. And I think when he recommended them, his kids were around my son’s age, like preschoolers age. And I try them for my son. When my son was like two or two and half, I was okay. But like, he he wasn’t so into it. We recently did them with some friends over Thanksgiving and they were just like a huge hit. They are so good for the preschool, probably preschool to, you know, very early elementary set. And this is just like, you know, I think a lot of us are staring down really long school holidays coming up where there’s gonna be bad weather. There’s gonna be things, you know, days where we don’t have a lot planned. This is just like a really great craft activity. I’m not one of these people that like, you know, wants to get out. The 17 step craft projects like this is just super easy. Basically, any kid who can hold a pencil can do it. And I just think, like Shrinky Ning’s can just help a lot of parents get through those two and a half week well-hung school breaks.
S20: Cool. Great recommendation, Gabe, we miss you.
S9: Sure. Getting really our perfect right here. Just like I have got to find a way to kill an hour. I heard there a perfect hour and a half time killer. Yeah. I’m recommending today a book for adults, not for kids. It is called. That was awkward. It is. By The New Yorker cartoonist Emily Flake. It’s a very simple book. It is a taxonomy of awkward hugs.
S9: It just goes through every kind of awkward hug you could ever have with anyone, a family members with ex romantic partners, with people at work. When Jamila and I met in Miami, we avoided the awkward hug because Jameela made the very smart move to be wearing a swimsuit.
S27: Obviously, we’re not going to. It was perfect. A smooth, very funny look at Miami book fair.
S28: Who actually wore a bathing suit at any point?
S20: And I wore I loved most of those. My only better advantage of that environment than anyone else. It’s by Emily Flake.
S23: It’s called That was awkward. Get it as a gift for whoever the last person is that you tried to air kiss. But then you misjudged which side to start on and you box your heads against each other. It’s great. Jamila, what about you?
S7: I love that I could. That whole book could just be made of interactions that I’ve had in the past like six months. So this week I am recommending matching outfits with your kid and my daughter Naima is six and a half. I’ll admit I didn’t do it from like day one. I think she was about a year old and there were times like I core mnay like all you have and pick on I haven’t.
S29: Then one day I was like, wait, I have a mini me, the actual mini me. This is great.
S28: I will only have a limited amount of time to decide what she looks like every single day. Why don’t we look the same? But now that you know, she’s old enough to participate in picking out her clothes and is taking a greater interest in doing that, she still enjoys dressing alike. And I’ll say, do you want to match today or do you want to your own things? Some such as that. Oh, and do our own thing. But more often than that, when I say, you know, she’ll say, yeah, let’s match. And we have things that like actually match. Like we have these matching cool very boots because we saw another mother and daughter wearing them and looked at each other and it was literally like we had felt threatened, like, oh, no, they did not come in here with these cute furry boots. Why don’t we have these cute very boots? No one said it, but we thought it. And like within a month we’ve got the furry boots and we’re not abiders like that, but they’re very cute. So we need them. And while we travel, we may where, you know, coordinated sweatsuits or whatever. And then like when we go to folks houses for the holiday, I don’t know. It’s just our thing. And of course, this time of year, especially those of you, then Enlarger Families, there’s the matching Christmas pajamas and ugly sweaters and Hanukkah gear and Koofi’s and dashikis in the same print for Quan’s and all that stuff. And it’s just so cute and sweet and fun. And I know that at some point, probably sooner than I’d imagine, my daughter is going to be too cool, too independent, too grown to do this with me.
S7: So if your child is still small enough for this simple joy that you can get in wearing matching outfits and being that corny and lame, I encourage you to take advantage of it because it is really a lot of fun.
S9: I love it. That’s such a great recommendation.
S28: Thank you. And thank you for joining us, Katherine. That is our show for the week. If you have a question that you’d like to hear on air, leave us a message. Old school style at 4 2 4 2 5 5 7 8 3 3. Or send us an email at mom and dad. It’s late that ah of course. Join us on Facebook by searching for slate parenting. Mom and Dad Are Fighting is produced by Rosemarie Bellson for Dan Kleist and Katherine Gall’s thing. I’m Jamelia Lumia.
S30: Hey, Slate Plus listeners. Thank you so much for your support of Slate. And mom and dad are fighting. And here is our bonus segment for you this week. So there are some age-old unwritten rules surrounding pregnancy. There’s what should be the most common of them all, which is that you never ask someone if they are pregnant. But there are also some things you should avoid saying, even if you know for a fact that someone is expecting.
S31: You should, for example, avoid commenting on the size of their barb or asking if the pregnancy was planned. Because as I keep learning on this show, people actually plan when they have kids. It doesn’t just happen. You should most certainly not ask an expecting person if they are sure they’re not having twins. But what if they are having twins? Then what can you say? What can you do? Katherine, you are expecting twins. Congratulations again.
S13: Tell us. How are you? Feel felt excited.
S31: How should people be talking to you about your pregnancy? What? Are there any topics that should be off limits? Are there some things that folks should avoid saying to someone who has twins on the way?
S27: Oh, yes. Katherine, can I start by reminding you of what I said? No.
S20: When you told me and you can tell everyone, should I or should I not have said this? Let’s in fact, let’s read, OK? We were down in Chapel Hill. I saw you. You’re obviously pregnant. I said, oh, congratulations. And you said. And it’s twins.
S32: Oh, my God. And of course, voice.
S33: OK, so that is actually a very standard reaction. So that is actually a super common reaction and not one that even registers on the offensive list, which I have made for the segment. I think that comes from a place of genuine surprise because like, yeah, it’s like not like, you know, I’m a 36 year old mom who’s married.
S6: It’s like not the most shocking thing in the world that I’m pregnant, but the twins is like. People are very surprised by that. And, you know, people react in like kind of sometimes over-the-top ways, like more than just being like, oh, my gosh. All I remember, actually, Dan, is you’re just like giggling into this group and you’re kind of like giggling. But that and I feel like that’s a sort of genuine reaction. And like you can’t always control you’re sort of like your genuine surprise. And, you know, there were times where, like, I was feeling good about it. It’s like it was kind of fun to, like, get people, like, really surprised. And there are other times where I was like feeling a more overwhelmed by this news where people’s like over the top reaction was just like, OK, thanks. Could you tone it down? Cause like, yeah. OK, big deal. I’m having twins, like. So my reaction to that reaction has like changed over time.
S33: But in general, that doesn’t bother me. But I have I have compiled a little bit of a list. It’s more the questions that people ask that are more not a genuine reaction, but more of a planned question that I would like to share that go from somewhat annoying to like insanely offensive.
S34: So I.
S33: All right. So everything I’m going to share has been said to me or my husband. This is these aren’t hypotheticals. So. So questions that don’t bother me, the genuine reactions don’t bother me.
S11: That doesn’t run in the family doesn’t bother me. People are just generally interested about twins. They ask if they’re fraternal or identical. That doesn’t bother me. You know, people are just genuinely curious. The first thing I would say that I’m going to find this in the somewhat annoying realm is so, you know, people like, you know, ask if we you know, they know we have another four year old, we have twins and they say, so you’re gonna have your hands full.
S35: And I’m like, no shit, Sherlock. Like you who like. Yes. Thank you for letting me know that this is like going to be a lie.
S9: I literally have two hands and there will be two big eyes.
S35: So you like saying you for informing me that this is going to be hard? I hadn’t it hadn’t occurred to me that this could possibly be a challenge. And I just like I find that for it. Like that phrase, you’re going to have your hands full. I find it like both judgmental and unhelpful and like, unsupportive. Like, I just that, like, totally annoys me. You’re going to have your hands full. Mike, thanks. Thanks for your support. I don’t like that.
S33: All right. Making make right now. OK. So as as we were discussing, you should not comment on pregnant women’s size. And when I was pregnant with my son Asher, people would actually when I said, like, how far along I was, people would often say that I looked too small, like, oh, you don’t you’re really small. You don’t look that pregnant, which I also found annoying, like in general, like you should not comment on women’s sizes. The only thing you should ever say to a pregnant woman about their appearance is you look great. Yeah, but so what? That’s it.
S35: That’s it. If you don’t think they look great, just say, how are you feeling? Think just. That’s it. So nobody is telling me that I look small this time. That is not happening. No one’s like, oh, you don’t look that pregnant. No. Everyone. So basically, like when I walk down the street and like when I go to pick up my son at school to strangers will be like, when are you due? When you do like they they think it’s like must be like really eminent. And like at this moment, I have 10 weeks to go. So it’s really not like Super Emond. And so they kind of act like I’m going to say like, oh, like one more week to go before I have ten more weeks to go of. And like one time I was just walking down the street, some people stopped saying, oh, what do you do? And I said, oh, Febuary twins. And that’s like very large overweight man was like, oh well that explains it. And I’m like, wow, oh, oh, excuse me.
S36: And I’m like, what a dick.
S35: I’m like, well, yes. That explains it, doesn’t it? I’m just like I. It’s just that our culture still feels like pregnant women’s bodies are available for comment. Yeah.
S6: So obviously many people who have been pregnant have had these experiences, but it’s just like even more shocking that some say it’s up.
S33: So the one that I think is like really insane is a couple of people who are mostly men have just straight up asked, so did you do IVF? And I find this extremely offensive because actually not because we did IVF.
S11: We actually did not do any fertility treatments or any thing that would sort of increase your chance for twins. But I think it’s like such an insanely invasive question. And having known me and having known people who have gone through like really difficult fertility struggles or do have twins as a result of fertility treatments, like it’s just a totally inappropriate thing for people to ask or like. And I just think that the fact that we think that like it’s not like you ask someone who’s pregnant, like, how is the sex on the conception night? Like, what? How would you rate? It’s like, you know, it’s just like such a weird question and it really like taps into sometimes like very painful things for people. And that’s not my personal experience. And I don’t think there should be any stigma in using fertility treatments. But I just think about every time someone asked me that, I think about the people who have like really struggled to become pregnant and the fact that, like a stranger is just going to like ask them at the pool if they did IVF. It’s just like insane to me that people think that’s OK to ask someone.
S20: I agree. It’s like above and beyond. I mean, you would not just ask someone, are you undergoing this medical treatment like you wouldn’t do that, right. I mean, if. Yeah. For this particular medical treatment that is so fraught. You especially don’t do it, then you think is everything that you’ve said so far.
S25: Like you said, because with the world still thinks that our our culture thinks that pregnant women’s bodies belong to everyone, that these are all things you just don’t say. Like you never comment on any one size right leg, no matter how close you are, you should. That that’s almost never the right thing to do. You don’t ask somebody something as personal as you know. Did you have this medical procedure that is oftentimes accompanied by a lot of you know, it’s expensive. There’s a lot of emotional stuff that goes into it and perhaps some trauma and challenges and you’ve got your hands full. So like that is one. Like, people will say that to parent. I mean, of course, it’s more common folk thing. It’s a mother’s of multiples. But like even saying that’s a one, you know, son who has one child like you’re gonna have. Anything the signals, gloom and doom. I think it’s crazy how comfortable people are with telling parents how hard it’s going to be. Like particularly expecting parents, you know, like whether they have children and now they’re going to have a family, you know, with more children, or if this is a first time parent to tell someone how hard and difficult the thing that they’re already so far along in the process of doing.
S5: And there’s no going back. It’s not like you get a girl. You know what I was thinking about? It is going to be a harmful is that I was going to take one of them. And I don’t know. I’m just not telling people to ask little leg to maybe a little bit too much for us right now. Or maybe my sister can raise her. I don’t know of a leg. Yeah, this is too much.
S7: Like anything that would create anxiety in a pregnant person is the wrong thing to say, especially when they’re clearer than you are on what change this new child is going to bring into their lives. They don’t need that. The guy at 7-Eleven or the woman behind them on the airplane to say this is gonna be really hard.
S11: There’s just a level of unsupportive ness to that comment. You know that I think like parents are so on their own as it is in our culture and where so much is left up for us to figure out. And so it’s just additionally knowing as someone who, like never planned on having three kids who, like the twins are just so unexpected, it’s like this is like been a huge radical readjustment of our life plans and ah, you know, all sorts of things about how we’re going to live our life and our finances. It’s like, yeah, I’m gonna have my hands full. Like, it’s a really annoying comment. I have a very last.
S9: All right, Katherine, what is the absolute worst thing that someone has said upon finding out?
S35: Your ex said this was said to my husband, but I was like I overheard it being said to him. So this was said by someone who does not have any children. So one plot point of this is that we are having two more boys. OK. So we’re gonna have three boys. And so he was discussing it with someone. And I think they mentioned as a joke, but they just said. Travis, do you really need two more boys like this is like we like loaded up too many pieces of pie at the all you can eat buffet and we’re just like greedily, like hoarding all of these boys that we are like not we didn’t ever thought we were going to have. And it’s like. What do you say to that? It’s like, no, I don’t need two more boys. Like what? Like what? It’s just. Oh, grazie to say that somewhat.
S25: No. The only response to that is, you know, you’re right.
S14: So, listen, I’ve got a plan and I just tell them some, like, fucked up plan that you’ve come up with to like swap your children out or something or to hand, you know, just say like, you know, this has been keeping me up at night. And I’m really glad that you were the one to say this, because it’s such a great. You’re such a great dad. And my husband and I were talking.
S35: Do you want them? Yeah. That’s when he offered to give him a right. I’m glad this person was not a parent, but I think of it like it.
S10: It shows a level of like thinking we have like a kind of agency in this. You do not have like we’re just like at the designer baby store, like greedily picking out too many babies, which is not what it felt. So that is my top five list of things to say to someone who is expecting twins. Thank you.
S9: I am delighted to know that. I think I’ve never said any of these things to people expecting twins, and I definitely won’t now.
S12: Yeah, I think I’m like I’m running through my brain. Like, I feel like I’ve typically been pretty sensitive to these things. But I will certainly may. I can’t imagine ever telling somebody that this is gonna be really hard, but comments around size and I have always tried to live in that. You look great. So and I haven’t seen you.
S22: But if no one tells you today, you look great. I know. Thank you. Yes. Katherine, thank you for joining us. And again, congratulations. And we’re wishing you a safe, happy and healthy delivery. And we look forward to hearing about your new life in February.
S14: So like two weeks after maybe two weeks postpartum, we’re going to call you to guest host. The show can start. You have to perfect. Your hands will not be full.
S4: That’s you’ll definitely want to be doing that.
S13: I will say this. I was a guest on Huffington Post live. Three days postpartum. I know, but only here. But I only have one baby, Aleo. A baby. And she was a handful. Your hands were not. Yes. I’m sorry. I’m not going to be available. My hands are going to. Your hands are gonna be full.
S14: But the offer still stands. Thank you, Slate Plus listeners, for your support. And we’ll see you again next week.