Pretty White Boy Edition

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership. The following podcast contains explicit language.

S2: Hello and welcome to Mama Better Funding Slate’s Parenting podcast, Thursday, January 9th. The Pretty White Boy Edition. Hi, Dan.. I’m a writer at Slate and the author of the book How to Be a Family and the dad of Lyra, who’s 14, and Harper, who’s twelve. And I live in Arlington, Virginia.

S3: Hi, I’m Jamilah Lemieux, a writer contributor to Slate Care and Feeding Parenting column and the communications consultant I am mom to name a few who say that we live in sunny Los Angeles, California. But I am coming to you live from a closet in Chicago, Illinois.

S4: And I’m Laura Tisdall, a book editor at Penguin Random House and parent to Mark, who is 5, and Harriet, who’s newly 3. And we live in Brooklyn, New York.

S2: Welcome, Laura. We’re glad to have you this week. Thanks. Today on the show, we’ve got a question from a parent whose daycare teachers treat her white child different from the other children.

S5: And we have a question from a mother wondering if it’s OK to take the fall for her daughter. Plus, as always, tries and fails and recommendations. So we will start today with some triumphs and fails. Jamila, what do you have for us? A triumph, her a fail.

S6: I’m going to say I have both. The trial is that I have a child who is so deeply committed to my success on this podcast that she puts me in situations where I have a devastating enough bail each week to grifting enough people to want to tune in to your tribe.

S7: As that she gives you a chance to fail. She gives me chances to fail. Yes. Let’s hear it.

S8: So literally, today was on the way to a record. We’re is Chicago Square Week, which is where her dad and I are both from servicing family. I came to a co-working space to work done record the podcast.

S6: And so she asked me to set something up on her iPad. Of course, you know, I’m pretty much on my way out the door and somewhere. OK. And it wasn’t working, was it? Well, let me go to the Web site for the app. And I see that every tab, there’s a ton of tabs open on safari. And they have one word in common sex. My Notter burn Google sex because in her words, I keep hearing this word and I want you to know it.

S9: Now, this is someone who has no problem asking me what any number of things mean.

S10: So whatever she’d heard around sex. She either thought better of asking me. She didn’t think I would talk to her about it.

S11: I knew it was something adult and didn’t want to ask.

S10: We wanted to find out the old fashioned way. The porn gifts Tumblr got with them, but they still live on the internet somewhere.

S6: And so my feel is not having adequate parent controls on my daughters.

S9: I’ve had in two thousand and twenty. I am actually I’m a boomer.

S6: I am like parental controls. When I did it for my generation, why didn’t I do it?

S7: Why do I have no excuses, have no excuses on the app so she can download.

S12: But somehow I didn’t have it on the adult or the web site website because I think about going on websites.

S5: I have a response to this fail. OK, I just googled sex. Really get tumblr porn gifs like you get the sex page on Psychology Today, like an interview with Peggy Orenstein.

S6: She Google Tumblr sex. But whatever. I guess that is true.

S10: All of these tabs were pornographic, everything like she’d gone down a rabbit hole, some sort.

S13: Maybe it was what the sex she’s gone to like page seven of that Google images search.

S5: Maybe that’s just an accurate reflection. Of what Google believes you are looking for.

S14: Jesus, are you doodles with everybody white?

S6: No. I mean, not any part of my life.

S5: When you walked into the kitchen and the instant we walked in, Harper immediately closed her computer like you saw Harper. It’s like nothing. And I just left the room here, Earth, and she had Googled. What do lady’s private parts look like?

S15: I’m going to teach her about keywords that that’ll never see my daughters.

S5: You know what? This is a universal experience for every child in America at this point, right, Jamila? I think this is a very forgivable fail.

S16: Best to get it out of the way. Yeah.

S17: So I’m going to buy her one of those nice hippy dippy sex books that the parents in my neighborhood read. I had a classmate who told us in great detail what sex was not at school, but at like the cashier at the grocery store was down there.

S6: That’s how I learned where babies come from. So we’re ready.

S16: Good. Hi, Laura. What are you to have a trial for a fail this week? I have.

S18: A smug triumph that became a fail, which I feel like is one of my specialties in parenting. So my two kids have really entered the age of bickering, the age. I remember distinctly as being the sort of overshadowing element of childhood, which is just bickering with your sibling about something you don’t even really seem to care about except for are touching it. And I can’t tell you the number of times the last several months I’ve been pulled into refereeing an argument I didn’t really want to be part of my husband. I’ve been looking for ways out of this and I guess it takes about six times of reading something before it sinks into my brain. Because anyone who has any use of the Internet or Facebook can tell you that this sort of lingo right now about dealing with this is that you should be a sportscaster, not a referee. And what that basically means is describing for your kids the situation they find themselves in and then backing out of the room so that they can figure out how to do the dispute themselves, because even the best parent mediator usually ends up seeming like they’ve taken somebody aside, leaving someone with hurt feelings or just like leaving in their own, you know, personal fit of anger. We started doing this with our kids. We started really trying to take a beat. We started communicating as parents, my husband and I more about how to do this. And it was really working. We were seeing our kids talking to each other in much more respectful ways, getting out in front of arguments. And we were feeling like, you know, possibly Brooklyn’s most Brooklyn parents and really patting ourselves on the back. And then, you know, my son started kindergarten this year and a few months in the school, he came home and told us about some really unpleasant behavior he was experiencing. He described it as a group of kids scolding him a lot. But when he gave us the exact things that they were saying, it sounded a lot more like bullying. And we were really surprised to hear that he had been trying to talk this out with them or trying to fight with them about it and not telling a teacher the thing he’s best known for is asking for help immediately before trying to do anything like, say, put on a sock. But right away, he said, well, now I’m confused because you told me to solve my own disputes. And we were just like, oh, shit. We’ve we’ve really we taught that lesson to heart. And so not only have we entered the age of bickering, but I feel like we’ve now entered the age of nuanced, complicated, psychologically rigorous parenting. And I had really enjoyed being on the other side when a lot of the answers were multiple choice. And now we’re in the sort of essay answer part of parenting. So we had to then try to have a complicated discussion with him about the different scenarios in which you should work it out. And this year in which you should ask for help. And I think we only confused him more so. So who knows what will become of him on the bus on the way to kindergarten?

S5: That is a tough fail. That’s so interesting. It’s like in the long run, that skill is what you want him to. I mean, that is what you want him to be doing. Even with situations that’s difficult. But at his current age, like. Not yet.

S16: Now. Now. Yeah.

S6: Pfeiffer’s but you said cut so deep if you’ve heard that before.

S12: Oh I hear it all the time.

S17: At first like a really pointed like I listened to what you asked me to do and I did my best to follow your directions. And now you are telling me that somehow I have fallen short of your expectations by doing what you asked me to do? Exactly.

S5: It’s such as Jamelia Child has now learned about sex. So has your child learned about the fallibility of parents again? I guess still I have a tentative triumph this week. I reserve the right to revoke this triumph later, but I think we found a church.

S19: So we’ve been trying for quite a while to find a church to go to. Even before the trip. But, you know, on the trip, I really liked our experience with the church. We went to Kansas. And then since we got back, I tried out a couple of different ones here in Arlington and they never quite felt right like one. It was just clear that everyone in the church was just like an Arlington society and they didn’t feel like our people.

S20: And then another church. The music was really good. But then the sermon was all about like the prosperity gospel. And it was like not working. But then right before Christmas, crazily, someone I have never met before emailed me out of the blue and said, I read the book and I read the part where you said you’re looking for a church. And I think you would like our church. So you should come. And so we went. And she was right. I liked it.

S19: There was an Episcopal church. Maybe 10 minutes away from us, it seems extremely chill and very community oriented, like one extremely dumb thing they did that I loved was that. I mean, I’ve never been in a church, so hokey has to do this. But they just literally called up all the adults and children who were having birthdays that week to the church. Happy birthday. Why would you even do that at church? It makes no sense. I when everyone was really nice. For every other spring, they do a big musical at this church starring all the kids. And so Harper has signed up to be a Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. So I like it. We’ll see. You know, it’s possible that in the end the sermons will be bad or we won’t fit in like we think we did or whatever.

S20: But right now, tentatively, I’m tracking this up as a triumph, not only finding the church, but of like being open to the totally crazy idea of accepting a randos invitation to their church and not worrying that it was a cult or something.

S6: That is very big trial, especially since you wanted to find the church held for so long. Confess something to you.

S7: Sure. Yeah. A safe space. No one’s listening. Some Muslims. Thousands.

S6: So I guess. Growing up, I didn’t know why people went to church, which is the strangest thing. Like I knew. Obviously you have to because we didn’t go to church until we met you guys. Not in the way that we do now.

S11: So I was very clear on how Christianity had been introduced to my ancestors and also was not raised in church.

S8: You know, I don’t go to church, the neighborhood that I grew up in. There were a number of very diverse churches. I grew up in Hyde Park, Chicago.

S21: So this is where the Obamas were going to church.

S8: But most of the white people that I are active with were Jewish, and they were either active in a synagogue or they were, you know, not.

S6: But, you know, I can go into church and on TV, white people do not go to church unless it’s on stories like that. And I think that was a big thing. You know, like I was the weirdo because I didn’t go to church. I was the question until I got home. People are real and they talk about church. To this day, I was like, how?

S14: Like, I know. I know that so much of my life is colored by white kids, you know, I mean, like white people who really go to church.

S15: I guess, you know, I like to do Joseph and the Amazing Trick Dreamcoat or celebrate birthdays. You know, to do evil.

S6: The like the. Good. Nice, like church. Like people every Sunday like. Well.

S10: But it’s funny that you’re like, you know, I accepted a church invitation from. Like, that’s a big deal. I’ve been getting church invitations from randos my whole life.

S15: I see how black women communicate. I just feel like I’m giving them all the time. They just want to invite me. I don’t know why they have let me feel that my soul is not damn to hell without having to go to church with you.

S6: I don’t know.

S5: Couldn’t we just have coffee? That’s the question.

S6: It’s kind of like me and me.

S5: I see a guy out on a date saying like, well, if we just sat down and read the newspaper together, maybe the only white people on TV who go to church that I can think of are The Simpsons. The Simpsons go to church.

S6: The steps that the church are the only ones. They made it seem so like, I don’t know. I mean, they didn’t necessarily make the best case for it either.

S18: Right now, I was going to say a lot of the white people on TV, I see you going to church or going to Catholic churches. And that’s just the beginning of the story. Yeah. Then it takes a turn and it’s part of an NCIS episode.

S22: Shout out to the church, though. People love you.

S5: All right, before we move on, let’s talk some business.

S23: Sorry, God, you guys know about me. Me and I are cool. We just have to. Christine, you have a different relationship, right?

S5: Right. Slate’s parenting newsletter is the best place to be notified about everything that Slate publishes about being a parent. You can learn about new episodes of mom or dad or fighting. You learn about Karen feting and all our other stuff. You can sign up for it at, slash parenting email. Also, it’s just like an e-mail for me every week except right into the last two weeks because I was on vacation and then I had pneumonia. But usually it’s just a funny e-mail for me, so I sign up. Also, check us out on Facebook. You just search for sleep parenting on It is a really fun community. We moderate it so it doesn’t get out of control. I just kicked a jerk out an hour ago. It’s very satisfying. Someone asked a question about good TV shows for their kids. And this guy was like, ah, get your kids to read a book. And I was like, eat shit, pal. You’re gone. Oh, just. Ah. Yeah. No, he he earned it. Just search for sleep parenting on Facebook. All right. Onward. It’s time for our listener. Questions were doing, too. And this week’s show, if you would like to e-mail us your question, just send it to mom and dad at This question is being read by the one and only Shosh Leonhard.

S24: Dear mom and dad, my wife and I have two kids, Miss A who came to us through foster care when she was two and is now four and a half. And B.B.C., who my wife gave birth to last year with the help of a known sperm donor. Miss A is bi-racial black with curly hair and beautiful brown skin, while B.B.C. takes after his mama and donor with fair white skin, blond hair and blue eyes. I am also a white woman. Our issue is how to deal with compliments on BBC appearance. He gets a lot of compliments on his blue eyes and sweet face. I mean, I agree. He’s beautiful. Missy gets compliments, too. But we’re all too aware of the difference in social power conferred by their racial identities and thus the different connotations these compliments carry. The most striking example is that the kids daycare, the majority of kids and teachers are African-American or bi-racial with just a handful of white kids. This is a big part of why we chose the school for our kids, but we have observed how multiple teachers give him much more positive treatment than other kids. It’s a lot of boyfriend. Come here, you pretty boy. Show me those beautiful eyes. Part of this is his very chill and very smiley nature. He’s the baby who will quietly play as the others cry and demand attention. But one white teacher even specifically said that when he’s in her class, he’ll get away with more than the other kids because of his blond hair and blue eyes. Isumi jokingly responded that we send him to this daycare specifically so that he doesn’t get this treatment, but the teacher double down. So Mom and dad, what say you? A conversation with daycare is certainly a step, but I would also love advice on how to deal with this moving forward both in casual situations and in those like daycare where the treatment seems to be ongoing. I am all too aware of the disparity in social privilege enjoyed by my two kids. How do y as their parent address it?

S17: Well, I guess this is the part of the show where I don’t know.

S25: I know dad watches black ish and mixed maybe mixed ish. But when there’s like a moment where whichever character is narrating the episode, usually the mother or the father stops and Mike explains something that like black people know intimately in ways that other folks can understand.

S26: I’m just gonna mosey on through and talk briefly about colorism.

S27: So as you let a writer and listeners all understand that with the European then-Foreign Beauty standards that we have in this country, that blonde hair and blue eyes are considered to be at the top of the attractiveness hierarchy and that whiteness in general is considered to be more attractive or aesthetically pleasing than blackness. And the further you get away from whiteness, the less attractive that you are considered to be by institutions and by a lot of individuals. And so black people are not divorced from that at all.

S28: It isn’t that we look at somebody who is of African descent and identifiably so and then we’re all universally in love with their features.

S29: You know, despite how they may show up in our own faces, our own skin, our own hair. So we have been taught that narrow our noses and lips that are full enough not to be, quote unquote, white people’s lives, but not too big to really remind folks of where we’re from.

S30: And hair that is loosely textured or loosely curled as opposed to very kinkier skin that is lighter and complexion than very dark. All right. That’s where tardies. And so your daughter is going to experience great privilege relative to other black girls, particularly darker complexion, black girls in certain instances because of the way that she looks.

S28: And even amongst black folks, your son may find himself in situations or has hurt you found himself in a situation where he’s being unreasonably doted upon because of his looks. Your kids, both of them have to understand they aren’t being treated well because they’re beautiful. Right. That they’re being treated differently because they are considered to be beautiful for certain reasons.

S31: And that’s a very difficult understanding to live with. And it’s one that I’m not trying to drum up any pity for being raised.

S29: A light complexion, biracial looking, curly hair, a black girl at all.

S28: Because when it comes to colorism and how it impacts black people, I don’t deal with the worst of it. Right. I deal with the least of it. But I deal with it where it showed up for me.

S32: In addition to the privilege and all the people who stopped me and my mom on the street and said I was, oh, she was cute. She’s still cuter.

S30: The times that I was treated nicely where other kids may not have been treated so well.

S28: My understanding of that from a very young age and knowing how my experiences were different from my dark complexion mother who is equally attractive, I’d say because we are almost identical, we look very, very much alike.

S29: And the times that we were, you know, confused for a baby sitter and her charge or, you know, her for my grandmother as opposed to my mother, even though we look so much alike. And she’s not, you know, that old. Right. But just people just saw a darker complexion woman in a sign that wrote to her.

S33: For me, it became hard to just see myself as beautiful. I didn’t see myself as beautiful.

S34: I saw myself as somebody who was treated a certain way or given this unfair privilege and thought to be beautiful, because I am like what I’ve been working on doing with my own light complexion, curly hair. Daughter is making sure that she both recognizes that she is beautiful, but that her beauty is able to be recognized by people in the way that other forms of black beauty are not immediately recognizable, even to other black people, because of the ways that we’ve been conditioned and brainwashed to think that the more African that you look, the darker you are, the less attractive you are. That the more you look like you have white blood, you, the better looking you are.

S6: And at times you’ll be treated as if you’re smarter, more cable or more competent with the teachers, particularly the black and other teachers of color at this school are dealing with is their own internalized madness.

S33: You’ll get it from both sides. They’ll be teachers who have children who look like yours, who fawn over them because those kids look like their own or because those kids look at them. They’ll be teachers who look nothing like your children who would probably have to have a child with a white person to have a light complexion child who are still overly invested in that form of beauty or, you know, praising that in ways that they wouldn’t praise the little Lupita, a little interest that are just as beautiful and just as in need of attention and affirmation, practice for being smart or for being time, but for being beautiful as any other child. You don’t always receive that from their own people. All that to say, this is a value are going to be dealing with for the rest of your lives. Now I am concerned about all the teachers and have this bias is showing up. I think that the white teacher being unaware and I’m not saying that she should be held to a higher standard than the other teachers. But I think that her lack of cultural awareness when you pointed this out to her in that moment is disappointing.

S29: If nothing else, that she could have recover from that. So he’s just so adorable. He’s so sweet. But first, a no, no, no. I’m going to treat that little blond blue boy different because he’s black and blue. And I know she’s trying to say she just thinks of him as particularly adorable, but that she can’t recognize. Why does she think of him as more adorable than the other children’s school?

S13: Well, just to echo some of what Jamila said. You know, I think it’s great that you as parents are starting off from this place of real awareness of this so that you’re situating your family is ready to be aware of these issues early, to start these conversations early. But I also think you have to be, you know, careful about your role and how you approach the teachers, especially individually, especially, you know, in the heat of the classroom and in that moment.

S18: And then presuming, too, that probably part of their job, their focus is parent management and making parents feel seen valued. And I think that the place to start this conversation with the daycare is with the administration and not necessarily teacher by teacher. I think it’s sort of throwing it back on the teacher a little bit in a joking way in the moment is a great way to maybe disarm her, to maybe give her the opportunity to correct herself or to add nuance. But when it comes to. A bigger conversation, I think the place you want to start in, the place you’re going to get the most receptiveness is with the higher level people, the people shaping the philosophy of the school and the policies of the school and sort of bring it to their attention, because what you’d hate to do is come in there as a sort of lecture as a teacher, teaching them how they should be doing it, because I’m sure that you’re also only seeing one piece of those day to day reactions and interactions and you want to make sure that whatever change they make isn’t just in how they’re interacting with you in those drop off or pick up moments, but in how they are perceiving the structure of their classroom and how they are perceiving the sort of routines of their days. I also think you’re right to and Jamal is right in her advice. And like this is actually a moment to turn back to your family and to your family conversations, because this is not the last time that your family will have to sort of walk through this kind of subject matter and this material. And also to sort of lead by example for other families. I think you have a moment here to reconnect to your family as a family unit, to think with your wife about what are the starting places for showing our children the sort of framework that’s happening in society and how our idea of beauty is constructed and how that can be beneficial for certain parties, how it can undermine other parties to sort of give them the tools ahead of time to take those compliments in stride and not build their identities around them in a way that you see rightfully as being toxic.

S13: I also think, you know, in those moments, in those pickup drop off moments, when you’re hearing that the person I’m thinking the most about is your daughter, who is four and a half and who might be listening into these conversations and who is gonna be really sensitive to how you react to them. And it would just be my advice to sort of think about in those moments when it’s not really the right venue to tackle the giant thorny subject matter of colorism, and that that’s probably best done in a sort of broader school philosophy conversation to just make sure you’re thinking about how you are reacting and the words you are choosing in that situation.

S18: For the little person who’s probably hearing more than you think and is looking for her place in your family, looking for how you see her, and to maybe take the opportunity to shift away from focusing on one child to focusing on the family unit to say things like, we’re really lucky to have two beautiful kids. Or you say in here that your son has this really chill personality and saying like, oh, yeah, he’s so easy to spend time with. His sister has made him has, you know, like taught him how to be such a great kid or just. I would say that I remember instances and I’ve I’ve seen instances in my own preschool where kids are listening in ways that you don’t think. And I think you definitely want to in those moments that are easy to get lost in the shuffle, make sure that you think about and are focused on how you are presenting your whole family, not just for other teachers and parents to model that behavior, but for your daughter and son, too, going forward, receive messages that they’re both really loved by you.

S35: That’s extremely good advice from both of you. And I have very little to add, only to augment Laura’s point that in many of these situations, not only your daughter, but other people’s kids are listening. And so probably you should not go with what my initial impulse was, which was to turn those Samite jokey responses into not jokes at all, and instead to just be like, don’t say shit like that. That’s probably not the way to go. So listen to my fine colleagues here and go forth and go back a little.

S8: There’s a book that I would love for you and your wife to read.

S36: It’s called The Color Complex by three authors Cathy Russell, Midge Wilson and Ronald Hall.

S37: A revised edition came out a few years ago. It’s something I’ve referred to many, many times over the years. And it just gives a really comprehensive and easy to read, easy to understand, nothing easy to discuss.

S36: Look at the politics of skin color as it relates to black people in this country. And I think it will help you to understand much better than I can tell you what’s going on at the school, both with the black teachers and with the white teacher and help you to have the languages. You need to have that conversation with those teachers, because it’s something that you’re going to come across again and again as long as your kids are in school.

S38: It’s also something that you really have to talk to them about. And there are very few parents of light complexion, black children that talk to their kids about white skin privilege. It’s something that they come to recognize or understand, perhaps based on whatever sort of political beliefs they may get involved in or because somebody accuses them of it. And much like you hear white folks or white women, you know, complaining, I’m a feminist. I’m a woman. I suffered. You can’t be racist. I can’t be biased against other people or, you know, I’m not I’m privileged, but I’m not that kind of privilege. You can get that same gain from a lot of light-skinned black folks who don’t realize that it impacts their rate.

S36: So which we finish school or employ. How much time we spend incarcerated if we are charged with the crime and sent to prison getting married and again, just representation in media, all of those things. And it’s something your daughter, your daughter deserves to know and it’s something that your son as a sibling to a black child deserves to know and should know. And also as somebody who has blond hair and blue eyes and will be treated better than white kids who have brown hair and brown eyes talking about what bias on the basis of not just race, but color and complexion look like, I think would be a really healthy and important conversation for you all to have in your home so you can begin to deal with this. And just briefly add in terms of thinking about what a script might look like for you to talk to other people.

S37: It sounds like you were certainly on the right page with their teacher. It’s disappointing that she wasn’t able to receive it.

S32: She said we sent our kids here because we didn’t want them to have that experience. But really doubling down and perhaps I mean, that conversation with an administrator or the director of the school and just saying that we understand that both of our children will experience a certain amount of privilege on the basis of how they look, you know, and perhaps how they’re being raised and who is raising them. The guy’s not what we want for them. And if this isn’t an environment where you’re capable of treating all of the children fairly and making every child that was in here feel beautiful and capable and competent when they leave your doors, then this might not be the right place for our family.

S35: All right. That was a very comprehensive answer and a very good one. We would love to hear a little more about what happens in this situation from you, letter writer. If you feel like following up, we would really love to maybe hear the second beat of the story and whether the administration receives you in the way you hope they are, whether you see things changing and how you’ve started to think about talking about it. As Jamila says, not only with those adults in these kids lives, but with those kids themselves. Thank you for writing in. I hope this was helpful. Once again, that question came to us via mom and dad at, and that’s how this next question came to us as well.

S24: Dear mom and dad are fighting. My eight year old daughter A has had several sleepovers over the past two years with her best friend. And while they’ve gone okay, she didn’t enjoy them that much. I’m not a huge fan either, since my daughter ends up tired and grumpy the next day. We had a break with no sleepovers, but recently A and her friend have been asking me again if they can do a sleepover. I turned down the first couple of requests because of scheduling conflicts, and in the meantime a confided in me that she doesn’t actually want to do the sleepovers. She just asks me in the presence of her friends so that her friend won’t be disappointed or angry. I told A that I would continue to say no, even if she begs in the presence of her friend. It’s OK to take the fall for my daughter. On the one hand, my parents sometimes played the bad guy for me, saying no so that I didn’t have to. And I was really grateful. But on the other hand, shouldn’t she be honest with her friend? Her friend can be very persistent. And I think A is afraid that if she says that she doesn’t want to do sleepovers, the friend will keep arguing until she breaks down. I’m not sure if I’m doing a good mom deed by protecting my daughter or just enabling her to avoid conflict. Thank you for your advice.

S5: I have strong feelings about this. Me too. I can’t wait to hear if your strong feelings are the exact opposite as mine.

S39: This is not enabling.

S35: This is, I think instead a small social kindness of the type that we do all the time for people we love. Right. Like maybe you know that your spouse is not so comfortable talking to strangers at parties. And so when you go to parties, you take the lead in those conversations and you spare her a little bit of that social pressure. Or maybe you know that your mom loves some restaurant that you don’t like, but you just go to the fucking restaurant anyway because it makes her happy. Of course, those are examples that I just made up. They are not about my mom in any way. But so here is a real example. When I was in college, there was this person who had just call my dorm on the phone all the time to just like talk, just like to blab Lib-Lab. Yes, it was a girl. I don’t know how I got like stuck in this situation, but I didn’t really like her that much. But her personality was just like so overpowering. And I didn’t I couldn’t, like, get out of these conversations. And I told my friend Jonathan one-point, like, I just never know how to extricate myself from these things.

S5: And so the next time she called, he heard me for like three minutes be like, huh, huh? And then he just went. Dan, can you get me some help with this thing? Then I was like, Oh, I gotta go. And then whatever she called in the future, he would just do that. I was totally great. Must have thought that, like my roommate was incapable of tying the shoes or something, but it was such a nice thing for him to do, which is just to say that having a pushy friend is annoying, it can be really tough to navigate even for adults. And so it’s okay to just help her out. It does not have to be a learning experience.

S13: But Laura, what do you think as the pushy friend and possibly the girl who called you in your dorm room to unload her feelings? I will say that most people who are pushy and annoying know that they’re pushy and annoying. And it is a thing that they actively work on even when they’re children. But that, to me, is even more reason that you don’t need to ask your daughter to step in to the fire here, especially at this age. She doesn’t really have to be honest. I think a big part of the role you have in her life is that she gets to kind of stand behind you and use you as the human shield for most things.

S18: I also thinks this gives you the opportunity to lay some groundwork for the kind of relationship you want to have with her when she’s a teenager, when she’s in other situations where maybe she doesn’t want to say no, where maybe she feels uncomfortable figuring out what to do or how to say no. And knowing that she can go to you and that you will roll your eyes along with her and that you will be on her team and say, like, yow, definitely. I’ll help you get out of that. Are like, oh, man, it sounds like you’re in a real jam. I can see that you don’t want to hurt your friends feelings. So let me help you find an elegant way out of this. That seems like groundwork. You really want to lay, especially when it comes to such a harmless situation. You want your kid to feel like she can be honest about her friends with her, that you’re not going to necessarily change your opinions of her friends just because they’re annoying or pushy or making decisions she doesn’t want to be part of and that you’re gonna be on her team. And I also think this is a really important opportunity to show her that there are often creative solutions in situations like this. I think a lot of times kids and especially kids into their teenage years think that questions like this or situations like this are either yes or no. That you have to either say yes to the sleepover or no to the sleepover. And there’s just like really dire, melodramatic consequences on either side that will shape the friendship forever. And I think this could be a good opportunity to show your kid that in those kinds of scenarios, especially with friendships that you really love. And as you try to negotiate them and as you move into the realm of having relationships, there is almost always an option C that is not yet on the table that you can suggest. And I think this could be a good time to sit down with her and figure out, like you’re saying, you don’t want to have sleepovers with your friend. I get that. I don’t love you when you have a sleepover either. I makes, you know, the next day really hard for us. But what if we did something like the sleepover party where your friend comes over in her pajamas? We watch a movie until eleven o’clock. We start later than we usually do. We have those midnight treats. I leave you guys alone and then we drive her home and you both sleep in your own beds. But you’ve gotten to do all the fun activities or maybe even the reverse. Like an early morning play date. Like I’m going to pick you both up while you’re still in your pajamas and take you to a diner in your pajamas. And you can order as much breakfast food as you want. And, you know, to create this like alternate pathway and sort of laying for her the groundwork that like most of these situations, you’re going to find herself in with your friends where you’re uncomfortable. It’s possible to find a different way out other than just saying no and sending your friend’s ego crashing to the ground.

S12: I will only add them somewhere. And I guess. No, I’m not. No, I think we all agree that it’s totally fine for you to continue covering for your child.

S17: You shouldn’t feel pressured to make this a teachable moment, but I think it is good when we can try to help our kids, help their friends have better social skills.

S11: It is really helped me and begin the conversation about what is it that makes her feel uncomfortable about her friends approach or what is it about the sleepovers that she doesn’t like? Why are we in a position where you need to have that you need for me to do this? Why don’t you feel comfortable telling her the truth? And if you think she’s going to either continue to push you until you give in. Why is that? Let’s work through that dynamic or let’s also work on, you know, has the fear that it’s not just that she’s going to keep pushing, but that she may withdraw our friendship because she’s not getting what she wants from any sleepover parties. But, yes, you’re going to make up excuses for your child as long as you’re around. And that’s totally okay. And knowing how to do that, you do that with grace, that you’re not making up an excuse to be mean or hiding something for her to be mean.

S17: You’re helping her to be kind and sensitive friend.

S35: That’s extremely good advice. Both of you thinking about how you can. Start to help that friend in a relationship with her daughter and thinking about how this kind of vibe plays out not just now, but in the teenage years when those questions get a lot harder than just, oh, this friend wants to have a sleepover. I don’t want to do it. Are both extremely useful things to be thinking about. So, listener, listen to us. I think this is following. Thank you for reaching out. If anyone has a question out there that you want us to answer on the air, give us an email at mom and dad at Slate dot com. All right. Let’s move on to recommendations. Laura, what would you like to recommend for our listeners?

S18: I actually practice saying the name of this game because it’s a bit of a tongue twister. I would like to recommend the game rivers, roads and rails from Raven’s Burger. My son got this game for Christmas. He is a bit of a reluctant game player, but unfortunately for him, he was born in to my family, which is a big Midwestern family who speaks only through the language of games and nickel and value betting. Yeah. So it’s always been rough for me that I have been a.. I know he’s only five, but really it has been a trial that I cannot find a game that he likes that will fill our time. That doesn’t make me want to, you know, poke my eyes out. And rivers, roads and rails is really the first game that he loves that I also love. It’s a cooperative game where you get tiles. Some have rivers, some have roads, some have rails and some have combinations of those things. And you sort of piece them together, Domino’s style to create pathways. Not only does that speak to everything that he loves, which is exclusively vehicles, but it’s also a little bit of strategy. And the illustrations are so charming and beautiful, you kind of want to collect all the pieces and just keep them for yourself. So it’s incredibly pleasant as a parent to spend your time looking at the cards as your son spends 20 minutes making, you know, one decision to piggyback on that. I would like to recommend part of a Web site. Katherine Newman, the parenting blogger, has a part of her Web site that is a master’s game recommendation site. And it is basically just lists of games by age group and how they’re played and what to do. And that has been such a huge resource for me, figuring out what games to play with my son and now with my daughter, who, lucky for her, is a more natural game player.

S19: That is a really fun, cooperative game. I would sort of describe it as like putting together all the stuff on a train table except for that you don’t have those wooden pieces and you don’t have to worry about whether the train is going to derail and make it. Most definitely you’re just building the tracks, which is like clean cleanup is way easier.

S35: I’m going to take the next recommendation because I also have a game that I’m recommending, which is a great game for adults and for kids, maybe like 11 or 12 end up. It’s for older kids than lauras, but the game is called zul hazy youwell. And in this game you are a 16th century mosaic artist making a wall for the king of Portugal and you get this beautiful linen bag full of these beautiful little ceramic tiles to make patterns on your board and then to score points. It’s a very good strategy game. It’s good for two or three or four people. And it’s also just a very satisfying object to have around like rivers, roads and rails. It’s very elegantly designed. It’s lovely to look at these pieces are fun to hold in your hand and the designs you make are quite lovely. We’ve been playing it a lot in our house and everyone likes it and I like it a lot, too.

S18: So I’m so pleased to hear this because zul is the game I gave my niece and nephew for Christmas and I was really worried that it wasn’t as great as it looked like it would be. So I’m glad to have this recommendation.

S35: It’s really great. It’s a game where after I played it like four times, I was like, well, I guess I figure this out and there will never be anything new. And then the next time, as we played it, I got just crushed. Yeah.

S20: And I was like, oh, I guess I’m not. I guess there’s more to figure out in this game. Jamila, what about you? What are you recommending this week?

S40: So minus dark. I am going to recommend surviving Eric Kelly. Part two, the reckoning. I participated in it. That’s not why I’m encouraging our listeners to wash it.

S30: And I’m sure many of you all saw part one, which aired about a year ago. And it’s a very difficult watch.

S33: It’s over the course of three nights, two hours each.

S41: You’re hearing extensive details about a serial predator who has operated like this for the past 30 years, operating what the United States government considers to be a criminal enterprise and very well may be spending the rest of his life in jail because he’s facing RICO charges, which is not something that usually happens unless outpost.

S25: What really struck me about this latest installation in the saga, where they talk a bit more about some of the victims that were featured in first line, some of the. Things that we didn’t know about previously.

S28: It talks about what charges he’s facing, what’s happened since the first documentary came out.

S29: But what was very different about this one is that there were three white women who were featured, two who were such Starch R. Kelly defenders that they helped to launch the, I guess, online.

S42: R. Kelly resistance, which led to campaigns of harassment against his victims and also a prosecutor, which his inability to see the humanity of his victims had so much to do with the fact that he was not locked up in 2008. And what really broke my heart about it, especially like was live tweeting and reading like tweets and seeing who was participating in the online conversation about it. It was really just black women. And I know that there may be some fatigue around these stories in this metoo moment. We’re hearing about it a lot more often. It could be, hey, after six hours, just before, how much do I need to know? This is a terrible person. But I know that when surviving Jeffrey EPSTEIN airs in a few months, which is actually happening, I’m very glad that it’s happening, that there’s gonna be a whole lot of black women who are deeply empathetic and outraged at what happened to his survivors.

S43: And in this moment, I was able to understand in ways that hadn’t before the ways that white women were able to enable. R. Kelly, first of all, you know, I always thought of it as being men in the industry, men in our community, either being black female fans.

S44: I didn’t realize that he had a lot of white women in his corner.

S43: And as part of the reason that he went on the way he did for as long as he did. So I just you know, we’re parents. We have children to protect. There’s a lot that you can learn from watching the theories. And I encourage you all to do so.

S35: That series is on Lifetime.

S19: It is airing this week as we record this episode, but is available, streaming or on demand for most people on their cable systems. Djamila, I can see her today and she’s wearing a t shirt that says it’s three mixed to ignition.

S5: R. Kelly should be in prison in the courthouse in Chicago. She’s fucking gone for it.

S45: That’s a good recommendation. And that is our show. If you have a question you’d like to ask us on the air, please leave us a message for 2 4 2 5 5 7 8 3 3. Or email us at Mom or dad at You can join us on Facebook. Just search for sleep parenting. Mom and dad are fighting us. Produced by Rosemarie Bellson for Jamila Lemieux and Laura Tisdale. I’m Dan Quicks. Thanks for listening.

S20: Hello, Slate listeners. Welcome to the Sleep Paul segment. Mom and dad are fighting. We’re so grateful to the support that you give us through Slate Plus in your sleep plus membership. So here’s a little bonus. Inevitably, the start of a new year coincides with everyone telling you how to live your best life for your New Year’s resolutions. We hear a mom and dad are fighting. We do it, too. But there is something to be said. Maybe, just maybe, for stubbornly holding on to those bad habits. We thought of this because recently slate dot com, it’s a Web site, ran a piece about the Vice’s that Slate staffers would not be shedding in 2020. They ranged from ditching family dinner to the occasional cigarettes to even home drinking 1.5 beers at work. So in the spirit of stubbornness, we are going to be talking about our parenting vices, the things we do that we know are wrong, but we’re not going to be giving them up anytime soon. Laura, why don’t you start? What’s your parenting vice?

S13: Mine isn’t totally just a parenting vice, but it is a vice I’ve decided to lean into and celebrate a little bit instead of continue to feel ashamed and shitty about.

S18: And that is sugar. Every year at this time you hear about dry January, you hear about doing the whole 30 in January. And very often, especially since I’ve had kids and delivered them out of my body and had my body change shape a lot. I’ve thought a lot about ways to reshape our family diet, ways to reshape my diet, and a lot of the ways to do it. Our dropping sugar altogether. And whenever I think about that, I think about how much I love baking with my kids and how much I trust my kids to be helpers in baking the way wouldn’t trust them to be helpers with, say, d boning a chicken or chopping vegetables.

S46: And I’ve just decided that instead of trying to pivot and find a way to find enough vegan carrot muffin recipes to keep our baking habit afloat, that I would just embrace the fact that my family likes to make and eat raw cookie dough. And then I trust my kids to dump a box of brownie mix together and do a poor job of cracking two eggs and whisk it. Not only does that buy me 20 to 30 minutes of peace on a Saturday afternoon, it gives me a little treat for after they go to bed and they like it. And at the end of the day, it seems pretty impossible that they’re going to get through their adult lives without having to figure out how to eat sugar in moderation. So we’re doing that now by maybe eating too much of it. So we’ll find that balance together. And we are not giving up sugar, carbs or baking in our family.

S35: I think that is a great vice. And you’re absolutely correct that even where you to never eat sugar again in your house, probably they would encounter it somewhere in the world.

S18: I have to also say that last year my daughter has a December birthday and because she is basically a baby and doesn’t understand what birthdays are, we’ve yet to throw her a birthday party of her own. But I have always had holiday parties and two years ago I gave my son free reign to just eat as many cookies at this birthday party as he wanted, and that I wasn’t going to watch him. And he spent the whole night dry heaving over the toilet and crying that he would never do cookie again, much like it was taking me right back to my college dorm. And I feel like perhaps just indulging is actually the way to learn moderation, because that kid I mean, you should hear him unlike bite 4 of his second cookie, he’s like, maybe, maybe, mom, this is enough cookie for a kid now. And so it sounds like a fucking habit. We may have broken him earlier.

S5: It’s embarrassing. Come on, kid.

S3: You got to just fake it like spitting out a napkin or something weird.

S13: Maybe that’s what he needs to learn. Throw it over his shoulder. Right. Or give it to his brother.

S15: I was going to say you can make excuses and you can help him finish his dessert. So I can’t really show him how how big you can eat.

S5: This is how a professional does, kid. Jamila, what about you? What is your parenting vice that you refuse to get rid of in 2020?

S47: Well, you know, sugar was definitely at the top of the list, even though I am wavering on that a little bit now.

S48: There were Angelinos, but I think in general, I’m overly indulgent parent and I don’t care. I’m overly indulgent when it comes to myself as well. So while my daughters still enjoy life, I have more pleasant experiences than mundane or unhappy ones.

S49: And I take steps to make sure that happens. So now she probably doesn’t need to get her nails done.

S47: Whenever I get my nails on, you know, whenever I get my nails done.

S48: But she doesn’t need to go to the nail shop once a month or stay up a little bit. Once a week and watch, you know, something she shouldn’t be watching and she shouldn’t have dessert as often as she has it.

S50: And I don’t care. I think that I am a sturdy enough disciplinarian. I think that I spent a lot of time.

S47: And I’m not not affirming these things that her father, stepmother just speaking specifically about myself at this point.

S50: But I think that I do a really good job teaching her good character and sensitivity and kindness.

S47: And, you know, it’s OK if I dropped the ball on some of the other stuff, like sleeping in a little bit or not always finishing up all the homework that wasn’t mandatory.

S48: I’m a cool mom and I’m just going to be a coma. And that’s fine.

S5: Is that you’re a cool mom and tough shit for everyone else.

S6: Tough shit. Favorite videos.

S49: A good thing is she will repay me by being my very best friend for the rest of my life. And she’s going to be super nice to me when she’s a teenager. And we’re never going to hate each other or yell or do any of those things. This is a long, game’s long Emmy.

S5: And that it’s it’s indisputably true. Yeah. Yeah. My voice is something that we have talked about on the show several times, including recently. It is, of course, yelling, yelling of queers. Yelling is bad.

S35: Of course, yelling is embarrassing. Of course, my kids hate it when I yell. But every once in a while, if my kids are driving me insane and they’re not listening and I ask them politely, like 25 fucking times they’re being assholes. It will not ruin their lives to hear their ordinarily very sweet, loving and kind father be like Jesus Christ.

S39: Just do the thing I asked you to do and do it now.

S16: Now I’m scared. I’m like, yes, it got very quiet. I know. And we’re not even in this.

S13: We’re not. You’re all following your directions, too. It’s working even on us.

S5: Good. Just we can do it.

S46: You know, stand behind me when I’m editing and yell that same thing.

S5: You’re right. You can’t do that. You can. It’s really got to reach a point to yell at a writer.

S16: I haven’t, you know, haven’t. We’ve talked about weight. Haven’t got you to the point yet. You have not gotten me to the point. You have you. Jamila, you may think you’re difficult. But I have had writers so much more difficult than you. I know you’re a dreamboat. I didn’t even do the call list.

S14: Yeah, but you props to it right away on a show. I was like, oh, yeah, that’s not partial credit. I don’t know what is. Oh, yes. Also, there’s an update on that.

S23: Even though I guess if you’re actually a reader, you would notice.

S26: So on the show, Dan wasn’t here and I confessed that I had completely just too much vacation and holiday and exhaustion. And I’ve just forgotten to write the column. It was too early to be fair, but I forgot about it.

S21: Gabriel and I was thinking, OK, I have to figure out how to make this right, or as soon as the show’s over, I’m going to have to rush and do what I left out just like I can. I’m sorry. What is it? And so there was no foul.

S35: There was no column last week. And you know what? is still standing somehow. Oh, yeah. I don’t know how you are, Laura. I’m yelling Jamila and I have talked about this before. I feel like it’s a thing you can do in 2020 as a parent. Short of actual like corporal punishment, that most immediately seems like a parenting move from a different era. That’s totally inexcusable right now. Know about that yet? Offers me this moment of feeling like I mean, this is a horrible thing to say, but feeling like, oh, I am a real dad. Like I made my case. I’ve made my case like I used dad voice at those fuckin kids snap to attention the way I want snap to attention when my mom used mom voice, you know, oh, my goodness. And like, my kids don’t fear me at all the way that I feared my parents or Holly afeared her parents.

S46: I feel like I can hear my dad sometimes in our family. I am the disciplinarian. I am the yeller. And I a couple of times over this vacation found myself. And this was my dad’s like major power move. You’d be in one room mouthing off to my mom, thinking that he was like in the garage or away, and he would just appear out of nowhere and loom over you and say, say that to her one more time.

S13: And I did that twice over Christmas break. I just like came from out of nowhere from the other end of our apartment to loom over my child and say, speak to your father that way one more time.

S16: And I was like, oh, my God, I am my dad and I am fucking powerful. I love it. Good. I’m going to use that.

S13: We would always be like, no, thank you. And then run away. That is exactly what my son did. It felt amazing. Wow.

S6: I’m so jealous because my daughter definitely 100 percent does not fear me. Very clear.

S8: And that I want her to or to fear. Her father found that she fears either of us.

S6: But if I raise my voice or I say she acts like an abused child. It’s rare.

S13: The whip was snapped. Yeah. And my kids looked at me like I slapped them, which I didn’t do and wouldn’t do. But but it’s that, you know, you’ve got to near them, too.

S19: It just a little bit. You got yell. Yeah. Just enough so that they know to take it seriously but that it ain’t the end of the world.

S18: Right. Yeah. They were still shits later about going to bed. So it was only.

S5: So they’re over it. Yeah. These are good vices.

S20: You know the thing about vices. Right. When we were putting together this package was edited by our great young writer and editor here at Slate, him, Shanna Polis. There was a lot of debate about, well, is it a vice?

S35: If it’s something that you’re not like secretly a little ashamed of. Right. It does then make it not a vice if you don’t actually feel guilt. And I’m curious. Like, I feel the guilt when I yell Jameela, I don’t think you feel the guilt about baking this intentional decision to prioritize the certain thing in your relationship with your daughter and to take advantage of that part of your nature to build the relationship in that way. So I’m not convinced it’s really a vice the way that it would be if it was like, I’m gonna let my daughter smoke, for example.

S13: Jamila, I just want to say as like a listener to you, I feel like you do sometimes feel guilty about it. And some of what you feel guilty about is the fact that other people put their baggage about how they feel about doing it on to you while you’re doing it.

S25: Yeah, I think there’s a little bit of that. Thank you for having me. I really appreciate that. I think there’s definitely a loving deal. And even when talking about like, you know, when I wasn’t making her go to school, we were just lane. No big deal.

S6: And it’s like I I feel good. About a lot of this stuff is not there. There’s the part of me that feels I’m doing the right thing.

S31: You know, if I felt like I’m doing something that is bad for my child and doing it because it’s fun or cool that I wouldn’t do it.

S48: You know, I think that most often I’m operating in her best interests or what I think is their best interest. But there’s always a little place in the back of your head that says, why doesn’t everybody else do things this way? You know, are you making a mistake? And then the other part is, of course, you know, how does this play out socially? Has it, you know, read to other people or, you know, want to talk about these things on the podcast? So now that just because I am unapologetic, Lee Millennial doesn’t me and I have a deep sense of smell.

S13: Like you said, excuse. I hate myself, too, to thank you. All right. That’s all I wanted to know. Okay. And donor Visy’s just remind us that we’re human. So you got to lean into it because it’s what makes you a person and not a computer robot.

S5: I mean, I am the older I get, the more I understand that I’m extremely human. Every day my back reminds me that I’m not. All right. Thank you.

S19: Sleep plus members for being a member of this program. We really appreciate it. It is not a vice that you are a member of Slate, plus it is a virtue. Please continue that virtue every year from now until the heat death of the universe.

S5: Thank you. Rela Laura, thank you all. And we will talk to you next week. Bye bye. Bye.