Visit From Mike Birbiglia Edition

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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 Canting podcast for Thursday, June 11th. The visit from Mike perfectly at. I’m Melissa with New Camp. I write the Homeschooling Family Travel Blog. That’s my mom to three boys, Henry eight, Oliver six and Teddy, three. And I’m currently in Navarre, Florida.

S3: And Jimmy, a little Ammu. I’m a writer, communications consultant, a contributor to Slate Care and Feeding Parenting Column and mom to name. Who is seven. And we live in Los Angeles, California.

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S4: I’m Dan Course. I’m a writer at Slate. I’m the author of the book How to Be a Family. I’m the dad to Myra, who’s fifteen and half brothers, twelve. We live in Arlington, Virginia. Elizabeth, how was your tropical storm?

S2: Well, it was 200 miles away from us. And convince me that if anything larger heads this way, I am not going to be like, oh, no big deal, one to three foot rise and like the top was underwater and all kinds of stuff flew around.

S5: So no big deal. But enough enough to teach me as a not native Floridian. What’s your threshold is what my threshold is. Yes.

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S2: I did prepare my whole box and know got already. We’ve survived a tropical storm in the first week of hurricanes. It doesn’t look good for 2012. So today we’ve got a very exciting guest. We’ll be talking to comedian Mike Birbiglia about being a reluctant dad and his new book, The New One. We’re also discussing when mommy turns to mom. And as always, we have triumphs and tales and recommendations.

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S6: I think we should acknowledge that this week’s show is quite light and that was intentional. This is a very difficult time for some of you all. This is the first time that racism has made your lives difficult and complicated. And for others, this is something that you’ve been living with since you’ve been living. But I will say, speaking for myself, I need a space to be light and to be funny and to hear people being funny and to talk about other things while on break from the 24 hour news cycle and the conversations and the necessary dialogues and the organizing and the work that is being done right now. However, we are very aware that our audience is in search of community in this moment and wants to talk about what’s going on, needs to talk about what’s going on. We have a responsibility to you all to bring in voices to help you help yourselves and help your children process what’s happening in this moment and figuring out what is best for your family in terms of going forward and being supportive. And we will be doing exactly that next week. Next week’s show will be focused on talking to your children about the uprisings, about racism. And we want to hear from you. What are the questions that you have? What are the challenges that you’re having in holding those conversations in your household? How can we help? How can our Rolodex of experts be of assistance to you in that moment? So please, if you would like to send us questions, as always, send an email to mom and dad at Slate that can leave a question on our Facebook page. By searching for Slate parenting and we look forward to having a necessary, though not terribly light conversation with you all next week.

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S7: Thanks so much for that. Yeah, I think having a light to this week is just a nice little break and gives us some time to get the right stuff together and hear from people. So I’m excited about that.

S8: And last week in Slate plus we talked about J.K. Rowling’s the Ecobank in light of Rowling’s most recent statements towards trans people. We’d like to urge parents to look into Rowling’s views prior to engaging in her work for listeners who’d like to learn more about trans rights and gender issues. We’re linking to a few resources which you can find in the show page.

S9: OK, Dumela. Do you want to start us off with a triumph or fail?

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S6: Sure. This week we’re on the cusp of a triumph. I ultimately believe this will be a triumph and I’ll be able to update you all next week on it. When all is said and done. But NamUs, dad and stepmother have been planning a camping trip for the four of them. That includes Nyima and her brother for the last day of school. I think pretty much since we moved to California, you know, they said we want to go camping. Is this cool? I said, sure. And now the time for the trip has come. And because of just how our schedules shook out this week on paper, Nyima is with has gone with her dad since Sunday evening and would not be returning to spend the night with me for about a week. It would be actually a little bit overweight because she typically does Mondays and Tuesdays with them and they’re going camping for three days and she’s doing this last school week with them. So was a lot of time away from me. And so she went from being very excited about this. She’s been looking forward to four months to calling me on Sunday night, just a couple hours after I dropped her off in tears saying she didn’t want to go because they wouldn’t they wouldn’t have you know, they’re going out somewhere in the woods and they’re not going to have Wi-Fi and she’s not going to. You know, I don’t know that they’ll have phone service. It sounds like they’re gonna be out and, you know, they’re a little bit more than older than me, you know, and so she wouldn’t be able to speak to me. Granted, it’s only for two days, but in her mind, she connected. I’ll be away from my mom for a week. We we’ll be camping for a week. And so even though I kept reminding her when she brought it up and I was like, name, I’m pretty sure the trip was only a couple days. I’ll check in with that again. I think you’re going for like two nights. You know, she’s like Daddy said a week, I’m going to be gone for a week. I was like, I don’t think anyone’s going camping for a week name. Like, they still work. But that’s there, I think the weekend trip, her dad and I agreed that, you know, no one’s going to force name. It’s a go. She doesn’t want to go. And that you know, my immediate reaction, I turned to my mom for a second. And I was like, well, the baby don’t need to go. You know, that she’s it should stay with me. And then and I said, no, I don’t want us to get into this codependent thing. You know that this is a mother daughter thing that could very easily happen with us. That happened with my mother. That was beautiful and special in so many ways. But the two of us against the world thing, you know, you have to be careful. And I don’t want her to feel like she can’t do things like this because I’m not there. And she asked me to come and I politely decline for every imaginable reason. But, you know, I also her mind reminded her, doesn’t exactly sound like my idea of a thrilling time to go camping with my ex, his wife and our collection of children. But I that you know, I think that you are going to have a great time. I know they put a lot of work into planning this trip, and I’ll be fine, you know, and that’s what we agreed to. I said, I’m going to tell her that I’ll be fine. I don’t want you to worry about me. I don’t want you to worry about me being alone or that something’s going to happen to me while you’re gone. I will not be going to any protest. I don’t know if that’s true, but I did say that, like, you know, but I but I didn’t want her to be an anxiety thing about, you know, that mommy is going to get arrested or teargassed or something’s going to happen. And I’m not gonna be able to, you know, get to her. So I said, I’ll be fine. I want you to have a good time. You know, I think you’ll have a great time. It’s only a couple of days. I’d even thought about like, well, is there somewhere nearby where I could just, like, rent a hotel and then like once a day I just go pop by. And then I was like, no, this is ridiculous. Like, no, you know? And so she’s back on with the trip. I think it’s going to be great for her. She’s enthusiastic about it. Again, I think she realizes how short it is and that, you know, it’s giving her some comfort. And also I’m visiting her throughout the week. She actually came back yesterday for a couple of hours because there is a power outage over by their house. And so she came to do her school work with me. And then, you know, I told her I’d visit her on Wednesday. I’ll go by on Friday for the zoom into the year celebration that her class is doing. And so you will lay eyes on mommy plenty of times. I think we realized we like her being away from me physically, apart from me for over a week is too much right now. And so we’re not going to do that, but that she should get to go on this trip. So hopefully when we talk next week, I will be telling you how much fun she had camping. And not that I had a very rough weekend because I couldn’t do any work then because it was I believe in Nyima.

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S10: I think she’s gonna be able to do this camping trip and love it and have a great time.

S5: Yes, I think that’s such a good mom. What a great way to handle that. Just like relieve her of the burden of your, you know, like anything she’s learning about you and tell you to have a great time.

S6: Think and I and I realized, mom, you because I realized I was like at first I was like, is she afraid this is about her? And I was like, no, she’s worried about leaving me.

S5: I can’t wait to hear about our camping trip. And I’m glad you’re not going because that would be a pool.

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S3: I know that would be next week. Fail for sure. Yeah, I, I watched an event. I could have done it and I’d have done this. I thought about it simply because you don’t want to be right. Yes. That’s a very big I thought I was like, well this will be some material won’t it. You know, I was like, right now if I can do this thing, I can’t do this to any of us.

S9: Yeah, yeah. Okay. Dan, triumph or fail, I have a triumph.

S11: It’s a very simple triumph, but a good one, which is just that. We went marching this week. We joined a really great socially distance protest march in Arlington on Saturday morning. This past weekend, like many of the marches around here, this one was organized by local high schoolers who have been very, very impressive out here in the burbs. The marches and protests have been really meaningful, really very impressive. We intentionally chose a march that wasn’t late in the day, and so it wasn’t likely to see police causing trouble. And the crowd was very energized and very diverse and really, really big. And everyone wore masks and everyone gave each other space. And as we marched up Glebe Road, every car that passed us going south on Glebe Road, all they all honked their horns and and raised fists out windows. When we passed the Mercedes dealership on Glebe Road, all the sales guys stayed inside, but all the service guys came. Outside to quiet for the protesters. And I just generally can’t recommend enough taking your kids to protest right now. I mean, the protests are happening all over the country for people who think it’s only happening in big cities, that it’s only that Washington, D.C. is on fire. That is not the case. There were rallies last week in fucking Hays, Kansas.

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S5: So there’s definitely you to a little one in Nevada. Right.

S10: So if there is a there is a Black Lives Matter rally in Nevada. Yeah, there are Black Lives Matter rallies near, you know, all 50 states at this point.

S11: Find it and bring your kids. It is valuable, important and but probably the best thing you can do with your family right now.

S5: That’s great. That’s great. OK. So I have a like on paper triumph, but feels like a fail cause of like Mom Gilt’s. So I’ve mentioned before that Henry has this neurological condition called pandas, which is pediatric auto immune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with strep, which basically means when he was little, he got strep and the strep started attacking his brain and like hit his his brain. And so anytime he has infection, the area of his brain that deals with fight or flight is like kind of constantly under attack. And we have been treating it like a lot of different ways, but had really not wanted to medicate him. Now the disease itself is treated with like antibiotics and we have been doing all of that. But it causes all of these like terrible psychological. I talk a lot about the OCD, but also like he can just be very like he he thinks that the smallest things are like coming to get him so he can be violent is not really the word, but really aggressive. It got to the point during kind of the early days of the pandemic, like really bad, like to the point that it was probably not safe to be in the house with our other children, without both adults here, just because when he had what we call these like flare ups, there was restraining going on. There’s options of like drugs when you go to the hospital or to have the E.R. come here to give him stuff to calm down. That obviously was not an option during the pandemic. So one of the good things was all of this opened up telemedicine, which gave us access to our specialist, like pretty much every week given our insurance. And that had been a barrier to really trying out some other drugs, because you need to have a supervising psychiatric person that’s not really available in Novar, that the disorder is very new and there isn’t someone here who’s willing to take it on. So we have this person, but we can’t be in Tampa every week. So anyway, I really struggled over whether to put him on, like all the drug options have possible terrible side effects. You know, making those decisions as a parent is like really difficult. Like, do I want to do this? Do I want to go down this road? I have these other two kids. OK, well, anyway, we decided to try like a a very low dose of a very common antianxiety medicine. Things work differently for all kinds of Panda’s patients. They don’t really know exactly what’s going to work for any one person. And we have tried like there are infusions and we get in-home infusions like all of this stuff. So she just suggested let’s start with this. And you guys, it has been like a miracle drug for us. Henry is like a child that I haven’t known since he was three. And it is sorry. This is fairly amazing. So I am like, overjoyed that this is working and I know it won’t work forever because these things never do. And luckily for us, they’re pretty sure that around 18, your entire immune system kind of matures. And this is the pediatric pediatric disorder. So they’re pretty sure that around 18, pretty much everyone like get sort of this like your body just kind of figures it out and the strap stops talking your brain. Eighteen is a long way away, but we have had like two amazing months with him and he has this great child. And I so it says he’s such a success. I, of course, feel like a failure because I’m like, why didn’t I do this however many years ago? And why didn’t we try this? Because I was scared of this and I don’t know, I try not to live in that place. But anyway, so I, I just feel like it’s been very good for the family. And I’m trying not to be so hard on myself of why I didn’t why wasn’t open to trying some of these things earlier. But yeah, I also wanted to share. If you’re interested in all of this, there’s a documentary on Amazon Prime called My Kid is Not Crazy that talks about pandas. Like I said, it’s kind of new and getting a diagnosis was terrible. And that’s what this documentary is about. But we are just so thankful to have this kid now who’s like managing so much of this. And the therapy can work so much better because he’s there. And he it literally feels like we have the child that that woke up one morning and is a different person. And he loves taking the medicine because he feels better. I mean, it’s just like, great, that’s so great.

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S10: Elizabeth had a great time. I have met Hadari and now he is a wonderful boy.

S11: I, I love him. And I’m so glad that you have found this and that it’s helping. And I also.

S10: Absolve you of all possible guilt?

S11: I mean, we have gone through similar things of years of trying to figure out what should we, you know, should we think about medication? How do we feel about medication, talking to people in our family about medication? And it’s a very, very hard decision to make. And. Working through all the possible options to get yourself to a place where you’re comfortable with this decision is not being a bad parent. That’s the definition of being a good parent. And so don’t beat yourself up about that. Be happy with the results that you are seeing now. And keep working, as I’m sure you will, to keep making Henry as happy as possible.

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S6: I agree. I think that getting a dad, the diagnosis itself is such a tremendous triumph. And it’s more than just, you know, people can easily weigh the wave that off as just having access to good you know, health care is a privilege. But even with that, I just I want. I’m very curious to know how many children are walking around with pandas undiagnosed because strep is so common, you know? And just simply being seen as, you know, perhaps misdiagnosed with ADHD or just seen as a difficult child. What you all have done for Henry is amazing. And please, you know, forgive yourself for the time that he wasn’t medicated. For somebody who takes antianxiety medicine and antidepressants myself and spent years getting myself to the plate, you know, as an adult where it was, it’s like I don’t want to be reliant on something to feel OK, you know, am I going to lose my son? Am I still going to have emotions? And I still feel things. Am I going to be myself anymore? And realizing that, yes, you know, in many ways, all of the above with the right medicine. And it sounds like you found the right medicine. And I think that’s incredible that you all took your time. It wasn’t that you all ignored the issue and hope that it will go away. It was simply a matter of exploring what would be the best solution for your family. And it sounds like you found it. So that is. All right.

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S10: I have one other thing to say, which is the reason.

S11: I think the impulse to feel bad comes from this impulse of feeling like the years that you didn’t try this medication were wasted in some way. But they obviously weren’t wasted. Right. I have met and hung out with Henry during that time and found him to be a totally great kid. You loved him and enjoyed the vast majority of that time, even through his struggles.

S10: It’s not like those are like lost years. They’re part of the experience of growing up. And now you have moved to this different part. And revel in that. And don’t worry about that, about what the past was like.

S5: You’ll give such good advice. You should be on a path. Should only we could monetize this for every. Yeah. Exactly. Every day. All right. Well, now that I’ve bared my soul and cried on the Fargus before we move on, there’s some business to do.

S9: Slate’s parenting newsletter is the best place to be notified about all our parenting content, including mom and dad are fighting care and feeding and much more. It’s a fun personal email from Dan and on occasion, other Slate stars each week. So sign up at Slate dot com slash parenting e-mail and check us out on Facebook. Just search for slate parenting. It’s a really active community. Plus, we moderate it so it doesn’t get out of control. Also on Facebook, every Tuesday at 11:00 Eastern, we have a live KARREN feeding show with Nicole Cliffe to catch it live. Go to Slate’s Facebook page or find previous episode on Slate’s YouTube page. We are so excited to be talking with our guest this week, Mike Piglia. He’s a comedian and storyteller. You may know him from his One-Man Show, Sleepwalk with Me. His appearances on this American Life or his movie Don’t Think Twice. He’s also a dad, and his evolution from doubtful husband to devoted dad is the subject of the new one. Painfully true stories from our reluctant dad. Mike, welcome to the show.

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S1: Thanks. Thanks for having me. By the way, I don’t know if you have this down with your book, but like, I feel pained whenever I hear the subtitle of my own.

S10: Yeah, well, the subtitles, the thing they put on the book to say in the dumbest way possible what the book is, literally.

S1: That’s what it is. My wife does. Yeah. All the time is like the new one says it all. Literally it says it all. It’s intended to be the title. And then people as usual, is looking that is literally like, wait. I thought that was the description of the book. Now it’s in the title of the book.

S10: I suggested replacing my subtitle with just the full text of the book. All 100 things in the whole book. The whole book. Yes. So, yes, this is a brand new book from you, Mike. Based on your Broadway show and Netflix special in the show and in the book, you run through the seven reasons why at one point pre having kids you didn’t want to have a kid. But so you don’t need to give us all seven reasons, but boil it down for us and for the listeners. Why were you so reluctant before this all started to have a kid?

S1: Well, first of all, Dan saw the show, which I think is crucial. It’s true in all of this from the fourth row.

S10: So I was splattered with toys.

S1: Exactly. And I say that because it’s actually very pleasant, because so many interviews they do with people who I am quite certain have not seen the show or read the book. And that’s always challenge in the first half of the book is like the seven reasons why no one should ever want to have a child. And the second half, the book is about how I had a child and how I was right, and then ultimately I was wrong. And that’s where the book becomes emotional. But the seven reasons that it’s like, you know, there shouldn’t be children anymore, the earth is sinking into the ocean. People aren’t great. I love my marriage. I love my cat. I love, you know, like all the things that I wanted just to in that that’s the way that that book is actually more than just a parenting book. It’s really about change and how resistant I was. And a lot of people are just to change.

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S10: In general, a lot of parenting books don’t talk about that sort of greater question of whether to have the kid at all. It’s a question we’ve talked about a lot on the show over the years, and my advice has always been give. You’re not sure if you want to have a kid or not, maybe don’t have the kid.

S1: Sure. I get that. You went ahead and had the kid. Well, yeah, because it fundamentally came down to Gen. You know, I explained all my reasons and she said, I know all of that and I think you’d be a good dad. And I know that she would be a great mom. And so I was sort of like, well, she’s right about 98 percent of the time. Although the painful part in marriage is the two percent where the person is wrong, that they’re shooting percentage is so high and you’re really in trouble because she’s like Michael Jordan of being right. And so then when she puts it up and then turns around and holds her arms out. Yes. And so that’s when you really get in trouble. But it was ultimately like this thing where it’s like, well, she was right about, you know, most things. And so we’re going to do it. And it’s funny cause it’s like I’m sure you guys experiences to some degree. It’s like our daughter’s five now. And I feel so much differently than I did when I wrote the book. To me, the first 13 months of her life were hands down. The hardest and most challenging. I felt the most disconnected. I felt like an outsider in my own family. I felt like, you know, the joke I make in the book, as I say, you know, my wife and daughter love each other so much. And I’m there to like I’m like this pudgy, beltless vice president of the family. Huge title, no power. Also overseas, Congress and like that went away like there’s a point at which for me. I mean, it’s different for everybody with connection. There’s a point at which you connect. And it’s not the same for everyone. And that’s the thing that I believe is sort of a thing undiscussed, is that my wife connected with our daughter, like, immediately. And it took me like a year.

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S5: Do you feel more connected now? So I was able to catch the show on Netflix and could definitely relate to some of that. We have three kids, so we’ve just like outnumbered ourselves. And now my husband and I are unified against them. How old are they now? I’m eight, six and almost four when all boys started. It’s enough, but I can definitely relate to that like feeling of when our first son was born. Like feeling like it was the first one to me. And then Jeff kind of had this other like other stuff going on. But that has passed, you mentioned. But are you feeling like it’s like you guys are a cohesive family unit? Yeah.

S1: I mean, and that’s why the title, like the new one, was the intended title, because it was like when my wife and I got married, it was the idea of two becoming one. And at a certain point with me in an engine it was three becoming one. And that’s what the new one is. It’s and it’s a triple entendres like the new baby, the new consciousness, the new family unit, and pretty confusing.

S10: I’m glad you have a subtitle. Thanks.

S1: You must be a publisher of a major international publishing. So, yeah, I mean, I feel like it’s it is. So I mean, she’s five now and it’s just so different then. They’re more of like a person and more of a person and look like it’s like I’m a verbal person. It’s how I connect with people. And so when they don’t talk, I’m just like, yeah, I don’t know what this is. I mean, I can take stabs in the dark at what you’re trying to say, but I don’t really know. And then when they talk, it’s like, God, this is great. They’re also, by the way, adorable at this age. Like literally five is like everything they say is adorable. Like the other day said, Mommy’s gonna put you to bed. And then you said she’s not your mom. She’s my mom. And that’s what that’s what my therapist. Because all toddlers have a Boston accent. They’re like, I’m tired. And Boston’s others are like, I’m wicked tired. It’s genuinely like an adorable age.

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S6: Mike, your work has taken you on the road, obviously, for years. And I would imagine that unless you’re doing some sort of secret road comedy show somewhere that you have spent the greater part of the last few months in the house. Yes. How has that changed the dynamic between you and your daughter? I as a parent who also spends quite a bit of time on the road for work, I’ve been confronted with how that distance has allowed me some peace. So space and distance makes the heart grow fonder. And that always being confronted with my daughter seven. I actually got that. Well, I just would assume you were talking about your dad, because when you said Daddy, I thought we literally had this conversation laughing. So funny that daddy. So I just thought you meant your father. Oh, my God. Yeah.

S10: I don’t get to miss that right now.

S2: Ha ha.

S1: I think about that all the time. I mean, because the other thing is that not only am I on the road, but like Jen is an introvert and she’s a poet. And, you know, she wrote this book with being like we I would say writing this book together was the most time we’d ever seen. Really fifteen. Is it just because just the sheer, like, amount of like hours in a row, in a row in a row, just like working working painstakingly on this book? Distance is good in our relationship. Like she likes to be alone. I like to be alone with the quarantine. I mean, it’s like the play no exit. You know, it’s like we all know who the characters are and that’s everybody who’s in the play. And you’re gonna spend a lot of time with those people. You’re forced to sort of confront yourself. For one thing, that’s a big thing about the quarantine, I think. And then you’re like, this is the family. These are the people who will be there when I die. If I’m lucky, that’s sort of best case scenario.

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S6: Is there anything you’ve learned about your daughter over the course of three Alaskas three months and five year old world? That’s a different person, you know, than the person you shelter you began shelter in place with.

S1: I was, in hindsight, so lucky that the CORNTON came at the shelter in place. Came at the moment it did, because when I think about how much she’s. She grows day over day, week over week, and then I think, like I would have been on the road for like two weeks, I would have missed two weeks of that growth. It’s it’s madness. And then I start to think about like no other, you know, film directors. You know, I know film directors. They did leave for movies for six months, eight months, nine months across the world. They see their kids sometimes not that often in that period of time. The idea of missing that much of my daughter’s life is wild to me. Like I it’s almost inconceivable.

S10: Do you think this is going to change parents thoughts about stuff like that? I mean, at the end of this, how are you going to travel less? Are you going to go on the road less or by the end of this year, you’re gonna be so desperate to be back on the road that you’ll you’ll have forgotten about how great it was watching all this?

S1: Well, it’s funny because I start like, OK, so when so when there’s shelter in place, it happened. One of the things I noticed was that comedy clubs had to just close. And then the people who are hurt most by that are waitstaff. And so I started this initiative on Instagram called Tip Your Waitstaff and I create the you are. I’ll tip your way after common. It basically was a home for go fund me for comical wait seps across the country and like we’ve raised a ton of money. It’s been a really good thing. And it’s you’re doing kind of having conversations with other comedians, people working on material. Exactly. So it’s like working out material with like John Mulaney and Rami Yusef and just a bunch of Maria Bamford, a bunch of friends who helped raise that cause, you know, because that’s one of the real struggling industries. But what I realized by doing 30 episodes of that is like, you know, I could also do this like I feel like comedians are usually so proprietary over their material and they’re like, I don’t want to reveal things before I go out on tour and all that stuff. And I’m sort of for the first time gone like I don’t mind that. And so, like a week from now, I’m launching a podcast called Working It Out, and it’s literally that it’s more streamlined and produced and it’s in an audio format, but it’s it’s literally called working it out. And I don’t know I mean, like to answer your question, like, would I go on the road less maybe or make more strategically maybe? I feel like it’s definitely making everyone. Question. How much of their work has to exist outside of the city?

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S10: You definitely make it sound great, but there’s no wait times in which, you know, makes it impossible for you to work like the core, Larry, experience that many people are having. Is the joy of this closeness. But then also the frustration of like trying to find the time and space you need to do the things you need to do. You’re in a closet right now talking to us. How dare you? You know, is somewhere out there you suffering, Jen? Because she can’t talk to you and eventually she’ll burst in there and interrupt. But like, how dare you how dare you insult my family yet?

S1: I know you’re right. She first of all, she helped build this. This is what it calls my radio thought. I always give her credit for it on the podcast. Yeah, I know. Of course, it lowers it certainly lowers your productivity to be around having a child have doing your job at the same time. But yeah. Yeah. I mean. I don’t know. I have no good answers. I have only more questions.

S6: You know, I’m really curious to see and have a vested interest in this because I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned on the show before, but I have been working on standup material, all quarantine.

S3: Oh, cool. You have not mentioned this on the show. I got a lot of different lives. Guys, I have left.

S6: I moved to L.A. It’s because I’m writing a pilot script, which is a comedy. And so I decided that I would start, you know, standup would be a good way for me to try my hand and, you know, to test the material out in front of real people and be low stakes. I’ve got a small, you know, small gathering’s Lannister that was pursuing a new career as a standup comedian. Who’s to say where it could go? But you know that that wasn’t necessarily my end goal. And so this time it’s been difficult because I haven’t been able to go to shows and meet people on the scene here in person. And, you know, really, you know, take some the classes I would’ve wanted to take during this time. But I have had more time to sit down and write material. I’ve been able to talk to comedians, be it the phone and so I and all that stuff. Without getting on set to me asking for career advice because we have you here. What I am curious to see is how comedians in particular. So we’ve seen that musicians and deejays have figured out a way to translate what they do to an at home audience. Sure. Right. I like, I think Erica Badu, for example, doing concerts that cost a dollar. So as opposed to traveling to a venue where maybe there’s five hundred people, she can entertain people across the world and make a whole lot more money doing it. Right. But that I’m curious to see, you know, there’s Twitch and there’s Instagram live. But just like how comedians are going to really take this new normal, because we very well could be shelter to place again a year from now. You know, I don’t anticipate that this will be the last time we have to do something like this. Yes. And create comedy in a way that people are able to access it. Aside from just, OK, I’m recording a special I’m recording an album which is a static piece of material, but that you still want that audience engagement. You know, you want alive crowd. You know, being able to heckle or to give feedback.

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S1: I’ve been writing jokes like you. But I’ve also, by the way, I’ve also been working on a vaccine. It’s two parts French toast, one part zero. And we’re in phase three trials, phase one and two. We’re not successful. But we decided to move forward regardless of how things work in this country.

S3: It’s a lot less dangerous than other suggestions we’ve had.

S1: I know that’s a good subtree. So, yeah, similarly, I’ve been writing a lot. Yeah. And sort of reconsidering like, what does comedy look like from a distance? I think the Instagram life thing was interesting because. Look, I’ve done a couple of things where it’s like on Zoome and like everyone puts their microphone level down so that you can hear laughter, but not everyone’s full laughter and their cat and their baby or whatever. That stuff I find to be OK. Instagram, like I think is interesting with these different ways, I think because it’s just two comedians talking. In my case with that and I think that that’s actually a lot like how comedians develop material in the first place. It’s almost like you’re showing them the rehearsal for the play and there is value in that you’re going to like the rehearsal for. Hamilton doesn’t substitute for seeing Hamilton with a crowd, but it is pretty interesting, you know what I mean? Like, I, I’d like I would dig that, certainly. I don’t know if I’d dig it all the time. You know, I think there is a there’s excitement of being in the roar of a crowd. I think part of comedy that you’ll never be able to virtually simulate is looking around at a room full of people. Who, if you saw them on the street, you would think they have completely different senses of humor. See things a completely different way. All laughing at the same joke. And so to me, that was like the catharsis of like when I saw a live comedy, one of sixteen for the first time, I saw Stephen right at the Cape Cod Melody in Massachusetts. My brother Joe took me. And it was so cathartic because he was saying, I don’t know if you’re not a note of his jokes. He’s a lot of, like, esoteric one liners where he’ll be like I went to a drive in movie in the in the back of a cab movie cost me ninety five dollars, you know, like it’s a lot of stuff like that. And for me that was cathartic because I was like, oh my gosh, these like sort of outrageous, like surrealist thoughts that that I thought I’d only experience. All of these people are laughing at at the same time, me as 16 year old and then like the seventy five year old guy, like, you know, three seats down. And that’s kind of a crazy experience. The first time you have it, I think in comedy. And I think that’s part of the reason why live comedy is such a massively popular art form is because you’re like, I can’t believe we’re all laughing at this thing that I thought was sort of a secret thought.

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S11: Which then that does seem irreplaceable. I mean, what your Instagram live shows have shown me among a bunch of other things that people have been doing right now is that there’s a real power in light conversation and in two people riffing off one another in a way that we don’t often see, like out in the culture world, typically watching people do that in different forms, whether it’s in comedy or in, you know, music discussion or debate or, you know, that’s it’s sort of like the podcast mode of conversation becoming I’m a slightly more dominant mode of culture because that’s so easily deliverable into people’s homes. And I don’t mind that necessarily, even as I worry about never having the experience of being in a sea of people again.

S1: But there’s also like this weird glut of content right now where there’s so much stuff. And then on top of there being so many movies, so many albums, so many TV shows do those TV specials. On top of that, you have celebrities. And I’ve not excluded from this four months ago. And you just be like, all right, let’s roll camera. Turn on the phone. It’s like easy a you know, like settle down. You’re not as entertaining as you think. Like, you do need the one hundred and fifty film crew members making you look as good as you are able to perform. You know, like there is value in production. There is value in like people putting on the goddamn Broadway show and all the people who go into putting that experience on. Like, I don’t know about you guys, but I’m fucking I’m just sick of this shelter in place. Like content in some way. It’s like I’m like I’m with it. I’m excited for the cause. I appreciate we do it. I’m glad you raise the money, myself included, different ways. So I’m like, I’ll do my best.

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S6: But I’m also kind of like, I know this must be a little and when there’s some sort of altruistic thing to it where it’s like we’re trying to raise the money, I think. Totally different. Oftentimes it’s just celebrities saying like, hey, look into my fabulous life. We’re so bored in the house. Doing nothing in the house is like Neverland, you know. Yes. Yes. They need to carefully fill the space with the euro, perhaps them getting the sort of affirmation and attention that they typically could command otherwise. Me not being a celebrity, the fact that I’ve got stoned and went on AEG Live and cooked collard greens for the first time does not count because that is top flight. I think the ten people who watched it really learn something.

S11: Mike, I wanted to come back to the book for one last question and ask you. You mentioned, you know, writing the book with Jan was a pretty intense experience of togetherness, like creating this thing.

S10: And then a lot of ways that, you know, it’s it’s like creating a baby, right? You’re collaborating on something that together represents, you hope, the best of you during that process where you’re writing the book with Jen, what kinds of things did you learn about her and about your relationship with the way you worked together creatively?

S1: Well, Jen is you for many years has is a poet who’s written under a pseudonym. She’s really private. She’s introverted. I convinced her to write this with me. And part of it was that she was completely comfortable sort of just living in the shadows and writing and it just never, never publishing anything mainstream or that it goes really wide or that she has to put her name or face up. I tried to convince her that, like, no, this is a meaningful thing. I think people are gonna get something out of this. And if they’re experiencing a similar feeling, that will help them feel less alone. And I think that one of the things that I realized from working with her, because I think her poetry is so brilliant is it made me think about pseudonyms and in private and introverts. And if indeed, like Jan is this person who was completely comfortable sort of writing in a vacuum and like having things just live on her computer for eight decades, how many more people like that are there? And I’ve never thought about that before. I as sort of like a semi extroverted performer. I always thought, like, well, if you have a good piece of writing, it’s out there. Right. And I think I was wrong. You had a thought. You say it out loud. If you have a thought, you say it in public. And I think I was wrong about that. I feel it made me think like that. There’s thousands, if not millions of unpublished work that is as deep and profound and well written as anything that we say.

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S5: The book is already out on Oddball. That’s right. I did take like a little lesson, and I like love your, like, humor and take on things. And then just like Jen sums it up in this, like, beautifully short poem that just like, nailed it. And tough word. And I think it is just that element of it is particularly unique. And her voice is wonderful, just like you. Isn’t it beautiful? It’s like, OK, I got to listen to this because he talks about how beautiful our voice is. And I’m like, yeah, it really is a great voice.

S1: The engineer has shed after a record. It was like you should record. Yeah.

S5: Dan, when she that was like any kind of thing, relaxation or meditations or. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. She has her voice as a thread count of 600 that gets and I thought that was such a good description.

S5: OK, I have I know Dan said last question, but I guess not really. I just wanted to ask you, you talk about like how everyone recommended, like. Have these kids like a zombie? Sure. Do you recommend it now or no?

S1: I think it’s very personal. I think it’s it’s it’s I think I mean, I’m sure you you guys are also similar thing, which is like. It’s so specific of an experience and it’s so all encompassing. I have this chapter where it’s like how people about joy and how when you’re younger you have like dark joy, like crazy all night experiences. When you’re getting your middle age into middle age, you’re sort of like you get light joy, like having a child is like just light things. And everyone expects you to feel joy when you have kids. It is it the most joy you’ve ever experience. You’re like. Maybe. I don’t know. Like it’s not the way I describe it is it’s not Joy. It’s like your aperture is opening to feelings and experiences that you’ve never felt before. And I make a joke that it’s like a cliche that people go, oh, I’m seeing the world through baby’s eyes. And then like, by the end, I’m like, I’m seeing the world through babies eyes. Like, I totally get it. Like, it it took me it took me a long time to understand and internalize cliches that I’d heard and made fun of for many years. And so to answer your question, like, I can’t answer that for people, but I will say it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done and the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. And so. You know, it’s it’s sort of your call. It’s not easy.

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S10: Nine tenths of the book is definitely about how it’s not easy.

S1: He’s not here as your daughter gets older.

S6: How do you think her role in your cavity will change? Have you thought about, you know, leaving her out of it but being protective of her privacy? Or does she come along for this ride with you until she’s old enough to say stop?

S1: So funny, because one of my favorite authors is Zadie Smith, and she has kids. And I was talking to her about this exact thing. And I said, to work, I go, I think I’m not going to write about Luna anymore, like, ever again. Like, I think I’m going to sort of let it go. And Zaidee goes, good luck with that. That sums it up. I mean, it’s like, you know, IRA Glass, who is a producer on the show and really helped sculpt the book in certain ways to like he’s heard me say that before. And he always kind of scoffed at it and says, like, well, look, I mean, like the people who you care most about. And Jan. Are going to continue to be in your life. The kind of comedy you like is the kind of comedy where you’re digging as deep emotionally as you’re able to. So you can say that. But it it probably won’t stick.

S10: Once you have seen the world through baby’s eyes, it’s hard to their his eyes take. Yeah. Yeah.

S5: Well, Mike, we are just so excited to be able to share with you as I do your outro. Do you want me to not read the subtitle of the book? I feel better so we just try it out. Yeah. So, Mike, thank you so much for being here. The new one is available next week. It’s hilarious, insightful, charming and just abundantly entertaining. We’ll have preorder links for Amazon and our favorite bookshop dawg on our show page. So, Mike, thank you so much for spending this time with us.

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S1: Thanks for having me on this much.

S9: OK, onto our listener question. It’s being read by the wonderful Shachar Leonhard.

S12: How old are your kids when they transition from mommy or daddy to mom or dad? My kid will be three in August and I thought I had a few more years, but apparently I was wrong and I’m not emotionally prepared for this.

S11: Three is very early, very, very early to make this transition. My kids moved from daddy to dad around eight. I had actually sort of thought that when Lyra made the move, Harper might just follow her right into it. Harper is two years younger than Lara, but it actually didn’t. She held on to Dad even longer than Lara did. I found it really hard when that happened, even though that’s like a totally developmentally, like average age for that to happen. Like, I had a lot emotionally attached to that identity. And when I think back to their little kids selves. That’s definitely the thing I hear them saying. I mean, sometimes they would say it like a thousand times in an hour. And I don’t miss that. I mean, in general, like, I don’t miss the little little kid days. Like, there’s a whole bunch of new problems. But I prefer this time. I mean, as we talked to Mike about. Right, the kids are now sort of semi rational human beings and that’s just a little more comprehensible to me. But it can be a tough transition for a parent to make because it has all kinds of other things tied up in it. And three does seem very early to me. And I have a question for you, too. I do want to know whether your kids are there yet with you from mommy to mom. But I also want to know if the kid’s only three.

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S10: Can this letter writer push him back? Can you be like, hi, mommy.

S6: I think so. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying I’d prefer you call me mommy. You know, I think that they are. I would imagine because Nyima went through a period, maybe a little bit older than three, but it’s been a couple of years now. And she’s seven where she tried out. Maybe momma. And it just didn’t stick, which I was glad about, because that’s not necessarily, you know, for me, momma just sounds like a much older person than I am. And, you know, I think of momma as my grandmother seeing certain ways. It’s just. Yes, exactly. Go get Mama’s remote control and my teeth. And so she’s trying to figure things out and has stuck with mommy hard core, which I’m relieved about. And I call my mother mom when I’m talking to her. I think in my head, to some extent, she’s still mommy. But my father, my siblings and I have two sisters, two older sisters. They have the same mom. We all have the same debt. Two of us, more often than not, we’ll say, Daddy, you know, I realized the best just the thing that has stuck with us. Like, you know, one of my sisters will say, have you talked to dad? And the other will always say, have you talked to daddy? And I’m trying to think why I’m struggling like, well, how do I get a dress him directly? I don’t feel like I often say either. You know, I think I’m talking to him is like we’re established, you know who this is. But I think I do kind of go back and forth between dad and daddy with my father. And I’m thirty five years old. So I would like to be mommy forever. Let my daughter know that I am mommy. That’s letter writer.

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S1: You can you know, this kid is three can do the same.

S5: Yeah I think so. And refer to themselves to like. Do you want mommy to do that. You know, I think you can do some of that. Yeah. I actually don’t remember what my kids call me. I think there’s too many of them calling time. Yeah. I just it is just like I when I think about mommy, I just think, mom, mom, mom, mommy, mommy, mommy like that is that is just like what I hear all the time. It’s hard to let that kind of stuff go. Like, I’m sure that I will notice when no one in this house is calling me mommy anymore. But I know that some collection of the kids at some points are. I did want to note that Prince Charles, like sometimes still calls his mother, the queen mommy, like they’re sick. I know when I looked it up, like in 2012, he, like, published this whole speech letter thing. And he’s like my mummy.

S10: All right. I’ve I’ve now completely turned around this issue.

S6: We definitely know whatever Charles and Elizabeth have going on is not.

S10: I mean, Mike Pence still calls his wife mother.

S6: I think also I think it’s not that they’re just I would I would wager a letter writer that that you’d show your child has just simply grown out of mommy or daddy. I bet it’s probably a book, a TV show, something that they watch where they either like the character who’s saying mom and dad a lot. They like how it sounds. It’s new. It’s different. Lately, they’re noticing that on TV you hear more mom and dad and you hear mommy and daddy. So I would say get some books that use the word mommy and daddy. You know, one of our favorite books to read when I was really small was called I Love You, Mommy. And I think there’s an I Love You Daddy version. It’s just it’s that adorable little bear, you know, and his mommy bear who’s taking care of him. And, you know, it says mommy about five hundred times in the book and just reinforce mommy.

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S5: Yeah, I think they’re probably like trying it on.

S3: Or if you don’t have the book, just when you’re reading a book and a mommy just they can’t read, you can cook anything, anything in a book for like another six months before they start being like, wait a minute.

S5: Yeah. Exactly.

S10: Before they do, either of you, when you were growing up, have friends who called their parents by their first names. I did my. I want you guys that call their parents Fred and Eileen. And it was so weird.

S5: I remember using it as a child when I would be saying mom and my mom would just be like doing something else.

S3: Yeah, like being like Mary. Right. Like at young age. And then she’s like, oh, like, hello. It’s just the sort of I take my my my points. Yeah, exactly.

S5: But no, I don’t I don’t know that we had any that that was like what they call it. But I grew up in Georgia so like everybody was like Mister and Miss Manners are like, yeah, yeah.

S6: I don’t know anyone who did it. I had I remember the friends distinctly who like when they referred to their parents, we’d talk about them by their first name, you know, but when they were speaking to them face to face, they would, you know, they would refer to them as as mom or dad or mommy.

S10: And when you’re talking to the friends, you’re like, yeah, Nicki and Dennis say you can’t go out tonight.

S6: Yeah, like, because I felt very mature. It wasn’t a thing I necessarily did until I was 18. I would never, ever have to their own it sounded.

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S5: No, my children tried that out when they realized that Jeff and I had real names, they like tried out calling us by our names. And I told them that those where our adult names and that they could only adults could. Let’s just. My understanding is that’s all. Who knows? That’s like a logical thing I’ve done to them. Yeah, it is. Yeah. I just was like, oh, those are adult names. Like, it’s important that, you know, those should you need to ask another adult about us, but you don’t call us so.

S6: So like in your name. I definitely went through a stage. I think her dad’s name was a little bit less exciting for her because it’s also her brother’s name. But like with my name, where she would test, though, you know, saying, Jimmy, let Jimmy the you know, or or she plays you come up with games to play where like we switch roles and like, just the delight she tapes. And we had to play this game on Saturday, you know, the delight she takes. And, you know, calling me Jimmy LA, referring to Jimmy LA is a lot of fun for her, but also in my family, particularly with my other side. And this was something that we found in the African centered daycare center that we sent Nihonmatsu for preschool and prekindergarten for adults were recall. Mama, Jimmy. Love, Bob, David. So she’s used to hearing adults first names. I think a little bit more I like her brother calls me or he never says my name out loud, but he refers to me as mom Jamila as opposed to, you know. I don’t actually know what what, what, what the other obviously. What a bag. You know, like misdemeanor lies. Hi, John. Mr.. Mr. Miller. Yeah. Yeah. Like a misdemeanor thing. And I’ve usually I’ve tried to avoid with kids coming Mr.. Beelines to call me Mama Jameela because it kind of it confers a certain level of, I think, motherliness and, you know, adult hood in a way that Mr. Miller could also be the teenager who, you know, works at the grocery store, you know, who’s still a kid themselves that I left maternal figure. I’m a real adult here. I might have pink hair and but I am a real grownup.

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S11: And I should be so important to remind everyone in the room that that’s the case.

S6: Yes, it is. You are. I mean, you all can see me, but they can’t hear me on, you know, like I think they’re people who sometimes expect me to show up looking a lot more mature than I do. And then the light, it was then light up. That’s that’s that’s that’s to me. Look, there she is.

S10: You know, that’s Momma Jimmy. Mama Jimmy.

S5: Exactly. So I think the letter writer should take after Djamila and she should either instruct her child to call her mommy or model that behavior. Right. Is that we’ve all we’re all in agreement that you can you can turn back and turn back the time.

S9: OK, well, letter writer, thank you so much for your question. Our show relies on questions from you, the listener. So if you have something you’d like to hear on the show. Please, please, please send it in. E-mail us at. Mom and Dad at Slate dot com. OK. The show isn’t over yet. It’s time for recommendations. Dan, what do you have for us?

S10: I have the most self-serving recommendation imaginable. Subscribe to my podcast.

S11: And I, as I mentioned on the show a couple of weeks ago, are making a podcast together. Since we’re stuck in home all the time, we have released it out into the wild. It’s called You Pick Tonight. How does a Father Daughter double feature podcast? Each episode, Lara picks one movie for me and I pick one movie for her and then we talk about them. So far in episode one, I picked Pan’s Labyrinth and she picked Weisburd, the heart that an up to. I picked police story and she picked Kira. It’s been really interesting for me to listen to the way that she reads art and talks about art and the way she thinks about storytelling. It’s very fun to be challenged by her, as I frequently am. And if you’ve got a team who really loves movies, you might consider watching and listening along with us. I think it might be a pretty fun experience. It’s called You Pick Tonight. Find it on Apple at her stitcher and many other fine podcast platforms.

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S5: I love it. Congratulations. Thanks to me.

S6: Yes. So if there are any readers of carrot beating who are listening. I know that there are some of you all. If you engage in the comments, may have noticed that I have a dedicated crew of let’s not say trolls. I’ll say reluctant fans who often refer back to a column in which I suggested that a letter writer who was filled with anxiety about her husband leaving the his marijuana bait pan out and their Talor child know it. And she just had concerns about his new embrace of marijuana and how it played out in their house. And since I am very pro pot, I gave what I thought was, you know, advice on how to safely maneuver that. And one of the things that I’ve mentioned is, you know, I offhandedly joked that perhaps she should try some to, like, relax.

S11: Perhaps she should.

S6: Perhaps she should have. And there are some people who like the way that that has been reconstructed into. Aren’t she the one who smokes weed in the room with your daughter? You know, it has been comical, a little unsettling, comical to some extent. But with that, I have long been aware of the necessity of having the right conversations with my daughter about marijuana. I think I mentioned on the show before that I was outed as a marijuana user by a doctor during a joint doctors visit and kind of was forced to have to explain something. And so I’ve got this great book. It came in the mail after Nyima left for the week. What? I’m really looking forward to sharing it with her when she gets back. And it’s called it’s just the plant. It’s a children’s story about marijuana.

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S3: She’s holding up so well.

S6: It is so beautiful. It’s so like so it’s by Ricardo Cortez, who is a longtime illustrator who has stepped into the role. Well, I should say he illustrated and he wrote the book. This isn’t the first book that he’s written, but I think he’s best known as being an illustrator. And it’s a really beautiful story. It finds a little girl discovering what marijuana is and she gets to talk to her parents. A farmer, a doctor, a police officer. She’s introduced to the reasons behind marijuana prohibition and how it has been used, criminalized communities and the tremendous benefits that it offers, and that this is primarily with the exception of some medical use and adult indulgence plants to be used for largely for adults, either recreationally or medicinally. And it’s just a really great book. And it has an afterword by Marsha Rosenbaum, who is the founder of the Safety First Drug Education Program and has spent a lot of time investigating drug use and addressing parents on how they can safely discuss marijuana with their children and alleviate some of their own anxiety about telling you that this thing should be legal. That it is a good thing, you know, that it has to be used responsibly and in certain ways. We think of it in the way that, you know, wine is mommy’s juice. It’s not for you. It’s something that you can engage with when you get older while also not making it seem so compelling. Right. And so you’re saying this is a good thing. And surely, you know, I don’t want to wait until I’m adult to get my hands on it. I want to try it now. So I think it’s a really lovely book.

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S9: So it’s just a plant educational for for children and for parents. It sounds.

S6: Yes, very much so. It talks about the history of marijuana in this country. It’s just a really fact driven book that’s very nuanced and delightful in so many ways.

S10: That’s great. Good one. Elizabeth, what do you recommend?

S5: I’m so I’m recommending making balloon animals with your family. Jeff came home from Iran with a book about balloon animals that had zero actual balloons inside of it. I think he picked it up from a little library. He, like, runs a lot and ran back with it. It had no balloon animals. I ordered, like, the smallest bag possible, which was 15000 thousand balloons and an air pump on Amazon. And we said, like, I was like, is this gonna be like our thing now? And Jeff is kind of like, yeah, maybe. And it turns out, yes, we just have made like hundreds of balloon animals with the kids. It’s super fun. Probably not incredibly environmentally friendly as their balloon shards everywhere, but everything Jeff makes. Looks like a dog. I’m actually pretty good at it. And the kids really love it. And it’s just like a fun thing that like who knows how to do that? Nobody. So it was really fun to learn together. So I recommend just getting like a bag of balloons and a pump on Amazon and there’s a million. He could do it on how to make all kinds of things. And you. No matter the age of your children, they will laugh. It will be fun.

S10: It’s just listeners. I just want you to balance this recommendation against the photo on Facebook, sitting in a chair making her seven thousand balloon animal that just posted where Elizabeth.

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S3: That’s. Well, it was his project. And I mean, he was terrible at it and I was good. So the kids wanted me to make all of a sudden I was like, I did not do this.

S10: It’s crazy how this engineer can make anything just happen to be bad at making balloon.

S5: And like, the kids are screaming what color they want and what. Yeah. Yeah. But Jeff jokes, he’s gonna get a fanny pack and he is gonna go to things and make balloon animals. So we’ll see.

S13: All right. Well one more time if you have a question. Email us at Mom and dad at Slate dot com. And join us on Facebook. Just search for sleep parenting. Mom and Dad are fighting is produced by Rosemary. Tell me a little Emil and Dan points. I’m Melissa.

S9: Hello, Slate plus listeners. Thank you so much for your support. It really means a lot to us. So nearly two weeks ago, YouTube influencer Michael Stofer and her husband James posted a video about not being able to take care of their adopted child, Huxley. They posted twenty seven monetize videos about the process of adopting Huxley from China. In 2017, he and his siblings have been featured in numerous videos since. So when Micah and James announced that Huxley would be living with another family that could properly take care of his needs. It sparked a debate about the adoption influencers and profiting off of children. Slate staff writer Ruth Graham wrote about the world of adoption influencers for Slate. Welcome, Ruth. Thanks for having me. So, Ruth, prior to hearing about the Stover’s viral video, had you watched or heard of any other adoption influencers? Because I definitely had not.

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S14: I hadn’t heard of Majka. I’ve kind of glimpsed this world on and off because I cover white evangelicalism a lot for Slate and there’s a big overlap there also with Church of Latter day Saints. Mormons, they don’t we’re not supposed to use that term anymore, but that community also is big in the adoption community. So I had sort of glimpsed it through those communities, but I didn’t know kind of the big the big players in this particular genre necessarily before I started researching this. So I was kind of shocked by it.

S11: I like all influencer ecosystems. There’s like a whole lingo associated with it. Can you please explain what Culture Day is?

S14: Yeah, gotcha day. That’s a genre of the of these videos is particularly big on YouTube, although it comes up on Instagram too. But it’s like a document of the day that the adopted child comes home to be with their new family. So they’re really upbeat. They’re often kind of set to like inspirational pop music and it seems like montages of often the whole trip. You know, the whole family will often go to, you know, in Micah Stover’s Gojo video. It’s like the whole family getting up in the morning and traveling, traveling to China. Like meeting their son for the first time, who, of course, they’ve been preparing for, you know, and sort of they have known him and had named him for a year or so before that. And yeah, it’s just this kind of it’s a whole, like, little tidy narrative of the day that the child comes home. And it’s it’s always very like. Yeah. Upbeat pop, happy like we gotcha. There’s also I actually don’t know if it came from human adoption first or from pet adoption. Gotcha. Day is also like a big term in the pet adoption community. And I don’t want to like, disparage adoption influence there, like, I don’t know which came first. But it is just interesting that that term crops up in both of those genres.

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S5: Can you talk a little bit about how like white savior ism plays into these narratives?

S14: Yeah. The big adoption influencers are white women. It’s really uniformly white women. And there’s a lot of multiracial adoption. And of course, there is a lot of multiracial adoption in the U.S. And, you know, once you start kind of picking at this, it becomes a way to think globally about some like much, much, much bigger issues and concerns about adoption itself. But just to think narrowly about adoption influencers, it often is these like white upper middle class women adopting either internationally or often black children within the U.S.. And, you know, it’s hard. A lot of it just feels uncomfortable to me and not necessarily the adoptions themselves. Like I know a lot of adoptive parents. I know a lot of adopted adults and, you know, kids. And it’s not but it’s when it’s presented like for public consumption and this like, glossy Instagram way. And there’s like the biological white sun hugging the adopted black son. And it’s just it has this like weird political valence when it’s presented in that Instagram way that I think it’s just I’m comfortable. And you just can’t get away from the fact that all of the big names in this space are white women.

S5: And these moments that should be like private in some sense, because it’s the creating of a family like are now on display in this very weird way. Yeah. Exactly. Exactly.

S6: I didn’t realize until hearing about this doper’s and then reading your article that adoption influencers existed. You know, I even when I first heard about them, I just thought I put them in the context of these other annoying YouTube families that are documenting every mundane thing that they do. And everything is an opportunity for spying and partnering with brands. But it made me. There’s a time I had not heard at all outside of animal adoptions. They came up and it was rehaul. Love to hear you talk a little bit about that. And has that been seen before in this adoption influencer community? It’s hard to imagine most families returning a child with. It being the most necessary or devastating of circumstances and the optics of how they presented the adoption process to the world, combined with the fact that this was a child of color. And just wondering, would you all felt a different sense of capability in terms of trying to care for a little boy who looks like you? Yes. Please help me through rehaul me.

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S14: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that’s one of the things that there is a small percentage of adoptions that fail. I mean, that’s a that’s the term for or when an adoption disrupts when the parents just are not able to care for the child. What’s so interesting is I think that there is this kind of instinctive like, oh, that’s such a shame. Like that must be really hard. But, you know, there is kind of this like, oh, it’s just sort of a shame for all parties. And I don’t know the specific situation of the Stover’s family or what they were going through. But at the same time, you cannot imagine a family in their circumstance giving up their biological child like it’s like inconceivable. And it would be a different kind of scandal on a lie. It just would be it’s not that that never happens, but those stories aren’t told in the same way. And it is just like much more shocking in an instinctive way that I think says so much about how we think about adoption, the re homing language. That’s kind of almost a little media story because they did not use that language. BuzzFeed used it in their headline, which broke the story or sort of took it to a wider audience. And then it got repeated a lot and used in quotes as if they had as if the Stover’s had used it and they they actually hadn’t. So I don’t know. I have kind of I do think that term is gross. And I think that’s a lot of the reason it went so viral is because it shocked so many people.

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S5: But I do have to say, like they in this case, like they did not use that term and they say they couldn’t continue care because of special needs. Right. But like were those I mean. So my experience has been that we know people that have adopted special needs children, but they have known about the special needs prior to adoption. And therefore, that was, of course, part of the, you know, like consideration and plan.

S14: Yeah, I talked to another I would call her an adoption influence. I don’t know if she’d use that term for herself, but like a lifestyle blogger who is, you know, uses her or like her kids are very a public part of her brand who has adopted twice from China. And she was really upset about this story because she feels like they received so many not warnings that there is like a lot of information upfront about the fact that there could be. First of all, I guess the China program is it’s like all special needs at this point is what she told me. And then second of all, that there’s just a lot of just information up front that you could also get. There could be unexpected special needs, even on top of what you’re told about the particular child that you’re adopting. So the way the Stover’s framed it is like there was stuff that came along that we just we kind of felt blindsided. She really pushed back on that and said No one adopting from China, they adopted from China around the same time. She’s like no one could have felt blindsided by by any of that. So I think that’s a piece of this. Huxley is autistic and they haven’t been totally open, probably, nor should they about, you know, what what all else he was dealing with. But they did kind of frame it as like almost like we didn’t know we were getting into and we needed someone who had, like, a more particular expertise when. Yeah. In fact, it seems like maybe they should not have been so surprised that there were sort of more complications.

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S5: The larger issue is less that this happened. Right. Because you can imagine a circumstance in which all of these things are true. Yes.

S7: And that the best thing for both the family and the child is that the child ends up with a different family. But the fact that like this all plays out on.

S5: Like social media. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yes. And that they’re that they’re making money off of that. And now, even after Huxley has moved on, they continue to make money from his presence or from whatever they were doing. Right. I mean, that is kind of the larger.

S14: Yeah. I mean, they’ve taken down almost all of the old posts, including like the sponsored Instagram posts. But I mean, I can’t really give them credit for that.

S5: I mean, I do think out right. I mean, that was reactionary now. Yeah, exactly. Do that of their own.

S14: Exactly. Yeah. I think that’s I think that that is the deepest, most disturbing part of us is just the public nature of all of this, turning him and also their other kids. I mean, it opens up all these questions about any kind of parenting. Influence is like the kids are turned into characters in a storyline without any kind of meaningful consent. And I’m not talking about things like, you know, you post your kids to Instagram or whatever if you have a normal account.

S11: But with these monetized accounts, you have like a successful parenting.

S3: Exactly. That’s a totally different thing. Clearly, no.

S14: But it just. And I think about the incentives then to adopt. I mean, I really I don’t want to go too far into speculating about this particular case. But you do just think like it’s part of your thing is kind of offering up your expertise and the appeal of your life and all of these things that adopting a child kind of like expands, that it becomes like a new storyline for this, if you know the story of your family that people are following. And, yeah, it’s just there. I just have a ton of sympathy for these kids. And adoption is already I mean, I talked to a couple of people for this story about just how adoption, like it’s always a trauma and it begins with trauma. It’s a loss of a parent. It’s the loss of a birth family. It’s it is trauma, no matter how kind of smoothly and how how wonderful the new family is and all of that. And so then to be sort of processing that and broadcasting it publicly in a way that’s relentlessly kind of upbeat and, you know, you’re always on this upward trajectory and everything’s always going well, or actually there might be like a little setback. But then here’s why. You know, it’s it’s worth all of this stuff is what helps you get even close. Exactly. Exactly. It just is really.

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S11: I mean, it’s all part and parcel of this, of a normal of an everyday family life being transformed into a kind of like aspirational right narrative. When you make that the basis of your family life, you are then signing on to the possibility that you are going to use the same kinds of techniques that network executives and show runners and everyone have been using forever. In reality TV and on reality TV, it’s like just the storylines and make things more interesting for your viewers because you become so dependent on that has as your income and as your self-image, and that that is what seems toxic about the whole thing. And so it’s like a reminder that this feels toxic all the time and that when you introduced an adopted child into it, that just makes it feel like crazier and worse. We had a conversation a couple of weeks ago on the show about the ways that the pandemic is slowing down the adoption pipeline for people who are like trying to work their way through the adoption process. And it’s frustrating. Prospective parents speak, you know, who’ve put enormous amounts of emotional energy and heart in to this thing. And now they you know, they they might have thought they’re a month away from adopting a child and now they’re X months or X years away from what they thought was going to happen. You know, do adoption advocates worry that stories like this one is going to have an impact on the world of adoption, like a negative impact on people adopting or on agencies in other countries or other places being willing to let American parents adopt children?

S14: I don’t know about the impact on agencies or on international adoption, which is already just plummeted for over the last five years or so for unrelated reasons, complicated reasons. But I do think and I did talk to one woman, the same sort of the other influencer who had adopted from China, who really worried that this advances the narrative that adoption is just so hard and it’s like such a burden and has a high probability of just being way too much for a family to handle. She just worries that, you know, those narratives are already out there. That’s already a part of the way people talk about adoption. Of course, the flip side of that is like, oh, you’re such a saint for doing it. And that has its own, you know, problems that come with it. But just that this this really like reinforces a sad and harmful narrative of adoption that is already really prevalent.

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S6: Do you think that because adoption influencers have become a thing, that there may be a small silver lining here that families. We’re considering adoption for all the wrong reasons, may be scared away from the idea of casting an adorable Asian child, you know? Much like the cousin character was introduced on The Brady Bunch and The Cosby Show. And, you know, we need something to keep. The little one isn’t cute anymore. We need to bring in a new little face than that. You know, some of these families will take this process more seriously because despite I mean, obviously, they had to put a lot of work into securing the adoption, but they had a lot of resources as well. Right. So simply being able to complete an international adoption doesn’t necessarily mean you have the capacity to adopt the child from another country, especially, but certainly not limited to a child that has special needs.

S14: Yeah, that’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about that. I mean, there are so many administrative and financial hurdles that I don’t think it’s it’s an it’s you can’t go into it lightly just because you literally can’t. So I guess I don’t know, maybe it will kind of make some people pause about their other adoption fantasies before that process gets started. I hadn’t thought about that silver lining.

S6: All this made me remember that a few years ago on and I forget her black daughter’s name. But Mia Farrow has an adopted black child. And it was this child’s birthday and she wanted to post a picture of her and watch her now. Happy birthday. And so she, Mia Farrow, Google, Mia Farrow, black child to find this picture. And when she did find the picture, she forgot to crop out the part where you could see the Google search.

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S3: And it said, Oh, black child. And like she, that this is early enough in winter where people thought it would like later, like this would be a very different car. Yes. So I can be up to next week and mom and dad are fighting.

S14: Yes.

S11: Right. Well, the piece is fascinating. Thank you, Ruth, for coming and talking about it with us. We’re going to post a link in the show notes. We should totally check it out. Very good reporting, as always, from Slate staff writer Ruth Graham.

S9: Thank you. Thanks. So that’s it for this week’s Slate plus segment. Until next time.