The Boy-Girl Friend Divide Edition

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S1: The following podcast contains adult language is intended for adults and should be consumed by adults. If you let your children listen to this, it’s on you. Welcome to Mom and dad are fighting Slate’s parenting podcast for Thursday, March 11th, the boy girl friend Divide Edition.

S2: I’m Jamilah Lemieux, a writer and I’m the mother of Nyima nameless mother, a mom of Nyima who is almost eight years old. And we live in Los Angeles, California.

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S3: I’m a writer for Slate and the author of the book How to Be a Family. And I’m a dad of Myra, who’s 15, and Harper, who’s 13. And we live in Arlington, Virginia.

S1: Hi, I’m Jessica Winter. My daughter’s name is Devin. She’s six. My son Taryn is four, and we live in Brooklyn.

S4: Welcome back, Jessica.

S5: I am so excited to be here. I cannot believe Lara is 15. That hurts my heart. It really is shocking. So much time. Completely inappropriate, in my opinion.

S1: Now, I’m so happy to be here. Thank you. I can’t believe people still get to live in Brooklyn and I don’t me. So my heart. So congratulations. And I’m tempted to ask you to go check in on my favorite bodega cat. We are excited to have you. We’re going to be answering a question about a little boy whose friends are all girls. His parents are worried that he’s going to be left all alone when middle school arrives. I can tell you that’s not necessarily how that always goes. We’re then going to commiserate with a mom who is fed up with her kids and their annoying nonsense word on Slate. Plus, we’re going to be talking to Jessica about her son, the budding engineer who can’t stop disassembling everything in her apartment. What have your kids destroyed? What haven’t they destroyed? But first, let’s start with triumphs and failures. And we’ll start with you, Jessica. Do you have a triumph or fail on your return to the show?

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S6: I have a triumph that’s going to double as a recommendation. And it dates back several weeks now, but I needed to share it. So as Jamila mentioned, I wrote recently about my four year old who’s very handy around the house. And one episode that I mentioned in that essay was when I was appearing on a Zoome panel and when it was my turn to speak the Internet cut out because he had rerouted the Internet connection with magnetites. What I didn’t mention is that by the time I had the Internet working again and I had attempted to resume my part of the conversation, my son was on my lap yelling, Mommy, Mommy, I want you to rub my belly for good luck. This is in front of a lot of people. So I turned my zoom off again and I got him situated and settled down. And I came back for a third time and I did my presentation and it all went fine. And I got some text and emails saying, oh, you were so calm, you kept us together. And I was confused by this because I’m a moderately flexible person. I can’t be relied upon to stay calm in those situations. And I realized that I stayed calm and I remembered everything that I wanted to say. And I handled it reasonably well because not because of like great inner resources, but because of Janet Lansberry. Do you guys know who Janet Lansbury is? No, I do not. She’s the host of this podcast called Respectful Parenting Unruffled. I just so happened on the day of this panel. In the afternoon, I was cleaning the house and I was just bingeing. Janet Lansberry podcast. So she she’s in the wry, respectful parenting tradition, which is pretty laissez faire. It privileges, you know, respect and validation. And it’s like this really mindful and intense form of parenting. But it’s it’s also like totally mellow. And there’s just something about Janet Landsbergis voice. There’s this gentle amusement in it and this bone deep calm. And it’s kind of contagious. Like if you clean your house for a couple of hours with that voice in your head, you just become Janet Landsbergis tone of voice. And I think that’s what happened that night. Like it was a total disaster. It was a complete disaster on every level. But at the same time, it was kind of no big deal and it was kind of funny. And like, that’s my parenting mantra now. It’s like no big deal and kind of funny.

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S4: I mean, that’s remarkable there. There has never been a more flexible parenting podcast than ours.

S3: And so the tone you were employing right there was both soothing and I think quite shocking show. Just I hope they enjoyed it because it’s never coming back.

S6: I kind of want to hear more now. Well, I mean, I feel like a hypocrite sharing this because last night my son intentionally, knowingly toppled over some plants in the kitchen like it wasn’t an accident. And there was soil everywhere. And it took me a long time to clean it up. And and I yelled at him like, I admit it, I totally yelled at him. I apologize later for yelling at him. But like, I definitely do not live up to the unruffled ideal all the time.

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S4: All triumphs are short lived as our all fails. Thank you, Janet Lansberry, that was a good one.

S1: What about you, Dan? Do you have a fail or fail?

S4: I triumph, if you can believe it.

S3: You know, we’re in month 72 of the pandemic, and I am still always searching for pandemic activities to do with my kids are really with Harper. Lyra doesn’t need pandemic activities, but Harper needs pandemic activities. And last week I found just a perfect one and it really only lasted one afternoon, but it was such a rousing success that I want to share it here. I think that other parents might find it a useful one day savior as well, which is that Harper and I organized the Spice Cabinet just as your child is the D constructor. My child is the organizer. She’s the queen of organizing things. So to prepare, I got one of those rotating revolving spice racks with twenty four little glass canisters in them. And I got Harper to refill her label maker with fresh label tape. And we just like a merry afternoon from basically from the time work was done until way after dinner should have been started. Just taking all 1000000 spaces out of the spice cabinet and sorting them out and discovering that we have three separate bottles of ground clothes and, you know, and all the other duplicates that we purchased and then emptying them into little bottles and having Harper print out specific labels for each one and taping them to them and then organizing them in the cabinet, buy seeds and ground things and whole things and sweet spices and savory spices. It just killed ours. And she was so happy. And the end result was a like a seven percent more organized kitchen area. So it was great for us, too. But really, it was just it allowed her to tap into her greatest, like, bone deep pleasures and allowed me to keep her happy for a couple of hours and feel like I was actually connecting with her as opposed to just being like, as usual, get out of my face.

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S4: I’m trying to make dinner as it was really fun. And so if you have a kid who is like a little bit of an organized person, they might enjoy this, too. So considerate.

S6: Can Harper come over to my house?

S4: I was going to say she would die to come over to anyone’s house and organize their spice cabinet. All right, let’s make a date, OK?

S1: I’ll tell her she’s hired all kids love California. I’m just saying so. Well, when Lyra comes out for a radical girl camp, that’s more than welcome to come do some organizing because I could use it. And I’m also a pricing label makers as we speak because I love to buy the accouterment of organization. If only it used itself. That is a very good triumph. Then congratulations to you and I’m sorry I doubted you. So. So I have a bit of a fail, even though I already know how Elizabeth, if she were here, would turn this around and make it a triumph. But Nyima has been allowed to experiment with makeup a little bit. I don’t think anyone thought of it as like, oh, cinema is like seeing herself as like a girl who wears makeup as opposed to like this is imaginative play. Right? Like this is a costume of sorts. Nyima has taken to wanting to wear makeup regularly or feeling disappointed when she’s told no. And I’ve even rolled back. Like what doing wearing a little makeup looks like it’s now you can do a little glitter on your eyes and some lip gloss, right. Like we’re not doing a full face because, you know, like she’d asked me last week, can I wear the makeup? All right, fine. She goes to my vanity and comes back with a full face, including a shade of foundation that is not right for her right leg. It’s not her color. And when I asked her best, are you buying foundation? She’s like, no, I’m like, you’re an entirely different color than when I made you. So are you not? Are you? What are you wearing? No, mommy, no, I’m not like Straight-faced it turned out. No, she was not wearing foundation. She was wearing my very good concealer all over her face. The concealer that comes in a little bitty pot that’s not meant for all over your face anyways. So we’re now stuck in this situation where I’ll say today is no makeup day when I do my makeup, which is basically every day at this point, she’ll see me putting on makeup and she’ll say, well, mommy, why are you wearing makeup? I’m like, wow, I’m an adult and I choose to wear makeup. And she’s like, But you don’t have to. You’re so pretty without it. And so, like, she’s using all of my lines that I’ve used to discourage her from feeling like she needs makeup. So now every time I tend to put on eyeliner or what little concealer I have left, I met with butt mommy, you know, you’re pretty without it, right? And so I’m torn between feeling like I need to, even though I don’t wear makeup every day. But there is this feeling now that, like. Do I just stopped wearing it for a while to, like, give her some peace around, like what I actually look like or the idea that women don’t need makeup or do I just wear my makeup when I want to? Because that’s the whole point of feminism in the first place, is that I can do it as I see fit.

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S4: That kid is a master, she’s just an incredible manipulator, so manipulative, wrapped around her finger, wrapped. Yeah, wrapped. I just have to tip my cap for what she’s accomplished.

S6: I went like 11 months without wearing makeup, and I recently got a new, like, full supply of makeup, you know, hoping that we can, like, leave our homes in a few months. And both of my kids are super interested in it. I recently lost a bottle of foundation to a little bit of a sinkhole experiment, and I have the same conflict with them where it’s just like, well, if you’re wearing it and it’s OK for you to wear it, why can’t we wear it? And I feel like one of them is like one inch away from the butt.

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S1: Mommy, you’re the same reason you’re allowed to smoke cigarettes, which is essentially the conversation I’ve tried to have, which I have earned the privilege with my adopting. And now these responsibilities and burdens like you only see the highlight. You only see the good part of being an adult. You want to sit down and pay some bills with me. You know, I’m sure you’ll give up the makeup and go run near a teddy bear and Barbie dolls in fear. That’s what we’re dealing with over here. Before we move on to the main show, let us handle a little business. Hey, Slate plus listeners, it is survey time again, which means it’s your chance to tell us what you think about Slate. Plus in Slate. It’ll only take a few minutes and you can find it as Slate’s dot com backslash survey. Also, don’t forget to check out my new slate live show, Wild and Wise every other Wednesday myself. And we are going live to talk about race, sex, identity and modern life with wit and wisdom. We go live every other Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, 5:00 p.m. Pacific. And if you don’t want to wait until next week for a new episode, you can check out the first few ones right now by going to Slate’s Facebook or YouTube pages. Or you can visit Slate dot com backslash live. Now, if you want to be notified about all things late parenting, you need to sign up for Sleigh’s parenting newsletter. Besides getting all of Slate’s great parenting content in one tidy place, including mom and dad are fighting. Ask a teacher, Karen feeding and much more. It’s also just a fun dance story right in your inbox each week. So go sign up for that to its slate that come back slash parenting email. Finally, if you want to connect with other parents, join our parenting group on Facebook, it’s super moderated, super active, and if anyone is a jerk, they get the boot. It’s a cool place. You’ll see me every once in a while. That’s parenting on Facebook. Let’s get into our first listener question of the week being read, as always, by none other than the fantastic Sasha Leonhard.

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S7: Dear mom and dad, do boys and girls stay friends as they get older or do they spit up late in elementary school as they tended to? When I was growing up, 100 percent of my rising second grade son’s friends or girls, he enjoys them and they enjoy him. And we are both very happy with the buddies that he has. I just worry that they might all ditch him in a year or two if kids split along gender lines. He’s never mentioned that he doesn’t like boys or anything. It just kind of seems like he hasn’t met any that he clicks with. I’ve never tried to encourage friendships with boys. I don’t know how I would even do that. But I do worry that in a year or two, all his friend’s birthday parties will suddenly be girls, only slumber parties, and that he’ll be left out without anyone else to hang with. What do you think, Jessica?

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S6: So I don’t know that there’s anything you can actually do as a parent to intervene, in part because you don’t know what’s going to happen. And, you know, it’s such a terrible feeling even to have a premonition that your child will be left out. But I think all you can do is just be receptive or attentive to that possibility. I guess if you’re friends with or friendly with any parents of boys, you could maybe arrange an outdoor play date if that wouldn’t feel awkward. I’m curious, Dan, as a former boy, what you think about this.

S4: I was definitely this second grader. Most of my friends were girls around that time. And and that and what she is worried about happening to her son definitely happened to me. There was like a period where you write sort of when the cooties hit, I was suddenly left without friends because girls were only playing with girls and boys were only playing with boys. I don’t think that this is universal. I think that other people may have had different experiences in in their elementary school years. But it definitely happened to me. We saw it happen to Laura, who had a lot of friends who are boys in first and second grade. And then there was just a moment where neither she nor the boys were interested in that anymore. And the overwhelming social pressure in their class was to not be friends across genders and both my case and in Laura’s case. The social situation essentially worked itself out by people falling into like the the pre-approved slots available to them, and neither Liara or I were particularly great at making new friends. We did find friends of the same gender during the years where that was like the approved thing to do. And then around seventh or eighth grade, it becomes fine again to have friends or the opposite gender. And then through high school and rest of your life, it remains fine. But I think Jessica is exactly right that. As a parent, it’s very hard to practically do anything about this, not only because you don’t know for sure whether it’s going to happen, but because as we’ve explored on the show, about a million different ways. It’s just very, very difficult and unsatisfying to meddle in your kids like one on one direct social interactions. And it almost always yields worse results than you are hoping for. It’s just very hard. You can’t make kids be friends. You can only push them so far. And it almost always ends up like not working quite how you wanted it to work. In addition to just generally feeling a little bit like, oh, I’m pushing things when I should be allowing them to make these decisions and make these mistakes on their own. So I don’t know that I have a great solution other than to say that I really sympathize with this parent and think that Jessica’s note that being receptive and available and willing to hear your child out when if the time comes that he is feeling a little bit lonely, will really help maybe even more than you think. Jamila, what do you think?

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S1: A lot has changed in terms of how gender is experienced and performed since we were children. I think about the makeup of friend groups on some of the TV shows that kids are watching on Nickelodeon and Disney kids this child’s age, that they are exposed to more content. That is presenting the idea of girls and boys as being people who can work together and have an interest in each other beyond the romantic interest that they may or may not develop later on in life. I do have some slight optimism there. There are also the boys that that begin friendships with the girls from day one, and the girls remain the center part of their social circle for any number of reasons. You know, I remember there being boys. There were that way when I was younger. And even though we were, I think, far more stratified into these gendered groups socially than, you know, from what I’ve observed from my own child. And when I think of younger people that I know there may be adults, but just kind of how they have related to to folks across gender lines, in my observation, it just feels somewhat profoundly different. I would just add, you know, it is the idea of your child being left out of anything is terrifying. And this is one of those places where it’s easy to do too much. You know, I would perhaps. Consider some sort of activity in which your child would be guaranteed to interact with other boys and may be trying it out on a trial basis, if there’s some sort of, you know, club or activity at a community center or church, something where he would be in the company of boys. And I think that is ideal for kids this age to have meaningful interactions with interactions with children of all genders. Right. I don’t think it would be ideal for I encourage my daughter to have male friends, you know, and I’ve talked about the importance of having male friends throughout my life and what they’ve meant to me. And she sees that I have good friends and that her father has women friends. And I think it’s a good thing that, you know, he is interacting with girls in a meaningful way. I just I don’t think it’s terrible to politely find ways to better integrate boys into his world. It could be it could be a playdate or two here and there when you can. But I think there’s a big difference between forcing it and gently facilitating, you know, opportunities for there to be him getting to know other boys his age because he should know other boys his age.

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S4: I’m so interested because I agree with you, Djamila, that it seems like things are really different in the way that kids talk and think about gender now than when I was growing up back in the fucking stone ages. Yes. And that the way it’s presented in culture is totally different. And I really expected, I think, based on all that, that my kids wouldn’t have the same experience that I had. But in both of their classes, for whatever reason, the kids, even though they they talk about gender totally differently than I did and and think about it totally differently, still completely divided themselves in like third grade, as if a wall had been erected in their lives and a bum me out, honestly, not only because, like, I was losing these friends who I liked and and whose families I liked because it seemed to resemble many of the worst aspects of my elementary school years instead of what I hoped for for them, which is that it would reflect a a bold new future as opposed to what I went through. Jessica. Have you seen that happening with your kids as they’ve moved through the move through life?

S6: I’ve been really struck by the fact that my my kids are three years apart in school. My my daughter’s in first grade and my son is still in preschool. And I can see a difference even in those three years, like in terms of in terms of gender presentation, in terms of self-expression and gender. You know, several of my son’s classmates who are boys, you know, they’ll they’ll wear a skirt or a princess costume to the playground or the paint their nails and they come to school. My own son had a face for a while where he wanted to wear a Wonder Woman costume to school every day. And and I let him that went on for weeks. And I’m actually kind of sad. That phase is over. I really enjoyed the Wonder Woman era. You know, I didn’t really see that among my daughters, male friends, even three years earlier than that. So I am curious to see if those gender lines are breaking down with very, very young children in terms of self presentation and creativity and what they want to wear to school. I am curious if those are the gender lines of friendship will also break down in some kind of semi-permanent way.

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S4: Here’s one practical piece of advice I can give. I agree that trying to just foster gentle playdates with boys sort of as an inoculation against loneliness in case it does happen that these these cross gender friendships fall apart so that there are some boys that he is also friends with can really help. But I also think you, the parent, may be feeling sad about these friendships with these girls falling apart. The you may really like these girls. You may like their families. You probably really love that he’s so happy with these people and that he has friendships across genders. And he may be wondering, is there some way that I can save or salvage any of these friendships? And that’s tricky. But the one suggestion I have is. If possible, try to foster like a full family friendships with one or two of these girls families, if you like them, if you get along with those parents, if you think you have things in common, if you think there’s a possibility for that, if you can create a situation in which the parents are friends with the parents and the parents organize family get togethers, that gives those kids a reason to get together. Even deep in the cootie years of fourth and fifth grade, they might be grateful for that. They might not be able to to express it exactly. But having that way to maintain that friendship outside of the like the social structures and rules that school enforces sometimes might be really helpful to them. And it might help you save a little bit of what you like about these friendships right now.

S6: The idea of the full family friendship is so charming and also the idea of a vaccine against loneliness is so if only if only we can also get that shot, if only.

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S1: If only. Well, thank you so much, letter writer, for your inquiry. We hope that we were helpful. Please feel free to give us an update. We love updates. And if you fellow listeners are interested in asking us something gone and send us an email to mom and dad. It’s Slate Dotcom. Or you can do what this listener did and post it to the Slate’s Parenting Facebook page. Just search for slate parenting. All right. Let’s get into our second listener question, which is red, as always, by the tremendous Shasha Lanard.

S7: Dear mom and dad, I have a seven and a four and a half year old who have been spending a lot of time with me in the pandemic. I am hardcore struggling with one thing lately. They have a word that they got from some TV show that they yell in a high pitched voice all the time. The word is deployed. I’m not sure that’s relevant, it’s a nonsense word, at least, but it annoys the crap out of me. The kids know what irritates me. I’ve tried asking them how they would feel if I did something that I knew irritated them. But how do I get them to stop? I don’t want to threaten them with taking something away. It’s so ingrained in their vocabulary that I don’t think it would be an effective deterrent. Everything I try works for three minutes until the next time. Is this something I should just get over somehow or can I try another tactic? It’s been a long two months of this, Dan, what do you think, this poor woman?

S4: I have two things to say about this. The first is just that I really sympathize with you. I think a lot of us are really at the end of our ropes or well past the end of our ropes with the people we have been crammed together in houses and apartments with for the last 12 to 14 months. I’m sure there are something I say or do that is equally nonsensical, that drives my children and my wife crazy. I really, really feel for you. The second thing I want to say to you is, Dimity, I want to give it up to these children who are expert trolls, who have found the perfect way to push your buttons and are loving it. They are loving life. Probably this is the only thing that has given them joy in the last two months. And you’ve got to respect that. Honest to God, I think you just got to grit your teeth and put on noise canceling headphones and get them outside as soon as the temperature is above thirty six degrees and there’s no other possible solution. But I would love to hear what you guys have to say.

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S6: I think you have to do your best to ignore it, like Dan advises. I also agreed with one of our Slate Facebook commenters that you could start saying it, but like saying it in the wrong way and the inappropriate settings, maybe stress the wrong syllables or, you know, say it in some kind of grating voice. And the only other thing that occurs to me is I think it’s a Netflix show. When I got sick of watching Pop a troll or sick of my children watching Papa Troll, I just told them that our Netflix subscription ran out and we just didn’t have Netflix for a while. It’s like, oh, Netflix isn’t working. It’s so expensive. We don’t have it anymore. You could do that. And then maybe they’re not watching the show, but maybe screaming Tibaldi is independent of whether or not they’re watching the show.

S4: That’s great. Netflix only works after 9:00 p.m. for some reason.

S6: Yeah, it’s a grown up thing. It’s like my makeup.

S4: I listen, Jessica is right. This is a Netflix show. It’s called Griselle and the Lemmings. The show is supposedly from France, but really it is from hell. It is about a grizzly bear who’s tormented by a bunch of lemmings. The lemmings are clearly rip offs of like the minions or the the lemurs from Madagascar. All they do is make mischief. And they yell, Dimity, I’ve I’ve prepared some clips from the show. Let’s take a listen.

S8: You know, so imagine and every single one of those little moments, something funny happens.

S4: And then all the lemmings go, Dimity, and then one of them explodes or some shit. The show, honest to God, sounds like the worst thing in the world. So if you’ve accomplished nothing else, let a writer at least maybe you’ve steered other parents away from the show.

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S1: Imagine writing for support and they just go out of the way to play the play, the very sound that triggers you over and over again. That’s what we do here. Mum and dad to play audio and the show. I know. Just to make so that everyone could could share in your horror. We went to to empathize with you. I love the suggestion from the Facebook group about remixing the sound and making it bad. I love a good troll. You know, your children are trolling you. You’ve got to troll back. I would also suggest perhaps coming up with your own equally annoying catchphrase that you meet each day with the only risk of that is that they might decide that that’s the two of you guys clapping five, you know, that you that they like it, but it could work, especially if it’s something that they really hate. I love the Netflix suggestion. Any time you can just completely bend reality to distract your child from doing something is OK with me. I would also add finally perhaps a challenge of some sort where there are some stakes, right? Like whomever can go the longest without saying double D can earn something right. That you have established that this has gone on too long. This is a thing that literally drives me up the wall. I love you. I’m happy to let you watch shows that you enjoy from time to time. What I cannot do is live in double Dilan. I am not a lemming. You are not a lemming. This has to end. So here’s how we’re going to do it. And you can have a chart like you might do a behavioral chart or attendance chart in the classroom with some star stickers and every whether it’s by the hour or the time of day, morning, afternoon, night, whether it’s a daily thing, measure the ability of your children to abstain from saying debility and incentivize them. Not saying give them a reason, because unfortunately, your sanity, your your emotional state and your comfort are not reason enough for your children to alter their behavior. As you will learn over and over and over again, it is so inspiring.

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S4: That you think that could work? But honest to God, I just think they’re going to keep saying, deputy, till they get sick of it and any number of charts is only going to stress to them how much they’re annoying you and how much success they are having. I think you just got to banish them to the outdoors. One Facebook parenting group member suggested treating your kids in for other kids. That’s also a great idea. I think the only thing that will help this is the fullness of time. What about a little light misting of water, like a cat, like a cat or like a just a shock collar, but not one of the really bad ones. Just like a little just a little zolt.

S1: You guys take it too far. I literally just mean a little mischievous kitten.

S4: I do feel very bad for this. Do you guys have a memory of some specific thing that your kid would not stop saying for weeks or months that drove you completely insane? For us, it was when we lived in Costa Rica for two weeks. Our kids I don’t even know if this is from some YouTube video or meme or or musically, as Tic-Tac used to be called, and they just would go over and over and over again. I like trains and then they would run into us and they said it a hundred times a day and we just wanted to murder them and eventually they stopped.

S1: So my daughter and her brother had gotten hooked on a YouTube show called Annabell and Izabel. It’s like a Barbie show that a little girl makes where she’s got Barbie dolls and they have I guess she’s maybe in the U.K. She has a very particular accent. And so these two children had to had somehow her brother especially, but her Nyima would do it, too, like they effectively appropriated this child’s accent. And we’re speaking at it at length. It bothered me so much. It was like there was a no Annabell. Izabel voice rule in both households, like stop talking like that. It was the absolute worst. And because they speak in these kind of sweet baby voices, you know, the characters and the children themselves, the first few seconds of conversation, you don’t quite realize they’re doing it, whereas, you know, I can’t even do it. It’s just so God awful. But just, you know, Mommy, can we go to the store? It’s just like you don’t want to hear anymore. You don’t want to anymore. It’s really bad.

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S6: And they’re using that voice on you to get you to do something or get you to give them something which compounds the horror of it.

S1: There are times where just the sound of the word mommy just makes my skin crawl now. And that’s a sad pandemic reality because it was one of the sweetest sound in the world. And now it is like getting cut with the butter knives. Jessica, did you have your little ones put you through a weird vocal fixation at any point? It.

S6: Mine was pure vocalisation. It wasn’t even a word or a catchphrase. My son had his love as a stuffed cat named Kiki. He would vocalize what he thought Kiki sounded like. And so instead of like a sweet little, you know, he would I’m not going to do it. But it has like.

S5: Like that. Jesus Christ. Yeah, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. Yeah. He wasn’t doing it to annoy me like this is. It’s like, oh, is this how, you know, in a case like I’m happy, like that’s the power or is that like the stress? It’s just, hello, Kiki’s here. Well, you know what it sounded like? It sounded exactly like when Daryl Hannah in Splash introduces herself and the crazy ideas electronic store and all and all of the glass shatters and they have to make up a name for her and they’re crossing Madison. And so he would this went on for six months and he would do it a lot at bedtime.

S6: I think he found it soothing to just clutch Kiki to his chest and scream. And over time, he did pick up on how much it annoyed me. And I think that created the vicious cycle. And once in a while, once in a while, he’ll just pull it out. You know, he’ll just it’s you know, it’s eight o’clock. We’re reading Dr. Seuss. And then all of a sudden all glass around us is shattering because he has something to say. But like, I couldn’t I couldn’t talk him out of that. I couldn’t incentivize or dis incentivize him, you know, to stop doing that. It was as Dan said, it was the fullness of time. But I do I do admire Jamila’s strategies for forgetting.

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S1: If nothing else, she’ll feel like she’s being proactive. Right. You’ll feel like things like that. Yeah.

S4: I love that your son has kept that in his toolbox. He knows you can pull that out every every once in a while.

S1: Just keep you on the toes and break that glass is fantastic. OK, I have one more idea that just made me think of something. There is a I believe a ten hour loop of the Price is Right Faile song on YouTube. And it’s something I used to pull this out of my one of my jobs for humorous effect, you know, and somebody would have a fail and it would just run and run. I hope that was not workplace bullying. I think everybody was in on the joke when I would do this. But perhaps you can keep the price is right fell horn on your phone. And when your child, one of your children makes the sound, you could just hit them with a bump like you failed. You failed to stop saying this awful word. I don’t know. A little little shaming doesn’t hurt nobody except for children usually. So something so something to think about when one annoying sound deserves another. Right? It’s not like I said, spray them with water. I think another Rusell would be great. I did not say spray them with water like a cat earlier. You would never I would never say something like that. Not even in jest. I don’t remember that. No. Thank you so much, letter writer. And I am so sorry for your old troubles. Please, please, please do keep us updated. We’d love to know when your your local nightmare comes to an end. If you have a parenting conundrum all your own, send it in. Shoot us an email at mom and dad. It’s late dot com or post it to the Slate’s Parenting Facebook group before we get out of here, of course, we have our recommendations. Jessica, what are you recommending for us this week?

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S6: I wanted to recommend picture books illustrated by Melissa, why she has this lovely and very friendly and homey illustration style. Her characters have these round gentle faces and the colors are so lush and bright. It’s just a beautiful, saturated, very non pandemic world that she creates. And she also smuggles a lot of learning and know how in her illustrations, she illustrated a book called Let’s Go to the Hardware Store. That’s a big favorite in our house. And, you know, you go on this nice trip, but you also end up learning a lot about different types of hammers. Two of our favorites are Soup Day. There’s another one called Pizza Day, which also have recipes in the back that we’ve tried. And she has a new one coming out in a couple of months called Dumplings for Lily that I’ve preordered. And I’m hoping it will teach me how to make dumplings.

S4: Also love a good illustrator recommendation.

S1: Yeah, very nice. Very nice. Thank you, Jessica. What about you, Dan? What are you recommending?

S4: I’m recommending a brand new novel by an author you may know. Well, Jessica, the novel is called The Fourth Child. It’s out this week and recently subject to a rave review in The New York Times. The book is just really, really good. It’s a family novel, a parenting novel, a social comedy and a social tragedy. It’s very sharp about being a mom and about being a teenage girl. It’s good on the abortion wars and the culture wars. It’s got good Greece jokes and good Pixie’s jokes. I go the whole thing up in like two days. I loved it. It is in stores now. Please buy it the fourth time.

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S1: Congratulations, Jessica. Thank you for to checking out the forecast as well. So I am recommending as so delicious the dairy free line of products that you’ve seen in the dairy aisle and in the freezer section of your local grocery store. They have a delicious milk frozen dessert made with peanut butter and raspberry. It’s like a peanut butter and jelly ice cream. And it’s made with milk. And it is so frigging good I’m obsessed with it. I’m not vegan. I’m also not the biggest fan of milk. It strongly disappointed me after enthusiastic recommendations from many of my non milk drinking or non cows, milk drinking peeps who said it was the best thing ever and I was going to change the game for us and it has not. So I still find myself looking to the teeth of a cow to satisfy my creamy, cheesy ice cream cravings. However, so delicious oat milk, frozen dessert, it gets dicey when it’s not ice cream anymore, right? It’s milk frozen dessert. Let me not call it ice cream. It is an oatmeal frozen dessert. It is absolutely delicious. Peanut butter and raspberry. Go get it. Unless you’re allergic to peanuts. In which case I’m so sorry. I’m sure they have other flavors for the likes of you, but it is a yummy, yummy treat.

S2: I thank you guys so much for another lovely episode of Mom and Dad are fighting. Thank you so much, Jessica Winter, for joining us. And congratulations on the release of your novel, The Fourth Child available with booksellers everywhere. And that is it for our show one last time. If you want us to come in and fix your conundrums, send us an email at Mom and dad at Slate dot com or it to Slate Parenting Facebook group. Just search for sleep parenting. And if you haven’t already, please do subscribe to mom and dad or fighting. Wherever you listen to podcast, it helps us out and and make sure that you will never miss. An episode, and while you’re there, go on ahead and leave us a nice, friendly review of the show as well. Mom and Dad Are Fighting is produced by Rosemarie Bellson for Danquah and Jessica Winter and Jamilah Lemieux.

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S1: Hello, Slate. Plus listeners, thank you so much for your support. We literally could not do the show without you. We’re keeping the Jessica Winter party going. Jessica, you recently wrote about your son’s appetite for destruction. We’ll post a link to Jessica’s fabulous article for The New York Times. It’s a very sweet read so you can catch up with if you haven’t seen it for yourself already. Please tell us all about why he suddenly disassembling everything in sight.

S6: I think he’s just exploring his world by taking it apart and trying to figure out how it works. So he has disassembled our doorbell. Our doorbell still doesn’t work. So there’s a lot of knocking and occasionally pounding on the door. He’s taking apart old fire alarms, not old smoke detectors. Several commenters told me that he should not be taking apart smoke detectors because they have some kind of, I don’t know, mercury in them or something that can hurt him. He loves screwdrivers. And obviously you can’t just, like, hand him a screwdriver and let him go to town. But I have carefully monitored him while he removes the screws on on various devices around the house. His favorite thing to take apart is clocks. He if you hand him a clock, it will be in ten pieces on the floor shortly thereafter. And he will have a whole narrative for you about what the clock is, how it works and why he destroyed it. It’s a challenge at times. It’s very messy at times. But it’s it’s fun to watch his little brain at work as he tries to figure out his world.

S4: How’s the reassembly going?

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S6: The reassembly is an area of growth for Taron.

S4: So you don’t have any clocks, as what you’re saying?

S6: I have one. I’m looking at it right now. You’re looking way up out of his reach, I notice. Yeah. Yeah. It’s as close to the ceiling as I can hang it.

S4: I rely heavily on that clock. I mean, I kind of love it. You definitely hear all these stories of, like, young engineers, you know, who when it’s early on. Yeah. Who love machines and love figuring out how things work, being the ones who you couldn’t leave them alone in a room with a with a gadget without them taking it apart into its component molecules in seconds.

S6: The comment section on the Times piece was unusually like heartwarming and supportive, like there are a couple of people who are like, you know, this child isn’t being properly supervised or, you know, you are indulging in spoiling this topic. But like the vast, vast majority of them were super supportive and a lot of them were exactly that. Like, I’m an engineer, I’m an electrical engineer, I’m a mechanical engineer. I’m whatever. Here are all my boat a few days. And I was exactly like this when I was four or five or six. And that that was really studying for me, not least because I’m in the comment section. Comments section is just where people come to be mean. So that was that was really nice and reassuring.

S1: You can summon some kindness from a comment section. You’ve done something right for sure. Or something terribly, terribly, terribly wrong. But one of the other. Dan, did your kids go through a destruction period?

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S4: My kids are not big dissemblers. That was never really their thing. And they weren’t particularly destructive, with one major exception, which which makes me laugh a lot when I think about it, which is just at some point when Harper was really little visiting her grandma’s house, she found I don’t know if it was like a nail file or something, but she just carved her name on the underside of her grandmother’s dining room table, just very, very small Harpur. And then the way she tells the story is that she immediately knew it was wrong and was filled with remorse, but chose not to tell anyone about it. And then only years later did her grandmother say, oh, Harper, remember when you carved your name into the table and everyone you knew about that? Huh? But Kiki was nice enough not to to nail her with it immediately upon finding it out. But in general, my kids weren’t destructive. But I do think it’s funny that every kid has the most kids have a thing about which they get obsessed that relates to their way of dealing with the world. And I’ve already talked on the show about Harper’s organizing way of dealing with the world as your son is to disassembly. Harper is to organization. And so in a way, in a house as disorganized as ours, fervent organization is a kind of disassembly because it wrecks the very careful systems I have for keeping track of where everything is. And so I you know, I would discover that my car keys were not in the place where I always keep them a message bin next to the door that’s filled with a bunch of receipts, but instead have been placed with all the other keys on a nice little board elsewhere in the house. And then I can’t fucking find them because Harper did that, because that is a way that she organizes the world. So I found it. It’s like basically similarly discombobulating as finding my clocks and a pile of years on the floor, even though it is a different impulse driving it. What about you, Jimmy?

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S1: There’s something she took apart once, and I’ve been trying to think of it since I read the article, even before we talked about on Slate. I mean, we talked about doing this segment because it like it was a big deal, you know, like it was some toy that she just like for no apparent reason just took apart. And it was. Not something we were able to put back together, but aside from that, there hasn’t been much of a destruction threat, with one exception. There was a doll. It was the doll that Christmas, the lovable a doll. And I got it for her. And we were walking through O’Hare Airport in Chicago, which means I think we were maybe we were traveling to see my family for the holiday. And she shows me the doll. She says, oh, one of her eyelashes fell off. And I was like, What? And I’m looking. And I’m like, I kind of know how dolls are constructed. Like a doll eyelash doesn’t just, like, fall off. Like, my eyelashes will fall off much easier than at all. I let you know, I knew on some level that she had to yank this thing off intentionally or otherwise. And so she had me walking through O’Hare Airport, looking on the floor for this missing eyelash. And she later admitted that she’d pulled it off herself out of curiosity. So that was her big destruction. Mom, I think it’s been more so. It’s manifested in either like mistreatment of her things or just like aggressively using things like when she aggressively plows through my makeup and leaves a big mess in terms of her coping with the world. I think for. I wish your organization, because it’s certainly not that for me it’s dancing. She dances like you. She would be a character from a sitcom because she’s constantly like like in the middle of whatever’s going on. Like Nijem is always.

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S4: Like for listeners who do not have the cameras turned on, right? I was doing just a fabulous mass in her class right now.

S1: Yes. Thank you. The video version of mom and dad for Slate plus plus members will be available on YouTube. But these are what I’m essentially attempting very poorly to do. Our Tic-Tac dances, they are very Jonte, very high energy dances. But I think that is her way of, you know, that’s her peaceful place. So, Jessica, do you feel like that when your son is going into destruction that this is his then that this is what makes him feel good and calm and like he understands the world around him?

S6: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. He is in his happy place. You know, one other thing that he likes to do that isn’t really destruction, but it’s quite messy is the con ed guys in our neighborhood who have been doing tons of work. They’ll give him caution tape, the yellow caution tape so they know who he is and they’ll just hand over caution tape to him and sometimes he’ll find caution tape. And my apartment is you know, there are lamps wrapped in caution tape and there are bookshelves wrapped in caution tape and and it looks hideous. But he’s so happy because he’s creating a construction site and he’ll talk to you about it and he’ll narrate it. And he knows all the ins and outs of it and how it works. And so I have had to reconcile my longing for the House to be in some kind of order for the house to look nice and for things to be in their place. And on the other hand, his, you know, happiness and fulfillment. This is one of the things that the pandemic has made a little easier, because I don’t give a shit what my house looks like right now. I mean, who’s going to see it? So Teran can kind of do whatever he wants, like it’s all about my own fastidiousness, my own, you know, aspirations for what my house look like. But like from a social standpoint, it could not matter less. So that’s been kind of nice to just let go a little bit. It’s like this is what the house looks like right now. This is the kid I have and I’m going to celebrate who he is.

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S1: Does he also watch videos of people taking things apart, like our tutorials on YouTube of how to disassemble carburator car engine, things that are like outside of his range of access at this point.

S6: Djamila, I am so glad you asked me this. He is permitted every morning over his breakfast, ten minutes on YouTube, and I am terrified of YouTube. So this is like a really, really specific YouTube. It’s terrifying. Yeah, it is. It is. But he he is given ten minutes on the iPad with system tests on YouTube. There is an entire genre. I had no idea of these people who just test their fire alarm systems. All that these big suburban houses where you’ve got fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in your garage and upstairs and downstairs in the basement. And they will just walk through their house with their phone camera, testing every single device in the house, and they put them up a system tests and they number them. And it’s a whole community of people. They talk to each other and like they like each other’s videos and stuff. And he will sit very intently over his Cheerios and he will watch people test their fire alarms.

S4: And that’s just the video is just fire alarms going off like a.. Some are videos.

S1: And yes, that is a perfect way of putting it, as I say. And they narrate them to like, oh, they know this this one’s a little off. Right. I need to change the battery on this one. And they all have like these long names like this is the AI are five six seventy six.

S6: That’s from twenty fifteen. Like they have all this really granular knowledge of fire safety systems. That’s his thing. I’m so, I have so many questions but I know we don’t have.

S4: He’s so employable.

S6: I hope so. I have no practical skills whatsoever. I hope that he thrives in whatever whatever economy awaits him, whatever climate apocalypse awaits him when he reaches the daughter, proving going to help. Yeah. Been looking for somebody. Yeah, absolutely.

S1: Well, thank you for that, Jessica, and thank you so much, Slate plus listeners, for your support. And we will see you again. We will. You will not see us. We will not see you, but you will hear us again next week.