The Pandemic Pod People Edition

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S4: Welcome to Mom and Dad are fighting Slate’s parenting podcast for Thursday, April 23rd. The Pandemic Pod People Edition. I’m Elizabeth New Camp. I write the homeschool and family travel blog that stretches a mom to three boys, Henry 8, all of her 5 and Teddy 3. I’m currently staying at home and staying safe in Navarre, Florida.

S5: I am Dan Coates. I’m a writer at Slate. I live in Arlington, Virginia. And that’s where I’m currently holed up in the basement. I’m the dad of Myra who turns fifteen before our next show. And Harper, who is twelve.

S6: Fifteen, fifteen. Oh, my goodness. I can’t even imagine. Hi, I’m Jimmy Little Ammu. I’m a writer and contributor to Slate’s Care Feeding Parenting column. And I am a mom, 2 1/2, 15 year old Naima. And we live in Los Angeles, California.

S4: Today on the show, we have a question from a mom who formed a quarantine couple with two other families. The families make decisions together and school together to best manage working from home. She’s wondering why other people aren’t forming quarantine alliances for everyone who’s fighting now segment. We’ll be answering a question from a mother who is worried she didn’t rein in her daughter’s imaginary dragon. Now the daughter has physical evidence and is more convinced than ever that the dragon is real. What can this mother do about the dragon? We’ll put a time stamp for the family friendly segment in the show notes. If you want to listen with young ones who can handle a conversation about make believe friends. As always, we have Triumph’s and fáil’s and recommendations. Jameela.

S7: Do you have a triumph or a fail for us this week?

S8: I have, I hope, fail. It doesn’t go in alignment with the very adorable Disney moment we just had where my cat walked behind me on this phone call and sniffed my nose here. A little kiss to give you a little. She did. She gave me a sweet little kiss. Well, luckily, she’s left the room and she won’t have to hear this. So my feel this week, Nyima came home from a couple of days at Dad’s house last week and there was an item in my bed that was not a child friendly item that she discovered. Now there are a lot of adult items that we all deal with, various menstrual cycle, a cooch, ramal, things that we perhaps took with that they’re not allowed to touch. You know, there’s adult things everywhere. I have to say, as far as I’ve been able to observe, I don’t have the kid who’s the one who immediately runs to touch and see what’s this? What’s this? So she’s either like exploring things when I’m not looking at her or she’s pretty cool about not caring about things that are not made for her.

S9: You know, like this isn’t pink. It’s not for me. Doesn’t look like fun. The unfortunate thing about this particular item is that let’s just say it’s very anatomically correct. It is.

S8: Pretty impossible not to know exactly what this item is supposed to look like. And in fact, with her having a brother, it’s less likely that she. Compared to other little girls, she wouldn’t know what it was, but what it was supposed to look like. And I just saw her grab it and say, Mommy. And I just all I could do was just Neshin out of her hands and say, never mind, never mind.

S10: Never mind, never mind. Pretend you never saw this.

S8: Yes. And if I could not have made it worse, we are listed each other for a minute because we’re gonna read a book. And I honestly, I didn’t realize. I just completely forgot it was there. I said, I’m gonna go in the living room for a couple minutes. This is awkward, right?

S10: I am fine, actually. She said, like acknowledging the awkwardness is the good part. And she said, What are you talking about? I said, What are you talking about? And then we just moved on.

S8: Well, that’s good. I think that’s good. It could have been worse. It’s going to be one of those moments, much like, you know, I remember discovering books primarily in my mom, you know, possessions and things that had to go looking for. Then I got older. I was like, oh, she had I’m going to pronounce his name incorrectly, but like a nice man. So whatever, you know, I’m like, oh, my mom was into some. OK. You know, I mean, like, I didn’t put all that together until I was much older. One day name is just gonna do an assessment of the house and I’m going to shrivel and die. She’s going to be like 16 and be like, wait a damn it. There are always things everywhere.

S10: These are things my friends talked about. Oh, my God. Who is this woman? How did you find moralise me. But I think I’m safe for now.

S11: That’s remarkable. I have to imagine that all over America right now, as kids desperate to expand their territory inside houses just out ransacking every cabinet everywhere. Everyone’s having problems like this with kids finding things that are not supposed to find. Let me just go ahead. A recommend to all of our listeners. Snatching that thing away and saying, never mind.

S10: Yes, it’s a very good day to say. Never mind. And I’m just going to guess later she asked about it again. I have no idea. It’s shocking. What are you talking about? Exactly. Clearly, you drink it.

S12: So, Dan, time for fail.

S11: I have a triumph this week. We’ve talked on this show, you know, about a month or a month and a half ago. We talked about the emotional roller coaster of the e-mail. The e-mail that everyone eventually got saying school is canceled for the rest of the year. And, you know, we got through that. But now there are further e-mails to receive and it’s individual e-mails from every single summer camp that your kids are signed up for. And so every parent I know has now sort of going through these additional emotional roller coasters as camp send you e-mails saying we’re canceled or camps and you surveys saying would you consider doing remote camp over video conference with your children? And I really want to know why the camps are also trying to figure out like what what is the summer look like?

S13: Video now? And so these e-mails just keep the opinion in.

S11: And every time I see in my inbox an e-mail from a camp that our kids are supposed to be going to the summer, I have a panic attack because our kids love all the different day and overnight camps. They do. They like live for them and live and die by them over the course of the summer. And the other week, Blair had her first camp canceled, which was the writing camp the two week overnight writing camp she does at Duke, which is just hideously expensive. And so her grandmother pays for it every summer, for which we are deeply grateful.

S14: You know, it’s just this incredible two week experience where she lives in the dorms and she’s described it as like the only time in her life that she feels like she’s with her people. And when we went to the end of camp reading last summer, she was like, you know, hugging friends and talking with other girls in ways that she just, like, never does in real life. So in that camp got canceled. I just had this enormous, like emotional crash. And I told Larry that it was being canceled. And she was also really upset. But what she said then was, I’m really sad about that, but I’m really holding out hope for arena stage camp arena, stage camp as a two week day camp. She does here in Washington, D.C., theater camp run by very good local theater company, original theater company here in Washington. And she said, you know, I I’m worried about that one, particularly because I can do dupe camp next summer. But next summer I’ll be too old for arena stage camp. So this was supposed to be my last year. And when you’re 50 and they have this big show at the end of it with everyone saying goodbye to everyone else, all the artists they call the kids, artists who’ve been there a long time get like a big farewell thing. I’d be really sad to miss that. And I said, oh, yeah, that would be terrible if they canceled Arena Stage camp, of course, knowing in my head. Well, I mean, obviously they’re going to cancel Arena Stage camp. And then she said, I wish they would just let us come back when we’re 16. So anyways, a couple days after that Arena Stage emailed us with one of these e-mails that was like, would you consider remote theater camp?

S13: And I emailed back and said, I don’t know if we would do that or not, but there is a certain fifteen year old in my house who’s feeling very bummed about the idea of missing her final year of Arena Stage camp. And she wants to know if you would consider next summer. You know, if it’s canceled this summer, letting kids come back even though they’re 16 and they wrote back and said, yes, we’ll do that.

S11: And I was just like, oh, and I told Myra and she was so happy. And it just like made her afternoon. And I felt like, oh, this is a rare case of like extreme snowplow parenting where I feel like I really actually made a positive difference and I don’t even feel guilty about it at all.

S7: I love that. Like you asked for something for her to, like, fix the problem for her. And it works.

S11: I know it never works, but I guess it’s a crazy time. Crazy time.

S8: We’re living in one that makes me feel so happy, too. I knew Lyra and I were connected. Arena Stage was a big part of my college experience. Oh, yes, I. Howard. Yeah. As a theater major. So we volunteered there to see free shows for classes. And I was a teaching artist at a elementary school, some sort of arena stage teaching arts program. So Lyra and I can have classes over Xoom.

S11: Maybe that’s what this summer’s camp will be. Jimmy Alize theater camp with Jimmy alow resume. We could do that. What about you? Lizabeth trying for fail?

S7: I have a triumph, like a very basic triumph. My 5 year old. Oliver has been really struggling to learn to ride his bike, which is like a huge deal in our family since moving back from the Netherlands. And even there, we just like ride our bikes whenever we can. We brought back our huge cargo bike. We take it to the pool, we take it down the street to the sound like everyone rides all the time. And even when we were over there, Oliver really should have been learning to ride his bike then, but was never interested, took to a scooter instead. And I just haven’t really been one to like push him. But when he turned 5, he was under this idea that like he would wake up and be able to ride his bike. So he literally woke up on the morning of his fifth birthday so that I can ride a bike, went outside, got on his bike, which did not have training wheels on it and like pushed off and fell over. And from that moment, he has just never gotten back on the bike. Every time I’m like, why don’t you ride your bike? He’s like, no, it didn’t happen. I don’t ride a bike. And we’re like, No, no, it’s like climbing up to Leard. So because we’ve been home, we’ve been like out taking laps in between just different activities because even though I homeschool, I have all this extra time at home and the kids are used to kind of being out on the goes. We’ve just been like, let’s all go race and do a lap. Do you want to ride your bike? He’s like, no. So one afternoon we’re like sitting dÜhring quiet reading. And he comes up and he says, I’m ready to ride my bike. And I was like, OK, let’s go outside right now. And we went outside.

S11: And I really did believe the switch had flipped again.

S7: I don’t know. I don’t know. He just seems like I want to get on the bike. And I was like, OK. So I went out there and I said, now listen, like, I’m going to run next to you. You have to balance, you have to steer. But like, you’re going to have to be pedaling. Good. There’s a lot of stuff going on. And he was like, OK. And so he managed to kind of stay upright with me doing one house and then like two houses and then three houses and then no joke. Later that day he could ride the whole street. Now he’s going like around the block, OK? So this is like a huge victory that he can ride his bike. And then my 3 year old not to be, you know, high. What do you think he does? He demands that his training wheels be taken off. My husband’s like, no. So he goes and gets one of the other bikes in the garage. He gets on it. He rides down the street. The switch dude flipped. The switch flipped for him. He just got on. Now he has zero fear. And I think that is, you know, honestly, the difference is that Oliver had a real understanding of what could happen if the bike fell. My 3 year old is like, I can ride this bike, I can do anything. So now, though, the huge victory is like we are a full bike riding family. Everyone can go on bike rides together. One day we will be able to go bike riding somewhere other than, you know, our little neighborhood. But for now, like, we can all go out and it it feels like such a nice. Like there’s no more figuring out who needs to ride with who. And the two little ones are kind of slower. But, you know, we can all go out. It’s very nice.

S11: Congratulations to both those two boys.

S10: Yeah. MAUSHART All over, though. I value sex more if you tried harder.

S9: I just want to say. I don’t know how to write back.

S11: And the only good thing you’re in such a bike-friendly city.

S8: Thank God everyone live has been bikeway like New York should not be bike-friendly, but unfortunately it is. I had a bike with training wheels. I remember my dad taking me and making me ride over Lakeshore Drive and I don’t know, maybe just his work schedule changed. And so at the time of day in which we were having like bike lessons, just kind of, you know, if I was a police detective. So like he kept weird hours and that was taken away. And one day he picking up his school must’ve been like second or third grade and picking up on the bus that had my bike with training wheels. And one of my classmates was like, yeah, use that training wheels. And like, that’s the last time I remember, like actually trying.

S11: I was just like, Oh, well, then I’ve missed that and inspired you to take the training wheels off and shamed you into never riding again.

S10: Yeah, cause I’m risk adverse. I was like, well, I’m not gonna die. We’re goin, right. Has Nyima expressed any interest in learning to ride a bike name? I can ride a bike.

S8: She’s like she’s working on that with her dad because her dad, her step mom and the bikes, which I took as a personal affront early on. I was like, Of course you’re right, people. Well, well, well, you know. So now I’m just simply relieved that she actually tried to convince Nyima that she was allergic to bikes and she was very young and that didn’t work. So I just decided to let them have that. And I’m glad that she knows how to do it safely and wear the helmet and all that. Good stuff. But she told me she would teach me. I taught her every way I’ve ever had, has said the same thing and I’ve told her the same thing, which is No, I’m too old to show up at work with a broken arm because I was trying to learn to ride a bike. And now that there’s no work, it’s just still too I’m still too old to break my arm.

S11: I definitely don’t try and learn now because now is not the time to go to the yea. Exactly. But someday I think you should let even try and teach you to ride a bike.

S10: It was awesome to actually see a camera crew there. We should do it live on the pod.

S8: We should do this as a Taliban to keep the show going in these troubled economic times like Slate plus plus subscribers for every foot you success would arrive.

S11: I pledge a dollar.

S10: Yeah. Well, you guys got a good week for a great week. Good. What a great.

S12: All right. Well, before we move on, let’s do the business. Slate’s parenting newsletter is the best place to be notified about all our parenting contact, including mom and dad are fighting, Karen, feting and much more. Sign up at, slash parenting email. Also, check us out on Facebook. Just search for slate parenting. It’s a really fun, active community. Plus, we moderate it so it doesn’t get out of control. OK, onto this week’s listener question. It’s being read by the amazing Shachar Leonhard.

S15: Dear mom and dad are fighting. Our family has formed a quarantine bubble with two other families. Our family and the family we interact most with are two parent families with an only child each. And the third is a single mother with two kids. We’ve all agreed to the same strict protocols. We only see each other. We go out together to deserted outdoor spaces that pose no danger of encountering other people. We get our groceries delivered and we disclose and discuss any potential decisions that might impact the group. Doing this has saved everyone’s sanity. The two only children can home school and play together. But the single mom gets the help she desperately needs. But we’re the only families we know who are doing this. My question is, are other people doing this and just not talking about it? And are there ethical questions we’re overlooking? Thanks. The pod people. All right.

S13: So, Dan, I’m really interested in this question and I’ve been thinking about it a lot. There was a discussion on the Slate Parenting Facebook group about this led by another listener’s set of questions around this subject. So I’ve done some research into this and I with the best resource I’ve found so far is a piece on VOX, which we will link to on our show page in which a reporter named Sigel Samuell interviewed some epidemiologists about the question of quarantine buddies or quarantine bubbles, as this person describes it. And in that piece, social epidemiologist from Penn named Carolyn Kamu CEO, had this line, which I thought was very useful to think about this sort of thing. She said This is the kind of idea that sounds better in theory than it works out to be in reality. All of us as human beings are flawed. We set out with great intentions, but it’s complex for human beings to actually follow through on those kinds of promises. Entering into these relationships is complicated and it’s opening up the potential for risk of transmission. So I’m not going to make a blanket statement that this is a safe thing to do. I would prefer that people not socialize outside their household. All the epidemiologists that this reporter talked to basically said a similar thing that like when you create a relationship like this, you are putting your. Self at the whim of other people who often don’t manage to carry out the things that they say they’re going to do, when epidemiologist says, look, I deal with infectious diseases. So I’m very used to people telling me one thing and doing another, like that’s basically, you know, for example. However, he as TB transmission between spouses happens. And so there’s this sense among epidemiologists, you ask about this, that this is it’s not ideal to try and do something like this, that you increase the risk of transmission. Nevertheless, this is what we doing, too. And so this is what is most interesting to me about this, is that we have decided, despite knowing that it’s not the ideal scenario, despite knowing that we’re increasing the risk of transmission, that we’ve decided for our own sanity to do this to our quarantine bubble is to other families. Partly it’s for the kids. Partly it’s for us. But started because Harper’s best friend, Shira Harper, both very high impact kids, they demand an enormous amount of attention. And both sets of parents sort of knew instantly as quarantine was beginning that if the quarantine was going to go on a long time, none of us were ever gonna be able to get anything done, any work done, unless those two kids had some kind of outlet besides us. And so we sort of like made a tactical decision to let Sharon Harper do things together. And then Sherry’s parents and us send another couple down the street, our closest friends in the neighborhood. And so we kept ourselves sane.

S14: Over the last month and a half, by every Friday night drinking beer around a fire in one family’s backyard. And we keep on opposite sides of the fire from each other. And we don’t share glasses or anything like that. And we don’t hug and we don’t get close, but we spend that time together. And so I’m curious what you guys have to say about this, whether you guys are doing anything similar to this and what you think in general about the kinds of risk benefit decisions that we’re all making.

S13: The questions that we’re all weighing as we sort of think about this quarantine, not as something we have to do for a week or two weeks, but it’s something that we’re going to be doing on and off for who knows how long years.

S16: So I’d say our situation is somewhat similar because my aim is continuing to go back and forth between my house and her father’s house. Right. And so with that, I’ve made the decision that I only get things delivered for the most part. I know that her dad and step mom are taking very infrequent trips to the grocery store. And I know they’ve done a drive or at least once or twice. Essentially, we’re kind of functioning the same way that our only real outside social interaction is with one another. There is a single mother and her son who live next door and aim, and her dad and this little person has been to her dad’s house a number of times throughout the shelter in place. And I, you know, had some qualms about it at first for exactly the same reasons that the expert cites here, which is that, like Justin, that if I were to deviate from our plan, like I don’t go to the store, I only get things delivered. And then one day I just decide to go to Target. And now I’ve you know, I did something I said I wasn’t going to do. And it just so happens that a target I get the coronavirus, not pass it to these two other households, the one that I’m engaging with and the one that engaging with my child who comes to my house with that. I mean, I think we just have to remind ourselves that. Unless you are able to completely cut out your engagement with the outside world, which means you’re not getting mail, you’re not getting food deliveries, you’re only staying inside of your home. What we’re doing is risk minimization, but that we can’t completely eliminate the risk altogether. And that even with groceries, which most of us are able to justify having, you know, food or medicine delivered once or twice, you know, once a week or every other week, arguably, how many of us have eaten down to the last grain of rice in the pantry? You know, there’s a difference between we need food because I want to make a cake and we don’t have any eggs and we need food because there’s nothing that will sustain us through, you know, through another couple of days if we don’t have groceries. You know, if we were all really saying we’re only doing essential stuff, there’d be far less Amazon orders, you know, and I mean, there’ll be less grocery orders. We would be eating rice and cake frosting as a meal if we needed to. And we’re not doing that. You’re not? Maybe on some nice. Was that here? It’s pretty much got him down. Definitely had a bag of frozen vegetables the other day. It was like cheese on tap for dinner. But I think that you both of you are doing and us, we’re doing something that makes sense and that it is incredibly difficult to only particularly if you’re not in a position where you don’t have to work, you know, and you can just sit and entertain your children all day long, that there’s going to need to be something that you sacrifice, whether it’s we’re ordering groceries once a week so we can cook because I need a distraction or we’re going to have a pod with this family because we need some extra hands here. But you’re doing the best you can. Letter writer and I’m sure there are a lot of other families on the exact same thing.

S13: Elizabeth, what do you think?

S7: So we are also in a little pandemic pod. Ours was born sort of out of some necessity. We started out by trying to isolate entirely and that just became like the base has not shut down. And for a lot of the military units, like things are moving at the same pace, it’s not at a little up tempo pace just because the pandemic presents security risks and issues for the country that they are called to face and deal with. So I’m in a neighborhood with a lot of other military families and we’ve sort of talked about this with Wills before. We had already had some conversations about what it looks like. Like if one of our husbands ends up needing to be at base, like and stay there or what happens if we get Corona virus with someone gone and I have these three kids in the house and Jeff and I are both down and had already had these two other families who have kids all about the same age that we had sort of said, OK, well, we are willing to take that risk for you. Like if your kids needed to come here because you were sick or if you needed assistance. And then we just found that since two of the dads are already going into work all the time, we started kind of delegating errands to them. So we don’t have the delivery options here. We have Walmart pickup, but they are only opening 10 slots one day in advance. So some days you can’t get one. And Jimmy Lee. Absolutely right. Like we don’t necessarily need staff, but you need stuff to cook and you have to run grocery errands. So the guys that are going to base are running those errands whenever somebody is going out. We’re trying to pick up for all the families. We also just noticed a huge decline in the mental health, particularly of our 7 and 8 year olds. And once we sort of set some ground rules for like, OK, they can go play and limiting, you know, we’re doing the same kind of things. Like all play is outside. The parents are hanging out in the driveway, staying far apart. We’re making sure that whatever kind of house yard they’re in, that we’re hand-washing, hand-washing in and out every time that toys are getting wiped off. But it just sort of seems that at some point, you know, two weeks of being totally isolated is one thing. But if we’re really looking at what’s now a month and looks to be probably going on so much further, how do we take care of people’s mental health, because we really are kind of meant to live in community. And it’s it’s very hard to be isolated. And it’s one thing we’re like. I feel like as an adult, you can express that. And there are other ways. But it’s really hard for my 3 year old to interact with anyone or feel like they’re playing with someone on the computer where as just the change we’ve noticed in the last week since letting them play. And I do worry like there’s two dads that are, you know, out on base and coming back. And, yes, they’re changing when they get home like all of these things. But I worry not only about them bringing it in, because I think we have all kind of accepted that risk, that like if one of us gets sick, we’re all quarantining and we can all presume that we have it. But the idea that like what if because one of us was second didn’t know that we then spread it to someone else? I also am like, how long can we maintain, you know, our kids health and our mental health? Like, if I’m going to be here schooling the kids and doing all these things, I need an outlet to and I need to be able to go walk with the other moms and sit and hang out and have that or otherwise, like what good is preserving everything if we’re all going insane? So it’s just such a hard call. But I mean, I so agree with you that, like, we’re all doing what we can. And I think if you’re considering those risks, that at least you’re keeping them in mind and knowing like, you know, you have to be honest and check in with the other families about how everyone’s doing. And I don’t know, it’s hard. I always come down to like every time we bring this up as our group, we’re always like, well, it’s not the right thing, but it’s kind of what we’re do.

S11: Yes. So that is the thing. This is what is so fascinating to me about this. And so like here is the devil’s advocate position about this. Right. It’s not even really the devil’s advocate. It’s it’s a position that’s going to be taken by many people. I think in response to this episode, in the comments on Facebook and elsewhere, which is, yes, it’s unpleasant to be alone. Yes, it is unpleasant and difficult to call Jane. Yes. I just drive you a little bit crazy, but people’s lives are at stake. Right. People are dying. You can talk about mental health all you want. But if like you measure that against, well, what if people actually die, then it’s like hard to make the case yet. Nevertheless, here I am doing it. And here we all are doing some version of it. And I think most people are probably are doing some version of this. I sort of think of the country right now as like having at one far and our people who are really have managed to completely isolate at the other far end are like idiots who are protesting on the streets of Richmond because they want to get their hair. And then there’s the big middle section of all of us who are doing the best we can, but who, as Jamila says, trying to mitigate risk.

S14: Piquet eliminated, you know, the scientists in those interviews and VOCs did sort of grudgingly offer guidelines like if you feel like you have to do this to avoid serious depression or other problems limited to a very small group, do it as infrequently as you possibly can. As Elizabeth and Jamila already said, really communicate with those people and establish ground rules, communicate about your health, and assume that if someone in that little bubble contracts the virus, probably you all are going to get it and you are gonna have to button-up for that period.

S13: But as Elizabeth has noted, what it also gives you and doing something like this is the assurance that if that happens and you have to button up, those people will still be there for you and you’ll still be there for those people.

S7: I guess I’m particularly frustrated, too. I mean, across the board with kind of like the guidance that we’re consistently given. But I have trouble with guidance that doesn’t take into account kind of human nature or the people that we are. And so I think that this idea of like, yes, we need to like button up and be self canteen’s like, OK, so that’s like best case. But let’s assume that like that is clearly not working for people. So what kind of guidance can we give that says like, OK, this is what we need to do, but how can we achieve that? Is it a 100 percent mass order like, OK, you need to be home. And if you’re doing these pods, like anytime you’re out, everyone needs to be in a mask. I don’t know because I don’t know, you know anything about the spread of disease or covered 19. And what is out there is, you know, hard to always find what is accurate and reliable.

S13: But this is like the sex ed should not assume abstinence theory of of t.

S7: I mean, I. I just feel like, please give me some other guidance about like, okay, I understand that this is best case. I’m not doing best case. So what can I do that is kind of like feasable. Some of the frustration I think that we see is a result of the guidelines, not always feeling feasible for everyone. And we’re all in positions where like I could stay home with the kids. But there are a lot of people who both parents are still working and therefore you have to have a bubble. And so having some kind of like you shouldn’t be doing this or shaming someone for going out or not self quarantining entirely. We have people who’s the other spouse is deployed and they have three, four, whatever kids. How would you like them to get food if they’re not, you know, breaking and sending someone else? I think there’s just a lot of situations. And what I feel like we haven’t gotten is practical guidance.

S16: Yeah, I agree with that. And I you know, I certainly I braced myself for what some of the responses to this segment will be, especially considering, you know, some of the responses we got to a conversation about custody, you know, during this time. And for me, I can’t rightly say how I would be handling this if I were in a situation in which there was another adult in the household, you know, and perhaps it would just be. The child stays here, and that’s that the guidance has been issued regarding custody is that most arrangements are supposed to stay the same. You know, like unless there’s some sort of serious set of circumstances under which, you know, these two households should not be able to have a child go back and forth. And so theoretically, OK, that’s great. But just because, like, say, a family’s had some legal issues, you know, it’s been some battle over a child’s time. And the court is saying the right thing to do is to continue as normal. But that goes completely counter to what we’ve been told about social distancing. Right. Whether one of the parents is working or not. If I go to the grocery store once a week and you use in the car once a week, you have your interaction with other human beings. I have mine. And now both households are at risk. And so there’s just naturally an increased risk that comes with following the law. For some families. Right. And so with that, I think. Yeah. If you are able to within your household, be at a single parent, multiple child household or multiple adult single child household or whatever configuration, the less outside interaction you have with human beings that do not reside in your domicile, the better. But that is something that a lot of people are finding to be challenging. But I do want to throw out something a bit more sobering, because I’m not saying that I don’t think any of us would say that we’re recommending the way that we’re operating, which is simply sharing that this is what we’re doing, that everyone is doing things in their own way as best they can. But there was a letter that we got to Karen feeding from a dad who was concerned about a kindergarten playgroup that his wife had gotten their child in, in which a number of families were gathering. I guess every school day. And, you know, the moms were steadily hanging out. And one adult who was a teacher was leading the older kids in some classwork. And I guess the smaller kids were just kind of playing around. And Cauvin has hit the group and the letter writer said nothing. He asked, you know, was he wrong for not being OK with it? And I told him, because the number of people that were in the group and the way that they were interacting, you just didn’t sound to me at all. Like anything like social distancing. It didn’t sound even like these. Karen, that you all have. I do think that we should also be reminded that reducing risks doesn’t mean eliminating it. And even with us thinking that we’re, you know, taking extra precautions to be safe while choosing to interact with other people, that the risk is there. So that’s not to say. Yes. No big deal, it’s cool if you need some help with your kids, just go out and find it. But just that the task is on us to survive this as best we can with this little human contact as possible. And just for some people, that’s going to be more human contact than for others.

S7: I think you’re right, though. The reality is definitely that, you know, a lot of us are going to get this in one form or another and we should be making our our decisions with that in mind. And I don’t know, again, I mean, I just always come back to like I understand that we often talk about that our little group will probably end up getting sick with people going to work and things like that. And yet this is still what we’ve chosen to do.

S13: Keeping that sort of tension in mind, maybe it seems like the most fruitful way to think about this for families who who have made this decision. Right, to always be thinking as much as you can about the ways that you can minimize risk within the circumstances that you’ve set for yourself and continually thinking about the balance between your mental health and keeping your family and your children happy in a way that’s recognizable to you and keeping you in your community as safe as possible. Like never forgetting about that tension probably is the best way to think about handling this.

S12: All right. Thank you so much for writing in. If you have a question or problem press, send it to mom and dad at So we’ll be talking about imaginary friends for our. Everyone is Fighting segment. Just last week, I told you all that Jeff and I created imaginary friends for our kids called Frank and Gary. We also learned that Jimmy imaginary friend was Bill Murray in Ghostbusters. But oftentimes our little ones stream up their own imaginary friends.

S15: Dear mom and dad, I realize that in light of all the tragedy, anxiety and social isolation happening in our covered 19 reality, that my problem is trivial and silly. But I would still appreciate some advice on how to handle my six year old daughter’s letter correspondence with a dragon. My daughter has been obsessed with dragons for at least two years, and now her best friend is also into them. One day, while on a play date at her best friend’s house, they decided to write a letter to a dragon. Surprisingly, that night, the dragon wrote them back. Better yet, the dragon lives in our neighborhood. The parents of my daughter’s friend are also good friends of mine and love to foster imaginative thinking. They have, however, apologized for introducing the letter writing to my daughter because she is now obsessed with the idea. My daughter is convinced that dragons are real. She talks about how we thought dinosaur bones were from dinosaurs, but now we know that they really were dragons. She also wrote The Dragon her own letter, asking very specific questions like Are you male or female? How many children do you have and do you like tacos? I didn’t encourage her to write the letters. I mean, honestly, who wants the extra work of remembering to write dragon letters after the kids go to sleep? But since we are socially isolating at home, we made it into a fun project. My daughter made a colorful mailbox and I make her write the letters on her own because she works on her writing skills. So we get a couple letters a week. My problem is that I am essentially lying to my daughter and eventually she is going to find out that dragons are in fact not real. My daughter is getting a little too scientific about the entire situation. She is asking very specific questions and I have to keep track of the details. Miss Fire shares. Today, my daughter was examining one of the letters and wondering what the dragon wrote with. Is it a pen? Is it a crayon? Where did she get the crayons? How did she know how to write? I didn’t know dragons could speak English. I respond with non-commital things like it is a mystery or we don’t really know a lot about dragons or what do you think? How do we get out of this situation? Or should I continue to foster her relationship with this imaginary dragon? I know that this is silly, but what do I do? Thinks dragons are dragging me down this path, lady.

S3: What do you think of this lady’s predicament?

S10: I say dig deeper. Like start thinning presence on the dragon bucket. I mean, it’s just. Why not? What kind of gifts does a dragon said set fire to the garage and be like, whoa! I don’t know.

S16: Like, maybe you could, like, reward the kid for great behavior like through the dragon, like all your dragon friends sent you a coloring book. Like, I don’t know, maybe.

S8: I think this is a time where there’s so much F&D mystery in the world that the idea of some, like whimsical mystery is super cool and also the idea of your child one day being twelve. And you say, hey, remember this, you thought dragons were real until last year is hilarious. And I think you should just keep it going as long as humanly possible.

S3: It is funny. Like the reason I wanted this to be the all ages segment on the show today is that I feel like a kid sometimes need to know all the insane stuff that we adherents end up getting ourselves wrapped into just to attempt to like make things a little bit magical for our kids. But also like I really think kids relate to this. Like I think they get most of the time. For example, if you’re a kid listening right now and you hear that this little girl is asking, like, how did the dragon know how to write? Where did the dragon get quran’s? My sense is your instinct is, oh, this kid totally has the dragons are real. I know the dragons are real, but these are like fun questions you would ask. And so much as I would like to say to this lady, you made your bed. Now lie in it. vis-a-vis dragons. I also think you could almost certainly already knows, right?

S7: Yeah, I can really sympathize because I feel like this is the kind of predicament I get myself in. Quite as Frank and Gary. This is Frank. Our Gary Frank and Gary Dragon. Yeah, exactly. Well, since we know nothing about this, we have found someone to talk to who does.

S12: To help us answer this question, we are joined by Dr. Stephanie Carlson, distinguished McKnight University professor and director of research at the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota. Welcome to the show. Thank you for having me. So among other things, you study, pretend, play. What did you make of the letter writers dragons situation?

S2: I really loved it. So this is a wonderful example of imagination, kind of to the degree. By a 6 year old, and the parents have gotten themselves into a bit of a predicament. However, by thinking along with with the imagination and perhaps there where they’ve taken it too far.

S7: So what is your advice to these parents like? Should they continue to answer these questions like her kind of generic answers the way she should be going? Yeah, it’s a hard one.

S2: She kind of backed herself into a corner a little bit. So the imagination is wonderful. I mean, it’s really just a very healthy and natural expression of imagination and curiosity. And it is important to keep in mind also that children generally are really good at understanding the distinction between fantasy and reality. So this is called the ontological distinction. And by age 6 or so, the age of the child in this letter, in this situation, they would have a pretty good understanding of this distinction between, you know, what is real and what’s not real. In fact, they more often than not actually air on the side of assuming most things that people tell them are not true and not real when it comes to things that seem implausible. So I think that that general concern about children, assuming that everything in a fantasy world is real or could come alive, is probably not very well-founded based upon what we know from the scientific literature. But that said, they are really curious about the boundary cases. So dragons, these are boundary cases of things that could be real and then they rely a lot on adult testimony. Most of what we learn actually, even as adults is through testimony. Right. We we take it on the word of others or we we read something and we learn something that way. We don’t really learn most things through direct experience of them. And so when adults are kind of going along with a schrade about dragons in this case, seems like maybe in some cases it could be real. They look kind of like lizards and things that they really know about and that they’ve heard we’re real like dinosaurs. But yet, you know, they have these fantastical qualities like being able to fly. So they’re really curious about those. And then if the adults are kind of going along with it, like I said with the testimony, it can be especially confusing for them. So in this case, I mean, one possibility is that it will pass on its own. So, you know, she might just become less interested herself in writing the letters over time, even if the parent doesn’t change anything. But another possibility would be for the parent to respond less frequently with the letters just to break up that contingency. If every time the child writes a letter to the dragon, you know, lo and behold, a letter comes back in the mail. And even to stop writing the letters altogether, she could say that, you know, gosh, I wonder what happened. Maybe they moved to a new neighborhood and then in a few years, you know, they have a good laugh about it together. Once it becomes clear through other means, you know, that the child that this was not a real case for a lot of kids.

S11: There’s a very familiar experience of, you know, you mentioned these these sort of edge cases, these boundary cases where you sort of know it’s the things about it are maybe make believe. But you also sort of think that it’s true in some ways. And I think kids are maybe more sophisticated about that than we sometimes give them credit for. Like, you know, I just have memories of being around this age and having an imaginary friend and knowing in some ways that he was imaginary, but also knowing that, like, I enjoyed playing and that way I enjoy playing that way. And, you know, I think that’s a familiar feeling for a lot of kids. And do you sort of see this as less of a either or either a kid thinks dragons are real or they don’t. And more of the kids are also sort of on the boundary, just like sort of taking it when they need it for sure.

S2: That is a familiar kind of feeling, that dawning awareness that some of us can remember from our own childhood. I would even venture that maybe it’s really the child who’s pulling the wool over their mom’s eyes and that she’s going along with it for the mother’s sake. You know, let’s keep this fun interaction going is one possibility as well. But one good thing about young children having a short attention span is that it is fairly easy to distract them and help them move on to something else. If she is concerned about it. So one thing she could do is try to channel this amazing curiosity and energy to the child’s interest and maybe a real scientific domain. So maybe it’s dinosaurs or maybe it’s chemistry or something else where that same sense of wonder can.

S11: Cultivated kids, let’s talk about Komodo dragons.

S7: Yeah, they’re type of dragon, that’s real, right? That’s one way to redirect.

S16: Are there any red flags that can show up an imaginary friend play like maybe some things that our kids are signaling to us via the introduction of this character or their role in their or our lives that we should be sensitive to?

S2: Yeah, so I think being aware of the emotional motivations that could be behind the imagery companion a lot of times through pretend play in general, not necessarily just imaginary companion play, but the role play that Dan mentioned as well. Children are really playing around with their emotions and trying to learn about things in the world, but also about their feelings about things in the world. Fear is one very strong emotion that kids are trying to learn how to cope with and the fear that they’ll actually create in the course of their play, like they’ll actually create scary scenarios or slightly risky situations in play that they might be trying to learn how to cope with in real life. So one example would be creating an imagined companion that is a really ferocious dog, having a ferocious dog. That’s a metric companion as a way to kind of learn how to deal with potentially a fear of dogs in a way that the child has a little bit more control over.

S11: As in this case with the Dragons, the interplay between the kid and the imaginary friend and the parents and the world that the child creates, I find is much more likely to be like a source of sort of long running delight in a family than like the kind of angst that this letter writer is feeling about this. Like, I think the chances are very slim that five years from now the child is going to be furious with her parents because of this whole dragon thing. I don’t think most kids are upset or furious when they sort of become older and think back on the kinds of things they believed when they were littler. And this is it’s like an ongoing process. Right. Like if you’re listening to this right now and you’re six, you remember the stuff you thought when you were. You I got that 4 year old. What did she know? And if you’re 10, you think back on when you were 8. And I mean, I’m forty five. And I think back when I was forty four and I was just an idiot then. But like, I just think that that process is so common to everyone. But I don’t think it usually creates unhappiness or drama of the sort that it seems like this letter writers really worried about.

S2: I would agree and I think most often it’s best to just kind of follow your child’s lead on it. So sometimes they really want parents to be involved. For example, sometimes they mentioned companion takes up space. Some of them are actually personified objects. So like the KOBS and Calvin and Hobbes that it was a stuffed animal, but it really came to life in Calvin’s mind. Right. But sometimes they’re invisible and either way they can kind of take up space. And so they might, for example, insist that the imaginary bandit have a place at the dinner table or have a car seat in the car. In that case, enlist parents to help them by literally buckling in stuffed in the wall. Are they invisible companions? In other cases, though, I think they really would prefer that parents stay out of it and let them develop their own storyline and their own fantasy. And sometimes parents can get a little bit too involved. Following your child’s lead is probably the best way to kind of make sure that it stays in that zone. Being a delightful family.

S7: Memory 70, thank you so much for joining us. And I think now we all know during this time to let our kids and adults with a little bit of imaginary companions and just kind of enjoy the creativity that we’re seeing in front of us.

S12: Thank you so much. Thank you, listeners. Let us know who you’d like to hear from. Everyone is Fighting Now segment. Just drop us an email at mom and dad at OK. The show isn’t over yet. It’s time for recommendations. Dan, what do you have for us?

S3: I am recommending a very fun. Why a comic?

S17: A comic for until like 13 and up. It’s an urban fantasy called an Embarrassment of Witches by Sophie Goldstein. And Jen Jordan came out just last month. It is set in a world where witchcraft is real, but not in sort of like the Harry Potter. Some people are witches, but other people don’t know about it way. But just like it just like witchcraft is like electricity now. It’s just a part of everyone’s lives. It’s about two roommates and best friends who really struggle in the post-college world. It’s just that their struggles also have to do sometimes with zombies and carnivorous plants and stuff like that. It is very charming. It’s very funny. I think that kids who once were huge Harry Potter fans are now are a little bit older and are looking for a fun book that is about adult topics, but also has like, you know, a sense of whimsy to it might really get into. I’ll post a link on the show page to this book on Bookshop Dot Haug. And then that leads me to my additional recommendation, which is use bookshop doored for your book Shopping as an alternative to. Amazon, it’s a brand new website that works great and it’s a sort of a cooperative in the bookshops that benefits indie bookshops nationwide, something that’s particularly important to you right now. And in addition to that, it will get you most books faster than Amazon will because Amazon has throttled books shipping right now on paper, you know, more urgent supplies. So you can get a pulse oximeter in 24 hours, but it takes like two weeks to get a book for Amazon. Right now, the book Benefits M.D. and we’ll get to your book in just a couple of days. So check it out.

S7: That’s great. Thanks. Jameela, how about you?

S16: I’m also recommending a book this week. I recently got a copy of the Anger Management Workbook for kids. It’s got 50 fun activities to help children.

S8: Calm and make better choices when they get mad.

S18: The author is the Martha, the Snowden. And it’s you know, we haven’t used it yet, but I’m very optimistic about it. They’ve got lots of cool things that you can have your little ones sit down and do. And they’re not feeling great from drawing a picture of how they’re feeling to answering some sort of simple questions about what’s going on with them emotionally. And some language to help them articulate why they’re not feeling super good at the moment and how you can help them to learn to understand it so that they can better manage it when it shows up.

S7: Similarly, you and I are on the same wavelength as I am. I’m recommending something very similar, which is called the Big Life Journal for Kids and it’s a growth mindset book. So not specifically focused on anger, but it just seems like in this time a good time to sit down and work on some of this big life. Journal has books for different age groups. The four kids, one has been perfect for my seven now eight year old. And it just has activities that help you reframe the way you’re thinking about things. So it is meant to be done with a parent. So it asks the child or, you know, if you’re reading it to like tell a story from your greatest success and then ask the kids to list some things about their successes and also reframing challenges into growth experiences. It’s a great way to just kind of retool the way you’re thinking about things. They also have a podcast for kids, which is great and just tells different stories about kind of hard situations and then good things that have come out of them. And it’s a wonderful way. We’ve had a lot of really good discussion based on the podcast. And they also have tons of free printable. So if you want to check it out, that’s the Big Life Journal for Kids. That’s our show.

S4: If you have a question. Email us at mom and dad at and join us on Facebook. Just search for slate parenting. Mom and dad are fighting is produced by Rosemarie Bellson for Dan Coats and Jamilah Lemieux. I’m Elizabeth Leslie.

S12: Plus. Thank you so much for supporting. Mom and dad are fighting. It means a lot to us. This past week, Sesame Street had a virtual playdate special to help kids adjust to life at home. Sesame Street isn’t the only program to address covered 19 programs like Wow and the World have also put out crown of virus episodes. And this isn’t the first time a crisis has necessitated special programming for kids. But how effective are these programs that helping kids understand what’s going on? Will kids start washing their hands just because Elmo said so?

S5: What do you guys think? I want to know, Elizabeth, what the new camp kids have thought about these programs because they are very close to the target market.

S7: We have watched both the Sesame Street special, which my 5 year old and 3 year old really enjoyed. And it features like Elmo Face Timing with a bunch of celebrities. And Elmo’s dad is there supervising. And then, wow. And the world is like laying pretty much all the time at our house. And my 8 year old really loves that, as does my five-year-old. So I would say that they have been incredibly well received. I do sometimes worry that all the programming they’re getting becomes coronavirus centric. So I am glad that shows like this are putting out kind of special episodes and it’s not like the dominant thing that we’re talking about week after week because I do like to have some normalcy. But the Elmo thing was like a huge hit with my three year old. Of course he just like this is what we’re doing. Like we have to do these same things, like he’s talking with his grandparents, just like we’re talking with our grandparents. So I think it normalizes it. It gave them, you know, all the reasons why they have to do these things. Talking about hand-washing. By the time we watched it, which was earlier this week and we had heard the well in the world earlier, a lot of the things they were reinforcing we had already established in our house. But I am sure for many viewers that is not true. I think for them it was like a reinforcing, like the hand-washing is really important and gave them some other ideas of like what songs to saying and what things to do, why they’re doing it. My 5 year old in particular is like a if I had to figure out like say how he learns best. I would say like he learned. By having things on the table. So this is like a win for him. Like anything I can’t manage to teach him or get through. It’s like I show my show and he gets it just across the board. I think it’s nice to have that additional support of someone else conveying these messages so that you don’t have to nag the thing that people are really worried about.

S5: We talked about this. There’s a slack channel at Slate for parents where we sort of talk through parenting issues. And the thing that parents have little or kids maybe like three year olds were worried about was this sense of like, my kid doesn’t really get that anything’s going on right now necessarily. Like, I always told him to wash his hands before and maybe he notices that we’re not going out a lap. And I like I haven’t had a big coronavirus conversation with my kid. And those parents were sort of worried about, well, like, why do I want to show them this thing? That’s about my anxiety, basically. Do I just want to convey my anxiety onto the kids? And that just doesn’t feel convincing to me. Like, I just I just think imagining a universe in which even a 3 year old is not going to essentially have some sense that something’s going on and in which giving them more information in a child friendly way is better than giving them less information like that’s seems wrong to me.

S7: They know they’re not going to school or to day care or to like seeing their friends or I mean, my 3 year old’s retort for everything now is like, oh, is this because of the virus? Like, I don’t think he’s scared of it because we haven’t given him reason to be scared the way that maybe my 8 year old understands a little more that there are scary consequences. But he certainly understands that like the virus has changed the way we do life. Like grandma, grandpa didn’t come for the birthday they were supposed to come to, like we’re not going to see them. Like his life has changed as a result. I agree with you that like the idea that they don’t know what’s going on. I think really underestimates what your child picks up on and can understand about the world around them.

S19: And they’re just so much that even if like you’re not engaging with those specials, if you’re watching television at all and it’s not completely ad free, it’s virtually impossible that they haven’t come across, you know, that word coronavirus. A lot of times, you know, or seeing commercials where companies are talking about people staying at home, you know, and then being able to make the connection between like, okay, so this isn’t just something going on at my house or my school. Other people are doing this, too. So I think that having those specials are, you know, it’s great. Like we watched a good bit of the Sesame Street one and I am a seven. So she’s like not Sesame Street Target demo anymore, but still close enough to it that it’s like, you know, going up to your old high school the year after you graduated to talk to some of your senior friends and, you know, like say, yeah, you know, I’ve seen a little bit more Sesame Street that says, I want to ask. She was like, yeah, you know, I do still like Sesame Street. I’ve been watching a little bit more lately at dad’s house and her brother’s five. You know, I feel like he’s still there, but he’s also like one foot out, you know. She didn’t make it through the entire special a second time in my house, like I saw the kind of you know, but she and she had production notes like, you know, so-and-so only has a room, but they have an entire house, you know, like he only lives in a bed. She said, no. I was like, wow. I think that’s just because he’s filming in his bedroom. She’s like, no, if you open that door, it just leads to the street. I’m like, Raymond. How do you know this? Like, we’ll look at it. You can tell this is not a full apartment. Okay. I think that familiar voice of Elmo for her was comforting right now. And Elmo was somebody who is so important and like brush your teeth and how you brush your teeth, brush, brush, you brush and, you know, just that soothing tone. And kids respond, Elmo, because Elmo is a child. Sounds like a child. So I think it’s great. I’d love for them to make Elmo talk to you about your first period video and Elmo and the birds and the bees and Elmo and racial profiling. Like any of those complicated conversations that I’m going to have to have, I’m more than happy to have the Children’s Television Workshop to step in and support me.

S1: Can we talk for a minute about Elmo’s dad? Yeah, with his like open collar shirt, as you know, t is floppy. You got a T so long time.

S7: Elmo watchers are very familiar with us, dad. He’s he’s kind of a strange guy, I think, because we’ve used the like Elmo potty videos. And then also Elmo has a couple podcasts that we’re very into.

S19: So I just definitely think that’s from Williamsburg.

S1: Yeah, yeah, I agree. I’ve definitely had some real hipster vibes off Elmo’s dad. He didn’t always look like like Elmo’s dad is making sure that Elmo is listening to the Ramones on vinyl.

S19: Did you ever do Elmo calls with your kids? I mean, I guess. Elizabeth. Yeah. Oh, yeah. So there’s an. Have we left that out, there’s an apt name. It’s funny because I think it was while we were watching the Sesame Street special that it clicked for Nyima that the Elmo calls and it’s very cool and looks like you’re almost making a face time call with Elmo. Yeah, like a face and college. I think this was the moment she realized that we weren’t really both having Elmo. She was like, we’re always the call Elmo. Don, Don. That’s why she like dragons. Yes.

S11: That was when she learned the Dragons were Mario. Well, good job. Children’s Television Workshop. I do agree that, like, there’s a great deal of comfort not only in how good they are at it, but in how steady they have been over, you know, almost 50 years now.

S1: They were teaching us about stuff when we were kids. And now they can teach our kids about stuff. And like the amount of trust that America has in children’s homes of worship, is they basically unmatched by any other organization. And so I’m deeply grateful that they still exist and that they’re still doing stuff like that, like they’re pretty remarkable.

S7: I agree. I’ll take as many fatsos as they’ll put out. That’s it for this week’s Slate Plus segment. Until next time.