The “Taking a Toddler to a Funeral” Edition

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S1: This episode of Mom and Dad Are Fighting contains explicit language and discussion of mental health, including mention of suicidal tendencies. If you want to avoid this content, you can skip forward after our first listener question. Welcome to mom and dad are fighting Slate’s parenting podcast for Thursday, February 3rd, that taking your toddler to a funeral ed.. I’m Elizabeth Newcamp. I write the Homeschooling Family Travel blog stat. and the mom to three little Henry Chris nine, Oliver, who’s seven, and Teddy, who’s five, and we live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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S2: I’m Zach Rosen. I host the very short podcast featuring your best advice. It’s called The Best Advice Show. I live in Detroit with my family. Noah is four and Army

S3: is one, and I’m back Aymann here. I have a baby. His name is Moussa. He is seven months old, which sometimes makes me feel like I’m the baby. But yeah, it’s good. It’s good. We live in Newark, New Jersey. Staff Writer at Slate. That’s my dream. Ours.

S1: We’re so excited that you’re back and we can’t wait to get all the baby update.

S3: My heart is pumping. Why am I nervous? It’s like a first date night

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S1: where we feel like the baby has grown up with us. He’s a mom and dad are fighting baby. Really?

S3: He really is. Is a Moussa is fighting with Bubba, right? Right.

S1: While on today’s show, we have a question about preparing your two year old for the death of a family member. Then Zak, we’ll talk to comedian, writer and actor Chris Gethard. He just published a short memoir called Dad on Pills, Fatherhood and Mental Illness. And on Slate, plus the headaches of exchanging valentines at school. Y’all, I’m I’m deep and I’m looking for some advice on how to calm the fuck down. That’s where I am. But first, we have a very fun listener update.

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S4: Hi, mom and dad! I wrote in almost two years ago, asking advice on how to know when and if we should add a second child to our family. Life continued with our boisterous little girl until my husband and I both knew we really did want another. After a very difficult loss of three months, we are now excitedly awaiting the arrival of our new additions this spring. I think I felt a lot of pressure to have my children two years apart, but once I let go of this, I realized that three years was a much more manageable gap for us. Thank you so much for your personal stories. It’s great to hear that other parents have the same concerns and still come through on the other side. Thank you soon to be a mom of two.

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S1: All students who are so excited

S3: and proud of you guys

S1: are so grown have these kind of updates, so please keep sharing them with us and we then hopefully we’ll share them with you. But let’s start off the show with a round of triumphs and fails. Zak Can you kick us off?

S2: Absolutely. Tonight is a very big night. My friends, ooh. Because my four year old will be attending her first musical.

S3: What? Oh my

S2: gosh. Wow. She’s going to see Lion King. I’m not going. But my wife and Noah’s aunt and Noah’s grandmother are going to say this is very exciting for two reasons. One, because I haven’t seen Lion King. I know people love it. But going to your first play is a big damn deal, and we love musicals in our family. And also we’ve been hibernating for two years and not going places, and the theater requires a negative COVID test for kids who are not yet vaccinated. So no, I had to get tested for this, which is kind of annoying, but totally understandable. And so like, she’s going and I’m so excited for her. We watched the movie for the first time, and Lion King is

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S1: deep and very deep,

S3: and I don’t know if I was making

S1: the play

S2: exactly Aymann.

S1: I think, OK, I at least I know. I mean, I like sobbed at the movie. Lion King was the first play we took Henry to, but it was intense, incredibly deep.

S3: I just was lost in translation. That’s such a good language to see Lion King.

S1: So is she going to get dressed up as she like? She didn’t even consider that portion of everything?

S3: Yeah. What does that don’t wear to a play?

S2: I don’t think she’s going to change clothes from school. I’m just hoping she’s going to take a nap after school because it starts at 7:30. But the other thing I mean, to your point is that Mufasa dying was like a big deal when I first saw that movie and we’ve been talking about death since. I think this sets us up to talk about today’s listener question, but Lion King is such a, you know, a joyful and heavy story, and I feel like it’s a rite of passage. And this is this is our our week for it. So it’s exciting.

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S3: Did you love Lion King when you were growing up? Is this like a big moment for you, too?

S2: Oh, big time. Yeah, I loved it. I think I was telling my wife the other day, it’s one of the only movies I’ve ever seen. More than once in the theater. Mhm. Oh, came out in 1994, so eight years ago I was 10, so we introduced the tsunami when she was four. I don’t know if that’s too early, but she seems to be taking to it.

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S1: The play, to me, is so magical because every other animals are on stilts and just these incredible

S3: costumes, the way they do the birds too, with like, Oh man, to

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S1: slap them around puppet show, but live theater. But yeah, it’s just such a joyful, wonderful.

S3: You should go whatever plans you have cancelled.

S2: I got to babysit the baby.

S3: Mm.

S1: So unfortunate.

S3: Know, man.

S1: OK. That’s an amazing triumph. I’m so excited. OK. Aymann we need. We need all the details about all the things.

S3: I don’t know if we have enough time for details because every day is a freaking adventure. Talk about Lion King. Oh my god. Moussa is just life. It’s it’s so crazy. So he’s seven and a half months now. He laughs. He’s a freaking laugh. He has attitude. I’m feeding him food now. It’s not just the bottle, and he can hold the bottle by himself. He could sit up all day. He just grabs things and yanks them, which is kind of concerning because now I have a lot of plants and a lot of hanging vines, and he’ll just like snatch things. And I’m just worried about that. I just know it’s going to happen next. I know it’s going to happen next. So I’m trying to get around to like baby proofing, and I really don’t want to because I didn’t grow up around any baby proofing. I had four siblings and everything could kill you, and that was just how we lived life back then. So I’m kind of weighing whether or not I want to baby proof and how much do I want to baby proof

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S1: just the things that cause real danger, like a small falling plant. That’s a lesson on gravity.

S3: They probably live, right? Yeah. Yeah, he’ll be fine. Be fine. I don’t know. So that’s the thing. It’s like all of the chemicals in the dish detergent and all that stuff is in a room and it’s locked like a closet.

S1: And I worry about that and electricity.

S3: Yeah. So he took care of that by my partner wants to like, put plastic things on the corners and she wants to like plug the plugs. And with like this little plastic things,

S1: you should do the plugs, really. You know how he’s grabbing things now he’s going to get into a phase of what can I put things in?

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S3: Oh no, it’s really funny. We used to have like an old, huge television set, and one day I stopped working and my mom took it to the television set man because that was the thing that we had. Yeah, and they opened it up and they found like, I think, like thirty dollars worth of quarters and coins and all this stuff that we should just slot into the television set. All right, that TV set. Anyways, back to Moussa Moussa is is a riot. We had a friend who had a baby just two months after we did, and she came over and brought her baby. And so today was the first day that Moussa ever met someone smaller than himself.

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S1: What did he think

S3: he’s like, very protective of him? He just keeps like an arm on him at all times. Yeah, you know, you play him down. Even while they were both drinking their milk holding their bottles, he just had one arm just like on him just to make sure that he’s still there.

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S1: Yeah, it’s really cute. I love that. I know that’s such a fun face. OK, well, I have a big old like big kid fail.

S3: Oh no.

S1: So you and your little kids, so you know, we’re doing our first year of having a kid in public school. We we were in Dutch schools and then homeschooling, and then Henry got into school in the words. And so we’re there. They have a big project at school. They got these stories and they’re learning to retell them and they’re from all different cultures. Henry’s is a story from an indigenous peoples about coyote and getting the bones and how all the different animals gained like their strength and power. And the thing is, he’s like a really good reader. He can read, he read it probably twice memorized. It can recite it. Wow. And so he will do fine. But to me, the entire point of this exercise is to do better right. Like the whole point is to be pushing them to learn new things and do better. And so they’ve had several weeks to practice this. His presentation is on Wednesday, and I asked him yesterday, you know, the sheet came home from the teacher asking them to practice two or three times at home. He’s like, Well, mom, the other people don’t even have theirs memorized. I’m fine. And I just have this like, yes, he is absolutely fine, he will do totally fine. But it’s like not good enough for me and my husband is very Jeff is like, we need to push him kind of slowly to make these changes. He did his little presentation. It was fired, hit his hands in his pockets, kind of dancing around, kind of not really paying attention as he recites the story to us. And I’m like looking at the grade sheet, and I must have just had the most like mom face because he was like, I can’t do this if mom’s going to look at me that way. And I was like, I can’t do this. If you’re not going to try, you know, just like, like it was so bad, I ended up like leaving with the little two kids and letting Jeff kind of sit with it. And then Henry came upstairs and says, Well, Dad says, I’m going to get a four, which is the highest grade in this great film. And I just was like, for some reason that sat me off and I just was like, Well, that’s great. I don’t really care what grade you get. I’m disappointed at the amount of work you’ve put into this and then walked out of the room. When I came in to do bedtime stuff, he was like, Can you just sit on the floor and tell me what you think I could do better? So in that sense, it worked. But I also just like, I don’t it’s like not the mom I want to be like, Yes, I got the outcome that I wanted. And this morning, when he did it, it’s markedly better because he actually listened to the suggestions I had and the suggestions that Jeff had. Jeff had given him some suggestions as well, but I don’t feel great about how it happened.

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S3: Mm-Hmm. I see where you see, I see where you’re coming from. It’s just that I think I see it as a success. It sounds like he really did grow in that moment, and it sounds like they’re moving forward. Going to be thinking about that and thinking about how can I do better, which is what you wanted. I can only hope that I could be like that effective of a parent. That sounds great.

S1: But am I using shame or does it not? Your point is it doesn’t really matter what tool I use.

S2: Tone is also important. What it how did you say it?

S1: I did not yell. I just said, I’m really disappointed in what I saw downstairs. I always say, like, I still love you. I say that all the time. Like, I love you no matter what. I love you. Whether you get a one or a four or you don’t try, that will not change my love.

S2: I think that’s totally legit. I think you just lovingly pushing him to try harder. And that he asked for that feedback like Aymann said, that’s huge for a kid to ask for feedback. How can I do this better? Like, that’s a big deal.

S1: I do feel like though some of it is that I’m entering into a different, you know, stage of parenting. Hmm. Because he’s almost 10. Oh wow. Guys, I may not survive.

S3: I think you’re doing great. Honestly, I’m envious. It sounds like that couldn’t have gone better, and maybe you know that there is room for yourself to improve. So maybe there’s like a weird matrix thing happening where you’re disappointed in yourself because you know you could do better.

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S1: That is it. Aymann, actually, I’m disappointed in myself. I should tell him that not only was I disappointed in you, I’m disappointed and

S3: disappointment is not something that you should run away with either.

S1: Well, with my problem behind us, we move on to somebody else’s problem, which is being read as always by the fabulous Sasha Leonhard

S4: to your mom and dad. It looks like my mother in law may die in the next few days. She has dementia and is refusing liquids, food, everything. I’m just so sad for my husband, even though he feels like she’s already gone anyway. I’m sad for my two and a half year old. I’m sad. I never really got to know her due to distance and cognitive decline, her decline over the past year and especially the last four months, has really accelerated. So while it’s not unexpected, the timing is a surprise for me. Tino, I handle grieving and this funeral with my two year old. Thanks. Adulting is tough.

S2: I’m sorry. Oh, I’m sorry for for this loss, adulting is tough, this is one of the hardest things in life. And the question is really good. First, I thought we could just talk about, do you do you two remember when you first went to a funeral?

S3: The earliest one I remember, I was like 12 or something. It was my uncle who I really was like very, extremely close to. And I didn’t give myself room to cope. I just sort of put my head down. And every time anybody came over like, say, anything, I was just like acting like I was mad at them for, like talking to me, like, I couldn’t handle it. I mean, I was a little kid, but I can’t remember anything before that. What about you, Elizabeth?

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S1: Yeah, I don’t. I don’t remember anything. Probably prior to those middle school years, I grew up Catholic, and so I definitely remember like the ceremony of everything, because everything for Catholics is there. There’s a lot of ceremony and and a lot of just procedure of how things are. And so a lot of that has stuck with me. But I don’t think my parents ever took me to a funeral as a child. If if they do, I certainly don’t remember. But I can remember. Like, weirdly, the one that really sticks with me is that my orthodontist died in a helicopter crash of all things. And like that, I think, was this first time of like this, this rationalization of like death taking people kind of from your life without any rhyme or reason, right? Not just like a person who had gotten older, who had passed away, but this like person that I saw all the time and then them just being gone.

S3: I mean, two and a half years old is, I mean, there’s so many ways to think about this, but in my opinion, it feels like it’s too young to explain the concept of death. I think at this point that it could be a kid. So just two and a half years old. I wouldn’t even go there personally.

S1: I mean, I’m a big believer in answering the questions with real answers. So definitely like not hiding what you’re going through personally and also not hiding. Like if they ask, like, I think there’s a lot of harm to be done and using like euphemisms or not explaining things like, Oh, if you say they went to sleep and they never woke up like that can be really scary. So saying like they died, their body stopped working to me is less scary. But I also agree that like two is so little like, can they even form these questions? And adults have a tendency to over explain things that don’t necessarily need to be addressed?

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S2: Yeah. Like I think two and a half is old enough to understand sadness while not necessarily understanding death. And so whether or not you take them to the funeral, we Jews do shiver. So like for the seven days following the funeral, we sit with the bereaved and are just solemn and like, hang out in the house and, you know, don’t listen to music or party. We just like talk about the person that we lost and whatever religion you come from. There might be some of that after the funeral. And I think for the kid to be around sad people is great. Like, I think it’s really important for kids to see mommy and daddy not being joyful. Sometimes I don’t think there’s any reason to shy away from that stuff. And if your kid asks, like, what’s wrong, you could just say if you’re not ready to talk about death, which I agree to too, as is early to talk about that. You can say I’m really sad. And I think that’s fine. So there’s a there’s, you know, two questions here. What do we do about the grieving and what do we do about the funeral? Maybe you don’t take them to the funeral. Of course you’ll figure that out for yourself. But like, I wouldn’t shield them entirely from from you being sad and at a loss. I think that’s important.

S3: Really great point.

S1: There’s some very joyous things about gathering for death as well and in remembering people and being able to be with all these people you love. Like how often are we able to gather? We wish you were gathering for something else, but still having the love of these, these people around for the funeral. I have like very practical advice, which is like, you know, your child, can your child sit through this type of ceremony and keeping in mind that I think people sometimes think like, Well, my kid needs this or the family needs this, like, will my child being there be a distraction to other people because the funeral and that process is really a closure process for everyone that’s left here. And so are you somehow taking away from other people or are you adding to it? There are certainly situations in which the children are an important part of that and helping other people grieve. There are also times in which, given the type of ceremony you’re going to have or the type of thing, that’s how. Adding that it’s just really inappropriate, and I think that’s a deeply personal decision, and it’s something you should certainly obviously talk to your husband about and talk to their family about what are other people doing with their children. But they’re going to be a lot of people at the funeral that behave in a lot of ways that are not kind of typical behavior. And so what is your child going to do with that information and just make the choice that’s best for your kid? They’re not going to remember at two point five whether they were there or not there. So it’s really more of a decision for you, right?

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S3: You know, I had to learn this a weird way by taking my kid on a plane when he was just like crying and being just too much for the people around him. So I would say it’s just if you do decide if you just figure out what you want to do first and then decide that you want to take your child to a funeral, it’s OK to give yourself a way out and say to yourself, OK, if things aren’t going exactly as planned, it’s fine to just get up and leave. I think people would understand you put a lot of pressure on themselves to apologize for people and to push through the annoyances and the crying and everything. It’s OK. I think also not going to the funeral is a good choice to like. There’s no wrong choice here.

S2: And just so you don’t have to miss the funeral, if you could, does have to live, just get a babysitter, someone that can be with them at the funeral with you, who they trust because you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to grieve.

S1: Be there to for your spouse. Yeah, there are lots of great books out there. I don’t have any specific recommendations, but there are so many great books for children kind of about death and about the grieving process. So I also really, really recommend checking out some of those reading them kind of prepping. This is a fundamental human experience. We’re going to lose people in our lives and in the end, right, we’re all going to die. So hiding that from your kids, I think, only leads to bigger questions later. Aymann one of the not fun parts about parenting.

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S2: Yeah, yeah.

S1: Well, listener, we are sincerely wishing you and your family well. If you have a question, please send it in. Email us at Mom and dad at Slate.com or do what this listener did and posted on the Slate Parenting Facebook group. Occasionally, we snatch questions from there too. Zak I know you’re a fan of our next guests Chris Gethard for those of us uninitiated. Tell us a little bit about him before you to talk about his new memoir.

S2: Absolutely. Yeah, I think it’s safe to call him like a cult comedy hero. He’s from New Jersey, and he first became semi-famous as the host of his own public access talk show called the Chris Gethard Show. It eventually ended up on cable and kind of launched him into the, I wouldn’t say, mainstream but mainstream adjacent. He’s been in movies and on TV. He was in that movie, Don’t Think Twice, which I love that Mike Birbiglia film. He hosts two podcasts and now he is a dad to a toddler and he’s written, I don’t know if you call it like a long essay or a short memoir. It’s unscripted originals. So it took me like a couple of hours to read and I’m a slow reader so you can get through it pretty quickly. It’s 40 pages. It’s beautiful. It’s called dad on pills, fatherhood and mental illness. I totally recommend it. And you can learn more about how to read it yourself by following the link in our show notes. Or you can just Google Dad on pills, fatherhood and mental illness. So, you know, not surprisingly, we talk about fatherhood and pills and mental illness. All these topics I think Chris talks about with such humility and grace and humor and vulnerability, I was really excited to talk to him. Here it is. Well, Chris, I read your new memoir, and honestly, it it it deeply resonated, thanks for putting yourself out there the way you did.

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S5: Oh please, I’m lucky to be able to put myself out there, and I’m so sorry to hear that it resonated. That’s why are you sorry? Well, any time you write about depression, let alone thinking about my kid through that lens is hard. So if you identify with it, I’m like, Well, I hope, I hope you identify with some of the fun parts and the funny parts as well. But you know, in its guts, I think it’s a it’s a tough conversation,

S2: it’s a tough conversation. And yes, I do identify with the funny stuff too. But I think honestly, man like to not have that conversation with our kids right now seem so much less appealing than than to have it.

S5: I think people my age are kind of the first generation of parents that have to think about how to have the conversation because it wasn’t really an open conversation. Up until a few years ago, adults were keeping it very close to the vest as far as taking medication and seeing shrinks and all this. Now, all of a sudden, we have to figure out how to navigate kids in that conversation. That’s interesting stuff.

S2: It’s super interesting. And I mean, honestly, I find this to be like a supremely hopeful point that you make this notion that we’re the first generation that’s going to be talking about it in a new way with our children or, you know, frankly, talking about it, you know, rather than pretending that it’s not there.

S5: Yeah, it’s it’s wild to think about growing up in the 80s there, so many kids who got enrolled in karate classes when their parents these days would opt for therapy instead to try to solve the same problems. And yet it’s very strange, especially to be a dad and to have a son and to think about like toughness and masculinity and all that. It’s it’s pretty head spinning, but I’m glad it’s resonating with people.

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S2: I mean, the first emphatic point you make in this piece, you say your kids are born into your bullshit and are responsible for none of it. Own that. Make sure they know it. It’s perfectly OK to have a bunch of bullshit in your past and in your brain. You deal with that. Don’t make them shoulder the load. So I’m wondering at what point in your parenting journey did you learn this lesson?

S5: I thought that even before he was born, you know what I mean? That’s kind of at the root of this whole essay. Existing is me sitting here going, Can I? We’re going to try to have a baby and. I take pills every day and I’ve fallen off the wagon in not so long, I mean, like eight, seven, eight years ago, I fell off the wagon and I had multiple episodes where people have sat me down and said they were going to commit me to a mental hospital because I seemed so out of control. You know, I like, I’m going to have a kid. So all of the self-questioning? I was just firmly committed to the idea of if if he has his own mental struggles. I’ll have his back hard, but I don’t want him to just have mine by default. I don’t want him to be saddled with mine, like he at least deserves some breathing room to figure out what his own lapses are. I expressed some of these feelings to a friend once in person said back to me, you know, like the fact that you’re worried about this stuff is such an advantage for him, you know, because my parents are fantastic, really, really incredible. And I think they know that I admire them and the job they did greatly. But it was not a conversation they were ready to have, and I’m very ready to have it.

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S2: You’ve been really open about mental health and you wrote that it’s a huge honor to let your guard down and inspire others. But is there a flip side to that? Has it taken a toll in some way?

S5: Oh yeah. Oh yeah, I mean this, you know, this piece died on pills. This is really the first I’ve spoken to mental health since my HBO special, which came out in 2017. And there’s been so many times in between what people have asked me to come speak at events or participate in things, and I have by and large distance myself from it because a it’s not the sum total of my personality and I don’t want to just be the depression guy forever. And it kept some distance from it. And and then on a personal level to. You know, I put out my HBO special where I spoke very openly about it, like I said, as 2017 came to HBO 2016, I did it off-Broadway. There’s a few things I think about is like one. It was written up. Then as like, this is really notable thing, and I don’t know that the same show would get that now because the conversation is even in the past five years, shifted so much that I don’t think it would have felt as risky today as it did five years ago to get up there and be like, Yeah, I’m a guy, I’m on pills. I’ve tried to kill myself. I thought hard about it. Here’s what the side effects are like and a whole bunch of jokes. I like that the conversations are not as as, as risky as it once was, but I still get multiple messages every week from people saying they saw it and it helped them. And 99 percent of the time I sit there, I go, Oh man, like. If I never work again. What a cool legacy. Like, I made a thing, and it helps some people, and that’s better than I thought I could ever do. And I helped some people who feel how I have felt at my loneliest think, what a commendable thing. But I’ll tell you the other one percent of the time I sit here, I go. There’s so much pain and sadness in the world. And by speaking publicly about it, I have opened myself up to becoming like a bit of a receptor that now people know that I’m someone who will have the conversation has had has had the conversation, and that’s on me. And now I’m responsible for having it. It’s not the easiest thing in the world, and it definitely messed with my head. That’s in my head a lot. My friend Gary Goldman, who is a great, great comedian, much better than I am. He did a special on HBO, I think, last year, and he got really honest about his mental health. And we sat down, we went in, got lunch and somebody put us in touch, someone who I work with professionally. It was like, You got to talk to Gary and just tell him what’s coming. And I was like, Gary, just like, set some sort of like internal parameters for yourself now because you’re about to hear some really sad things from people all over. And it’s not always easy. I have no regrets, but I definitely gave a piece of myself away for sure,

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S2: and I can imagine someone walking by and seeing you two at lunch together being like, Oh my gosh, this is the frickin Mount Rushmore of funny breath. Yeah, yeah. Great Depression meets career suicide. I can’t even comprehend.

S5: Yeah, the ultimate mash up, man. It’s like with Jay-Z and Linkin Park got together. I remember I was once out of town. This is before my son was born. And like many a New York artist, my wife and I would sometimes go, OK, this weekend we got nothing. Maybe we can go up to the Catskills and we’re up there, and I went to this little restaurant and the guy comes out and walks up to me and loud in front of everyone else in his restaurant. He goes, he goes, Hey, thanks for coming to my spot. Don’t kill yourself while you’re here, huh? And I was just like, Oh, that? Oh yeah. How about a white man? And like, I laughed, because it’s so twisted, but I’m like, Yeah, like. I am effectively. A character on a screen. Mm-Hmm. To this guy. And that’s who he’s yelling at, and he’s happy. I’m here, but he doesn’t realize like I might be in a bad place, man. Sometimes I’m just like, Oh God,

S2: it’s an awful joke, and it’s a joke that people have made to you. Before you write about now that you’re having a kid, you can kill yourself.

S5: Yeah, that one happened. Yeah, the Catskills one was years ago, but that I’ve forgotten that more often than you’d expect and a lot of times from other comedians who inherently are always sort of dark with each other about their body. You got a kid now. I guess you could kill yourself. I’m like, Oh, really? Not for me. I can’t. Well, it’s one of the things that was hardest to write about in the book, and that I was kind of took the most finessing because I’m like, kind of offer up the point of like, yeah, I can like I can and I might. And I’m someone who strictly is tried and has thought about it, and I pray that I don’t. But by saying, Hey, you have a kid now, you can’t kill yourself. Well, no, no, no, no, no. Because that presupposes that he’s responsible for me, and that can be father for the cheese. I’m responsible for him. He’s not going to be responsible for me for many, many decades, hopefully. Right? Mm hmm. So that joke was like, I would go like people would say and I’d give like a clearly fake like and just kind of like, move on. But I was like, Why is it bothering me so much that this is people’s joke? And I go, Oh, because that’s a joke puts him in in the line of fire in a way that’s really not fair and got my gears turning. And it shows up in the essay too of like. I think I’m not the only person of my age group who maybe feels like our parents generation handed us a bunch of their baggage. And I think it would be a really nice rallying cry for my generation to go. Let’s push the reset button on that. This little guy is not responsible. God forbid, I ever do something to myself. Probably the last person on Earth who should take any responsibility is my son. Yeah. All he did was like, show up without any choice in the matter and try to figure himself out. So that joke really scared me and grossed me out and took a long time to figure out why. But the process of figuring that out is was kind of a major impetus. And in putting pen to page on this one, and it’s it’s part of why I felt like this was actually worth opening up about this stuff again, because he does not need to worry about this and he is not responsible for it. And I felt that was not very cathartic to write and to sort out those thoughts on that side of it.

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S2: What do you do at home Chris to make him know that?

S5: Well, at this point, nothing because he’s two and a half right. So I mostly just want him to live in a house that feels safe and happy and secure, just like I think all parents have this instinctive desire to do. Mm-Hmm. I tell him I love him every day and I make sure he knows I mean it. There’s usually at least one or two quiet moments a day where I’ll just go like, Buddy, you know, I love you, right? And my father and I have never discussed my father’s never told me he loves me. I’m 41 years old. We were not that kind of family. And and look, I know he does. I just have never said it. And I’m not the only one in my age group. Of course, I think that has this that has this going on. Yeah. So I let him know. I make sure that every day there are stretches where I turn off the email and I put the phone on airplane mode and he and I just play with dinosaurs. And I think a lot of that is so simple. That’s one of the one of the true joys of this I found is gone. There’s no guidebook to this and it’s daunting and it’s exhausting and it’s terrifying. But at its core, it is pretty simple. Just make this kid feel safe, make this kid feel good and make them know that like whatever’s going on outside the walls of this house, inside the walls of this house, he doesn’t have to be stressed out. He doesn’t have to be scared. And then at some point he’ll be old enough to Google my name, and I will have a lot of explaining to do between the suicide stuff and my bizarre old TV show and and being dumb stuff and. Yeah, there’s a it’s going to be a lot of stuff. He’s a few years away from being able to intellectually have conversations, but hopefully before we ever actually get there, there’s going to be a time where he’s going to sit me down. He’s going to go. Some kid at school said, You’re on HBO because you want to kill yourself and they’re going to make fun of them for it. You know, I’ve already thought about that and we’ll have the conversation. But my hope is that before we ever even get to that conversation, he’s going to grow up in an environment where he just. Feels I want to say support, but it sounds it’s almost more basic than that of like, yeah, like your home. You’re good, and that’s a good foundation for you to stand on, and I think that that will make the conversation easier because I think he’s going to hopefully someday, and I’m sure there’s going to be days where he’s like a shitty teenager who doesn’t want to give me credit, anything. But I hope someday my son goes on and says, Oh, my dad tried to make my home life pretty peaceful where he has like as much of a chance for this stuff to not affect his life the way it did mine.

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S1: That was Chris Gethard talking about his new script, original essay Dad on Pills, Fatherhood and Mental Illness. And since we talked about depression and thoughts of suicide, we wanted to know if you or anyone you know are in crisis, having thoughts of suicide or need help immediately. You can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline any time at one 800 273 8255, or you can find help at Suicide Prevention Lifeline dot org. All right, it’s finally time for recommendations. Zak What are you recommending this week?

S2: So in my ongoing quest to get Noa to listen to non city music, I took advice from someone from the Facebook group recently to start playing her musicals. And she’s she’s into that. But she’s also still into like Disney stuff. Some of the music, you know, like we talked about earlier with Lion King is is really wonderful. And so I found a kind of hybrid that I think is going to get us out of the kids zone into something a little bit more sophisticated. Noah and the Disney app started watching a movie called Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Never Beast, and it happens to be to have original music from Katy Tunstall, and she really likes that. And Katy Tonsley isn’t, you know, she’s like a folk pop. She had that big song. Was that big song like in that in the Cherry Tree?

S3: Hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo.

S2: When we wrote that song from, like 10 years ago? I said, No, no. Black Castle in the Cherry Tree. And then also suddenly, I see it’s not bad, and it’s kind of enabling me to play that for her and then like, sneak in like Fiona Apple because it’s not so different that she is like, Wait, what’s this? And so it’s just, you know, about finding these bridge songs that she’s familiar with from the movie that can also kind of get us out of Disney World. So it’s working. We haven’t listened to like a full album of good music yet, but I can sneak a couple of songs in before she starts getting suspicious.

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S1: So if you have a bridge song, tell us on Facebook. We need. Yeah.

S2: What are you bread songs?

S1: Needs more bridge

S2: songs? Yes. Thanks in advance

S3: for all the Muslim listeners out there. What up? I have a book that I want to recommend for your your little Muslim person. It’s called Halal Hot Dogs, and it’s written by Susannah Aziz. It’s really been hard for me to find like little kid books that have either Muslim themes or like Arabic looking kids in them. So far, I’ve been like sticking to ones with animals in them. I guess it’s I don’t know. It’s just it’s just been like a challenge for me. And sometimes I’ll get like the religious books, and they really lean heavily into like the god thing. And and I’ve been really looking for one that didn’t try to explain the religion and was more about the experience of being in that community. And and they just have pictures of kids inside the mosque, which has been really hard to find without them being like these little happy babies, you know? So this one’s really been a delight. I read it to my son almost every night. And you know, it’s it’s funny. We’re like the kids trying to pray. But his stomach is growling because he’s hungry. Like it has things like that that are. It’s just everything that I’ve wanted in a little kid book. Also, the main character’s name is Moussa, so I know what’s.

S2: Oh, oh my gosh.

S3: It’s exciting. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted.

S2: And now I want a hot dog.

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S3: There’s another there’s another kid book that’s called like Moe and Moe, and it’s about like a Jewish and Muslim friend that live nearby and they become friends. So I’ve been reading like it all as many stuff like that. It’s about the community. Yeah. And I just am so happy about it. OK. Makes me feel good feeling because we feel like a good dad.

S2: Yeah, you’re doing it.

S1: OK? I found this amazing book about teaching writing lessons. It’s something I really struggle with is like, make not that making writing fun is hard, but like something that’s prepped out when I’m teaching at home and I found this great book. I even brought it down here because I love it so much. It’s called Don’t forget to write, and there’s there’s one for older kids, but this one is for elementary grades. And what I love about it is that you open up. And when it tells you exactly how much time the lesson is going to take, it’ll say like, this should be done in four 20 minute lessons or this should be done in one one hour lesson or whatever. It has all of the kind of like worksheets there for you to copy, and the lessons are so fun. So we just did this one about and we built. Forts and then there was a thing in here about like your cave and what’s living in your cave, and the kids took their stuff into their cave and I went in with the little one and we wrote it. There’s build something and then fill out a patent application like, there is a goodness, really fun and clever. The worksheets are really great. I’m holding them up just like all kinds of images and fun things to fill out. And here’s why I think even if you’re not homeschooling, you should get this. This is a wonderful opportunity on a snow day when you have your kids home to do something that is fun, but also a little bit structured, which I like. And I wasn’t sure how the kids would react, but they really, really love it because they all have this like element of play. But then also this product, like there’s writing a comic book where you’re it gives you things that you should read or write before I just feel like all the work is done. So if you’re looking for something like this for summer or for snow days, I like to keep these around for when the kids are home and they’re making me crazy and I’m like, What can we do? I can just go downstairs, make a copy. Again, it’s called, Don’t forget to write for the elementary grades. Nice. All right. Well, that’s it for our show. Before you go, please subscribe to the show and leave us a review on Apple or Spotify. Better yet, tell your friends, Yeah, if you have a question for us, email us at Mom and dad at Slate.com or posted to the Slate Parenting Facebook Group. Just search for slate parenting. If you rely on mom and dad, the best way to support the show is by joining Slate Plus Slate’s membership program. Signing up for Slate Plus helps us help all the people you hear on the podcast every week. Members will never hear another ad on our podcast or any other Slate podcast. You also get free and total access to Slate’s website. Plus, you’ll be supporting our important work, so I hope you’ll join if you can. To sign up now, go to Slate Dot Com Slash Mom and dad plus again at Slate.com slash mom and dad plus thanks. This episode of Mom and Dad Are Fighting is produced by Rosemary Belson for Zak Rosen and Ayman Ishmael. I’m Elizabeth Newcamp. Thanks for listening. All right, Slate, plus, listeners, let’s get into it. It’s finally February, which means that it’s time to start prepping those school valentines. Do you guys have this at all? Are you stressing out the way I am stressing out about this?

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S2: My daughter’s teacher is is going to be sending home some valentines for us to like General Valentine’s, not not addressed to kids in particular. Just like I think there’s 14 kids in her class, they’ll know we’ll just draw on each of them and we’ll send them back. I think it’s going to be as simple as that. So we’re so early on in this, you know, she’s only four, so I’m sure it only gets worse.

S1: I mean, my little one is five. So I have three kids at three different places where they’ll be exchanging Valentines. We got letters home like mid-January, which sent me into a panic. Like, is everybody else doing stuff? And then because I haven’t like done this in public school or in this homeschool co-op, like we have to make valentines boxes for the kids to put their stuff in. And then they also have to bring Valentines for their classmates, and we got all these instructions. But here’s what gets me is that is the not knowing. Am I supposed to just go by the dollar store valentines? And if I do that and then we write the names on them? Am I the slacker mom? Because guys, that’s, you know, that’s not me. So I’ve done the exact opposite, which has made this a completely insane scenario in which we created seed paper that turned out to be a nightmare. So I went on to Etsy and I ordered the seed paper that I could have gone and punched into little hearts because I also don’t want to create all this like waste or more crap in other people’s homes. So we cut out these little heart seed papers, and I printed our own little valentines and we’re gluing them on and we’re writing all the names. And I have made this, like all of these, are going to get thrown in the trash. I think that’s it. It’s like they’re going to come home and get thrown in the trash. So why do I care? But I feel very like I want to produce something nice because I like to produce nice things. But I’m also like, I don’t want this stuff coming out, like, why are we doing this? Why are we doing? I get it. Does this show love?

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S3: Yeah, it’s a you’re expressing love in your own way. That’s your love. Language is like crafting.

S1: Is your child going to write all of the names on there? Because like one of the papers that came home said, like, we’d like like start now so that your five year old can write everybody’s names on these cards.

S2: We’ve been instructed not to. We’ve been instructed to keep them on personal for whatever reason, which I guess that’s I’m glad now that I hear you.

S1: Are you going to have your kids make stuff for your, your partners?

S2: No, we don’t. We don’t usually celebrate. I mean, I love my wife so much, but we’re not Valentine’s Day people.

S3: You should double check to make sure she feels the same way.

S2: Yeah, I promise that if she gave me flowers, I would be happier than if I gave her flowers. If anything, I want the flowers more. But I don’t even I do that.

S3: Sometimes I’m like, I don’t want a birthday gift, but deep down, I’m like, I want a birthday gift.

S2: No, I know her, she doesn’t want it.

S1: Do you want Mousa to make you a Valentine’s? I mean, I like the stuff the kids make me like. Did your wife be making?

S3: I have weird feelings about Valentine’s Day. I almost feel like it’s not for kids like I still have, like a romantic association with it.

S2: Yeah, because it’s about romantic love. Uh. Uh.

S3: I don’t know. I don’t know. I think if my school set, if my kids school sent me a letter being like, This is the right Valentine’s letters to to show affection, all these appeals be like, No thanks. No. My parents were very aggressive about it being like a Christian holiday, and we’re Muslim. We don’t do that. But so for me, it’s like, I’m not going to be like that strict. But at the same time, Valentine’s Day feels like one of those things where I’m going to warn against it and be like, Look, man, if you’re feeling some kind of way about somebody, go for it. If otherwise, if you just want to do it as a way to just like, spread the love and spread the joy, it feels a little creepy to me, huh?

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S1: I mean, I never thought about the idea that it’s a romantic holiday, and now we’ve turned it into something else. But I I yes, I maybe that’s where some of this just feels weird. I mean, I’m here for any. I love making crafts, so I’m here for any excuse. Like, that’s why I’m into holidays, because I like the like, Oh, we’re making big pink hearts and hanging them all over like that. To me, I’m down for that. It’s fun. Cheers up February, right? But now all of a sudden, I just feel like I am doing all this work, and I know other parents are doing this work. And then some parents are absolutely no shame going to buy the dollar store valentines. And it doesn’t matter what we did, they’re going into the shoebox that I am also spending way too much.

S3: I appreciate that about you because you’re at least you’re showing the example that this is you’re resisting against the consumerism part of Valentine’s Day. You know, like so much of Valentine’s Day, at least in my in my mind, is all about like buying crap and spending a lot of money on these like sugar hearts that are so nasty. Suddenly they’re not good gross, but they spend so they they they make so much money off of it. It’s like a hallmark holiday. And so I really appreciate you making your own stuff instead of teaching your kids that this is just the time of the year where you’re supposed to go to the store and spend money on this crap. At least you’re not doing that.

S1: You’re really summing it up. My feelings that something is a mark with this holiday and what I’m what I’m doing.

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S3: Yeah. Aymann. I’m definitely going to be like, this is a grown up holiday. Your mom and I are going to do it and we’re going to kiss. And if you think kissing is a gross day away from Valentine’s Day.

S1: I like this. I’m here for this Valentine’s Day celebration. This is this is for people that want to get. Yes. Well, Slate Plus feel free to join us on Facebook and rant about your Valentine’s Day. Whether you love it or hate it, we love to hear. As always, thanks for listening and we can’t wait to talk to you next week.