The Toddler On the Run Edition
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 Slate’s parenting podcast for Thursday, July 9th, the toddler on the run edition. I’m Jamilah Lemieux, a writer, cultural critic and mom’s name seven. And we reside in Los Angeles, California. I’m a live at new camp. I write the Home and Family Travel blog that that skews. I’m the mom of three little Henry Oliver six and Teddy three. And I’m located in Florida. I’m Dan Coifs. I’m a writer at Slate and the author of the book How to Be a Family. I’m a father of two.
S1: Enormous is huge as Lyra, who’s fifteen, and Aaberg, who is twelve.
S2: And we live in Arlington, Virginia. Today on the show, we have a letter from the parents of a little escapee who decided not to respond even when he heard his parents calling for him.
S3: He was found after going missing just before the police were called. What can his parents do to make sure that they can find him? If or when he decides to go on the run again?
S2: We also have a question from a mother who would love to give her daughter a sibling but doesn’t know if her household can take more sleep issues and a new baby.
S3: And as always, of course, we have triumphs and fables and recommendations. Let’s start with you, Elizabeth. You have a triumph or fail for us this week.
S4: I have a fail, which is can just be generally summed up as like I was not very kind to my children when they did something that happens to me all the time, which is that they will mostly just Henry could not find his recorder for his music lesson. And this makes me completely bonkers because I have, like, set up a very neat and organized house. Like, we hang things. Place says all you have to do is put it back. Right. And then they will have it when it’s there. And I just feel like there are so many things that I am like this is not a big deal. Like I pick up things. I just I just handle all these little things. But the idea that, like, you use this recorder once a day and then you need to just go hang it back up on the hook, that is in the same room. So how did it migrate somewhere else? What were you doing with it? So anyway, he couldn’t find it. We were approaching like less than time. And I just go into this, like, condescending, nagging where I am, just like if you had hung it up, you know, we wouldn’t be in this situation, which is where we all know how moms talk when we misplace our things. Yes. Like it is so bad it’s not helpful at all. Well, you look like, well, what did you do with it? And the thing is, I lose my phone a thousand times a day. Like, the amount of times that I asked the children to find my phone is ridiculous. So I should definitely be able to have a little bit more compassion in these situations. I go into this like blinding. I like panic when we can’t find things. And listen, this is like 20 minutes before the lesson. There is plenty of time to find the recorder. We haven’t left the house. So that recorder is in the house. I completely just lost my mind on that. No, yeah. I’m not like a yeller, but I am just in, like, nagger, like, just followed him around the house being like, well, where could you see.
S1: Did not help the search by reminding him constantly through the search how bad he blew it by losing his recorder.
S5: Exactly. And then when we found it, he just like apologized over and over. And then I apologized and I felt terrible. It was like this was not a helpful way to solve this problem. And then, you know, he has all the things IAB. So then he’s having all the anxiety about the lesson because, you know, he’s worried he might forget to hang the recorder up again. It’s like not not good, Elizabeth, but that’s OK. We survived it.
S1: And I’m going to try to be better next time certain things just push our buttons. Right. And that you found it. Yeah. Did you found it. And it worked out fine. Yeah. So I guess in a way it worked. But also certain things just push our buttons and this happens with me with losing things on the house that happens with Olea, with the kids leaving socks on the floor. Like these are the things that drive us crazy, way out of scale of the actual fence and the you know, when everyone’s stuck in the house together for going on, I think we’re in month number eleven hundred. Now, these things just get like exacerbated and it can be really hard. And I’m I’m glad you apologized and I think that he will be fine. And I believe in your ability to get past this next time. And I also just want to remind you that one way to think about is the worst case scenario of a situation like this. The worst possible result is that you wouldn’t have to listen to a kid play the recorder for an hour, which is like, isn’t it moments of totally horrible. So I just remember that next time as well.
S5: Yeah. Okay. Maybe I’m missing the recorder. I think I just feel like being organized, like there are so many times that being organized has saved me or made. Things easier that I just want them to also be organized and I have done the work to make them be organized so I can just hang the bag up where it goes.
S1: Were you organized at their age? Yes, you are. Oh, that’s the worst part. Yeah. Yeah.
S4: That’s why I have no sympathy. But I mean, that’s the thing. Like, you’re absolutely right, Dan.
S5: Like, there are so many other times in life in which I do have sympathy for them for things, and I’m able to be more empathetic. And I need to just say, like, this is not the end of the world like this is. You’re absolutely right. Like, if we don’t have a recorder and we miss a lesson.
S1: Oh, well, Jamelia, were you organized growing up? Were you an organized girl?
S6: I’m not organized now, so I don’t know why anyone would think that. No, I was mentoring Nice Girl with my mother. I thought maybe you devolved. No, unfortunately, actually, this is this is an improvement. But my mother is Elizabeth, so she’s extremely organized. She’s extremely tidy. Those are not things that I unnaturally I have to wear. My organization is like a house of cards. So it’s a very delicate. So I had to have triggered when name I misplaced something I’ve worked so hard to create. The semblance of order in this house and it is so fragile and like one really bad leg. We had a hard time picking out an outfit. And now there’s clothes everywhere. That’s all it takes for it all to fall apart. Next thing I know, the refrigerator started again. And the cat hanging from a cart. I think one little incident and the story, the order in this house.
S4: It takes very little nagging them is not going to work. The point.
S6: That you’re going to make order and appealing. I’m just starting to be like, hey, this is actually a good idea. Like, oh, this time I’m up work, OK? All these things that my mother made uncool to me as a child because they were so serious there that I rebelled against them.
S5: Yeah, I know. I need to relax about it. I mean, know it’s hard.
S1: I mean, Lyra is growing up the same way I grew up as a person who has like no particular organization and doesn’t ever know where anything is and is like not that worried about it. And it took me tell, you know, I was in college in my early 20s and like, shit in my life totally fell apart because of that lack of organization. And that’s how I eventually, you know, jerry rigged a bunch of, you know, extremely complicated systems to help myself keep my life in order that I basically still follow. To this day, I mean, I think that maybe not that different from the way that you do things, Djamila, where I just like found ways once things fell apart so badly, that was really adversely affecting my life. I like, found ways to force myself to do the bare minimum of organization, to keep my life together. And and I know that that is what it’s going to take for Lyra to eventually make those leaps as well. And so it makes it easier, a little easier for me, I think, to deal with her when she has these lapses. But it’s still there is also the other side of it of me going like, fuck, you’ve got to learn this. You got to learn this. I learned that eventually you’ve got to learn it someday. But I also have to remind myself that I didn’t learn it. I was like 23, 24, maybe 36 was going to be my year. I can feel it. I could feel it. All right. I have a triumph this week. Very, very teensy triumph, maybe sort of more of a life hack, but it really, really works. I’m super proud of coming up with it. Lyra kept forgetting to take her pills in the morning, but she’s very dependent on routine. Telic make sure that she needs to get her shit done and on a given day. And so during the before times when she had school, it was just part of her morning ritual. She would get up and she would eat breakfast and she would take her pills. She was eating breakfast. But these days, you know, like every teenager, she’s just lounging around in her bed for hours in the morning. And I couldn’t figure out a way to get her to remember. To take them or and I couldn’t figure out a place to like put a reminder where she would be guaranteed of seeing it because. You know, she’s just in her bed, she’s looking at her phone or reading or whatever, she’s not looking at notes I leave for her and her room’s a disaster anyway. So any note I left would immediately be covered in accretions of shit. And when she’s a rat, like walking around the house, she’s really paying that much attention to her surroundings. But finally, it took me a while, but I finally found the one place which is that I wrote. Take your pills on a piece of paper. And then I taped it to the bathroom wall opposite the toilet. And it’s the one place I know that at some point each morning she will have to sit down for at least one second and then have to look straight in front of her. And it totally worked every morning. Now, after she goes to the bathroom, she takes her pills.
S5: And I’m like, yes, like the college stall notes or whatever.
S1: That’s right. Later in her life, that will be targeted advertising. But right now, it’s just a very important PSA from her father.
S7: So I have a feel, you know, I have a fail. That has been an ongoing issue for a long time, and I just have to deal with it. My daughter has been back in the bed all pandemic.
S8: She is seven, as you know. She has her own room. She has a lovely room. It’s pink. It’s that cannot be bad. It’s very cute. She likes it, but she isn’t sleeping in the bed with me. And honestly, she doesn’t sleep in the bed with me for the most part when she’s here. Since we moved to California and I told her it at first it was just, hey, you know, this is a big transition.
S7: You know, she’s been half last summer away from me. We’re in a new city or away from everyone you know and love. You know, there’s some anxiety and some sadness, and I don’t mind it. I like to cuddle with her at night. It’s cool. And then when I was finally getting to the point where I’m like, OK, it’s time to start requiring her to sleep in her own bed. The world shut down for the pandemic. And now I just feel like she’s had so much taken away from her. And there’s been so much, you know, that is unsettled and unknown right now that I. At the very least, want her to be able to get a good night’s sleep. But I worry because she’s seven and she should be sleeping in her own girl bed by now.
S4: Does it affect your sleeping or you’re perfectly comfortable with it?
S6: I’m typically pretty comfortable with. I mean, there are nights where it’s like, you know, I’d rather just stress. Maybe I want to sleep naked or stretch out or, you know what I mean, or maybe talk on the phone in my room, sort of having to, like, be in the living or, you know, like there are times where I would like to just use my room. And that has been taken off the table. So I’m in the living room, but I don’t mind it because she we cuddle a bit and then we kind of part ways. I have a queen sized bed. Yeah. Those outside and I go to mine.
S4: This is so funny because I almost did a try and fail about the same thing because we, our kids all go to bed in their room. But I would say most nights at least one of them ends up sleeping with us, if not multiple of them. And I actually feel like since it works for us, it’s fine. Like I was going to talk about, though, that how judgmental people are about where kids sleep. What’s that like for my kids? It’s the same thing. Like we have some anxiety issues we have. It’s particularly my middle child. Oliver, it just feels like he’s overlooked a lot during the day and needs a little bit more comfort at night, too, to sleep and get that attention. And I guess that for me, at least, as long as it isn’t inhibiting your sleep, like if you need to move or because you want the space, then absolutely you should do it. But I guess I feel like if it is something that is comforting you and something that is comforting her and it’s not bothering either of your sleep, then it is OK. Like, she obviously sleeps at her dad’s fine and isn’t like unable to sleep on her own. So if this is like something that she needs, I sleep with Jeff every night. So why wouldn’t my kids also want to sleep with someone else in the room?
S6: I do think that the sound in the room back there is a big part of it because at her dad’s house, her brother share a room. Yeah, I don’t mind doing it on occasion or even if it were like maybe two out of four nights a week. But I kind of do want to have my room back when she’s here.
S4: You know, if it’s for you, then you should definitely do it right.
S6: But the expert, they say it’s not good for the kids, though, right. That it creates a sense of co-dependency. And you know that the independent I read about it, they said it was bad. And so I just kept reading.
S1: But I also think that it is unlikely you’re going to damage my friend any way by sleeping with her through this crisis. This is a great example of whatever you’re worried about. Now, when she’s 16 years old, she’s not going be sleeping in her bed. So who the fuck cares? However, if you want this to end, you are extremely within your rights to take affirmative. Steps to make it end. If I were you, I would be desperate for it to end because my kids are kicker’s. And when they sleep in our bed, they just kick me in the balls all night. So, I mean, I’m sure you have a million plans already for how you might enact this. But the one thing I might suggest is, given that you do like the experience as a sometimes thing, maybe this sort of like them, the middle path to start moving this to the place you wanted to be, which is that she sleeps by herself most nights and then on special occasions, who sleeps with you? It’s just like determined that one night a week is like a special mommy daughter, like camp out night where you guys had, you know, ahead of time. This is a night you guys are going to sleep in the same bed. He made me make a whole thing out of it. Maybe you actually go to bed a little earlier than you might usually do. Are actually in bed with her when she goes to bed and maybe after she’s asleep, you get out and walk around a little bit, but you spend that close and loving time with her. She can look forward to that one day while also knowing that the other days there’s you’re starting to move in a different direction. And she knows that you’re not taking away this thing permanently, but you are trying at least a new thing in which this is a special thing we do once a week, as opposed to the norm every single day. And that’s at least one route toward sort of moving in the direction that she might want to.
S4: Yeah, I think you can still, like, lay with her in her room, too. Like, when she’s going to sleep because the kids are the most, like, talkative and genuine. And those moments before a sleep. Like, I love laying in the room and even like Jeff and I’ll lay on the floor and just let the kids, like, talk and with all of us in there. So I think you won’t lose that either. And I also, you know, talk to her about it like she’s super bright.
S6: Today. Will update you on that in the next couple weeks and let you know how it’s going.
S9: Before we move on to our listener letters, let’s do some business. And I have some very, very, very exciting news, especially for me. There is a new slate live show called The Kids Are Asleep. A grownups only show with real talk about the joys and frustrations that come with modern parenthood and modern life. And it is going to be hosted by me, Jamila, every Thursday. And our first episode, which is next Thursday, July 16th at 7:00 p.m.. My guest is going to be none other than comedian and Daily Show correspondent Roy Wood Junior. It’s going to be so much fun or it’s going to be a complete disaster. Who knows? The only way to find out is to tune in to catch the show live. You can go to Slate’s Facebook page. And if you can’t catch it, Labbe, you’ll be able to watch it on Slate’s YouTube page. And there’ll be a link to both places in the show notes for next week.
S1: So they did. Jameela, one more time. What’s that? Date and time, please.
S9: That date and time for the first episode of The Kids Are Asleep. Slate’s new live grownups only talk show Thursday, July 16th at 7:00 p.m. Pacific, 10:00 p.m. Eastern. So for most of you, all your kids will actually be asleep. And for us West Coast folks, well, we’re just going to have to try and figure out as best we can. Also on Facebook Live, my fellow care and feeding columnist extraordinaire Nicole Cliffe has a weekly live live Karen beating show on Tuesdays at 11:00 a.m. Eastern. I may be joining her next week, so be sure to tune in to that. And again, go to Slate’s Facebook page to tune in all fun things. All very exciting. And while you’re on Facebook, be sure to join our active, well moderated parenting community, which is filled with people giving and receiving parenting advice. Just search for slate parenting and stay up to date on all of Slate’s great parenting content and shows, including my new show, The Kids Are Asleep, which debuts next Thursday, July 16th, 7:00 p.m. Pacific, 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Be sure to sign up for Slate’s parenting newsletter. The best place to be notified about all of our cool parenting stuff, including care and feeding. Mom and dad are fighting. And much, much more. And as I’ve mentioned in past, it’s such a personal email from Dan that you’ll think he’s talking straight to you. And you may be inclined to respond, but don’t. Because he will never get your message. Sign up at Slate. Dot com. Backslash parenting. Email. OK. Before we move on to our first listener question of the week, we have a quick follow up from last week’s question about the three year old who thought that he was supposed to pee immediately after drinking water. Dan, you heard from the listener.
S1: Jatta, listen, reach out to me on Twitter to tell me her story. She said that her daughter had to pee immediately after drinking water for like a solid year who would just go right through her. And she, after a whole bunch of doctors and specials were told, said that child was ultimately diagnosed with a tumor in her pituitary gland.
S8: Oh, my goodness. So to be clear, we’re not suggesting that the three year old from last week’s letter has the same issue. There were some clear differences in these cases, including the fact that no pea is actually coming out when the three year old was the child of the letter writer from last week, forced himself to go.
S5: Right. But it is true that urinary problems can sometimes have all kinds of weird connections to other health issues with Henries pandas. Actually, one of the first symptoms that we had was frequent urination. But this is like he can actually use the bathroom like 10 times in an hour, full bladder. None of this like thinking he needs to go and having to squeeze it out, like actually peeing. So while in this case, we have a hunch that this kid’s putting one over on his parents. It’s worth noting that it’s never a bad idea to talk about these things with your child’s doctor.
S8: Absolutely. For that reason, we reached out to Jennifer Morin, who’s a specialist in pediatric Pelvic Hill, who mentioned to us that a visit to a pediatric urologist can be useful even if there’s no underlying health issue, because that there’s often times great at explaining stuff about the body in an authoritative way, but also in a way that kids can understand. So when in doubt, there is nothing wrong with scheduling an extra visit to your child’s pediatrician and if necessary, taking their recommendation for a specialist on word. Let’s get to our first listener question, which is being read by the fabulous Shasha Leonhard.
S10: Today, our youngest, who is three years old, took off while I was on the phone with the doctor. We spent 20 minutes frantically searching the neighborhood. Every house on the block helped look for him, even the frat house. I was panicking and ready to call the police for help when he was found. The problem was he could hear us calling him. But he didn’t answer his usual response when we call for him is to not respond. But just come back to us. However, this time he didn’t. I’m afraid of what happens the next time he gets loose and I can’t get to him. Does anyone have suggestions on how to keep this from happening or to teach him to always respond when he hears his name called? We’ve tried better locks, child harness, behavior therapy and 24/7 constant supervision. Thank you.
S8: OK. This is absolutely terrifying. Worst possible nightmare ever. Losing your child for 20 minutes. Elizabeth, what do you think?
S5: So we have had a series of runners and things like this out of my three children. Teddy, of course, is currently a runner and likes to bolt from the front door. It’s particularly a problem when we’re traveling a lot. So in the before times, we have definitely had kids kind of be lost in places and it’s completely terrifying. And so we kind of instituted some policies and practices in the House to prevent this from happening and they have been largely successful. So the first is that running is often an attention getting technique. And again, for a three year old, like you mentioned, that you were on the phone when he took off. I find that Teddy is most likely to engage in this behavior when I am doing something else that doesn’t involve him. So in these times, like as part of the prevention, if I know we are entering a time in which he may try to bolt, I try to make sure that he is entertained with something prior to me getting on the phone or I mean, it’s a total pain to have to do this, but it prevents, you know, these sort of things. But it sounds sort of like you have a a larger problem of maybe leaving a lot. And then again, not responding. So I was thinking sort of like, first, you can prevent them from running, which I know you said you’ve tried. And we did put an extra lock on the front door called the Defender Security Lock, and it goes up high so the kids actually can’t reach it. And it’s quite difficult to maneuver because it requires you both to, like, pull it to the side and then flip it back so I can use that when we’re in the house. Of course, we have like back doors and other things that he can get out. So that that’s like slows him down, does not like prevent that. But then we also practice not running and then practice responding because we’ve found that the responding to our cues is something that we need kind of in life, both in dangerous situations or in like when we’re travelling, finding each other. So our family has this weird little we use a like beeping if we’re separated or if we’re looking for each other. And Jeff and I weirdly even use this like in grocery stores, if we’ve gone in separate aisles and need to find each other. And it’s just that one of us beeps and then the other one beeps back. And we basically keep doing this until we find each other. And it is completely weird, but all the kids do it, too, and we only use it kind of when we’re separated. We play games around the house using it to get everyone used to kind of this call and response. But we have used this like on playgrounds where we needed to gather the kids instead of, like, walking around shouting for them. We’ll just do our little beeping thing and then they can beep and we can find them or they know to come find us. And that’s kind of like our secret way. We call it like our family code to let everybody know, like this is us trying to gather everybody up and that that works pretty well.
S1: We also went, oh, will you please beep for us now?
S4: Yeah, I was Jeff there. So we go. I just literally just know I feel so silly. Beep And then like the other. Oh my God. I’m hearing the song myself. Yeah. Yeah. So we all do it and then like the kids do it too. And we all if we’re all there in the car, we all do it and we, we look totally ridiculous. But it has worked so many times, like in a train station. When we got off at different doors, we just move out of the side and then beep and then find the beeps and. Yeah. So you ever hear someone beeping in the target? It’s me.
S5: I mean, the other thing, though, that we do is that instead of using the word stop, because it seems like you tell your kids to stop a lot, we use the words freeze and danger. And when they were little, we played a lot of games with us. So we would say, like, we want you to listen for these magic words, freeze and danger. And we’d be like playing a game. We’d say a bunch of words. And then when we said freeze or danger, they would have to stop. And then we’ve lavished praise or gave rewards or whatever. And now this has worked very well just combined with the beeping, but also for them to know that these words mean like we’re not playing, we’re serious. So it’s not just like stop doing that. It’s like this is a dangerous situation or we need you to focus and we’ll just yell, you know, freeze, stop. I think also rewarding when it happens and a little bit scaring them about the possibility of what happens when they get separated. So we talk a lot about the possibilities of getting separated from each other, some in the context of like what they should do, which is to stay put. We tell them to find another mom with kids and tell them that they’re lost and then do not leave that area. And we talk about if someone wants them to leave, they’re probably a tricky adult like those sort of things. But we’ve also talked about. When it has happened, we lost Oliver in the Postal Museum in London and he had just turned a corner and we had not turned the corner. And when we found him, he was one scared enough to realize that he had walked away or that we had walked away from him. But also saying to him, like, I felt scared, like telling him. I felt really scared when this happened because I was worried, you know, who would take care of you.
S4: And I don’t think you need to, like, scare your kids in terms of, like, you could have died or you could have been taken, but saying, like, who would have fed you when you needed food? Who would have helped you if you had gotten cold? Like things that they can understand? These kind of my new details. But enough to say, like getting separated from us where we can’t find you and we’re looking for you is dangerous. It scared me, but it also has consequences for you. Finally pointing out these things when they’re happening in real life. So saying like when we see things in the world happening, I will say sometimes like look how nicely that child is walking with their with their parents so they don’t get lost. Like pointing those out of other times where you see these behaviors so that it is becoming more routine and less about this specific moment. Because I think like he was I don’t know if your child was also panicked, but you were also panicked. And that’s not a great learning moment. But you have all these other opportunities to work on this where you say, like running away from us is a problem. And even if we are allowing you to run away from us, we then need you to respond when we respond. And that could be a code word like it doesn’t have to be weird.
S5: Beeping But you could definitely have like a code word, like when we use this word, it means we need you to tell us where you are now. Like, we really can’t find you. It’s just so scary. And you definitely don’t want it to happen. I mean, we can all hope that maybe he was scared enough that it won’t happen again.
S1: One thing that really stuck with me about what she said, Elizabeth, was the difference between when we’re playing and when we’re not playing. And it seems like the problem in this particular case was the gulf between the parents not playing of the kid, thinking they were still playing, that some game was happening. He was safely hidden away and happy being there and for whatever reason, thought it was sort of more fun to not respond, even though he could have responded and having some kind of word or action or score and saying beeping that signifies this is not a game. And it is crucial for you to respond, I think is useful in a case like this. It’s always been crazy to me. I know that this would be an enormous civil liberties violation or whatever, but has always been crazy to me that there isn’t just LoJack for kids. Your car is there like a chair in their ranks?
S4: No, there’s like hundreds of bracelets and things like that.
S1: I no, I don’t want that. I want to thank you in bed in their necks, like a chip. I understand that there’s a lot of ethical considerations that I’m sort of gliding past. But nonetheless, wouldn’t it be great to have a G.P.S. microchip embedded in your child’s neck? Yes, it would.
S4: But you can embed it like in their coat or their book bag or there you have it.
S1: They can lose their coat and book bag.
S4: Elizabeth, it’s true or not. Put it back in the right place.
S1: Right, right. Right. And then you’ll be angry and worried.
S4: Yeah, true. Jamila, what about you?
S8: I am completely outdone in so many ways that I truly am a mother. Shab, because the idea of my three year old being gone for twenty minutes is enough to just have me completely laid out on the floor. I would only add two. I think you those great suggestions. A tracker at the desperate times call for desperate measures. And this child is a runner and there are a few different models. There’s the little tracker, which is a G.P.S. watch. There’s the geo bit. There are a few different kinds that you can connect to an app on your phone, on your caregiver’s phone, or you can always locate your child the same way that you would find my iPhone or locate a car that had been stolen. And I think you should get one for your kid. And it may not seem ideal to have to saddle them with the responsibility of constantly wearing a watch or some sort of necklace with the tracking device on it. But better safe than sorry. Twenty minutes is a really long time. I’m curious to know where the kiddo was during this twenty minute period. Like sounds like hiding, ignoring the cries of the frat members and the neighbors and everyone who came out of their house during Cauvin. This is also something that when your child is old enough to truly guilt, you’re going to have to bring it up and give them the guilt trip that you can’t give a three year old like you just had to put this in your pocket and save it.
S1: Billy, I had to go to the frat house. The frat house. Do you understand?
S8: Fucking rat house, the frat house. That’s actually not a thing that ever happens. And imagine how hard it was to sell the frat on the idea. Doing something for humanity.
S1: I don’t know those guys like they were they were like a damsel in distress. Rescued a baby. Yeah. Rescued Barney today. It really touched me. So what are you doing later? All right. All frat guys we apologize for.
S8: Sorry. Carry on. Sorry about the shout out to my child’s father and half of my friends who are right guys. And I’m not sorry, OK? Please give us an update. We’re super curious to know if this continues to be a problem for you. And if you get a tracker, I’d like to hear about how that goes as well.
S3: And if you listener have a conundrum of your own that you’d like for us to weigh in on, please send us an email to mom and dad at Slate. And now we’re gonna move on to our second question, which is, again, being read by the one and only Shasha Lanard to your mom and dad.
S10: I’m the proud mother of a beautiful one year old daughter. She’s an extremely happy and healthy little girl and has brought her father. And I’m more joy than we thought possible. But sleep has never been her strong suit. For the first five to six months of her life, she would only sleep in my arms or next to me in bed. This made for a lot of time, spent trapped on the couch and met my husband. I didn’t share a bed for many months. Even now, at over a year old, nap and bedtime often kicks off with the big crying fit and many false starts. Although, thankfully, she’s sleeping in her crib. I’ve never been good with her crying. It rips my heart into even when I know she’s fine. I would love to have another child. When I think about my life, I always imagined having at least two children in my heart of hearts. I know I do want another. However, I’m terrified of going through this sleep situation again and more. How can I be strapped on the couch with the baby while also caring for a boisterous toddler between my maternity leave? Yay, Canada and the pandemic. I’m still alone at home with her every day. This is, of course, a blessing, but I’m so burnt out by the constant crying, it’s sleep time. I cannot imagine adding another baby to this mix. How did you decide to have or not have another child? Did you find that you handled things differently with subsequent babies? Thank you.
S1: My wife and I also knew that we wanted to have two kids and also around the time that Lyra was one, found ourselves very overwhelmed with everything that was going on. And started thinking, can we really handle this? Can we handle the sleep deprivation and the pressure and stress and the money situation? And, you know, one way that we thought about it, which might be a useful way for you to think about a letter writer was just in the sort of barest simplest terms of recognizing that everyone with two kids struggles with the exact things you’re worried about struggling with. It’s not like anyone worries about those things, has a kid and finds that their problems evaporated. And it turns out it was fine. You have the kid if you have the kid, and then, yes, it creates a lot of new complications in your life and a bunch of new problems and makes everything harder. It’s harder to have a two year old when you also have a brand new baby alongside that two year old. But at the same time. You get through it right, parents make it through that time. They find ways to cope and manage. They find ways to simplify their lives or work around their problems or to or to grow the space in their lives that they need to to solve those problems or the problems just overwhelm them for a while. But eventually they figure it out or they never figure it out. But eventually the kids are older and it gets better. Like, the problems that you’re thinking about are not unique to you. And one way to think about making this decision is to recognize that those problems aren’t going to magically go away. If you have a kid or if you don’t have a kid, you’re still going to face the problems that you face right now. If you don’t have a kid, you’ll have a whole new set of problems if you do have a second. And that’s fine. You’ll probably be just fine surviving those problems down the road. And if they’re too much, then you’ll find help and find ways to get through it the way parents have since time immemorial. Our personal story was that in the end, we just had a second kid by accident. I harbored a lesson of this part. But like, we just, you know, we just had the kid and we freaked out at first when we found out we were pregnant. It was a little bit later than this letter writer is Volero is about was a little under two when we discovered that Holly was pregnant again. And we freaked out and worried and thought, oh, God, this is gonna be a disaster. And we wanted to wait longer. We weren’t ready. And then we had her birth anyway. And it was fine. It was hard. And we had exactly the problems you worry about and that we worried about. But also we survived it. And I think that that is one lesson to take from the countless other parents out there who wanted to, who had to and who eventually survived, too. I would like to hear what the insane person on this call who had three children to say this before.
S4: Yes. Hi. We knew we wanted. Kind of like definitely more than one.
S5: And I mean three as our stopping point because it’s chaos. But we sort of knew we wanted three kids. And I felt like I wanted the chaos all together because I was in this stage of having the babies and not sleeping. And then when I decided to stay home and not work, it was like, well, then we better just pump out these babies and be in this chaos all. And I mean, listen, when we added Oliver, it was total chaos. Like, I was potty training Henry. And at the same time had baby Oliver. We were at this chick fillet and Henry had climbed up one of the climbing structures and then, like, leaned over in his like, I’m gonna poop phase into one of those, like, glass circles and I’m holding this baby. And my best friend in Colorado was there with me and she is hugely pregnant with her second. And I’m just like, I don’t like do up with the baby on the floor, do I?
S4: I don’t know if you sound like screaming like don’t you hope. And to you know, it was but it was this moment at which I was just like, OK, this is my life. My life now is just these poop in the tube moments. It was completely embarrassing. I ended up needing to like strip Henry down and the Chick fil A parking lot, but it was totally fine. And like Dan said, you’re going to get through it. I don’t think that you should make a decision on family size based on like this little bit of chaos that you’re having now. If what you want your family to look like in five years is more than one kid or in 10 years or what, for whatever reason, you’re going to have to go through this baby phase, which is hard. I think also that subsequent baby is one your standards just completely relax. And to you just realize, like at my second and third, babies just were like popped in carriers and I mean, especially Teddy, we were living in the Netherlands. He, like, just lived in a carrier or in in the bike biking around cause we had all these things we had to do and we had all these, like taking the kids, all these places. And I had to go to the market and pick up our food, all these things. And we just did them and he just slept and figured it out. I didn’t I didn’t worry about how much sleep they were getting. I didn’t worry about a lot of these things because I just didn’t have the capacity for it. And those kids are totally, mostly fine. Like, I think, Dan, you said I think you just have to say I’m going to get through this. Yes, it’s hard. Similar to kind of the sleeping situation when we were talking about in our triumphs and fails, though, if this crying sleeping situation isn’t working for you, I think you should do something about that. If you’re happy with how it’s going, great. But there are steps that you can take. So if that’s what’s really like gridding you and making this difficult. I think there are things you can do to make getting to bed easier. One of the things I like is a page called Taking Care of Baby CCRA and she has a Web page and courses, but her Instagram is full of little tips and tricks and I find them empathetic and lovely and good little tips on how to mount some of. These hurdles. But overall, I think if you wanted a baby. Have another baby. It’ll be chaos. Every phase is a different kind of chaos and you’ll find some that you like and some that are terrible. You happen to be in one now that you don’t really like, but it will go away and you will be able to raise a baby and a toddler and you two will have a poop in the tube moment and you will survive it and you will feel like a better mom. As a result.
S9: Yeah. I’ll just say, as the only person who hasn’t yet had a second child and still not sure if I will.
S8: I would consider. Do you want a second child or is it important to you that these children are close to an age? Because if that’s not the case, you could possibly be able to wait a few years and you won’t be in the thick of this really difficult stage with your child. And then you’ll have a new child to drive you crazy. And the other one will be a little bit more self-sufficient.
S1: Yeah. There’s no reason you have to rush into it right now in the middle of a pandemic and crisis when your kid is not sleeping, like unless there’s some reason that these kids absolutely have to you one year and nine months apart. But I did it for like four census reasons or something. I don’t know. You also can wait in that book would be fine. I mean, long story short, there’s a million great reasons not to have a kid, but being afraid of chaos is not one of them because you’ve already got chaos. The chaos has arrived in the form of one thing, adding 60 percent more chaos on top of the chaos that’s already there is not probably going to transform your life as much as you think it will.
S4: And honestly, your told there’s going to be more chaos during baby or not sleep. In case you haven’t noticed, all the letters are crazy. Three year olds watch out.
S1: They’re like, my baby was playing a game, ran out of the house and hid for 20 minutes. Exactly.
S3: You might improve your quality of life a little bit. You have a sweet baby to remind you what it is that you liked about parenting, and that’s right.
S8: Oh, well, thank you so much, letter writer. We wish you all the best. Whether you decide to be a family of three or a family of four. Please keep us posted if you’d like.
S3: And that’s it for our letters this week. Listeners, if you have something you’d like to hear on the show, please send us an email at mom and dad at Slate that come OK.
S9: Before we get out of here, guys. Let’s do some recommendations. Dan, what do you have for us this week?
S11: I’m recommending a very sweet and fun comic for kids ages eight through 12 called Dude Orvil by Chad’s cell. Just came out this month. Chad tells a cartoonist his first book was called The Cardboard Kingdom. It’s also really good. It’s sort of a fun superheroes in the neighborhood story, but this one is really special. I think it’s about a little girl who lives in a world where dreams come to life, which for some people is really fun because it means that you’re work that you make can spring into action and do fun things for you. But her doodles are a little bit mischievous and keep wreaking havoc everywhere she goes and that it only gets worse when she draws a monster. It is a very good book about friendship, about the joy of art and kind of secretly and sneakily about depression. I really liked it a lot. Once again, it’s called Doodle Bill by Chad.
S5: So I love these like comic books, too. That was something I wasn’t really exposed. Who’s a child and have been such a good like for my new, like, new readers or reluctant readers trying to get them into reading? I don’t know.
S11: I thought they didn’t exist when we were kids like that. All ages, not superhero comic really wasn’t a thing when we were kids.
S5: It’s just been so awesome to like offer that as an easy, like, reading option and something they like to do. You know, it seems less intimidating other than many of them are actually really very good.
S4: Yeah, that’s the thing. Like, they’re also good. Like, I don’t feel bad. It’s not like here’s some crap. It’s like this is a really good thing and you’re going to think it’s fun and you’re getting away with something. Best kind of recommendations. I’m recommending something not like that at all. Doing tie dye with your children, which sounds like a huge mess. And it is, but it is so fun. And more specifically, we tidied a bunch of masks and that has really helped the kids kind of have Buy-In into wearing them. They’re super excited about getting to do all the designs and color mixing. I was only when it touched the tie dye, which is advice I give based on letting the children tie dye on their own previously and us all having died and four weeks. So I let them do all the wrapping and stuff. We set it up in the backyard. It was super fun. I bought a huge tie dye kit and then we set it up and in the front yard and neighbors came by into their tie dying as well, like in our front yard with our kit while we did some social distancing. And it was super fun. And now, you know, we get to see everybody wearing their tie dye shirts and masks around. So kits are available. I guess Heidi is also very in for adults, but we just did it as a fun kind of thing that you would do at summer camp that the kids really enjoyed. And you can just add the shirts to your Wal-Mart pickup. So easy, breezy. A huge mess, but lots of fun.
S8: Meanwhile, what are you recommending? Well, I have mentioned to you all in the past that part of my move to California was powered by wanting to make some lifestyle changes and that I was committed to becoming a straight up, hippy dippy, crunchy granola. What about crunchy granola? But even though I did buy a pair of Birkenstocks since I’ve been here. Right. They’re not nearly as comfortable as people would have you believe. I guess you have to like to wear them down to make them comfortable, which seems to defeat the purpose. I could do that with a better looking pair of shoes. But they’re here now. But I’ve taken an interest in astrology and I found a really great book. I should have found it. I’ve been following this amazing astrologer, Chinee Nicholas, on social media for quite some time, and she put out her first book last year. And it’s a really great read for folks that are new to astrology who’ve had kind of a passive interest in astrology. And we’d like to know more about their sign and what’s the difference between a rising sun and a sun, sun and moon sign and what you should do with that information. And it’s also takes the science of astrology seriously, but it’s also very unintimidating. And I think that for folks who are like, I’m not so sure how I feel about this whole astrology thing at all, it’s just a really safe, nice way to explore. And it’s called You were born for this astrology, for radical self acceptance. Again, the author is China. Nicholas, who is a super dope astrologer. And it shows you how to read your birth chart and what the sun and moon and stars have written for you before you could even write for yourself. So for my my fellow hippies and hippie aspirants, please check it out.
S12: And I think that is it for our show this week. And as a reminder, if you would like to have one of your parenting conundrums examined and poked and prodded on air by the host of Mom and Dad or fighting, please send us an email to mom and dad. It’s late that time Mom and Dad are fighting is produced by Rosemary Bellson on behalf of New Camp Daniloff and Jamilah Lemieux. Thank you for listening.
S3: Hello, Slate plus listeners. Thank you so much for your support. First of all, we could not do this without you. And by this we mean mom and dad are fighting our show. We’ve got something special for you this week. Of course, as you know, another summer institution has fallen by the wayside this season. But just because your kid didn’t get to go to camp in the traditional sense doesn’t mean that you can’t at least try and recreate some of that summer camp magic at home. So we’ve got some camp activities that your kids can try by themselves for a little summer fun while you attempt to get some work done. Here with us is Mary Lieberman, a career educator who is then everything from running summer camps to wrangling kids as a camp. Has there, Mary, help?
S13: Well, I will do what I can.
S8: Mary, I have a seven year old. This would have been her, I guess, for their fifth summer camp. She’s been going for a long time. And it was very challenging having her in the house during the essentially the second semester of the school year. Now, she doesn’t have the responsibilities of schoolwork. But I still have all this work to do. And everything that she wants to do is either tablet or phone related or TV. I don’t want her spending her whole summer in front of the screens, but the other things that she likes to do require me to play with her, like playing Barbie dolls or playing games. And I just can’t. I need to be able to focus. So what are some things that a seven year old can do largely on her own to keep her occupied?
S13: Yes, I think one of the most important things that you can think about is what are the things that your kid enjoys doing and how can you kind of leverage that into getting them to play by themselves or with your other children if you have more than one. So if you have a kid who really loves playing Lego, then setting them up with some sort of Lego challenge where you say, hey, you know, in half an hour, 45 minutes, I’m going to come back and I want to see the very best circus that you can think of or the circus that you can make out of Lego. Then that’s what you want to set your kids up to do. Just to give you that time to kind of step away. If your child loves playing, you know, My Little Pony and Barbie and playing with dolls and setting them up in a situation where you’re saying, hey, I want you to maybe, like, create a show and we’ll record it when I come back in 45 minutes. But figure out what it’s going to look like. But giving them some kind of guidance in terms of what their play is without building yourself into that play and kind of giving them also those guidelines of like, hey, my expectation is that you’re going to be doing this by yourself while I go do something else and come back to check in on you. But there’s not really a one size fits all because, you know, like the kid at my house would be happy playing Lego all day. But if you asked him to do an art projects in four seconds later, he’s going to come back and say he needs some help.
S4: Do you run all kinds of different summer camps? And I have three kids of varying ages. Can you, like, speak to some themes or some, like, topical ideas that maybe I can use, you know, to research activities or to find activities that the kids could do, like you said, on their own. But what are some fun kind of like if I could like Kathleen a week or a day as like this kind of fun.
S13: Yeah. For activity.
S1: You’re absolutely right, because that’s what’s one of the things that’s fun about camp is the sense that there’s this whole organizational structure around at the kids are buying into and is replicating that. That always seems hard to me.
S13: Well, and I think also because we have so many kids who’ve been home for so long. How do you make, like summer camp different than, like, school time, whether or not you were doing academic work? And I think, you know, as a parent, you can choose maybe like a theme for the week. So you could have like, this is Outer Space Week and we’re going to have our Lego challenge be about building a space station. My favorite and we use this at the camp that I ran is we had like holidays in July. And so every day we would choose a different holiday.
S4: You have all that stuff. You have all your holiday decorations. Yeah.
S13: Yeah. And you don’t have to completely decorate your house for Christmas or Hanukkah or Halloween. But, you know, pulling out the pumpkin craft or pulling out the orange paper for whatever you’re asking your kid to do, letting them get dressed up in Halloween costume all day makes it a little bit more like summer camp and a little bit less like I’ve been at home for six months already.
S1: So my kids are much older. They’re 15 and 12. And for them, camp has really evolved from something that they do because they really love the activities to something that provides a very specific social outlet that’s really different from their usual social context. And for my older daughter, particularly, who is not like a big social butterfly at school, you know, the writing. Camp and the theater camp that she has typically done over the course of the summer. She likes writing and she likes theater. But what she loves the most about it is being with a bunch of kids who she feels like are like her and having access to a group of friends who are separate from her school friends and school acquaintances and the sort of excitement of that whole social milieu. And that seems the most impossible thing to replicate or to even approximate. And so do you have some suggestions on how you can help kids in the summer, especially older kids have some sense that that this is something special and different from their everyday lives.
S13: I think especially now when we have kids that age who already have contact information for each other, if they can find that one or two other kids that maybe they went to that writing camp with, then kind of setting up a little bit of a kind of minicamp just for them. So pick a week and talk to the parents of those kids and say, hey, you know, like, let’s all like have our kids write stories and then have like story time is a little juvenile, but have like a spoken word session on Friday on Zoome and all the kids will come and present to each other or their families and encourage the kids throughout the week to kind of check in with each other. Or if you have kids who like, like to cook or would be interested in cooking, setting up kind of like a chopped challenge with them. So, you know, here’s our secret ingredient and three different families are gonna have the same secret ingredient. And, you know, what can you put together? Can you make a meal that has peaches in every dish and kind of use that as an opportunity to encourage them to kind of collaborate probably on screens a little bit or on the phone, but kind of get that social interaction with each other while they’re planning. If you have competitive kids, you can certainly work that into it, but really kind of focusing on what are things that they can do, where they can interact with each other a little bit with those people that are there people. Right. Because we don’t all find that in school or in our families. Yeah.
S5: Do you think we really have to lean into technology during this time, which I know that we’ve done, but just like kind of like Mary suggested, one of the things we’ve done with our eight year old is set up a Facebook group with all like a whole bunch of moms. And I post in there like I found a bunch of Lego prompts and I post in there one each week. And then on Wednesdays we have Lego face time and they all show what they’ve built to each other. And so building that community that way and it certainly takes more prep like what you would have paid someone else to do. You’re now going to have to do the prep work. And I think that’s kind of the hard part about this situation, is that you were paying someone else to to provide these things and these activities. And no matter what we do, you now have to provide them, which is going to take some of your time. So you’re never going to get that same experience. But I think there are ways to at least say, like what you liked about Summer was getting to do the stuff that you really liked with other people who like to do it. And there is a way to, like, go out there and find those those things.
S13: Another piece of it is we’re all very sad that kids don’t get to have that camp experience. But it’s not just about the camp experience for a lot of kids and a lot of families that it is also a lot about child care. And so how can you really, like, work the technology in your favor so that you don’t like? Jamelia said you don’t have your kids sitting in front of a screen all summer, but you’re kind of dropping in the technology in the times and places that it really helps your kid makes make connections and then you’re also having enough for them to do outside of the screen that keeps them busy and also lets you get your job done.
S4: I think too many, like you have just asked, have you had like a couple? It seems like camp crafts and things like that are usually pretty easy, not a lot of extra supplies, but that people can largely do at home.
S5: I know like rainbow blooms have been very popular with my kids, just like getting that stuff back out and having it available. But can you think of other ideas like that that you can just kind of set out as an invitation for them to listen to an audiobook and do or, you know, a podcast or something?
S13: Yeah, I think one of the things that I think is sometimes most fun for kids is like found paint brushes or found, you know, like what are all of the things in your house that, you know, you can rinse off or wash off later, that you know, that you can paint with. And, you know, is that like a small sauce pan? And like, what does that do? And when you spin it around in the paper, how does that change the colors and, you know, kind of finding all of those little things? And then sometimes even just like providing your kids with a pile of arts and crafts supplies and saying, like, hey, like it’s Christmas today, let’s make a Christmas tree. How can we find how can we use all of these supplies to really, like, trick it out and really decorate it? Or how can we use this kind of like massive things that we have to create something that. Is meaningful to us.
S8: Any suggestions for cool lunches that we could be doing that might be summercamp as next summer camp is necessarily known for having the best lunches?
S1: But I have a great bug juice recipe.
S13: Yeah, I mean, like isn’t bugs is just like powder and water and stir. So if you treat your day like a summer camp, I think one of the things that really helps kids with summer camp is having a little bit of a sense of routine. And so maybe what that means is, you know, you’re sending your kid in the morning out the door of their bedroom with, you know, a brown paper bag with carrot sticks and a sandwich in a Ziploc and, you know, a juice box kind of having a little bit of that routine for them and and giving them some of the lunchbox treats that they would get during the summer if they were actually going to camp. Bug juice is certainly a delightful addition to any camp experience, but kind of trying to make it, even if it’s completely fake and you’re like, you know, dropping your kid off in the living room instead of dropping them off at camp, I think kind of building. And some of that routine will help you as a parent. And then also help the kids feel like, you know, life’s a little bit different than just rolling out of bed and sitting at the counter and eating your pancakes.
S1: All right. Last question for you. A lot of parents are like us right now in that we’re just now moving into and a time in which some of the camps that our kids loved are trying out some kind of virtual camp. And we’re trying to decide is it’s worth it? Is it worth what we’re going to pay our kids actually in and get anything out of it? As a professional in this world, what would you recommend that parents do if your kids are doing a virtual camp to make sure that it’s something that they actually are enjoying and getting something out of? It doesn’t feel like a grind to them or like just like pointless screen time to you.
S13: So I think a big piece of that is like having a conversation with your kids about expectations. You know, I think if your kids go in expecting it to be the same experience as if they were alive in person at the best writing camp ever, then virtual writing camp is not going to be any fun. But if you can kind of frame it as like here’s this really awesome opportunity for us to get a little bit of writing camp from home. And then I think the other piece is look at how they’re setting up their virtual camp and think about your child and their attention span. Right. So when you have kids in person in camp, you can kind of, like, put them all in a room and close the door and, you know, keep them entertained in there for a certain amount of time. But your five year old at home is not going to be able to sit in virtual camp for four hours. You’re middle school or maybe super excited about that. So really think about like in terms of the worth the value for you. How is the camp trying to make that switch from in-person programming to virtual programming?
S5: And I think also, if they are going to these virtual camps, because Mary kind of offered before, like making to help make those connections, like try to bring that beyond. So it’s a good thing to say to your kids, like, hey, you should think about trying to get some contact information for people because you could use that as a jumping off point for these are all people that are willing to engage in this activity online. Can we then take this group after camp and try to help come up with something else or, you know, as parents try to foster these kind of relationships? If your kids know like that’s one of the things we’re trying to do is make these connections and find these people. I think that’s a way to get that group of people to do some of the things that Mary suggested.
S4: Yeah. Thanks, Mary. Thank you, Mary.
S8: Thank you, guys. Yes. Thank you so much, Mary. We really appreciate your suggestion, parents. Good luck with trying to create a little bit of a camp like experience for your kids. And again, thank you so much for your support of Slate. Plus, we will talk to you again next week.