S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate Plus membership.
S2: The following podcast contains explicit language. Welcome to mom and dad are fighting Slate’s parenting podcast for Thursday, September 9th, Be Bored at School Edition and Jamilah Lemieux, a writer contributor to Slate’s care and feeding parenting column Aymann to Naima, who is eight and we live in Los Angeles.
S3: I’m Elizabeth New Camp. I write the homeschool and family travel blog Dot Statute’s. I’m the mom to three Littles Henry, who’s nine, Oliver, who’s seven, and Teddy, who’s four, and we live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
S1: And I’m able to smile. I’m filling in for Dan, cos I’m probably the least qualified person on this show. I’ve only been a dad for two months. His name is Moussa. He’s with us on the show. So if you hear some squeak, you mentioned
S2: we’re always happy to have you and most on this show. Credentials need not apply.
S1: And like, I don’t have any parenting blogs.
S2: Yes, yes, yes. Right? Yes, yes. On today’s show, we’re going to be answering a listener question from a parent whose six year old has become bored with school. What can her mom do to get her excited about learning again? Then we have a listener who’s trying to decide if she should give in to her 11 almost 12 year old’s campaign to have a cell phone. Will it be a helpful tool or a terrible distraction? Finally, in Slate Plus, we’ll be talking about the whys of everything. Why? Because it is the favorite question of one exhausted listener son. It is the favorite question of most of our children. What can we do to answer those? Here is endless wise. But first, we’ll kick off the show as we always do with some triumphs and fails. We start with you, Elizabeth. You have a triumphant feel this week.
S3: I have a triumph. So first, a very small personal triumph is that today Teddy started preschool. Oh, he went right in and I picked him up at noon right before coming here, and he had a great day, which means that. So this week I do not have everyone in school because, you know, of course, now that I have Teddy in school today and Oliver had school today, but Henry had a day off. But it was so lovely. He has not ever had a first day of school. And the other two had had them in the Netherlands. So Teddy, on the first day of school, that was great. But the real triumph for me is that Henry is at the school in the woods, which is this public school here just for fourth graders, and there’s only seventy eight kids. And one of the things they do very early in the year is an overnight where they sleep under the stars. And this had felt like one of the things that was like this insurmountable kind of hurdle because we have all these medications that have to be given at different times and we have anxiety and all these things to kind of deal with. But the school has been like amazing and working with me. So on Thursday, he went to school and I had just signed up with the school to volunteer at all the times that he needed the medicine so that I was there doing other stuff. I could just kind of have him come over. The school can’t give medicine, but you have to fill out all these forms and it’s like, you know, I’d rather them just be worried about the couple he needs every week. So I was there. It was great. He did see me during like they made some more as he saw me during that and there were some tears, but that seemed consistent with all the other kids seeing their parents. And even though we have like camped out before, I think he’s only spent the night like with a we’ve had two families that I’ve let him spend the night with who have both been like such close friends that they’re basically family. And so I don’t think he’s ever had that like, I’m going to be somewhere, and I don’t really know everyone. The couple friends he has made at school, like they’re really close friends are all girls. And because of the spend the night, of course, they’re separated into boys and girls. So he was a little nervous because he wasn’t going to be with these friends that he is really kind of built this connection in the first few weeks of school. But we had talked about it. It was also pouring rain the entire time, and they are not sleeping in tents. They’re sleeping out under the stars. So some parents had come and put up tarps, but he was just kind of nervous about all of this. And so about 9:30 I gave him his last medicine, gave him a big hug. He went to brush his teeth and I’m getting ready to leave. And the school administrator comes up and says, we just went out to check the sights and Henry’s stuff is soaked. He’s the only one whose stuff is soaked. So when you come out and look at this so we can just avoid, you know, the anxiety and a meltdown, he’s like, I really want to try to salvage this, so I go trudging through the woods. He has a whole bunch of extra sleeping bags, but for Henry, sometimes like he can’t make the adjustment to like doing something new without some coaching. So I was thinking, like, this new sleeping bag is going to be a problem. I’m like texting Jeff to see if he can get a neighbor, to watch the kids and run another sleeping bag out there. And we get out to the campsite where all the boys stuff is, and I walk over to the sleeping bag and it’s not Henry’s bag. I had this moment of like, Well, thank goodness. And then I stood there and I thought, Please, please, please let the kid whose sleeping bag is wet, just be cool with a new sleeping bag so they bring the kids out and the little boy comes over and we’re like, Hey, your bag is wet, everything else is dry. You had this adorable little teddy bear. Everything else is dry. We. This whole bag of sleeping bags, can you pick another one the kids like, yeah, no problem picks another sleeping bag, we move his spot. He like, lays down and ended up being this sweet little kid that laid next to Henry. And they have become really good friends now from this overnight and kind of this bonding experience of this kid having stuff shaken up. Henry has no idea that we ever thought it was his stuff, and I just feel like the universe gave me this lovely little gift. And I’m so thankful that this other child, you know, it’s like, you never want this to happen to another kid, either. But for this kid to just be so just whatever it was like, this is, this is so great that it didn’t have to be Henry, but also it didn’t ruin this other child’s time. And and it went so well that we actually picked him up from the camping trip and we’re going camping on our own. He asked if he and his little friend Asher could sleep in their own tent, so we pitched their own tent for our three night camping trip, and the two of them stayed in their own tent for the trip. And I just feel like it was this wonderful learning experience, and none of the bad things I was worried about happen so big, big triumph for the new camp family.
S1: I’m so proud of them.
S2: That’s amazing. That is amazing. A lot of coordination. A lot of moments where tears seemed imminent. And yet it all worked out. You survive. Very nice. What about you, Amy?
S1: I’ve got a great one. Moussa went to the beach for the first time in his whole life yesterday. Yeah, we only felt confident enough because recently I discovered a new off button like, here you can hear him squirming. But check this out. That is done mostly mostly. But all he has to do is stand up and he comes right down. How amazing is that, huh?
S4: That’s OK. It’s a new trick.
S3: Did you put his feet in the sand?
S1: No way. This kid is so sensitive right now that I thought, like, if you were even get near the sand or just be stuck there forever. Like, you know, when you stab yourself with a piece of pencil, then it’s like stays in your body forever. I thought, like the tiniest little pebble can do that. He didn’t even get like any direct. Sun was very careful about that because, you know, I just like had read online, spooked myself. Everybody was like, Don’t take your baby, don’t take your baby. I don’t like the message boards and stuff. And I was like, I’m going to take them, but I’m going to be careful. And it was great. It was great for my wife, and I both took turns going into the water and hanging out. We ate a lot of snacks and heat, for the most part, was just chilling and enjoying the breezes and enjoying the new sounds. That’s awesome.
S2: That sounds like a very lovely way to spend Labor Day. So big triumph. I have a bill, not a huge fail, but I went to the beach yesterday with some of my friends from college. Someone who I spent a lot of time with in college and someone who we always liked each other and never really like got to hang out and like, have, you know, hung out a few times in the past year? She’s moved out here. So it’s like, cool, like, oh, we can finally be friends and like, I’m like, Okay, girls day on the beach in my mind. And maybe this is I’m forever 21. I don’t know. Like, I think of the inevitability of like Instagram photos and like I still put on like a super slutty swimsuit because I have no class and nobody else was dressed like that. I mean, I was just the three of us is by no means anything. But do you ever just feel like when you’re off program, you know, like, here’s the script, here’s you over here. And so I felt a little cognizant of that. And so that was my feeling. That instrument is mine because I had other options, like I had other options. Yeah, and I took not one single photo of myself because in fact, I was the only one who didn’t take any pictures. I think partially because the conspicuous ness of my bathing suit was enough. I mean, it was not ridiculous. It was ridiculous in the context of us, which was super small beach. I was like, mostly pale is the sandwich, you know, I didn’t. I mean, I guess I heard small beach, but like, didn’t think about that. I mean, it wasn’t bad, but it was just still like, OK, well, that’s the itsy bitsy bikini girl.
S3: Maybe you inspired them, though, to be more, you know, like, I mean, I totally feel you because if I show up in the wrong outfit for what everyone else is wearing, it really throws me like, I like to be of the same, yeah, the same type of stuff. So like where if we’re all going to be like if I show up and everybody’s in a dress and Aymann yoga pants, I feel uncomfortable. I just feel like, Oh, I missed the memo. I missed the
S2: memo. Even if it fits the occasion like everyone else on dresses and I have on jeans and sandals. Yes, exactly. It may be appropriate, but I still feel well. I feel wrong. I agree.
S3: I agree. But I do think in this case, maybe, though, because sometimes when I show up and my friends are wearing something, it’s like very trendy or very, I think like, Oh, I could be wearing this. Like, I didn’t choose this because I don’t feel confident. I don’t feel this, you know, but then a friend of Wear and I’ll be like, Wow, she looks great. Nuremberg, right? Like her, she looks great in this, like I said. Where those I should feel more confident, but I do really feel for you and I know how it just like takes the wind out of yourself.
S2: Yeah. And like I think about it, they’re not inclined to dress that way anyway. Yeah. So it kind of like the all the makings of Jamilah put on a different bathing suit were there. And I just have like literally you’ve seen my bras that I have like those are my bathing suits on the bottom row bottoms.
S3: Lots of options. There were
S2: options. That’s where I failed myself. There have been times where it’s like, Well, I just didn’t have anything else that it’s like, No, I’m just an asshole, apparently. And like, my mom has cautioned me against being that person, you know, like she tells the story of like this time she wear this bikini and granted there were layer of mixed company and there were like. And she tells it is like the last time she ever wore a bikini and like, it’s the other women’s men were there and everybody was uncomfortable. And she didn’t like that. And I was just like, my mom was two very different people because I’m used to making people uncomfortable and like, I’m just uncomfortable that they’re uncomfortable but like, and I don’t think I’m anybody uncomfortable but like. It just I don’t know it, it’s because you guys, let’s just say we have the same life and now we don’t and I’m like, Here I am. Here we are. It happened to me, so I can’t tell her. So I hope she doesn’t listened to the show to say because I will. 500 percent not be telling my mother that I wore a bikini and that it was inappropriate because I think her goal is for me to just find these things to be inappropriate in life in general. No, you know,
S3: now next time you got a text, I’m wearing a bikini. You should wear one, too.
S2: I will like and I almost dead girl. I want to say I kind of want to take some pictures I need, you know, and pictures. That’s why I put it on and I thought about I was like, I got those like, I didn’t really even feel like doing that anyway. It was a start. I was like, today was totally a cheerleader. And I did show the thing is like because I just wear bikinis like we’ve talked about the like and I thought, everybody sunbathes since they think so. Like, I just, I don’t know, like, this is just my bra. Maybe this is my cross to bear. Maybe I’m just the the woman in the swimsuit. But what are you going to do? That first time will be the last? All right. Let’s get into our first listener question being Brad, as always by the amazing Sasha Leonardo.
S4: Dear mom and dad, we’re only one week into the school year, and my first grader has already started complaining that she’s bored at school. Frankly, she sounds like a jaded office worker. I ask her what she did or learned, and she answers nothing. It’s so boring. We’re doing the same thing that we did yesterday. It’s all the same. She enjoys her friends and has fun in her after school program because they do fun things. What do I do at this point? Talk to the teacher or wait and see for context. She went to a very academically oriented preschool and spent some time there doing their kinder program last year when schools are shut down. She’s now in her neighborhood public school. It’s possible that what she’s learning now is a bit repetitive, but I truly don’t know.
S2: What do you think, Elizabeth?
S3: So I think, dear letter writer, take a deep breath. It’s going to be OK. It’s one week of school. I can’t be sure, but it sounds like from Henry’s report and from what I remember, like the first week of school is a lot of repetitive stuff. It’s a lot of, especially in the early grades. It’s a lot of like just getting down the routine, seeing what people know. I think there are a lot of reasons that children can be bored when doing academics. I think it can be, of course, that they’re not challenged. I think it can be that also that the material or what’s happening is over their head. And so it’s easy to just kind of ignore it or say, I’m bored, I don’t get this. It can also be just a way of saying like, I don’t like sitting. I like to be up running around. I like to be more active and I am bored that I have to sit at this desk. So I I think there’s a lot of things going on. I would definitely let it shake out. There is usually in the early fall, some kind of parent teacher conference. I think they put this kind of early so that you have a chance for your child to kind of adjust to school and then you have a chance to check in. Of course, like if you notice other kind of disturbing behavior, I think it’s never a bad thing to check in with the teacher. But I would really caution you against checking in in the way of like my kid is actually bored, as opposed to saying, like, she’s coming home saying things are repetitive. So I’m just curious what your take on what’s going on in the classroom is because I do think that most teachers eventually introduce some kind of system of like when you’re done with work, you can grab a book or this is what we do. Because when you’re managing a classroom with people that work at all different speeds, there has to be a way for kids to be done and not be disruptive. So something is there. It’s just a question of does your child know that yet? Do they know the rules? So I would definitely, though in the first week kind of hold off, but in the next few weeks, if it continues, and certainly this is something you can discuss at the parent teacher conference to just say this is what she’s telling us. How can we, as parents help support those rules or the systems you have in place? And I also think it’s a great time to encourage her to solve some of her own problems, like ask her, Well, what is it that you feel bored? You know, have you done this work before? And is there other things you can do? Is there a rule about, you know, what you can do when you’re done with your work, like those sort of things? Because I think it’s important that that kids start to learn to handle some of these problems. Look, we’re all going to be in situations in which we are the smartest person in the room. We’re all going to be in situations in which we are the dumbest person in the room, and it is important to know what to do in both those cases and how to manage this kind of of boredom. I don’t know. That’s my. So basically, I think you just need to calm down.
S1: I’m so glad you made those points because I don’t even know how to begin to answer that problem. I mean, in some far off what I’ve seen in other kids because my baby is way too small two months, but I’ve seen them try and communicate certain things by using something that’s within their language. So sometimes when they say, I’m bored, really, it just means that there’s like something else going on. Maybe they like, feel shy or they aren’t sure what to do when, like the in-between times or something else. Hmm. So like, give your teacher the benefit of the doubt because I kind of feel for them because they’re the ones who have to like do the repeating if it is repetitive and try and see if there’s like another fire that needs being put out.
S2: I think you’re both raising really good points and I’m bored is definitely can be a cover up for. I’m insecure, I’m nervous, I don’t like this. I don’t get it. But the school year is so brand new, as Elizabeth said, like, I think you really need to give everybody some time to get used to it. Like the first week of school can be super repetitive because you’re trying to get all these very different little learners into the habit of raising their hands to use the restroom and ask a question. And you know, there’s a lot of rules and just clutter that goes into the first few weeks of school at most public schools, honestly. That said, I also had a child that went from a really academically and culturally focused preschool into a local public school that was a high-performing public school, but also just kind of came with some of the challenges in terms of resources and classroom ratios, you know, et cetera, that come with public schools. So do be mindful of, you know, what your child is experiencing academically and if you find yourself at a point where it seems that they’re not. I’m being challenged and not getting what they need to successfully make it from one grade to the next and having having learned things as opposed to simply passing, then you know, perhaps it’s time to reconsider the school. But I think at this point you should give your teacher and all the ones some grace.
S3: I also wonder a little bit like from the mom’s perspective, like she says, she asks questions like, what did you learn today or what did you do? And I don’t know about you guys, but those like my kids don’t respond very well to those questions. I find that if I like more, just kind of let them talk or say, like, did you do act like something that I know that they do? Or did you know also maybe asking about the stuff that she really does enjoy and see if the other stuff kind of trickles in? I find better, like my kids are much more likely to to answer questions about like what they did on the playground than what they actually did in school. And I have to just kind of trust that eventually they’re going to supply me with some of that information in order to have a conversation, if that makes sense.
S1: Is there anything that this parent can do at home that can get their kid more interested in school? I almost feel like if I was in that situation, I would be trying to think of something. Some activity that’s like play related that could also involve them, like sitting down and drafting, like drawing or something. I don’t know.
S2: I think that’s a work, too. I think that like this is definitely a good time to try and be collaborative with the teacher, you know, and talk about ways to keep your little person and other kids that are losing focus engage. I think there’s also the big COVID asks for asterisk next to everything that we had to remind ourselves that like this teacher is not having a normal school year that these kids have not had a normal trajectory from preschool to kindergarten to first grade that everything is a bit off. So expect the school year to be challenging in ways that it would not have been if we weren’t living through a pandemic. And, you know, just be patient with everyone involved, but be proactive and ask questions. But as little as Elizabeth said, your kids definitely at the age in which the how a school, what you learn today, what did you do when stick out for you? Question is just likely to be met with absolutely nothing. But if you listen, they may drop some nugget of, you know, interest throughout the dinnertime conversation. You know, like their eyes will light up and they’ll mention something that happened in the science lab or whatever, you know, and you’ll figure out what they actually care about. But on the ride home from school, forget it.
S1: What I won’t do, what my parents did, which is say, school supposed to be boring, suck it up is like, that’s sort of like the message was, it’s like I was bored and like, Well, who cares, you’re going to go to school and you’re going to like it. That didn’t work, but we did get me more interested in school. I can’t remember being like kindergarten or anything, but definitely First Grade was doing extracurriculars and and getting involved in like the post school life. And I remember one time I asked for the teacher to give me something else to do after I was done and she handed me a broom and said sweep. And that was like, I felt like the coolest kid. I loved it, actually. I was like, I felt like I had responsibility. And then it started this whole trend where everybody else wanted to turn with the broom. Afterwards, it was first grade. Like, that’s sort of like
S3: the smartest
S2: teacher, so finding the smartest teacher of all time.
S1: But after that, I couldn’t wait to get to school because I was, like, really excited to get through the stuff that I thought was boring so I can get to the broom and do all the other stuff.
S3: There’s a really great podcast that we listen to called Wow in the world. It’s like a family podcast like for kids, and they actually have an episode on the importance of being bored. And so you could also listen to that, like listening to that did kind of knock this idea out of my kid’s head. That boredom was something I was supposed to fix. And instead, at something like that, they can either sit in and that’s OK or something that they can fix by, you know, listing things alphabetically in their head. I don’t know thinking like this is an opportunity for your brain to wander and do things. So that might be something to you as explaining kind of the importance of boredom and also the importance of of what’s happening in school. Like, yeah, not everything we do is always like as fun as recess and extracurriculars. But there’s definitely reasons for it and finding value in that and also kind of this idea. I mean, I think that’s kind of fundamentally different than Mike. And of course, it’s boring, but saying like, well, boredom has a place to write like, this is this is something that exists in life. We, as adults are often bored. We’re often forced to be bored. So, you know, like no DMV is worried about, you can’t just be like, I’m bored. Fix this for me.
S2: That is life. Life. Life can be boring. Sometimes that is a lessons learned, too. OK, well, Lester, thank you so much for your letter and we hope that. The school year turns around very quickly for your little one, I’m sure that it will. If you have a conundrum that you like for us to consider, please send us an email at Mom and Dad at Slate.com. Let’s get on to our second listener question. Take it away, Sasha.
S4: Hi, mom and dad. My 11, almost 12 year old is lobbying hard for a cell phone. He’s starting middle school and a new building this year and may have to get himself to and from school sometimes. Plus he has ADHD, so I’m hoping that the calendar app on his phone would be helpful to him for remembering events and deadlines, and I’m also really looking forward to him learning how to do his own social coordination. On the downside, I’m worried he’ll get distracted by it. He already has a lot of access to devices at home, but they can’t travel with him to school. I’m very concerned about social media, but I would definitely block any and all social media apps for years to come. And I’m a bit worried he’ll lose it. He’s pretty responsible, but again, ADHD. I know middle school is a wild world. Should I be worried about things like kids sending inappropriate pictures at that age or bullying? What else am I missing about cell phones and kids?
S2: The answer? The short answer is yes. You should be worried about all those things, but that doesn’t mean that your kid shouldn’t have a phone. Amy, what do you think?
S1: I might be a little hard liner on this? I’m going to say no, no cell phone to come on. No, no. Especially if you’re worried about them not being able to reach you. If that’s really what you’re worried about, give them a piece of paper with your phone number on it. And I’m sure somebody around will have a phone and I might be the only one here who’s going to who’s going to feel this way. But come on, like isn’t 12 years old, like way too young for something like that. In my view, it’s it could only be distracting, and it can’t really serve them in all the ways that you hope that it might. I think it’s too high of a risk, to be honest. I know for sure that my kid is going to be able to get a phone until they can afford it. I remember when I was a kid. I know, I know. I know I’m getting.
S2: I know you. Not one.
S1: But here’s one thing I at least when I grew up, we had payphones, so I had no problem finding a spot. As long as I had a couple of quarters I was, I was able to reach people when I needed to. But nowadays, maybe an iPod touch or something where if they can get Wi-Fi, they can, they can make a call or text or something. I would be so worried about handing someone a device like a cell phone where they can reach the world at any time in their pocket. It’s going to be just so hard for them to create more connections with the real world at an age when they really should be. That’s just how I think about it.
S3: I actually don’t disagree with you. I my gut reaction is, no, you should not give a phone to this child. I think that particularly with ADHD, which is in some level like a dopamine seeking, you’re seeking a lot of that that hit. And cell phones are that they they can give you that. And so I think that even though you have a rule follower. I just think how many times have I been sitting up way too late and I’m scrolling through Instagram or scrolling through something getting that hit? I know I need to put the phone down, guys. I am a I am an excellent rule follower. I am excellent at keeping a schedule and still I have seen numbers on the clock come. That should not come because I have to get up early. So if I can handle it, how is this kid, you know, whose brain is not fully formed because they’re only 12, you know, going to be able to handle this? I think there are other options. I definitely think like a paper planner or looking into there are definitely phones with kind of very limited means understanding what is available at the school to communicate that they got there or not. I know, like at school in the woods, which is my experience with public schooling here, you’re able to call and check in. We also have an app that shows who has been marked present for attendance and work it out that way. So there are there are other options available, I think. I just don’t see that for what you need that you are going to be able to control unless you get one of these devices that like only calls home or only has a couple of apps. I also think, you know, you say like, Oh, I could use it for a calendar. I think managing that is so difficult. Like, there are adults that struggle with that and really understanding like, I have to put all this stuff in, I have to be able to type. I have to then check the phone. It really tethers you to this, and something like a paper planner is a better way. Also to create that mind hand, kind of. I don’t know for me, when I write something on a calendar, it’s like I remember it versus like when I type it, and I’m really relying on a phone to remind me of it. So figuring some of that out now, all that being said, I know that like between 12 and 13 is the average age for kids to be getting cell phones. And I think there is a real chance that this turns out to be what you decide to do. And I think that if you do that, you need to have really clear limits on what your expectations are for your child with this phone and what the deal is if they break those expectations. There need to be really set expectations of like privacy and and there are some apps out there. The The App Forest is a focus app that keeps you in particular apps and also encourages you to not have your phone open during certain times. I think you really need to look into things, things like that, because I just have this sense that there’s some inevitability that like you’re asking permission in this letter because you would feel better if they had a phone. And if that’s the case, then that’s the choice you’re making. And I think that’s OK. But I think you really need to understand that once you hand them a phone, it’s very hard to take it away. But Jamilah, what do you what do you think
S2: they actually do? Agree, but there’s a big asterisk. If your child is going to be traveling to and from school by themselves, they need a phone. Like, I don’t think that any kid that has a baby. Can you at this point, should be without a phone like there is a time in which we, you know, I’m sure the three of us all did daily commutes without cell phones, but there wasn’t necessarily the easy option to have one. I don’t like the idea of your child being at the behest of another kid or having to engage with an adult, especially if something were to go wrong on the trip, you know, to or from school. So if that is the case, they should get the most limited access to virtually nothing basic cell phone option that exists. They still make those kitty phones. You can get them the type of phone they have for senior citizens. Whatever it is, it doesn’t need to give them access to the whole world, just the ability to make a phone call in an emergency. And you can even have them check it in when they get in the house, you know, so that they’re not using it to make phone calls without your permission. With that, you know, you’re not far off from it being a reasonable thing. You know, I struggle with I don’t know exactly what the age is for me. I think it’s really a matter of like, when are you commuting back and forth? Right? But like, you know, almost 12 is almost 13 right, and I would imagine that a 13 year old would probably be a reasonable candidate for a cell phone. You know, this is somebody that may be going into high school or is almost going into high school, who has a social life of their own and, you know, communicates with friends outside of school. You may not even have a house phone, so they’re going to need the, you know, ability to call people without saying, Mom, can I have your phone every five minutes? And at some point, like even with access to other devices to do schoolwork, there are games and apps and things that you will deign to be permissible for your children. It may be, you know, there’s a lot of people use the Facebook Messenger for kids. I haven’t tried it yet, but I know a lot of kids. My name is age they use and their parents love it. You’re just going to have to start thinking about what safety looks like for you and what you want to block and what you want to allow and start investigating those things. You know, I think that’s what it really comes down to, that even when you are ready to put a cell phone in their hand, you’re not just giving it to them like here. You know, it’s not a matter of like either. You don’t have one, which means you have no access to inappropriate content, which is wrong because one of your friends, one of his friends, undoubtedly has a cell phone with no parental controls, and they’re bringing to school and kids are looking at it, you know, like, that’s going to happen at some point if it hasn’t already. You can’t keep them from everything, but you also can’t cut them off from the rest of the world in a way that the rest of the world is using to communicate. And I do wonder if, because of the pandemic, kids that might have not been really at the cell phone age yet, like, is this becoming an 11 and 12 thing as opposed to a 13 year old thing because of, like now you’ve had access to a phone for a while during the pandemic? And then I realized I was absolutely ridiculous. I mean, she has a tablet, which is effectively the same thing, but I realized it like allowing her to play with the phone and feel like it was hers was, you know, career. Like you said, taking it away was like a thing. And I was like, This was never like a forever thing. This is like Mommy, I need you out of her hair. This is really the wild wild west around here. Here’s a phone to play with. You know, but
S3: Jamilah during that time, what did you do about like privacy with texting and with like was Naima clear that there was no expectation of privacy or or did you let her have set like in terms of when she texting friends? Or because I know, like sometimes she’ll text a friend or your mom on your phone? Yeah.
S2: Yeah. I’ve always like my face is always right in, you know, anything she’s doing. I’m like, You don’t have privacy on a device like, you’re not there yet. When you I have, you know, there should be like, Oh, my dad said, I’m like, Why are you reading your text? You know, the text messages are saying, your dad and I. And like every so often, I might be like, Oh, texture dad, and say, we’re outside or whatever. But like, typically, you know, like my text messages are for me and like, she gets a little bothered by that, like, you know. Mm hmm. Hypocrisy, if you will, that like, she doesn’t have unfettered access to my communication, but I have it to hers. But like, yeah, I think so long as I do think the like for the most part. For the majority of the time that you’re paying a child’s cell phone bill, I do think you should have access to their communication. You know, I think there becomes a point as a teenager and you decide what that looks like because some 15 year olds might not be ready for that. It might be like, nope, you know, like, you get this device, but I’m still going to read it at any time.
S1: Yeah, I mean, I wanted a cell phone and I was like 16. And a lot of other kids in my high school had cell phones, and I remember asking for one and my parents literally just laughed and they were like, Sure, how are you going to pay for it, you know? And there was just no way for me to do it. But I remember part of the reason why I really wanted one was because a lot of other kids had. Yeah. So I wonder, how much is this mom trying to justify this purchase for herself? Or really, the kid just really just wants one to fit in with their friends or to like anybody else. So I almost wonder, even if you were to give them one with the expectation that they’re going to use it for this and you’re going to have all these parental controls and everything else, you might be feeding into something else that’s not healthy. This this idea that they need like to consume. They need to be consumers, that they can have healthy social lives. That’s just something I’m worried about, right? I like set my mind. You’re probably right that it’s going to change a thousand times before it’s like time to make that choice. But I’ve already decided that he’s not my son’s not going to be getting any of the cell phone stuff. He’s not going to be getting all of this stuff that his friends are going to have at the same time. And I’m going to drill it into his head that you’re different and you have this whole set of guidelines that you have to live by because you’re my child. And so I’ve already decided that that’s how I’m going to do it. But you’re probably right. Who knows? Maybe like tomorrow I’ll have a different answer. Or maybe I’ll talk to the wife and she’ll have like a whole thing, and I just got to take her lead. Who knows?
S3: I really do feel for this mom because I know, like with Henry going off to school, one of the things I was worried about is like, you know, it has to take these medicines and remember that. And of course, there are people at the school that help him remember that. But how convenient would it be if he had a device that you know went off for? I could remind him or I could do this. But looking at that, you know, I was thinking, like, could I get him some kind of smartwatch where I could just send stuff so that it would be a receiving only there? You know, there are all these options, but I agree with you like it. At this point, I’ve sort of decided, no, all of that opens doors that I’m not really interested in walking through with him at this at this point. But I do think that for as much as like I said to me, 11 and 12 seems so young. But I also don’t know what that’s going to hold for us or where he’s going to be or what our schedules are going to look like, and at some point, the desire to also make my own life easier by having them have some contact. You know, there’s a real like pull to that.
S2: I think as long as you can keep your children away from a phone as you can, you should they have the rest of their lives to be unhealthily attached to these devices. You just also want to make sure that they’re never a situation in which they can’t reach you easily. And you know, the fact that payphones don’t exist anymore really has changed. Like I know in theory, you could ask anyone but who was to ask somebody to borrow their cell phone? No, you know, like, especially a stranger. But we’re all on board with you saying no. Well, let letter writer. Thank you so much and good luck with this. You will be fighting with your child over cell phones for the next seven to eight years. Best of luck. If you have a conundrum again that you want us to consider, please send us a note to mom and dad is say that time or posted to the Slate Parenting Facebook group. Just search for Slate Parenting on Facebook. And of course, before we get out of here, we’re going to do some recommendations. Elizabeth, what do you have for us this week?
S3: So we were camping this weekend, and one of the things we like to bring is this wise owl Hammock and straps. They’re like a travel Hammock. You can basically put it up anywhere in the straps, wrap around the trees without doing any damage to them. They’re really cool and we love to bring that. And and now I have more independent readers than non-independent readers. And so we put up three hammocks and the kids all just sat in them and looked at books for like an hour every day camping. It was amazing. So I would definitely recommend that we bring most of the time I just have them in the car because you never know when you might be somewhere and just put up, put up these little Hammock. So you could certainly also put them up in your backyard. And we have little clips here at home that we can like, clip them to indoor and have just these little collapsible hammocks. They pack really small. The straps are really small and they just wrap around a tree. It’s really great. So they’re made by wise owl, and I highly recommend them.
S2: Very nice. Armin, what about you?
S1: OK, so I guess it’ll be really Buju this time. I actually got this couple of weeks back, but now just sort of like the ultimate baby function. My baby still you drinking a lot of formula. And so we are constantly like packing little measured out portions with us. But we. Always looking for a good water source before we start mixing it and using it. And I went like, Did this impulse buy got this really fancy water bottle that has a UV ray built in? It’s called the Larq bottle, and what it does is it shoots UV rays into the water every 90 seconds and light kills like 100 percent of the bacteria, making it safe for baby consumption. So I’m really hype about that. We haven’t used it yet, but if it works as advertised, this is going to be a lifesaver because we are planning on going on a couple of trips real soon and we aren’t sure what the water situation is going to be exactly. So in this case, we could just pour in some tap, zap it and then throw some formula in there and give it to our baby. I’m really, really excited about it.
S2: That is very cool. One of the most annoying things about traveling with a baby who’s drinking formula is trying to find good water. So it sounds super useful. All right. Well, I am going to recommend making your own bootleg sangria. It might not be bootleg. You may actually have all the proper ingredients in your house. But I had a beach day yesterday, as I mentioned earlier disgracefully. But I did succeed and I triumphed in bringing some sangria that I made, essentially, which is stuff that I had in the house. You can find a cheap, sweet red wine. Manischewitz wine is good for making sangria because it’s already sweet. You don’t have to add much sugar. I use some of Nyima fruit cups and I had some fresh strawberries and blueberries. I made a red wine in a white wine and I didn’t have brandy. So I use I grandma here, and so I did one with Grandma Nieh and one with rum. And also grandma. And they were both really good at a white wine and a red wine. And it was super easy. And like, even though I did go to the grocery store to get like a little bit of fruit and another bottle of wine, I really could have just made it with what I had in the house. So all you need. Fruit juice, wine, sugar. If you please some sort of spirit, soak the fruit introduced to the wine.
S3: How long do you have to soak the fruit?
S2: Ideally at least two hours? You can do it overnight. I mean, I did it before getting dressed for the beach, and it was just fine. No, because it’s sitting in the spirit what’s in the bottle with the wine? Anyway, it just, you know. I mean, like the really pungent for like at one point in my life, I was angry I.M. I took it very seriously and I made it all the time. So I always had all the proper ingredients and I would let my fruits soak forever and stuff, but I found that people tend to like it. Either way, it’s kind of hard to get wrong.
S3: I think I’ve always been like, I have not attempted it because by the time I think it’s a good idea I like have some time, but not a lot of time. So you’re saying do it anyway
S2: anyway, and it’s so it really doesn’t have to be a bit like it can be a big production with a lot of fruit sitting up and a lot of thinking, Oh, that’s that or it can be really quick and dirty and likeable was the fruit and let it soak in there and pop that in the refrigerator and, you know, put your wine, whatever container you’re going to use. I put one back in the bottle and you’re right. Yeah, just for I use a bottle and like quarterback and I suppose the fruit in there and then the other one, I have a like a pouch thingy that I got from Nordstrom Rack or whatever, you know, or you can like, set it up and it has a wide mouth and then you can squeeze it out with the little spout. So it’s very convenient and everyone is happy when you show it was great. I promise you, I love this. It’s like bringing a bottle of wine, but with a higher alcohol content. Love it. That’s our show, everyone. One more time if you have a question for us. Expert advice givers. Email mom and dad at Slate.com or post to slate Facebook Parenting Group. Mom and Dad are fighting is produced by Morgan Flannery or Elizabeth New Camp and Ayman Ismail Aymann Jamilah Lemieux. Thank you for listening. All right, let’s keep going. Slate plus listeners, this week we’re talking about the wise one exasperated listener posted to our Facebook parenting page last week with a plea for help. They wrote, Hello, I need some ideas for how to handle the whys. I thought they were a myth, but we’re deep into why everything? Oh look, mama, there’s a train. Why? How do you even respond to that? I definitely answer as honestly as is appropriate for his age to most of his questions, but it gets to a point where he’s clearly not listening to the answers, and it just seems like he wants to hear me talk. Sometimes I say, What do you think? And if I work for a second, but I need some other answers. What is going on? This is so annoying, Elizabeth, how many wise sages have you been through at this point?
S3: I’m still in one, so definitely two of mine are through it and I’m Teddy is still very much in the why or the more annoying a very specific question last night right before bed, he said. Why do we use money? And then I gave this answer. And then he said, But what is the economy like? Yes, you can major in this in college. Oh my God. So many. But here you guys, I create. I don’t think I actually created this 100 percent. I write about this somewhere else, but I’m going to take credit right now. We have a whiteboard, and when you ask questions, either write it in my phone or I write it on a post-it note and we put it up in the same place. And then we have y time and I take the time, right? So I just end it by saying, like, let’s write this down. I don’t have time to answer you right now. Let’s write this down because they feel heard. And I put it up there in about four Post-it notes into the y time everybody is out. And that is my goal. It’s like you want to answer, right? Because they’re they’re curious and you want your kids to be curious, but also like when you’re driving and there’s like seven other things going on and there’s like phone calls coming in or you just want to keep listening to whatever you were listening to. I just say, let’s write this down for y time and then I just make a note of it and we pull questions and we answer them and Jeff’s there to help me or some other adult. You know, it’s like, I don’t have to shoulder all of this, but it’s just annoying and it does go away. Eventually, they they stop asking because you are no longer an authority or they figure out they can ask Alexa, and she answers every time.
S2: You know, it’s interesting. Like, I have to remind myself sometimes, and that is often at eight and change as I did it. Three That everything is what is the economy to? Yes, that’s right. Like, I don’t know what any of this means. Nothing makes sense. Like I was in a place that was comfortable. I was pulled from there and every, you know why? And I’ve just been bombarded with mysteries ever since. And I think that it’s hard because like, there’s no script for explaining everything. There’s a book about damn near everything under the Sun. You can Google how to talk to your kids about blah blah blah. But like on the fly, when you’re hit with these sessions, which is usually at a really inopportune time, you know what has worked for me? One. You just sometimes you just end up coming out with really age appropriate answers, like you said, like, it’s just like, OK, then other things are just a little bit too much for the space for your, you know, for your mental space, wherever you know, like you just can’t handle them at the moment. And it’s OK to say that’s a little bit too complicated for me to try to explain right now. You know, and you sometimes you get back to it and sometimes you don’t like. I’ll never forget. I probably told the story on the podcast before, but like when Naima was maybe five, we gotten tickets to go see Alvin Ailey Dance Company. Really nice. It’s like at Lincoln Center, so we’re dressed up and we get seated in the show started and right, you know, a couple of minutes in and she looks over me. She’s like, I got to ask you something. I’m like, Why? And she’s like, Well, why is it that when Michael Jackson was a kid, he was black, but when he was an adult? Now I stop you right here. He had to stop you right here. You know, like is a very good question, and I understand why it is haunting you. Despite the fact that there’s no Michael Jackson music playing, nothing is reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s face and all the doing ballet. But I did it. You know, the world is filled with mysteries, but sometimes I can’t. I’m looking for you.
S3: You know what the funny thing is, I feel like when Aymann maybe you feel this way, but it’s like I couldn’t wait for my kids to like, talk and be able to have these discussions. And then, like 100 percent of what they say is your name and why. And you’re just like, This is not bringing value
S1: to say that because I’m still really excited. No, I’m like trying to train him to talk. And now you’re telling me I’m going to shoot myself in the foot.
S3: Yeah, you just wait because it’s like my injury. Henry talked earlier about the the second was a late talker and I was like, Thank goodness because I know what’s coming.
S2: Mom, mom, mom.
S1: Well, I do have an Alexa, though I might just depend on that. I’ll be like, Go talk to Alexa.
S3: Yeah, ask her. I do say sometimes ask Alexa, you know, and sometimes you’re like, like the things they’re thinking. Like Jamilah your example. It’s like, I really want to spend time on this. But this is
S2: not. This is not the time. We can’t do this right now.
S3: But I also think do know like they they learn some of that too, right? Like you need to feed the curiosity. But I also think it’s OK. I think the big thing that sort of, you know, if you read these articles, psychologist, what they don’t want you to say is like basically because I said so. Or something to that effect. But I think otherwise, as long as you are validating their question, I hear that you’re asking a question. It’s a good question. Or we’ve talked about like something. We’ve talked about this before. Do you remember what I said? What do you think like those kind of things? I think the point is validating that their curiosity is good, but that it’s also OK to put boundaries on on when that curiosity is appropriate. And so I don’t think anyone is saying that you have to have all the answers or that you need to be like at their beck and call for the whys. Because if you do that, they will ask you wise from the time they’re supposed to go to bed until they fall asleep. So I just think it’s OK. It’s OK to place boundaries.
S1: Can you just tell your children to stop asking questions right now?
S3: Well, you can say, Yeah, I think you can say, Well,
S2: hey, man, hold on. Did you see that you have a note in the chat from Morgan? Just want to point out, I believe on the show a couple of weeks ago, you say you’re hoping and excited for your son to ask all the whys. That’s true. And now you’re advising someone to tell their child to stop asking questions.
S1: You’re right. No, I really can’t wait because I feel like I am going to put down everything and focus on my kid. And I know that that’s just a pipe dream. And that’s just not how parenthood works. But right now, I have it in my head where I have all the time in the world and we’re just going to sit on a fluffy cloud and just go through it all. You know, I can’t wait to teach my son everything. And that’s what’s getting me excited. And that’s what’s helping me through this phase right now, where he just cries for everything and sometimes for no reason. So I put it, he’s like, It’s like the light at the end of the tunnel. One day he’ll know to ask for what he wants, and I can’t wait until he asks things like Why are pretzels salty and why? Why are cucumbers like anything like that? I’m happy to to sit around and like, talk to you about how long that excitement will last. I didn’t say,
S2: I enjoy it.
S3: I don’t think, I mean, I still have those like, there are definitely times in which the whys feel so like if we’re out, walking out, hiking, doing school stuff and they’re asking the whys. I totally agree with you. I will sit down on the ground and pick up the bag and we’ll talk about it and we’ll do all those kind of things that is still there. That is still even with my older kids, right? Like, that’s still there. It is the like the wise for the set. At some point they just say why? Like, you know, they ask you the initial question Why do we drive on highways? You give some kind of answer. We drive on. You know, they built the road, so it’s easier to travel. Why? OK, so then you start reaching in your brain like, OK, well, we used to travel like on these dirt roads, but that wasn’t very efficient. Why? And you’re like, Why? What?
S2: Or worse still,
S3: you know, you say it is time to clean up why? Because this activity is and is now time. It is the next activity started. Why?
S2: Mm hmm. Those are the whys that are not so.
S1: Yeah, that’s
S2: with the way the weaponise does. They know they they they know.
S3: Yeah, I know. But then it’s hard. And that moment not to say like because I said so, but instead of saying like, this is not a good time for questions. I love that you’re curious about why we’re doing things. I’m happy to write down these questions. Why do I have to clean up why this? But right now this is this is what we are doing. And I need you to participate in this activity. I think those kind of boundaries are okay.
S1: I’m going to be the dad to be like, you can ask. You can ask questions while you clean up. Yeah.
S3: Well, they’re incapable, though.
S2: Well, letter writer, thank you for sharing your frustration with us. We wish we had better answers, but we think we know why kids do this because they don’t know things and they want to know them really badly. So it’s kind of on us to tell them those things. Sometimes, not always. Sometimes. Thank you for your support of late slate plus listeners. That is it for the show, for real, for real. And we will see you next week. Why?