S1: The following podcast contains explicit language.
S2: Welcome to Mom and dad are fighting Slate’s parenting contest for Thursday, September 24th, the there’s no such thing as a polite three year old edition. I’m Jamilah Lemieux, a writer contributor to Slate’s competing parenting column and host of Slate’s The Kids Are Asleep, late night chat show and mom to Nyima, who is seven. And we live in Los Angeles, California. I’m Elizabeth New. Can’t I write the Home School and Family Travel Blog? That chachkas I’m the mom to three little Henry eight, Oliver six and Teddy three. And I’m located in Navarre, Florida. I’m Rebecca Levoy. I’m a journalist and the podcast you’re behind crime writers on. I live in New Hampshire. My kids are Henry who is nineteen, Teddy who is seventeen, and my stepdaughter Lily, who is twenty. Rebecca it is so good, as always, to have you back on the show this week. I’m excited. I’m really excited. It’s always fun to come back. It’s always fun to have you back. And this is a perfect show for you to be here. And I’m not outnumbered by the traditional family having folks. We have a question from a mother who, quote unquote feels like less of a parent now that she shares 50/50 custody of her daughter due to a separation. And we also have a question about getting a three major to be polite, as if there is such a thing. Question answered, question answered. And as always, we have triumphs and failures and recommendations.
S3: Let’s start with you, Rebecca. Do you have a triumph or fail for your return to the show this week?
S4: I’ve got a triumph. And this is for me one of the huge benefits of my working at home situation. I’ve been working at home like a lot of other people for about six months, and it looks like I’m going to have another six months at least of working at home ahead of me as my day job office is not opening until March. So like a lot of other people, I spent the first few months in a sort of weird alternative version of reality where I just ate anything that I wanted at any time of day, sort of worked 20 hours a day because it was right there in front of me. And I could watch all kinds of TV all the time and just overall felt like crap, like this unending cycle of just being at home. But in the last month or so, I have unlocked something that it just didn’t occur to me before, which is that the huge upside of working at home is all the time. We now have to take care of personal crap that we don’t have when we’re in our offices. So, for instance, I’ve been catching up on medical appointments that I’ve been like way behind on. I refinanced my student loans because I had the time to, like, research the, you know, different places and the different rates. My husband and I refinanced our mortgage because I had the time, because I was at home to pull together all the pieces of paperwork. But this is the most important and triumphant thing that I’m most excited about, because it’s one of those things that’s been hanging over my head like a cloud for really since my divorce in 2008 in the process of one of the other very boring things that I was able to get done downloading all my estimation of benefits from my insurance company and submitting them to like my FSA and all that stuff. I actually looked at my benefits, which I’ve never done. I’ve never had time in the office. And I discovered that my job has a legal services benefit, which some of you who are listening might have and might not know it. I was like, I’m going to go on this website and like, see what legal services I can get with this stupid insurance that apparently I’ve been paying for and haven’t been using. And I discovered that I could get a will done by a local lawyer and it would be covered by this insurance. So I now have an appointment with a trust in a state’s attorney to do a well, which Kevin, my husband and I have never had the entire time we’ve been married, which everyone will tell you is like the worst thing you can possibly do to your family if something happens to you to have nothing. And that’s how we’ve been living. And I’ve been feeling awful about it because my ex-husband was always super organized. We always had that stuff in place or whatever. And now because of our stay at home situation, I have been able to make the appointment. We’re going to do it by Zoome. I know I’m going to have time to pull all the documentation together. So my triumph is after ten years of this hanging like a dark cloud over my head, covid is enabling me to finally be an adult and get a will at this point in time.
S1: So I’m very excited about that.
S5: That is a huge triumph.
S6: And I will say as someone who hasn’t had a regular nine to five like with benefits and an office since 2018, we had tons of stuff like that. I wouldn’t have been able to tell you about that. I never would have that because I was always at the office building, the work from home lifestyle. And just how like going to the doctor, at least like once a week or every other week is just part of it. And it’s normal and it’s OK. You don’t have to ask. Like I’m happy.
S1: The more people are getting to access that, it’s fantastic. You just put things on your outlook calendar, the one that people see in your office. Block off that time, nobody bothers you and you can use it for whatever you want to use it for, and it’s not like you’re not still working all of your stuff, but you just don’t have to think about like, oh, I can’t do it at two. I’m fully and now embracing that. I’m seeing it as like a huge upside and benefit of this. And it’s really changed sort of my outlook on everything. So I recommend it.
S6: That’s awesome. What about you, Elizabeth Trimper, feel this week?
S7: I have a feel Oliver is in like all of this therapy. And before the pandemic, we switched therapists like one of the people who does occupational therapy with was leaving. And so we got a new person. But then, of course, all of that was online. And if you have tried like online physical therapy or occupational therapy, it is it is like terrible because I have to be there and like, do all the things, but I don’t know what I’m doing. They’ve worked out a system where we can go back and he’s in a bunch of therapy. So it’s like I drop him off and then I pick him up a couple hours later. So it used to be that I would get to talk to each therapist, you know, before we left. But now I just get this like piece of paper that says kind of how the day went and whoever came out with last, I actually get to physically talk with and the new occupational therapist every time that she comes back, it is like he is, you know, just rolling his eyes, like not being able to sit properly, like all of these things. The other therapists do not have this problem. And we obviously we talk about it and we’re working on that. Now, some of the reason he’s in some of these therapies are for some of these reasons, like not being able to sit still, are totally know where his body is. But it just seems like he’s having all these problems with this one therapist. And I am stuck in this place where I’m like trying to work on the behaviors with all of her. But also I’m wondering if this is like not a good fit. But I never want to be the person that is sort of like the therapist is the problem, not the child. I don’t necessarily know that that’s the problem, but it definitely seems like we’re in some kind of bad fit. And I’m not sure that he can get help in the way he needs it from a therapist that is like annoyed by some of the behaviors that we need help for. Yeah. So we’re just in this, like, bad cycle. I really don’t know what to do because I’m not really able to see her or chat with her very much given covid. And I feel like normally this could be resolved with like a human conversation, but those are hard to come by. So I don’t know. And I feel for the week is kind of this indecision of figuring out how to move forward with those. He clearly needs the therapy and needs help, but it’s a big place. So I think we could probably ask for a switch. But then that also leads to all these like scheduling changes. And I feel sort of lucky that we’ve got them all lined up in order like that’s convenient for me. I’m not going there three or four times a week hauling all the other kids to, like, sit in the car with me while we have someone in therapy. So I don’t know, I’m just stuck in Indecision World and not sure how to move forward next or what to do.
S3: I don’t think that’s a fail so much as it is just a challenge before you.
S4: I also think that when I hear someone say I don’t want to be the kind of parent who dat dat dat, it means you should totally do it. It means you’re totally safe. I don’t think this is a good fit because everyone knows you’re not that person. If you’re even the person who thinks that like no one is thinking you’re the squeaky wheel parent, I promise they’re not to say it is, as the therapists say, is this. That’s a very that you’ll be so relieved. Yeah. Yeah, that’s true.
S7: It’s like she’s probably feeling right. She clearly has not enjoyed being brought out by Oliver. She writes it on the list every week. No, I know, Rebecca. You’re absolutely right. That’s what I need to do. But I in some sense don’t want to do it right. So. Oh, but I will.
S5: Yeah, there’s an internal voice and I think it’s one that a lot of us are extra sensitive to from white women, you know.
S6: And I think that for you, like I can see, because you’re conscientious about how you move in the world, you being even more sensitive to like, well, I don’t want to be that, you know, I don’t want to be Karen. I don’t want to be that mom. You know, it’s like all that at once. But I’m telling you, like. I agree with Rebecca, if this person is like not having a great time with your child, she’s going to be over the moon to hear that she won’t have to. And even if she decides to push back, even if she’s like, no, I’m just the one who can you know, I can fix this somehow. I’m just not going to like the process. Like, you have every right to say, well, on our end, it’s not a good fit. So, you know, we would feel more comfortable if we tried something else or we’d like to maybe see someone else that things are the same. You know, we can come back. But, you know, that hasn’t been our experience here. Best bar.
S1: So it’s not us. It’s you, you know, right? Yeah, exactly. You don’t want him to need therapy from the therapy. Hopefully I’ll report that I, I just did it. I know you’ll do it. I’ll text you and forget about it. What about you Jamila. What do you have going on this week.
S6: I’ve got bail. Thanks for asking. I mentioned last week or maybe the week prior that in anticipation of this move, some moving across town next week. And as my lovely co-host can see, the very least inside of my closet where I’m recording is not packed. And that is a hint for what the rest of the house is looking like. But but a lot of packing has been done, just not most of it anyway. But what I have been obsessing over for weeks, even before I signed a lease, wallpaper and paint, you know, I do like the paint choices for the most part. I mean, this apartment, I don’t like the space. And so I’m trying to create a space that I love somewhere we can live for. You know, I really don’t want to move again. I need this to be like where we stay until I buy something or get married like I’d like for the next move to be a significant one. This needs to be the apartment she remembers like, oh yeah, we were there for a while, you know, like this is it for a minute. You know, I’m obsessed with creating, you know, not perfect home, but the best imaginable home, you know, and I really like the apartment too. So I’ve got a great palate, you know, more space than before. I decided to do like a wallpaper accent wall essentially in every room and then paint, but not just paint. I was going to do, you know, like the baseboards and the crown molding and the ceiling. And, you know, they would be different colors. Like there’s no white walls in this place. Right. And there’s a lot of walls in there. And so all these weeks of researching and finally, I you know, I settled on some wallpaper for the main rooms or whatever. I had one job, which was to ensure that I ordered enough wallpaper. Hmm. And. Fell short by one panel in my daughter’s room because she has two walls that are wallpapered and a pink sheet. I am a cheetah girl. My own girls are Cheetah Girls, and we are, you know, ushering her into the animal print lifestyle. You don’t have to wait until you’re 60, you know, like you don’t have to wait till you’re 40. Just animal print from day one.
S4: We’ve all got to be Italian. You don’t have to be Italian.
S6: You don’t have to be black. Like there are a few groups that Polish people also enjoy. Like we have these things in common. Really, any ethnic group represented in Chicago, you are part cheetah print somewhere. We love our different. So I want my daughter to have that. You know, even though she’s being raised in L.A. to great pink cheetah print walls and then, you know, on the other walls. So we’re one panel short, essentially like one like top to bottom. Right, like one strip. One strip. One strip. Yeah. Yeah. And you would think I know the vernacular right now. After all, I’d tell you if you type in w in my phone, like every possible wallpaper source on the entire Internet, I have searched on my phone and or my computer. And so it’s like, OK, that sucks, especially because it took a while to get it. But final or some more. Oh it’s out of spec. Oh OK. Fine, I ordered it from Wayfair. I do that out of Stockler thing. You know, typically there things seem to come back around every so often. Even those can be super nice. Look at this panel. But then I’m like, no, maybe I can find it elsewhere because so many of the other ones are on other sites. Through my digging, I’ve come to find that this color is discontinued, no longer exists. I basically took the last of it. I might have gotten in. And so it’s fine. Like I’m going to do a little accent corner thing, you know, that was an excellent partner. I maybe I did shop.
S1: I have an idea. Do you mind if I float this by you? Yes. No, I’m a solution. I employed in my house after my son punched a hole in his wall of anger. I bought these hexagonal felt squares that you can use as like pinboard. But what’s cool? Because they’re hexagonal as you can hang them up, like in a style where they sort of like trail off in one area so they don’t have to be like perfectly straight. You could make like an art thing out of that corner of the room with, like some hexagonal felt squares in like complementary colors. You know, you can have like paint gore and cream and whatever, and you can sort of spill on to both walls and look super intentional. That is cute. I like that.
S6: I’ll send you a link soon. Thank you. I like that we’re going to get creative in that corner. I think it has to be fun like it can’t be. What’s the point? Maybe it’s either just a whole new color, I don’t know, or talk or higher muralist to detective me.
S1: The wallpaper. Exactly.
S6: In that one spot I have thought about trying to or I was like, that’s going to cost so much money.
S3: I’m going to be like such a jackass. I’m just not going to do it. So yeah, that’s my feel. But it’s fine if the place is coming together. OK, before we get into these listener questions, let’s handle a little business. Be sure to tune in tonight, Thursday, September. Twenty fourth to my Slate Live show. The Kids Are Asleep. I’ll be joined by Melanie Rowsell Nuzman, the senior vice president of communications and culture at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. And we’re going to be chatting about the fight to protect access to safe and legal abortion, the critical role of black women in the reproductive justice movement and much more. Don’t miss it. Tune in at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 p.m. Pacific. We’ll have links to Slate’s YouTube and Facebook page in the show notes. And you can also watch previous episodes using those links. So please check it out. To keep up with all Slate’s great parenting content and shows, sign up for Slate’s parenting newsletter. It’s a fun personal email from Dan. Remember him every week. Plus, it’s the best place to be notified about. Ask a teacher, Karen feeding the kids are asleep and yes, even mom and dad are fighting. So please do us a salad, do yourself a favor and sign up at Slate that comeback’s parenting. Email one even more great parenting advice. Join our parenting group on Facebook is super active and it’s moderated so it doesn’t get out of control. Just search for Slate parenting on Facebook.
S5: All right, let’s get into our first listener question, as always, it’s being read by Sasha Leonhard.
S9: Are there any 50 50 parents who can relate? My ex and I have been separated since October, but I just moved into my own place and we started 50/50 custody with our four year old daughter, two two five five. She seems to be adjusting well, but I can’t shake the sadness. I feel like less of a parent. For example, I dropped her off her dad’s the other night and she was sleeping. It crushed me to pass her to her dad when it felt like the motherly thing to do would have been to bring her home and put her to bed. There have been a couple of moments like that, my first long stretch without her, I basically drown my sorrows with wine and selling sunset. I’m also thinking a lot about how this works long term. So parents who have been at it a while. How does it work? Eventually I could see my daughter not wanting to make so many transitions. Can an arrangement like this really work for adolescents and teens? Maybe I’m just getting way ahead of myself.
S10: OK, Rebecca, I’m dying to hear what you have to say about this, because you have lived this life much longer than I have.
S5: And I will say, even though we didn’t shift to 50 50 until Nyima was seven, but she’s been back and forth her whole life, but that 50 50 shift terrified me for everything that the letter writer is saying here.
S4: Hmm. Yeah, I started doing 50/50 custody when my kids were four and six. So I relate to this a lot. And of course, my kids are 17 and 19. Actually, my 17 year old will be 18 in January. So this has been a long term lifestyle for me. First off, congratulations on being able to watch the high art that is selling sunset. It is the greatest piece of media that has become popular in Twenty Twenty for myriad reasons which I can discuss on a different Slate podcast if they invite me to do so. Second, one word of warning. I just want to tip your way because while this wasn’t necessarily my experience, I’ve seen it happen again and again with a lot of my friends who have separated or gotten divorced, which is to do your very best to cope with these feelings and work through them on your own and not bring your four year old into the conversation. Because what you don’t want to have happen is a four year old feeling like she is responsible for how you feel as a mother. It is not her job to make you feel better about missing her, about missing the special time you need to solely focus on being positive about the ways that she’s being supported. And if she seems like this is working for her on many occasions, like support that be positive about it, because the bottom line is this is her reality now. It’s not going to change back. And the thing that you don’t want to do is have her feel obligated to every time she reunites with you, tell you how much she missed you because she’s feeling like she’s feeding your needs. So do your best as you’re working through this to try not to involve her in this conversation. OK, so here’s the advice that I’m going to give you. There is a point, I promise you, at which you will come to find yourself being a better mother because you don’t have your kids 100 percent of the time. It sounds counterintuitive. I know you feel right now this like a hole in your home, this hole in your heart, this hole in your time. That time is a gift. You have to view it this way because you will come to at some point and you’d rather just like lessen the amount of guilt that you feel working there. At some point, I promise you, you will feel like that time is a gift and that the time with your daughter is a gift. This took me a little while to get to, but when I finally got there and I realized, you know, I have my kids every other week, we did seven days on, seven days off from the beginning. So I had a whole week without my four year old and my six year old. And it felt, you know, I felt gutted. I felt empty, I felt purposeless. And then I remembered, oh, man, I am a whole person in addition to being a parent. And this time that I have now to watch selling Sunset to re sort of establish my friendships with people that have waned because we had small children or I had small children to advance my career. I ended up going back to school. I started my career in public radio shortly after my divorce because I found myself instead of with a hole where a four and a six year old were the space and time to really focus on being the kind of adult that my kids could look up to and depend on even more so than they had before. The flip side of this is that I really found myself embracing. You know, there’s this stereotype of like weekend parents, like the weekend dad, who like I had one of these growing up, like we saw him on the weekends, would always take us to like amusement parks and bowling alleys. And it was perfect and amazing. Yeah, that’s not cool. But what is cool is understanding that when you’re not with your kid all the time, that it can be a deliberate choice to have a better time with your kid when you have your kid, that you can, for instance, be more thoughtful about family meals. You can be more mindful about how you’re spending your time, the hills, you’re choosing to die on, the things you’re choosing to be strict about. That might be arbitrary because you do find yourself thinking, how can I make the most of this two days, of this five days? That is a great place to start. Start imagining the times that you are not with your daughter as a gift, as something you didn’t have before, that you have now. And just act as if that’s the case, because eventually you will feel that way and act as if it’s the case that the time you are spending with your daughter, it shouldn’t be magical, but it. Can be deeper, it can be more meaningful, it can be more thoughtful, and you can actually focus more on being a better quality parent instead of being the full time quantity parent. As to your second part of your question, I’ll just touch on a briefly. There does come a time when kids get older that it is actually impossible to tell them where they have to be. And if they have a preference, you can fight them on their preference. But that is a exercise in futility. There have been times where my kids wanted to spend a little bit more time with their dad. They wanted to stay over on Sunday instead of coming back on Sunday night because they found that like entry into school a little bit easier if they had spent the night there before. Fine. And then there have been times, honestly, where, you know, they may have had a falling out with one of us. I won’t say who and wanted to, like, live full time at the other parent’s house. You know, I’ve had my kids full time, sometimes for two or three months at a stretch when circumstances have has meant that that’s the case. And the key to that, honestly, is just establishing with your ex that you guys are co parents and understanding that it’s not a competition who they want to spend time with and it’s not a competition who misses them or the competition that you’re really challenging each other to do is working together to make the most holistic experience for your kid possible, the most continuity possible. And the best way to do that continuity is to both love them and both feel like it’s quality time that you’re spending with them. So that’s my advice on that.
S8: I think that’s so great. I don’t have any experience personally in this area, but had the opportunity in law school to do some family law work and thought that what is so interesting about this is so often like the the missing piece in the legal stuff, which is the suffering of a loss and then needing to just suffer that loss like you have lost something. And I think it’s perfectly OK to grieve that and almost understand what the road ahead looks like to understand that, like each milestone you hit is going to be grief, because sort of the things that you all did together, whatever those traditions, are going to look different this year. And it might not even be big things. I mean, just again, like not being there for certain things are not having your child when you normally would have had them, are getting that report from them or the first time, like you have to hear something through your CO parent. Like, I think all of those are things that it’s OK to feel grief over and almost know that that grief is coming. But also saying like, OK, well, once you go through all of those once like once a year has passed and you have done all of these things, not that it will never happen again, but now you have the opportunity to re-establish some of those norms and say, like, OK, this is the new norm. And Rebecca, I love that you talked about like the freedom that comes with that and how you can use that time to build, you know, a deeper relationship with your children and also a deeper relationship with yourself, which, of course, is always good for your children as well. Djamila, how about you? Like Rebecca, this is definitely more of your you know, your experiencing and living this.
S5: Yeah, we’ve done this essentially NamUs whole life and just made the shift to a true fifty fifty, which there are certainly times where we had trended toward that just due to my schedule or something they had going out. There will come a time where hopefully you all will become so good at this that you can be flexible, that you can say I need an extra day, can I have an extra day or do you mind, you know, taking her tonight, even though that wasn’t the plan, you know, and everybody can be fine and at peace with it. And I exercise that right today when I should not have because I was feeling a little bit of mom guilt because I’m in the middle of this move. So I’m the only adult moving, which means I’m the only adult taking aside from not anyone I have right now, only one that packing. In fact, the person that hired from TaskRabbit did more packing than I have thus far. Anyway, I was there and I had talked about it. And it’s no big deal over these two week period of me packing and actually going over there that he would take some extra days, you know, so I could have time because I am also working in the middle of all this and keeping up with my doctor’s appointments and stuff so life doesn’t stop because you’re moving. Anyway, I felt bad that, you know, there had been maybe, say, three consecutive nights that I had been with her father. And then she came to me for a night and she was due to go right back and, you know, and spend most of the week with him. And so I said yesterday, you know, when he texted me what time you want to do, you know, handoff, you know, I was like, hey, you might say is another night, you know, because I’m just missing my baby and I’ll pack this weekend. I’m just missing my baby. And as a result of me keeping her today, I had to cancel a doctor’s appointment that I forgot that I forgot that there’s a reason she’s not here on Tuesday because I’ve created a schedule for Tuesdays. Where have all these things to do that I can’t you know, they’re easier to do without her here. So all that to say you will find a time where it’s easier for your child not to be there, that you’ll be relieved to know that you’ll be tired and you’ll be. You won’t be drowning your sorrows in wine and selling sunset, you will be toasting to the door, closing behind your child’s little feet. You’ll be running down the stairs with a sweatshirt and no bra and the dusty sweatpants, like, in a way you’d swore you’d never let him see you like that. And you do not care because you want to get back to yourself. And it is a complicated way to parent. Parenting is complicated, period. You know, the older I get and the longer I’m doing this and the more I talk to people who are married and have always been married to their child’s parents, I can tell you that, like, there may be some different logistical challenges that come with doing a 50 50 situation.
S10: But you know this from experience like it doesn’t mean that your child is necessarily getting a better experience with their parents because they’re both in the household and because they’re seeing them each every day and, you know, like to go from a sensibly at some point your child saw the two of you all not terribly happy to be in this relationship. And now being over that, hopefully seeing you 50 percent of the time at your best, you know, feeling energized, feeling like you have the time to be present to make those special family meals, like Rebecca said, to really enjoy what you all have together and to make it meaningful. It’s not always going to be fun.
S5: You’re still going to get they’re going to get on your nerves. They’re going to make mistakes. They don’t become a perfect child because you only have them at time. Right. You feel like that at times. You know, like early on, it kind of did feel almost like the weekend at but not not for me. Even those 50 percent of the time, just kind of like everything is more glorious.
S10: All the stakes are higher. We have to go out to eat tonight. We have to do something. But everything has to be great because you don’t have me all the time. And then eventually you look up and like that 50 percent of the time feels like eighty five percent of the time.
S4: Yeah, I have a thing that I’m just curious about too. I mean, Djamila, I thought about this a lot, especially, you know, it took a while before I actually told people how much I enjoyed not having my kids full time in terms of what I was able to, both in my parenting relationship with them do, but also in my life. Do I wonder how much of this angst is about feeling guilty, about how people will see you because you’re not with wanting to be with your kids all the time or because you’re not with your kids all the time or because you’re no longer the full time mom? I do think there’s something that comes with that. I can feel shameful when you say things like, you know, the secret benefit of divorce is you have me time like that, it’s OK. It me it’s a it’s different. I’m not saying it’s better, but it’s OK. It really, really is.
S10: It is. And you don’t have to apologize for, you know, when you explain your situation to people, you don’t have to make the caveat that this is what the courts ordered or he insisted or that you would have rather not had it this way. Like, it’s totally fine. I think part of the reason I resisted the situation as long as I did was because I was dealing with the feeling of judgment, like what’s wrong with you that you’re not taking care of your child? You know, like and if I’m using that time socially, like if I’m out partying, the assumption is like, you know, I’m feeling that people are thinking, you know, so I’d rather be at the club and with your baby, you know, and it’s like sometimes. Yeah, you know, like, I can tell you who would definitely rather be at the club than with their baby. And that’s all of my married friend.
S1: I you guys are selling this. I’m like, wait a minute, where’s my free time?
S4: It doesn’t mean you’re going to be so happy that eventually, eventually.
S8: Hang in there, hang in there.
S11: It really does get good. It really good. I just don’t think it’s better. It’s good. It’s good. Letter writer. Agreed. All right. Thank you for your letter and good luck to you and your family. There’s anyone else who has a quandary they’d like for us to tackle. Please send it our way via email at Mom and Dad is Slate dot com. On to our second question, which is being read once again by Shasha Lanard.
S9: Dear Mom and dad are fighting. I have a three year old boy who is going through quite a three major phase these days. I try to keep in mind that we haven’t had a lot of social interaction since March and I should expect his social skills to be a little lacking. But lately, when we face time with my parents, he’s just completely rude, putting up his hand in front of the camera, trying to hang up, telling me to hang up, hiding, yelling no and refusing to say hello. How do I teach him that this is rude and it’s important to be polite? I never expected him to hug or kiss in person because I want him to understand consent and bodily autonomy. I also try not to say that grandparents will be sad if he doesn’t say hello, because I don’t want to make him responsible for the emotions of adults, although my parents do sometimes creep into this territory a bit more than I would like. But I do want him to know that it’s rude to just yell no when someone says hello to him. Where is the line between teaching good manners and not being afraid to offend someone if needed? I feel like my generation was taught to be polite to a fault and can be too worried about being rude or causing awkwardness to speak up for themselves or others. Am I overthinking this or do I just need to let go of my embarrassment over his behavior? I’d love to hear what rules regarding manners you have used with your kids and how you enforce them. Thank you.
S8: I obviously have a three major who’s heading to the fucking fourth. I feel for this letter writer so much. I have found, though, that like the moment that all this is happening in Zoome is is not the moment to necessarily teach manners. Montessori has this concept of like grace and courtesy, and I really like that because it doesn’t. Sometimes I think manners tend to be like an obedience concept, like you need to do this. And I guess instead what I want the kids to know how to do is sort of gracefully suggests there will to people so like not forcing them to talk on Zoome. But like, my expectation is that you will say hi and know how to say I’m not feeling like talking today or I’m not going to talk today as opposed to like, you know, slapping the screen or whatever is happening. So or yelling no or just yelling no. Yes. Yeah, exactly. I lay out the expectation like before we get on a call or before we’re going to do an activity. So I will one use it like in roleplay, like when they want to use the camera, I’m on the iPad or something, say like, OK, well, this is you know, my expectation is that you would say hi and to whoever’s on the phone, if you know them or just say hi to the person that you see on the screen. But if you don’t want to talk, this is how we can excuse ourselves from the conversation. And then I always remind them right before we get on the call. So I will say, you know, like grandma and grandpa are about to call. Remember, you don’t have to talk to them. But I do expect that if you’re in the room that you will come say hi. You know, if you don’t want to talk, you’ll say, I don’t feel like talking or I’m I’m playing. I’m busy. However you want that to be so like laying out those expectations and modeling that behavior for them. And then we also like role play these ideas when I’m playing with them. If they are doing something and the reaction is kind of rude, I will just say, like, OK, well, we could have used, you know, Grace in that concept. So instead of just slamming the door, you know, in the Peppa Pig case that we talked about slamming the phone down to be able to say, like, you know, well, that’s great that you can whistle. You’re hurting my feelings. I have to go something to that effect to convey that information so that you’re not saying you have to sit here and engage with these people, because I think that is a choice that you want to give your child. But you also can expect them not to, you know, just scream no into the camera. Like, if that’s the rule, you can remind them we’re not going to scream. Now, I think the second thing here is about kind of Zoom’s specific stuff. When we’re in person, there’s some kind of force that helps, I think, a little bit the social pressure I just find my three year old is like slightly better behaved in person with people than over Zoom. It’s like the screen. The the space that gives them is they know that they have the power. There’s like nothing this other person can do because they can run around. So I do just try to set up reasonable expectations for my parents as well, or just parents like, hey, he’s three. He doesn’t really want to sit around and answer your questions necessarily. But if you wanted to read him a book or if you had a puppet or some kind of stuffed animal that you have, they’re like, those are the things he’s engaged by. So I do think in this case, it’s kind of a two way street, like you should be teaching them some expectations, which I think takes forever for a three year old to learn. I’ve talked to older ones that seem to be doing OK, but Teddy, the three year old, is just very hard headed. But also having your parents have reasonable expectations that, you know, this isn’t exactly the best way to be interacting with the three year old. What do you guys think?
S1: I’ve had, like, so much like I guess I’m not going to be secret anymore. Secret shot in Florida over the last six months. Anyone who listened to me when I was in this podcast knows that I was always the parent who we get questions about screen time. And I would be like, please stop obsessing about fucking screen time. It’s not important. Like some kids develop issues when they have no screens and some kids are fine when they watch TV for fifteen hours a day. Can you just calm down? And I just keep thinking, like, what do you do? And now people with a screen time thing, the only way to talk to grandma. Well, well, well. Only your child knew what a screen was anyway.
S12: But now that I’ve gotten that out, I think you are setting your kid up to fail here in like a couple of different ways.
S1: One is that you are expecting your kid to sit in front of a screen and realize that the people on the other side are human beings with feelings. When your three year old literally sees them as images, as if they’re on camera, like, yes, a three year old can. Have empathy, but a three year old does not quite have the sort of self actualized feeling to realize that other human beings have the same interiority that they do. Right. So in order for you to expect that, you know, your three year old will act any differently with their grandparents on the screen, as they might when they’re watching, I don’t know. A laser battle on the screen is just not fair. It feels like I feel like setting them up for failure. So I like what a lot of what Elizabeth said is give your kid an out say. You know, if you don’t want to do this, that’s fine. But can I do it? Like, I’m going to do it. So either you don’t participate but really don’t participate or if you’re going to participate, I’m just going to ask you to just say hi and then you can leave, like, lower the pressure on your kid. And I do think that your parents really it would really help often if older people were more understanding about how challenging it is to get young people to want to talk to them. It really would. I mean, it’s like I really think that parents sometimes do a better job of saying, like, hey, mom, here’s the thing. When you were three, I promise you would not have been able to deal with a situation. It’s not personal. My kid’s not rude. He’s three. There are a million ways you can do manners. I always did. Age appropriate manner stuff. Table manners, please. And thank you. Were always very important to me and my kids.
S4: But those are again in person activities that are easy to practice. This is a difficult skill to practice. I’d say lower the pressure a little bit and understand that the situation as it’s being presented is one where your child pretty much can only fail. So gave it out so he has a chance of succeeding and start from there.
S6: I think that’s a really good point, Rebecca, that you need to be level setting with your parents if you have it. And I don’t know if your parents are as upset about your child’s behavior as you are or if you’re just feeling bad because you want them to have quality time with their grandbaby. And that’s pretty difficult to achieve because three year olds are not great people. You know, they are lovely. I mean, they’re adorable and sweet and funny and kind. But in terms of social skills, they don’t treat the world around them super well because they don’t know how to get right. And that’s OK. They’re zany. They’re like ninety stand up comics. Right? They’re like like, oh, you know, like you can’t expect that that person is going to give you a good performance at the dinner table, let alone via video chat. But one thing that you might want to consider doing is say if there’s a song that your kid likes to sing or dance that they like to do or something that they can do really quickly, that your parents can see. Right. So if he’s obsessed with singing the itsy bitsy spider, you kick off the itsy bitsy spider for the grandparents and they get to soak in that adorable sweetness and he gets to move on with his day. And you all can continue your chatter. You can talk to them at another time. You also might want to just capture some footage of him, his natural habitat, and share that with them as opposed to trying to actually have conversations. You know, I’m sure he’s a lot more charming and funny and sweet when he’s with you all under normal circumstances, at least maybe 20 percent of the time than he is when he’s trying to talk to people via a device, people that he may not be entirely clear on the existence of at this point, because once they were real flesh and blood people and now they’re TV characters who live inside.
S8: Or to me, I love that idea because I we actually, as you’re saying, that I’m like, oh my gosh, we kind of do this in using like video. Like we send a video clip of something, you know, Teddy’s doing to my parents and then they send a video clip back, which Teddy also likes because he can watch it four or five times. You know, the way he does like his favorite show. And again, he can watch the thing he made and we can say, you know, praise him. I’m like, look, you showed grandma, you know, this toy you have that you love, like, praise that way because you have so much more control. And you’re right. Like, it treats it more like a show, something consumable. And you can show them at a moment that, you know, they can take it in, you know, when they’re already sitting or would you would already be doing something as opposed to I mean, both of you are right that like three year olds are just not capable, like you’ve interrupted their playtime to like, make them do this activity that they don’t want to do and they don’t really understand. And it looks like TV, but it’s not TV. Right, Rebecca? Well, summarized with the like, you are just going to fail.
S4: Yes. Well, I sound like thirsty old people on a screen is not compelling for a three year old.
S6: I haven’t yet realized that we spend the majority of our time doing things that we would not choose to do. Right. Like there. Like what? I’m wants to cook dinner. She wants to wash the car. She wants to, you know, like all those awful things that you do that they don’t have to do. They’re like, you chose that. I chose the washing. Peppa Pig playing, rolling down the. There’s all these great things I chose, I did not choose, there’s still people inside of your home and over time I’ll say because Nyima was like we always lived across the country from, you know, we always lived far from my parents. So even though they would come to visit and vice versa, like we went long stretches of time without seeing each other, relatives, folks who live in the same town. So I’ve been taking video and photo for her her whole life. And now she’s at the point where she’ll say, like she’ll request it, like capture this and send it to and she’ll mention which family member she wants to humbly bestow her presence upon who is worthy of this of this snapshot of her posing outside of Trader Joe’s is a grandma as a grandpa.
S8: Who knows, I now offload the eight year old to the grandparents. Right. Like he wants to talk ad nauseum about whatever Pokemon. And I’m like, you know, who would love to hear this? Your grandpa. I know I can’t hear it anymore. That’s a good read to say.
S6: Like, I made my for like I could put her on face time. There was a good golden time. Now it’s like I’ll do it and I come back and she’s like playing games like while she has imposed on like she’s half way talking to them. But like there was a good moment where like I was able to give her the phone or the iPad and let her face time with my parents or one of my sisters. And like, I could have a break, you know, like I could be cooking dinner and she would just talk out, talk. So you’ll get there. It’s just not a thirty. And that’s OK. Yeah. Yeah. Thank you. Letter writer. We wish you all the best with your your three teenagers and their little attitude. Eventually they’ll come to know that yelling, by the way like I do wish that we had video of the yelling. No, because I’m wondering if it’s just like, it’s like hey hey. Maybe two. How do your grandparents know if it’s like, Hello, Timmy? No, I think it’s that one. I promise it’s that way. It’ll look like, listen, they’re good luck to you and your little person. Please keep us posted. And for other listeners who may have a conundrum or a three major who needs to be tamed, please send in your questions or thoughts to mom and dad and slate that. Com or leave a note for us on our Facebook page. Just search for Slate parenting before we get out of here. We’re going to do recommendations. Elizabeth, what do you have for us this week?
S8: OK, so I am recommending that if you have any kind of like fancy dishes, fancy glassware, and you have not yet during this pandemic, gotten them out and use them, do it, we move all the time. And I was moving this like China that I had received around. And so when we moved into this house, I just put it out to use. And it’s amazing and it’s super fun. And I we did a poetry tee time the other day and I posted on Instagram and people were like crazy that I was using this really nice China with the kids. But I think it is great. And if I was storing it and it was going to break anyway, I just feel like it makes me feel special. It’s super fun. I don’t give it to the kids all the time. Jeff and I get off of it very frequently, but it’s just like a fun, a fun thing to use the stuff that you have. And the kids think it’s really cool when they get to use a teacup or one of the small plates or something. So if you have anything like that that you have sitting around in storage or you’re just too afraid to use, just like use it, it feels really nice and special and fun and the kids will think it’s fun. Or if you don’t have kids, you just I love drinking my coffee in the morning out of, like, one of our really fancy two way too small teacups that I have to fill twenty times. But it makes me feel special. And I think moments like that now are few and far between. So that’s my recommendation. Use your fancy dishes.
S6: That is a great one. I’ve been doing that with, like, beauty products and stuff. I’ve noticed that you, whatever you had stored away, use it, use your stuff. What do you have for us? Rebecca.
S4: I’m actually going to change your recommendation because of what Elizabeth just said, because I’m inspired to share something like that that that we’re doing. I was going to recommend the Danish political show Borgen on Netflix for adults. I’m going to put that aside. Watch it. The thing I’m going to recommend for real, though, is to use cloth napkins, something that we started doing like probably a year or so before the pandemic. But the pandemic has just highlighted how great cloth napkins are. We have like one particular cloth napkin we have, and I bought like a whole bunch of the same kind. The great thing about cloth napkins is everyone thinks if you’re American, like you use it once and you have to wash it. No, the way it’s supposed to work, the way it works the rest of the world. Everyone said the same place at dinner every night. Everyone uses the same napkin until it gets stained, until it gets dirty, and then you wash it and then you take one out of the rotation of 20 because you’re going to buy a bunch that are the same and stick it in that place. They work better. They feel fancier. You can leave them on your table all the time. So it always looks like, you know, you’re going to sit down for a meal. So it kind of incentivizes you to actually go to your real table and sit down and eat, because there’s this thing there waiting for you that is like kind of posh.
S1: So, yeah, I’m really embracing the cloth napkin lifestyle. We’re doing so much more laundry now anyway, so why not throw some cloth napkins into the rotation, use them, I promise you’ll like them as long as they’re not white and as long as you buy a whole lot of the same kind so that you can just swap them out and put a new one in the rotation.
S8: I love it. We got a variety pack like probably at Amazon. Right. But had all different moves like rainbow colors. And so everybody has their color for the week or until they stain or whatever. And it’s so fun. I agree. I think they’re there. That’s a great recommendation.
S6: That is a very good recommendation. Use your things, use all your good, beautiful things, because you don’t you one day you could be packing them up and realize that you’ve moved them from apartment to apartment without touching them. You are essentially a storage system for nice things that are going to waste. So you use them. OK, so I am going to recommend Celestial Seasonings Lemon Lavender Lane tea. I am obsessed with lavender tea. I love lavender period. I want to smell like lavender. I want to taste lavender. I just want lavender all around me. And so I’ve gotten Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Lavender tea a couple of months ago, which is really good. And I was trying to find some more and couldn’t, but I instead stumbled upon Lemon Lavender Lane and it is just like a little bit of spring in a cup. It’s not too lemony. I don’t like super lemony tea, just a little bit of lemon and a good amount of lavender and tastes great with honey is is great without. I’m sure you could do agave nectar charged with equals good.
S4: It’s just it’s lovely ordering it right now. See that. Ordering it right.
S8: That’s how it’s so you need your your lemon lavender lane. Fancy tea cup. Yes. You’re pretty napkin pretty. Now can I have a little bit of alone time.
S4: That is what we are doing selling sun at bargain and yes in large part.
S6: There we go. Yes. And watch Morgan and go back a few weeks to the key lime pie recommendation. I appreciate that a few of you all have tagged me on Facebook and Twitter that you made key lime pie. Rebecca. I recommended key lime pie and making it yourself, if you maybe like the simplest version, like very simple.
S8: Anyone can do it. Yes. All right. I look that up.
S13: So you have that with your tea and your nice China with your lovely cloth napkins and pamper yourself while you’re not parenting. It’s my favorite thing to do. That is another episode of Mom and Dad are fighting again. If you would like for us to answer one of your questions or if you just have some thoughts to share. Nice ones, of course. Send us an e-mail at mom and dad. It’s Slate dot com or post to the Slate Facebook group. Just search for Slate parenting. Mom and Dad are fighting is produced by Rosemarie Bellson or Elizabeth New Camp and Rebecca Laboy. I’m Jimmy Little New.
S6: Hello, Slate, plus, listeners, thank you so much for joining us and of course, thank you as always for your support. We literally could not do the show without you. So, of course, you’ve heard the sad news by now that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away last Friday at the age of 87. She spent decades fighting for equality and human rights and is a hero to so many, of course, including millions of women and girls for whom benefit from Ginsburg’s tireless work. So we want to take a moment to talk about her passing and what she means to women and girls and to parents across the country. Rebecca Elizabeth was our biggest someone that she looked up to 100 percent.
S4: I mean, I have always been one of these people who, you know, during the drum of presidential races is trying to get everybody I know to look at the Supreme Court as a reason to vote. I feel like people don’t think about the core enough people don’t. You know, and I’m hoping if there is a silver lining right now, it is that the Supreme Court will be top of mind for people when they’re making political selections or choosing not to vote in the future. But, you know, Ruth Bader Ginsburg not only obviously was she a pioneer, you know, a landmark landmark cases, landmark opinions, sort of tireless and in the work sort of advancing issues of equality. But the other thing that always astonished me and the thing that she, like, didn’t love talking about, and this is what I loved about her, was that she was always one of these women who sort of put, you know, who I am is my work, and was kind of like no bullshit about taking questions or responding to questions about like, how do you do at all? How are you like a woman and a mother and a Supreme Court? She was just like, that’s that’s a sexist question. That’s always sort of been her attitude toward toward that and the amount of work it takes to be a Supreme Court justice. People may not know this, but they typically work 20 hour days. They work all year round and have very, very short breaks. And they are all unanimously workaholics. And, you know, just the stamina of anybody who can do that has always been incredible to me. But, yeah, I mean, of course, the other thing I think and I’m sure that almost everybody listening is thinking this way, too, is I you know, we grew up in an era where we were afforded certain rights that were bestowed on us by the decisions of more liberal courts. Our kids are now going to grow up in an era where that could look very, very different.
S1: And so I’m extremely concerned and extremely worried, too, about what this means about the future of civil rights, of women’s rights, of of, you know, the rights to make choices about your body, you know, the rights of individuals over the rights of business. I mean, it’s a really, really concerning time. And it’s sad to me that that’s the first thing that comes to mind in that we’re not just being given at least a moment to grieve this great American woman who just passed away.
S6: That was something that struck me immediately on Friday, which is not having that moment. So I just pause and reflect on her life before the anxiety and the fearfulness about how we respond essentially to her passing.
S8: Yeah, I agree. I mean, regardless of kind of what happens with the court, it seems, you know, so tragic that nothing can even pause for her.
S6: I think it’s really beautiful that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a very familiar face for a lot of little kids. Certainly my daughter’s age, she’s like very present in the children’s book section or early readers starting from infancy. Like there’s so many books of like, you know, the feminist ABC and there’s like, you know, our big baby board book. And I think it’s great that she got her flowers, many of them, while she was here to receive them. And she knew what she meant to so many people, particularly women and girls. And of course, part of the reason that she is so significant to women and girls is her fight to, you know, her fight to protect our rights to access safe and legal abortion. And that is a terrifying thing to consider right now. And knowing that, you know what she said earlier, Rebecca, that hopefully people who don’t think of the Supreme Court in the way that they should when they are thinking about elections, you know, that it’s not enough to say, well, this isn’t really my guy. You know, my candidate didn’t make it all the way through someone enthusiastic that like, regardless of how much you like the person you know or the people on the on the ticket, there’s a decision it’s going to be made that will impact the Supreme Court and the actions of the Supreme Court will impact your life and the lives of millions of others. And so just out of that decision or to not take it seriously, I think is really unconscionable. And a lot of ways what I’m afraid of is that in the way that the topic of abortion should really galvanize the left, it does motivate the right. You know, I’m afraid that people who are, you know, who identify as Republican. But who. May not have wanted to cast a vote for Donald Trump because they don’t feel comfortable supporting his policies or they may not identify as Republican, identify as a moderate, but they would skew conservative, that the possibility of having a conservative president have power over the Supreme Court for another four years would mean so much and would be so front of mind right now. You know that for some of them, abortion being a single you know, making them a single issue voter. Right. Like being so convinced that women, you know, the people who are pregnant should not have the ability to make those decisions about their bodies, would bring someone out to the polls is horrifying to me. I’m just hoping that enough people who feel otherwise are motivated to come out and vote and are inspired to do so. Remember, you know, to pay a debt of gratitude to Ruth Bader Ginsburg for her work to protect that. Right. Listen, I was thinking about you and your mother because you went to law school and she’s a judge. Was Ruth Bader Ginsburg somebody that you all talked about growing up? Was she somebody that your mother really admired?
S14: Yes, I was actually with my mom when we heard about our passing. And I mean, just short of us like joining in tears with sort of the their reaction. She was definitely someone that was a huge part of my life as an attorney. It was a huge part of just my upbringing. I mean, my my mom often spoke to us, like, about the work that women were doing for, you know, other women. And I think that’s one of the wonderful things about Ruth Bader Ginsburg is like she really worked for no matter where you are on the political spectrum, if you have, like, signed a house loan, if you have if you have done anything as a woman, you owe it to her because prior to her involvement in so many legal aspects, like women really weren’t allowed to do a lot of things without a man there. And and she really saw that inequality and pushed for it. And so I think that is almost like what hurts the most about this is that it has become so political when to me so much of what she did, yes, she did some very liberal, very political things. But she also did so many things that I think we just hold and take for granted in America as like we are a land where women are, quote unquote, equal. But so much of that happened because of her and because of things she did insofar as like taking up cases with men as her clients to get rights for women, just being that kind of smart about it. And I am, I think, personally moved by her stance of like friendship and of that she was always working for kind of the best result. And I know there’s there’s a lot written about her relationship with Scalia and how even though they were kind of diametrically opposed on many things, they not only had a friendship, but would often work together on their opinions, like they would bring them to each other to have them give the the opposition to it so that they could write a better response. And there is something about that, like hard work. And the way this is this is sort of ending to say, like you have to just push through, like Ruth Bader Ginsburg graduated top of the top of her class and couldn’t get a job because they didn’t employ pregnant women. So instead, she just took a job and continued to work for things. And I think there’s a real lesson there. And there’s a lesson in learning to to work with other people to get to the right answer. I personally have tried to just stalk the boys with lots of information. And I know you had mentioned children’s book, but the one that we just love and I’ve been reading to my kids, I think, for as long as it’s been out is I dissent. Ruth Bader Ginsburg makes her mark and it’s a regular rotation. And I love that. It highlights the idea that, like in disagreeing, you don’t have to be disagreeable and that there are ways to move forward. And it also highlights, just like the adversity she faced from day one and still managed to, you know, get to the highest court and become such an icon because I didn’t go to law school or grow up with a parent who was the judge.
S6: I have to say, like I mean, I learned a lot about Thurgood Marshall growing up. And unfortunately, I came to learn a lot about Clarence Thomas and. Eventually would have been about Scalia, but it wasn’t until recently that I would say that recently, like the last year, but maybe the last five years, that there’s been like an explosion of interest in Ruth Bader Ginsburg. You know, that there were Tumblr posts about her began going viral. And, you know, I think there was a blog and, you know, the initial wave of books documenting her life and many of them written for children. And I think it’s really great that she was around to see that moment happen. All right. If you are looking to learn more about the incredible life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we’ve got some links to some great pieces about her legacy in the show notes. We’re also going to link Dahlia Lithwick and Molly Olmstead’s projects from earlier this year, the class of Aaberg. They profiled the nine other women from Ruth Bader Ginsburg law school class and even interviewed the Supreme Court justice herself. It’s a really fascinating print and audio piece, highly recommended listening. And we’ve got it here for you to check out Djamila.
S1: I am so glad to have been on the show this week. Thank you for inviting me back again, please.
S6: We will be very happy to have you back. Thank you for being here with us. And thank you to our Slate plus listeners for your support. And we will see you again next week.
S15: This is Slate’s editor in chief, Jared Holt. I’m here because I want to thank you for everything you’ve done as a slate plus member. Like many media organizations, we’ve had to traverse some rough patches these past few months. But unlike everyone else, we have you. It’s your membership that has made our journalism possible, and it’s your curiosity and passions that continue to guide our work every day. Slate sets out to bring you news analysis that is smart, illuminating and trustworthy. And that’s as true in our audio coverage as it is on our website, whether it’s what next? Mary Harris sitting down with Dr. Anthony Fauci to discuss the nation’s coronavirus response or Virginia Heffernan hosting Mary Trump fratello on Trump cast or Jamelle Bouie joining the political gabfest to talk about this year’s protests against police violence. Our podcasters want to help you make sense of the biggest news in real time.
S16: We also aim to bring you important investigative features that you’re not going to read or hear anywhere else, like Season four, a slow burn, which looked at David Duke’s rise to power and what it took to stop him and which Vulture called a scorching listen for the class of RPG, an audio print production honed by America’s host Dahlia Lithwick, who was staff writer Molly Olmstead, tracked down the nine other women in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg law school class and told the story of their lives and of an entire generation of American women. As we continue to cover the pandemic, the presidential election and the most consequential movement for justice and equality in this country since the 1960s, we could not be more grateful to have you on our side. Thanks again for your support.