S1: The following podcast is for parents, maybe not for kids. Hey, welcome to Mom and Dad are fighting Slate’s parenting podcast for Thursday, May 27th, Acne Flashbacks Edition. I’m Dan Boyce. I’m a writer at Slate and the author of the book How to Be a Family. I’m the dad of Laura, who’s 16, and Harper, he’s 13. And we live in Arlington, Virginia.
S2: I’m Elizabeth, New Camp. I write the Home School and Family Travel Blog. Decherd Excuse me, I’m the mom to three little Henry who’s nine, Oliver who’s seven, and Teddy, this fabulous four. I’m coming to you from our temporary lodging, which is on the Air Force Academy campus. And it’s graduation weekend. So there are a number of loud aircraft that will be flying over. Hopefully not during this taping, but possibly so. Keep your ears perked for those.
S3: And hi, my name is Dwayne Richard and I am an anti-racism facilitator, the founder of the Anti-Racism Fight Club. I am an author, keynote speaker, and also I am an advice columnist for Slate for Care and Feeding. So you may have seen some of my writings. So I have two little kids, daughter, 10 year old Emeco, and my seven year old daughter Rayco. They both have Japanese names, my wife, Japanese. And I am coming at you from Los Angeles, California, where the wind chills and balmy 70 degrees today. And I
S1: love it. Welcome to AGN. We’re really happy to have you here.
S3: Thank you for having me.
S1: We are delighted to have another L.A. person just lauding their weather, the delightful weather over. But it could you could have an earthquake at any second,
S3: any second,
S1: any second. On today’s show, we’re going to counsel a mom who had terrible acne when she was growing up and now is kind of stressing out over her son and his breakouts. And then we’ve got a question about a little boy who has gotten obsessed with gender norms. His mom is worried. She’s also worried that maybe she’s a little too worried. We’ll talk to her about that, I’d say. Plus, today, we’re going to talk to Darwin about what it’s like being a care and feeding columnist and a parent and what happens when the advice you give ends up hitting really close to home. But first, we’re going to start out with triumphs and fails to win. What do you have for us on your joyous, glorious return to the show? A triumph or fail?
S3: Yeah. So I think I had a fail last time. The last time, which was the first time. So I’m going to go with the Triumph today and it doesn’t actually have to do with my own kids. This is kind of interesting. So as I mentioned, I’m an anti-racism facilitator and I also train children between the ages of five and 12 and how to be anti-racist. And one white mom was just like, there’s no way you’re going to get my five year old to sit still on a Zoome for an hour. There’s just no way you’re going to do it. Especially doesn’t know you at all. Stuff it look like I got this. I got it all. There’s no way. Trust me. I’ve done this a million times and so I did it. This kid was riveted and he from what I hear, he keeps asking his mom to come back again for another anti-racism session in the moms. Like, I don’t know how you did it, how do you do it? And one of my friends, a white woman, a white woman named Karen, I believe it’s not like it’s perfect. So she’s just like, hey, Duane, I don’t know how you do it. You’re like the white person whisperer. You have a way of relating to these people. So I it’s it’s cool. So I just love the fact that this five year old was able to hear my whispers of antiracism blowing in his ear. And that sounds kind of dirty, but that’s not what I meant. He just was really moved and it was awesome.
S2: This a huge triumph like and on many levels. Right. The sitting still, it also the delivering of the message. I think this is great.
S1: Boy, am I glad we have the white person whisperer on the show this week. It’s really it’s kind of great. Finally, someone who white people will understand. All right. That is a great triumph. I am in awe because I would not be able to command a five year old’s attention for even one second on Zimm. Elizabeth, what do you have for us this week?
S2: OK, well, last week I shared what a terrible crash landing we had back into kind of post pandemic life. So this week I’m sharing a triumph in that as we’re kind of getting used to life here in Colorado and meeting up with some people. My kids are doing like great at making friends and just being with new people, which I was nervous about. But we went to this concert they had on base outside at the golf course and there were kids there, but it wasn’t really aimed at kids. And Oliver sort of found a patch of trees to go play in. And then Henry ran off and we were like, well, where did he go? And next thing we know, he has, like, gathered all of the children there, all of them, all the ages, all the everything, and has gathered them into this large game of like stick tag, which is questionable. There was throwing of. And running around, but they’re having a great time and just really watching Henry be like and include her of everyone, and he came back and he was like, I met these three new kids and they’re all moving here, too. And this kid is leaving and these ones are living here. And just like Teddy was even over there playing and even Oliver, like, tolerated the group ness of it all. So I’m glad to see, like, we haven’t forgotten how to make friends. We’re still including ours and that, like, we’re going to be OK as we reintegrate fully kind of into life here.
S1: Congratulations to you on raising such a natural leader.
S2: Yeah. I mean, we could we could do better than stick to
S1: Air Force kids. Yeah, exactly. What are you going to do? They could all be flying at fourteens with their dads off early. You know, that’s a great one. I’m so glad that it’s going a little better than last week. Yeah.
S1: Great triumph. I will be happy to know. Have a fail. A classic school interaction fail. We got an email from the middle school like the one of the counselors last week, like a big announcement saying, hey, you know, we’re very happy to announce that eighth grade graduation is coming up. Harper’s graduating from eighth grade and it’s going to be a great event. It’s going to be a graduation ceremony on Zoome. And then I gave all the details for the graduation ceremony on Zoome. And I read the email and I, I sort of snapped a little bit. Now I, I didn’t press send before I reread my email and then I regretted it because the first version I wrote was like, I was basically like what the fuck is this that I calm down. And I wrote. I’m sure that you guys did everything you could to try and find a way to do an actual event in person, including exploring all the wonderful outdoor options. But and I’m sure that, you know, you’re as sad as I am that that it just couldn’t work out to do it that way, but I really think that almost every parent who gets us email, the first thing they’re going to say is why isn’t it outside? And I wish that you would put something in the email just sort of acknowledging that, just acknowledging we tried, but we couldn’t do it for a reason or why reason. Wouldn’t that have been better? And after this difficult year, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, I was very proud of myself for my reasoned response. I press and I thought, OK, I’m angry, but I kept it together. I sent a message which I think will be useful to them, but which also I think makes clear how I feel about the situation. Like maybe ten minutes later I got an email back, not from the person who sent the original email, but from the vice principal. And even though as a child, I never got an email from the vice principal, obviously email hadn’t been invented yet. But it is amazing, the thrill of horror that went through me when I realized the vice principal had e-mailed me. So I opened the email and it goes, Hi, Dan. Arlington School sent out an email three days ago saying that all graduation ceremonies will be virtual. Thanks for writing that. So for the one thousandth time in my children’s school career, my failures that I didn’t read all the emails.
S3: Oh, man, I love this so much. Wow.
S1: In my defense, I counted and then the week previous to that email, the various Arlington schools email people sent me 14 different emails. Yeah, not including the two emails we get every single morning with links to the covid symptom check. We get those emails on days that the kids are going to school in person, but also we get them on days that they’re going to school virtually. Also, we get them on Saturday and Sunday.
S2: Also, maybe the school’s email could have said like as per the district’s instruction.
S1: That would have been great. But nevertheless, it
S2: did, but it did. I still think the window you didn’t send the first e-mail because that’s
S1: true that much worse. The fact they didn’t send the first e-mail, really, it means that my child will be allowed to graduate. So that’s great.
S3: Was there an apology? Was there anything did you just like
S1: I just wrote back. Oh, ha ha. I think I actually wrote Lowell the day.
S3: And the thing, as they say in the streets, your apology needs to be as loud as your disrespect. And that’s the thing. Like that’s what you have to do. You got to make sure that I think it was fine. I think it was a mistake any of us could make. But, you know, sometimes when you’re on the opposite end of that, I get those all the time and people are just like you. First ask questions later. I’m just like, wait for that ninth apology.
S1: Wait for thankfully, I’m delivering it right here on a podcast. Listen to by millions.
S1: Eventually it’s going to filter its way back to that vice principal. All right. Let’s talk some business. If you’re not a subscriber to mom and dad are fighting. Well, what are you doing? What’s going on? Subscribed to the show. It won’t cost you anything, but it does mean that the episodes will just appear in your podcast app like Magic every Thursday instead of you having to search the Internet for them. Frantic late at night, foaming at the mouth, desperate for your effects, will deliver it straight to you. Subscribe and your favorite podcast app. Each week I write the Slate parenting newsletter. It’s not only the best place to learn about all our parenting stuff, like episodes of the podcast, Dispatches from Care and Feeding from Diane and Jamila and others and much, much more. Not only is it all that, but it’s also just a personal email for me every single week with stories about the family, stories about more and more parenting fails as they accelerate their pace. And my life stories about cicadas sign up at Slate Dotcom Slash Parenting email and finally check us out on Facebook. You can just search for slate parenting in your Facebook portal of choice. It’s a really good group. They’re fun, they’re active, they’re very supportive and we moderate it. So when they’re not fun and supportive, they get banned. It’s a great place to get good advice and just to commiserate sweet parenting on Facebook. OK, back to the show. All right, let’s get into our very first listener question today. It is being read, as always, by the mayor of a Shasha Leonhard.
S4: Hi. Mom and dad are fighting. My son is 13 and is starting to get a lot of acne. I had terrible acne growing up and dealt with a ton of self-esteem issues relating to it. I have been open with him about my experience with it growing up. He doesn’t like his acne, but he also hates taking showers and rarely remembers to wash his face. I don’t know how much to intervene. I have given him acne face wash and we encourage him to shower daily. I don’t want to harp on it too much, but I also want him to be able to get it under control if he can. Am I messing with his self-esteem by constantly reminding him to wash his face? Do I just leave the face, wash in the shower and hope he uses it? I have been completely taken off guard at how much seeing as acne has brought back my horrible teen years. Part of me wonders if this is more my problem than has any advice.
S2: My kids are obviously too young to be facing this problem yet. But I actually like think about this because I also felt like skin issues were a huge part of my teen years. And reflecting on that, like trying to almost deal with that now so that I don’t reflect it on to my children. But I think there’s kind of two parts, right? Like there’s this emotional part and you’re feeling emotional about it. But there’s also the idea that, like, you cannot shower and wash this kid’s face. So he is going to have to do it. And I think you a little bit have to come to peace with it being his body and something that you are there to support and and love him as he chooses to do something about it. I definitely think by the things put them in the shower, have the stuff available, maybe also try to have have conversations about it that aren’t either reflecting on how you felt in a way that opens the conversation, but not putting that on him to feel the same way or like you have to do this. I also don’t know if there’s a difference between, like men and women or boys and girls with acne. I know that for a while on Tick-Tock there was like a whole trending, like boys with acne are cute. And that clearly has not happened for women. That may play into it, too, like it may have been a bigger deal for you than it is for him. But I I’m interested to hear what you guys think, but I basically feel like you cannot make this child do anything that he doesn’t want to do. So all you can try to do is continue to be loving and supportive of him and who he is and there with answers and getting your doctor involved or whatever when he is is ready to do this. Oh, I did want to mention one more thing, though. There is a wonderful episode of six minute sex ed. It’s a little podcast and she has an Instagram account and she just did a really lovely episode on Body Odor that kind of covers some of this. And I thought she had some great tips, but that’s kind of aimed more at something you could even get him to listen to, to kind of talk about it and also coaching for parents. But what do you guys think?
S3: This is all kind of new to me because I have smooth, chocolatey skin and I don’t really know what acne is. I hear it’s something that white people get every now. And I’m kidding. You’ve been
S1: perfect forever.
S3: I’m kidding. I don’t want the hate mail. I’m totally kidding. I’ve had acne before. Elizabeth, you really you crushed it. My the only thing I would add is that if the pain becomes too intolerable, like I mean, the emotional pain that going to do what you need to do to get a shit clean, like he’s going to wash his face. He’s going to wash his armpits. He’s going to do whatever he needs to do to make sure he smells good, looks good and takes care of himself. As a man who used to be a teenager, I know that impressing. The opposite sex was something that was a big deal for me, and if that means I need to wash my face two or three times a day in order to have that smooth, chocolatey skin that I was just alluding to earlier, then that’s exactly what I have to do.
S1: It is amazing to me how how the traumas of our own childhoods, the major and minor traumas always seem to come back with our own kids. And like this letter writer, I’ve been surprised a million times of the ways that specific things that my kids face bring it all rushing back. And it can be a real challenge as a parent to not let that reaction drive the way that you are dealing with your kid and instead to listen to how they feel about it, which may reflect the way you once felt about it, or may be their own quirky, idiosyncratic way of thinking about this problem may not even be a problem.
S3: And Elizabeth, you made another good point, too. I was just going to say, Dan, real quick, is that when you talk about the tick tock thing with the boys who look cute and how girls don’t have that girls with acne looking cute, she’s probably experiencing the pain of not being viewed as cute, where boys, especially in today’s culture, now have the luxury of potentially being cute. So maybe it’s not as big of a deal for this kid as it was for her growing up. And she is trying to putting that pain that she was going through onto her kid.
S1: That Tic-Tac trend is very funny. It’s like dad bod. But for teens, yeah. All the evidence we have in this letter is her saying he doesn’t like it. I don’t get a sense of what those conversations really have been like, you know, she says she’s been open with him, which I think is good bye. Hope that she is also open to listening to him, but how he actually feels about this and how much of an issue he truly views it as. And so I do think that. Even if he. Views his acne with the same alarm that you once did, the added memories that you are piling on top of everything for yourself means it’s definitely more of a problem for you than it is for him, even if it’s a problem for him. So start from that point. Start knowing I need to shed at least a little bit of this weight of my past to help him deal with what he’s facing as opposed to making him deal with what I was facing 20 years ago. That said, I also am a firm believer that it is your civic duty. To tell a teenage boy 100 times a day to take a fuckin shower. Because otherwise they won’t and then they will become an EPA branded Superfund site that requires federal cleanup over the course of hundreds of years, the room will have to be filled with concrete and your house will have to be destroyed. So whatever the case with this acne wash, I think you are totally within your rights to keep pushing this kid to take a fucking shower, to wash his face. Maybe it will work and maybe it won’t. But I don’t think it’s going to do anything to his self-esteem. I think that’s just plain old parental nagging, which in this case, you are entirely justified to do.
S2: Yeah, I think some cleanliness standards in general with teens, but my best friend growing up hated taking showers. I don’t know why, like when we were about this age, like 12 and 13, and I remember her mom having to like incentivize her to make sure she was showering. I mean, that’s part of what we do as parents now. So I definitely see that. But you can’t make him use the face wash, make him use the stuff. I definitely think, like the showering is something you should incentivize. I think also letting them know that treating it is important, like treating the acting is important so that you don’t get scarring and other things and that there are things out there. Because since everyone gets it, I, I do sort of wonder if you feel like, well, this is something I’ll just get through. And sometimes even just the information of like when you’re ready to do this or that, there are treatments for this and when you’re ready for that, I’m happy to be the person to advocate with those either with a doctor or by buying over the counter stuff or whatever, you know, depending on the situation. But I just think if you like, harp on it. And Dan, like you said, coming from that place of pain, you may end up making it worse. So finding that balance between kind of informing and nagging is, well, that’s really hard for me. So, you know, that’s a hard place to be.
S1: On the shower, Inforum, on the face of that, that’s a great reminder that kids sometimes just think this is like their cross to bear is just part of being a teenager and it just sucks for five years and then magically goes away when in fact, there are things you can do and perhaps should do above and beyond to face wash and letting the child know that those options exist and that you’re there to help with them when the time comes as a really great idea. All right, letter writer, we wish you the best. Let go of this teenage pain. Do your best not to deliver it all in a big in a big package to your child and let us know how it goes. We’d love to hear a follow up as your child starts to figure out just how great showering is. Other listeners help us. Help you. Send us an email at mom and dad at Slocomb and we’ll try and address your problem on the air. All right. Now, let’s move on to our second listener question. This one’s being read for a change by the superb Leonhard.
S4: Hi, mom and dad. I have a multifaceted question. I am mom to a four and a half year old boy who has gotten very stuck on gender norms. It’s been important to me to raise my kid, to know that they can be whoever they like, regardless of gender norms. And I thought I was creating an environment to foster that with the media in his life, our conversations encouraging all his interest from Hot Wheels and dinosaurs to manicures and musicals. I knew that around ages three to four, it was very natural for kids to obsess about this. But now we’re here and I’m constantly questioning if I’m handling it right or doing enough. A year ago, when he first asked if he could only play with boys, he quickly dropped it. When I told him that he would exclude me and the neighbor girl and he even reports that his best friend, a daycare, is a girl. But while he will play with girls, he harps on boy toys and girl toys, for example. He only wants his girlfriends to play with his girl action figures. He had a fit today when it was time to switch Dragon toys and he was going to be stuck with the Girl Dragon and I had to cut the playdate short. I push back every time this comes up, there are no boy and girl toys. How would you feel if someone wouldn’t let you play with a toy? But he holds fast. He’s the only boy in his class at daycare, which seems to be exacerbating things. I’m worried he’s going to suppress something he loves because it’s a girl thing like the rainbow sandals, he pointed out, were pretty but refused to let me buy because they’re for girls. I’m worried about him becoming a sexist asshole one day. If I don’t do enough now, I worry that I’m worrying too much about this and that if I keep pushing back one day he’ll shake it off, which is what my husband thinks. So here are my questions. How do I contribute to push back against these ideas he has about boys and girls and handle these playdate situations? How do I support him as he navigates his feelings of being the only boy in his class? Help.
S3: So this is a really interesting question and. I’m coming from from a couple of ways. One is that let’s just take the gender norms out of the way. Let’s change it a little bit to race. When I was like the only black kid in a room full of white people and I wasn’t comfortable doing things that a lot of the white kids did, but my parents were like, look, there weren’t they weren’t worried about me. Like, you’re going to figure this out in a lot of times with four and a half year old kids going back to the gender norms, like we’re so stressed out, we’re filled with so much information, like, oh, my gosh, we’ve got to make sure we get this right. We don’t want our kids to be sexist assholes. I mean, a lot of this stuff they’re going to have to figure out on their own. But I think that for me, growing up when I was that way, I wanted to play with all the boy toys, the quote unquote boy toys. And I think I mean, now I am a proud feminist. I probably raising two daughters. I was even invited to the White House. When the White House is cool, by the way. I mean, it’s cool now. Wasn’t cool for sure.
S1: We get it. We get it.
S3: Right, right, right. So to talk about as a person who really is a feminist and I really believe that people are going to figure this out, kids will figure this out. We expect so much out of our four and a half, five year old kids. And it’s not we can’t expect them to be perfect and have everything figured out. But that being said, you can still lay down breadcrumbs to ensure that they don’t go too far down the rabbit hole of toxic masculinity. I think this is more around the realm of normalcy than anything to truly be alarmed by.
S2: I think four year olds are complete assholes like my four year old is the worst. I love him so much. This sounds like standard four year old behavior. And when I read this letter, I’m like, stop harping on it, because the more you harp on it, the more power you are giving him to cause a problem with this. Like you are just telling him. This is something that bothers me. I love doing that. You use the word breadcrumbs because I think that is exactly what you need to be doing. You need to be saying these rules in a way that makes them sound like they are absolutely true and that it doesn’t bother you that they’re that they’re breaking them or challenging them so that that becomes his inner monologue. Right. Like four year olds are all about separating things into boy things, girl things like like that is that is what they’re doing. I think there was even like there’s this study where they basically labeled things they took like magnets and they told a bunch of people, these are boy toys like a bunch of kids. And then all the boys wanted to play with it. And then they took a separate set of magnets and they labeled them girl things. And then boys didn’t want to play with them because they were girl toys. So I think this is just like standard what kids at this age do. They’re breaking things into groups. I wouldn’t worry about it. Now, if you want to have some house rules and I would take the gender norms out of it, like if there’s a boy dragon and a girl dragon, you just say there are two dragons and everybody plays with them. You know, everyone gets five minutes with each and then we switch. I wouldn’t call them Boy Dragons. I would just say you’ve played with that toy. Your friend wants to play with that toy. We’re now going to switch if that’s a house rule, if these kind of toys become problems, remove them, just remove the toys and put the dragons into a rotation. Right. I think also ending the play date, that’s a way to have kind of a natural consequence to this as well. I just wouldn’t tie it so much to the gender stuff, because I do think that four year olds really just kind of react to this. There is a wonderful book called Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue How to Raise Your Kids Free of Gender Stereotypes by Christina Spears Brown. And she talks about this and kind of this age being difficult in that they’re going to display these preferences for boy things or preferences for girl things. And that that’s OK. And it doesn’t mean you’ve done a bad job. It doesn’t mean that you’re raising kids to, like, fall into specific gendered identities. I think the big thing is just to make sure that your language and your positive approach, like if your kid is a boy and wants to choose things that are for boys in the same way, you know, if Jamila was here, she would say it’s OK for a girl to wear it like frilly dresses and be into that, if that’s what they’re into. The idea is for you as the parent not to be assigning that to your child, to let your child choose those things. I also think it’s OK that he’s he’s the only boy in this class that it is it is OK to be somewhere different. And that’s a great life experience to learn and in the future may give him some empathy and other situations where he as a male is one of many and someone else is the one person to say, like, I’ve had this experience or be able to draw on some of those feelings. So hang hang in there. I don’t know. Dan, what do you think?
S1: You guys have really nailed the basically the specific challenge of parenting. Kids right around this age, which is you have to be able to lay down the law in as boring away as possible to just state things as if they are obvious truths, even when they sound crazy coming out of your mouth like, well, of course, you know, in this house, we don’t drive trucks into the garbage disposal, but then you have to be consistent and not let them know just how insane it makes you that they keep putting their trucks in the garbage disposal, for fuck’s sake. And so it’s exactly the same with us. As you guys say. The more you make this about your frustration that your kid is obsessed with gender, the more he is going to push back against that. When, as Dwayne pointed out, it is the person he is at for and the ideas he has about gender and for are not reflections on you or his future or anything else. They simply are developmentally appropriate milestones. And the person he’s going to be as an adult is going to be a reflection of all the things he goes through between now and then and all the things you teach him and show him between now and then. And this is just going to be like a mote in the mirror at that, you know, by the time he’s an actual adult. So, yeah, like try not to stress out about it, remain consistent, dial back your your total stress and worry about it as much as you can, mostly. So I mean so you that you don’t drive yourself crazy but also so that it doesn’t convey in all your messaging to him about this. And I really think you’ll be OK. It sounds like this is a thing you really take seriously. My hunch is this is also something your husband takes seriously based on the fact that he’s not dismissing what you have to say out of hand. But he, as you say, is encouraging you to just keep messaging properly and that your kid will come around. So if both of you are unified on this front and you create a household in which, buddy, there just are no such things as boy and girl toys, you know, well, I think eventually this kid is going to be totally fine. Do you guys have any thoughts on I agree with you, Elizabeth, that he’ll be fine as the only boy in the class. Do you have any thoughts on messages that you might give the teacher or the son about what it is that it means to be the only blank in this group? What whether that affects how he should behave in that class or how he should think about the experience or whether there’s something you could be asking the teacher to do that might help him come to terms with this in some way.
S3: I have a thought, because being the only black kid in a class of white kids, I always my teacher was just so amazing at just checking in with me, white woman, just making sure that I was OK. Never really even had to bring up the race aspect. She just knew that I may not be comfortable. So just checking in, getting that person’s feelings, just making sure that he or she is feeling comfortable with what’s happening during the day is super helpful. Also, just if you feel the fact that he has a best friend that’s a girl I think is a good thing. But somewhere I don’t know where it’s coming from, he feels like it’s not OK to like, quote unquote girl toys. And I guess I’m wondering where that’s coming from. And it’s not coming from home. It’s probably not coming from school. So where is that coming from? Is coming from the media or some other place? That’s one part of the story that I’m unclear on.
S2: I totally agree with you. I was also wondering where that was coming from. And I do wonder I mean, listen, girls, girls can play a role, even if it’s a class of all girls. It is very possible he could be getting this from a classmate. Right. I’ve certainly seen girls tell my boys that’s for girls like her, that’s a girl toy or, you know, so there may be some of that. So checking in with the teacher about where he’s getting that. I mean, the media certainly doesn’t does a nice job in telling boys what they should like and girls what they should like. But, yeah, I mean, I, I guess I also feel like this is likely a temporary situation. Like, what are the odds that he’s in another class of all girls next year. Right. Right. That seems really I don’t know very many schools that try to put together a group like all all of one thing and then one of the other in this day and age. Right. Like, I think most schools and daycares and things are striving for trying to put together groups that that are more diverse. So if you’re
S1: concerned. So this is probably a problem for like three weeks.
S2: Yeah, yeah. I mean, at the most I don’t know. I mean, as a as a boy mom, it’s like so nice when they have girlfriends. Do I think it just brings different types of play in different energy and different things. So yeah. I mean sign me up for an all girl class or one of my boys and they’re mostly just chatting with
S1: letter writer Elizabeth is offering to
S2: choice. Yeah. You can to come to my home school though so I don’t know. No.
S1: Oh all right. I think we are unified on this one letter writer. We think you’re going to be OK. Try and try and like dial yourself down and your worries down like six notches. Thanks for writing. Send us an update and let us know how it’s going. Everyone else send us a question. We feed on your questions. As vampires feed on human blood, it’s what we need to stay young and beautiful. So send them in. Mom and dad, it’s Slate Dotcom posted to the Slate Parenting Facebook group. We would love to hear from you and answer your question on the air. All right. Let’s move on to the part of the show where we recommend items or concepts that we think you, our listeners would enjoy. It’s a little section of the show I like to call recommendations. Elizabeth, what do you have for us?
S2: I am recommending an app called L o and a Bedtime Calm and relax app. And this is an app for people who want to meditate but can’t sit still or are too busy or don’t want to sit like in silence or in with nothing to do. That would be me. As you go through the meditation, there are like things to do on the screen. So it starts out with a picture that’s not coloured and you’re hearing a nice meditation and kind of a story form and it says like, find the mushrooms. And as you touch the mushrooms that colors them and find this thing and as you touch it, it colors it. And it’s wonderful. I was using it. Then I started using it with Henry and then the other kids kind of got into it. And it’s just been a really nice way to calm down, particularly since we’ve been traveling. We don’t always have all of our tools with us, but in those moments of like very high stress where you just need to bring everyone down, it’s great. It’s on my phone. I can just say, like, who wants to do one of these stories? And we turn on the story. Calming music. I just really like it. It does legitimately make me sleepy at night. I know you’re not supposed to be looking at your phone, but sometimes when we’re traveling, I don’t sleep very well in new spaces. And so this has just been so wonderful. So it’s called Luna and A.
S1: I’m fascinated by this meditation app for people who don’t like silence or stillness. The whole point of meditation, but
S2: this like makes you focus on this thing, but it’s producing it physically. I don’t like when I sit down to meditate, it’s like I have a million other things going on, which I know is the point. But I feel like, oh, I just need to get this perfect. I just need to do this. This gets rid of all that because there’s something for me to do and to calm me down doing.
S1: What about you? What do you recommend?
S3: Yeah, so I hate to do this, but I have to recommend something that I feel like is going to help you and it’s something that I am behind, which is my anti-racism fight club for kids. And it’s not really it’s one of those things that I have to bring up because I know it can help people. And I know that a lot of white parents come to me like, oh, my gosh, I don’t know how to talk to my kid about racism. I just I don’t know how to do it. Like, I don’t even know the first thing to tell him or her around what to do, what to say, how to be anti-racist, how to deal with racism in person, how to deal with racist family members. So I looked around and I was like, you know, there’s not a lot out there. So I was like, hey, I’m going to create something. So it’s called the Anti-Racism Fight Club. And for kids between the ages of five and 12.
S1: All right. How can people find it?
S3: Oh, just go to my website. Duane Richards, dot com d y and Richards dot com. My name is not phonetically correct and that is really difficult. I like and I could take my dad for that God rest his soul. But yeah, that’s my name means royalty or son of the king. But it’s still like it’s a huge burden just to have to tell people to pronounce my name all the time. But hey, I’ve been doing it for a few decades, so I’m cool with it.
S1: You’ve got you’ve got a whole pattern down at this point. Right. All right. I’m recommending a book is just out now. It’s called The Fifth Quarter by a guy named Mike Dawson. It’s a comic, a middle grades comic about a girl who gets really super into basketball, even though she’s not very good at basketball at all. So it’s very relevant to my childhood experience as the kid who always loved sports but was very not good at them at all and was always picked last, but was still in there every single game. It’s very sweet. It’s very funny. I would say it’s perfect for fourth or fifth graders. I particularly love it because the author, Mike Dawson, got his book deal for the series that this is the first book and based on a comic that he drew for Slate about his own daughter’s experience playing basketball, edited that comic for Slate several years ago. He got a book deal out of it. The first book is out now and it’s totally charming. I like it a lot. Once again, it’s called The Fifth Quarter. Check it out.
S3: That’s awesome.
S1: All right. That’s it for our show one last time. If you’ve got a question for us, email us. Mom and dad, it’s dotcom or go seek out these late parenting Facebook group, join it and post it there. Will happily yank it from the group and bring it right here to the show. Mom and Dad are fighting is produced by Rosemarie Bellson, Elisabeth New Camp and Duane Richards. I’m Dan. Thanks for listening. All right, let’s keep it Rawnsley plus listeners, thank you so much for being a member. Thank you for supporting the work that we do. It really means a lot to us. As always, you get a bonus segment today. We’re rapping with DOE doing you’ve been a and feeding columnist for about a year now. It’s a newish gig for you and now you’ve settled in. Were you always a person that your friends looked to for advice? Did you think of yourself as an advice guy or was this all new to you?
S3: No, I was one of those people who loved to give advice. I’m terrible at taking advice, just like pretty much everyone in the world. But I love to give it. I love to talk about the hard stuff, some of the heartwarming stuff, but I try to do it with a sense of humor because with all this stuff, it’s crazy out here. So it’s been a wild ride at Slate. Some of I mean, there’s times when I get hate mail, like how the world. Did you say that? I can’t believe you said that. Then, of course, there was every now and then, like once in a blue moon. But they’re still wonderful when they reach out, like, hey, Duane, I really appreciate what you wrote. You’re amazing. So those are the ones that I look for. And it’s been a blast so far.
S1: So you felt comfortable already giving advice to friends, to family as you’re suddenly writing for this much bigger audience and you’re put in this position of authority? What kinds of questions have been the hardest? Which ones have you sort of struggled to come to the right answers about?
S3: So I know where we did the triumphs and fails. I had a pretty bad fail around. Just talking about there’s like there’s one about body image that still haunts me to this day. It was my second column that I wrote and it was I said something around the lines of truth and said something along the lines of like, hey, I’d rather be around a person who’s overweight than someone who has a bad attitude. And then it just I my heart was in the right place. I know what I meant to say. It was extremely clunky. My inbox blew up with hate mail. And this is my second column. I was like, oh, my gosh, I don’t know if I’m cut out for this. I don’t know if I can do this. I’m not I’m not the guy for this. But then I was like, you know what? I’m just going to dust myself off and try to get a get at them next week. That’s one thing that’s great about this column, that people just have a short memory. They go from week to week. They don’t remember what I wrote last week. It’s like, hey, he’s got another one this week. So unless I keep putting out stickers every week, then it’s like this dude’s got to go. But it’s tough then. I mean, all these questions can be really difficult. Sometimes you want to put yourself in that person’s shoes and make sure that you’re doing right by them. And sometimes I’m reading my hands over that. I give that person the best advice I could give.
S1: And sometimes, you know that the thing they’re asking is not the real issue or the real question. And you need to like call them to account in some way. And I think that’s very satisfying for readers to read those. But as a like advice writer, I think that that’s a little bit like nerve wracking.
S3: Yeah. You’ve got to make sure it’s it’s kind of like when you’re watching, like a television show, let’s say a reality show. Right. And you see everything and like the puzzle they’re trying to figure out and you’re like, oh, my gosh, there is the answer. But you, as the advice columnist who can’t see all angles of it, is it’s like I only see what’s in front of me, like people are watching on TV. No, you idiot. It’s right there. It’s right there. And so many times. Not so many times, but a few times that’s happened to me. And it’s it’s like when I get those responses, I’m like, oh my gosh, how did I miss that? And just so you know, for all the sleepless listeners out there listening to this segment, please understand that my heart is in the right place. I’m not an asshole. Sometimes I miss we all miss Michael Jordan missed. Everybody misses. I’m not saying that I’m Michael Jordan, but we all miss. So just cut us some slack. We’re doing the best we can out here.
S2: We’re all coming at it to like from our lived experience and which can be so different than someone else’s. Right. So you can only speak your advice based on like how you’ve experienced things are the things that you’ve gone through. And I do think sometimes that, like, has us looking one way when there is another answer that that other people can can see that that is not as as blatant to them because it’s one way. Right. Like that person’s not here to say like, oh, but there’s this other really important piece of information. Do you feel like this has changed the way you parent, though? Like are you more like on alert about the decisions you’re making?
S3: Yeah, it’s so funny that you bring that up, Elizabeth, because there’s times when I think about like when I’m stuck on family. Oh, my gosh, what do I do about this? And I’m like, if I wrote in a question to myself, how? How would I respond to this, and I’m like, oh, I would say before I say that, I go into it with calmness mode and I step outside of myself, I’m like, hey, that’s might be a way to go about it. But, yeah, I’ve changed a lot as a parent due to this column. And it has been an absolute blast. Like what are the highlights of my week?
S1: I sort of have started to think that giving parenting advice on a regular basis, despite being abjectly unqualified to do so, has maybe made me a slightly worse parent because I just find that I’m second guessing a lot because I just have this, like, innate understanding now of all the millions of times that I have, like, very authoritatively said something on the podcast and then had, you know, you, Elizabeth Djamila, or a guest host or or a listener or one hundred thousand people on the Facebook page be like, damn, that is so obviously the wrong answer. And the fact that your instincts led you there makes me feel like, oh, God, maybe I don’t have any instincts at all, which probably is fine, because actually parenting is just a long series of panicked responses to the stimulus in front of you, as opposed to, you know, planning or acting on any particular code or a like authority. But still, it’s like a little daunting to know how wrong I can be even as a supposed authority. And and now I think I really just I’m bringing that to my parenting every week.
S2: Parenting is like making a whole lot of wrong decisions in the moment and then figuring out, like, how to correct them and make it better and have your children still feel loved. Like at the end of the day, that’s the goal, right, that your kids feel loved and safe and that
S1: I’m going to also want them to take a shower. Yeah.
S2: And so I know exactly. But they’re bathed. We’ll add that that they’re somewhat kindly. But I, I think like that’s the whole idea for me of kind of, you know, the adage if it takes a village is like in that moment dealing with this thing that you love more than anything in the world and also makes you insane. And then you’re also burdened by this idea of like, I want this person to be a good person that I put into the world. And they do a whole lot of stuff that makes you think they’re not going to be a good person. Right. But fundamentally, to like people are not wholly good or wholly bad. So we’re we’re trying to really, you know, mold this the best we can coming with our own experiences, which is why I think, like, you have parent friends and other friends to help you say, like, I don’t know the number of times that friends have said to me, like, yeah, you messed up, but you can go apologize and it’s going to be OK. Like, what you need to do in this moment is go give your child a hug and say, I screwed up. Let’s move forward together. Like, I kind of think that is the ultimate like parenting is that is saying I screwed up. Here’s the better way forward, which is why you should surround yourself with lovely people to tell you you are a good parent, you are trying your hardest and you can always say you’re sorry and try again.
S3: Yes. I mean, that that was that was your TED talk with Beth right there. I mean, that was I mean, and can’t really say anything on top of that. That was golden. So I feel inspired
S1: to end the year. What are your kids think about your parenting advice career? Do they think it’s bullshit that people ask you questions about parents?
S3: Absolutely. Absolutely. To think I’m for it all the time because like, listen, Dad, like you let us stay at ten o’clock and play roadblock for like nine, three, eight hours. So you’re telling these people that they should have their kids go out and read books and learn second languages. But all we know about is like road blocks and watching YouTube video of these clown kids making like twenty eight million dollars a year just by doing stupid shit. I can’t believe. I’m sorry. Just a little rant. I can’t believe this YouTube was out here. The amount of money these people are making.
S1: Crazy, right. And why isn’t my kid making that right?
S3: So it’s like get a YouTube channel kid and help pay for this mortgage. Good Lord.
S1: Yeah. Listeners, longtime listeners of the podcast know that Lyra, my older daughter, does not listen to the podcast, but does read the machine transcription in search of her name to see if we talked about her each week. I think both my kids often give me that vibe of not just am I going to be on the podcast, but what do you mean after what you pulled with me, you’re going to go talk about parenting, like for your job. Like, I think that still to some extent does not compute with them, which is fair.
S2: That’s why little kids are easier. Mine are like, whatever, right?
S1: What’s a podcast? Oh, they know what a podcast is.
S2: Do they listen to a podcast? And they do actually sometimes turn this on. They do this weird thing because, you know, I’m home with them all day, but they will, like, go into their rooms, be playing quietly and turn this on. And I’m like, what are you doing? They were like, we wanted to hear your voice. I’m like, that’s weird and also very sweet.
S3: I would say that’s really sweet. I think those
S2: kids I mean, they’re going to be in therapy for that later. Right. But, you know,
S1: I cannot even imagine why such a thing that
S2: just come downstairs, I literally read aloud to them and homeschool 90 percent of our day, like, why would you want to hear my voice anymore?
S1: That’s like when when David Plotz used to be the editor in chief of Slate and that I would be like sitting in the dining room and my wife would be listening to the politics gabfest in the kitchen, maybe like I do not want to hear my boss’s voice in my kitchen. Stop it.
S2: I like that you equate me to being the boss because I also feel like the children do not view me that way.
S1: I guess the lesson of this podcast is that none of us actually are the boss. All right. We thank you for joining us for this segment. Thanks for writing care and feeding. It’s always a pleasure to have you on that column. It’s a pleasure to have you on the show. Slate plus listeners, thank you for all that you do for this magazine, for this podcast, for this website. We really appreciate your support. Talk to you next week.