S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership, the following podcast is for parents, maybe not for kids. Welcome to Mom and dad are fighting Slate’s parenting podcast. Thursday, July twenty nine. The Quitting the Olympics edition. Hi, Dan. I’m a writer at Slate and the author of the book How to Be a Family. And the dad of Lyra, who’s 16. Harper who’s 13. Cleveland, Arlington, Virginia.
S2: I’m Elizabeth Newcome. I write the Holmesville and Family Travel Blog, Dutch Schools, and I’m the mom to three little Henry who’s nine, Oliver who’s seven, and Teddy who’s four. And we live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
S3: And Jamilah Lemieux. I am a writer contributor to Slate’s Handfeeding Parenting Column and Moms Who Nyima, who is eight. And we live in Los Angeles
S1: on today’s show. We’re talking about Simone Biles and her decision to step away from the women’s gymnastics event at the Tokyo Olympics. Parents always have a lot to say about sticking it out through things that are hard about grit, about resilience. So how do we talk to our kids about this? Then we’ve got a question from a parent whose babysitter keeps calling with emergencies that aren’t really emergencies. The problem is the babysitter is grandma, I’ll tell you. Plus, we’ll be talking about birthday parties and the no gift request. Is it horribly gauche or morally pure? Join us on Slate plus to find out. But first, we’re going to start the show off today with an update on Elizabeth’s dilemma from way, way back in April. Elizabeth, you were trying to figure out where to send your kids to school in Colorado. Let’s let’s hear an excerpt from that episode.
S2: OK, so as you know, we are moving to Colorado Springs. And with that move comes a change of like our whole life. And I’ve always said that every time we move, I’m going to evaluate our school situation based on kind of each child and the place where we are and all of that. And Teddy is going to preschool like he needs to not be at home every day. So I’ve found a lovely preschool for him that he’s been accepted into. It is not close to the house. It is like twenty five minutes from the home we’re going to be in. I have found two home school academies that would be perfect for Henry and Oliver. They’re different. They meet on different days. They are also like twenty minutes to twenty five minutes away from the house in different directions. There is a school that has a home school academy or like full time school walking distance from our home. So the dilemma is, do I send these kids to the perfect situation for them? It’s one day a week. What’s a big deal? But we’re driving like all around or do I just like do the thing that makes the most convenient sense and say, like, everyone’s going to the school. That’s right back there.
S1: And here is what Elizabeth all knowing cohosts said about this dilemma back in April. OK, so let me follow up on this question with a question. In any case, no matter what you decide for the two older boys, this will be happening once a week.
S2: Yes, this year. I’m not sending anyone to full time school.
S1: OK, this is the easiest question anyone has ever asked me.
S3: I think we have the same having
S1: your kids to school that they can walk to, which is totally fine and is only one day a week. So like, what is the worst that could happen is that maybe they kind of like it 80 percent as much as the other one one day a week. And the best that can happen is that you are not in your car for like an hour and 45 fuckin minutes and Colorado Springs traffic every Tuesday, that sounds like a nightmare. That is my answer.
S3: Strong co-sign I. OK, the only asterisk. If one
S2: child can be plucked
S3: off this island, if you believe that going out of your way and taking one of the three children somewhere a little bit further away would absolutely make a tremendous difference for that child, then I would suggest doing it with one, but not all three of them.
S1: So Elizabeth, School is about to start in Colorado, where just a few weeks away, what
S3: did you do? Which one of us was right? Which one of us was right?
S2: I was right. No. So basically, I ignored all advice. But I have to I have to justify what I did because. Oh, my God. Yes. So first of all, I was already set on setting Teddy to this preschool that I had wanted to send Henry to. That is like very it’s a very Crunchie community school. Like, I’m already doing my volunteer service there. And assuming that covid regulations allow, like, I get to help out in the classroom and all kinds of fun stuff. So he was going there. And honestly, whatever I pay to send him there, I’m getting the better end of that deal because he’s going to be gone three mornings a week. So then the plan was that the other two would go one day a week, but they have a big lottery for the schools. And one of the things they offer here is this called School in the Woods, and it’s full time school out in the woods just for fourth graders. There’s only seventy eight students. And in May, when the lottery happened, we did not get a slot, but they called us in end of June and gave us they
S1: have phones in the
S2: woods and they gave us basically twenty four hours to decide they had an opening, which they apparently never have. And for whatever reason, the way they do the school is totally crazy. But Henry is the one that’s like sitting in the right home school district to get the slot. So they offered us that and we talked to Henry about that. So Henry is going to full time school for the first time since we’ve been in the Netherlands at the school in the woods. And his little best friend from when we were here, they’re born three days apart, is also going. And so her mom and I, Lucy’s mom and I are going to be doing carpool together for that. And then because the two kids were going to the perfect schools for them, I thought, well, poor Oliver can’t just go to the school here. That’s like perfectly fine. In fact, it’s better than perfectly fine. It’s like an amazing school. He had picked out this one day a week. It’s a like public. But Waldorf inspired and the homeschool program does like knitting and gardening and all of that. And he’s already been to a week of camp there and loves it. And I convinced my other best friend here to send her home school child care. So I have a carpool buddy there. And Oliver School and Teddy School are right next to each other and they’re going Oliver’s one day is is one of the days that Teddy is there, which also means that one day a week I will have no children in the house. You guys, I that I actually have never experienced that. So since having children. So, you know, I disregarded everything. But I’m also looking forward to, like, catching up on all my podcast in the car and running errands without kids. So, yes, I ignored all of your advice. I’m sure we’ll be hearing about how terrible my decision is. But for right now, I feel good that each of my kids is in like the perfect school for them.
S3: I think I feel most good about you having that day to yourself every week. You’ll just have to remember what day is that going to be?
S2: It’s Tuesday,
S3: Tuesdays. So you’ll have to remember Tuesday has to be ah, you have
S1: to waste an hour and a half of it with us.
S3: I was like, wait, Thursday. That’s your work day.
S2: Yeah, yeah. I love my work but that it’s convenient. I was just going to
S3: say Tuesday has to be your guiding light now. I wish you were Thursday, you know, because you’d have something to look forward to. You’re just going to have to carry that Tuesday energy throughout the rest of the week when you’re making all those pickups and drop offs. Just think of Tuesday.
S2: I’m going to I’m hoping there’s like a really cute coffee shop over by the schools. And I want to, like, go there and and have it not be all errands all the time.
S1: Elizabeth, on the days you’re driving. How much time do you spend in the car?
S2: I think that the total is like, OK, you know, in the summer it’s like twenty minute twenty five minutes to get to their school and then twenty five minutes back. But that’s like no traffic and no snow. And their school is in the mountains. And Henry School is 60 Minutes in the opposite direction. So should I have to drive from one to the other. Oh the other thing I have to say this, Jeff schedule also came out for his teaching schedule and he doesn’t teach in the mornings, so. Oh, so he can do a drop off to one of the places and then I’m going to hopefully with the other moms. It sounds like we’re going to cycle. They also have some issues with pickups and all that. So will be we’ll be doing the full carpool. So some days I hopefully won’t be making the drive maybe at all.
S1: Does sound like with Jeff’s schedule and the carpool buddies you’ve made, you are. Executing this bad decision and the best possible way, and
S2: I’ve made a lot of friends doing it because, you know, my the key I think is making friends is asking for assistance. And I have had to ask for a lot of assistance.
S1: It does. I like the schools are wonderful. I’m glad you came to a decision. I’m glad that I’m particularly like that. Henry has this option, which sounds truly incredible. And I’m very excited for him for that. And I’m excited that you’ll have your Tuesdays free and we can just we can record the podcast that just stands in for another couple of hours. Nothing going on. Yeah.
S3: Yeah. What happens to school in the woods when it snows?
S2: They go, they get snow shoes. There is like a little LEED certified building that they keep. They keep their stuff in and they have like some classroom because they need like microscopes and that kind of stuff. But they go outside every day so they get snow shoes and they get all kinds of stuff. They start every morning with a hike. So with their bags on and everything, they get there and they do what they call a perimeter walk. They walk the perimeter of the little park that the school is in and by park, it’s like in the Black Forest.
S1: So what is the overunder, Elizabeth, on you getting hired at this forest school to
S2: just do so? Yeah, so, Jeff, I think Jeff has already said the real issue is that I’ve I’ve signed the kids up for three schools, all of which I would love to work at. Yeah. And know my my you know, but I do also have to continue to homeschool, like Oliver is only in one day a week. So he still needs legitimate homeschooling. Like, I won’t have to really do much with Henry because I’m going to leave that up to school in the woods. But yeah, I mean, I think there’s already they already sent out the volunteer list and like nine of the ten assignments are things like I want to do.
S1: All right, listeners, we want to hear I’m sure you’ll all take Elizabeth side, not my side. The side of laziness. It does sound like you made some amazing choices and the kids will have a great time. I can’t wait to find out whether it was worth it. Let us know on November 15th when the first snows hit, whether it was worth it. So on Tuesday, Simone Biles, the greatest gymnast of all time, walked away from the women’s team final at the Tokyo Olympics, not with a physical injury. Instead, she said she needed to focus on her well-being and said, I just don’t trust myself as much as I used to. So why are we discussing this on a parenting podcast? Well, because we parents talk to our kids all the time about resilience and grit and sticking things out, even if they’re tough. Often it’s in the context of sports, but it can be about all kinds of things. In my family, it’s been about sports, but also about band and orchestra and all kinds of stuff. The letter we were going to respond to this week before we decided to talk about Simone Biles because of this news, was from a mom who couldn’t believe her daughter is quitting dance even though she’s really good at it. So now we have this very high profile example of someone at the absolute top of her sport, literally the greatest gymnast of all time, bailing in the middle of the biggest competition that there is. And I am sort of struggling to figure out how to talk about this, because while I understand, I think I’d like to think I understand the importance of mental health and I understand applauding Simone Biles for taking care of herself in a crisis situation, this has helped me discover that I also apparently still have all kinds of presumably old fashioned ideas about athletes fighting through adversity and Olympians sticking it out for their teammates and and even playing through pain. As dumb as I know, that idea has probably been watching too many NBC puff pieces about people winning gold even after they tear their seventh ACL. But it’s it’s hard for me to know how to feel about this and therefore how to talk to my gymnastics loving kid about it. So Jamilah and Elizabeth, talk to me about the set me straight. What do you guys think about this?
S3: I am so proud of Simone Biles and the courage that it took to make a decision like that in front of the world. You know, I mean, she decided that she was not able to compete to the best of her ability and she protected herself from injury. She allowed her teammates to step up and do what they’ve trained very hard to do. And they were able to bring home a silver medal I. I have a hard time criticizing athletes when it comes to the decisions they make about when and where and how to compete, because it’s not something that I’ve signed my body up for. And I think that I hope that this is one of those moments that allows folks who are fans be the casual ones or serious ones of this sport or any other sport to kind of reflect on just what we’re asking of people who to do these kind of things, particularly at the level in which you’d be competing at the Olympics. Like yesterday, I saw an alert come in from the New York Times app. I forget who it was, but then she’d settled for a silver medal. Right. And I thought, my God, this is the second place in the world. And for this to be settling for a silver medal and for this to be the language ascribed to it, not by the person who won a silver medal, you know, an achievement that few people could ever even think of putting in the sort of work that it requires to get to number two in the Olympics. But the idea that this was settling or somehow that she had disappointed her country and people who were rooting for her. And so I think about moments like that and what might have happened if Simone Biles, who we know to be the best gymnast in the world, had harmed herself today. You know, if the injury she walked away, you know, if she’d injured herself and was no longer able to compete. And considering that she’s already spoken about the fact that her being a victim of Larry Nasser, you know what I mean? And still being in play keeps the conversation about what he did and what he was able to do, going in ways that it might not, because most of the girls that are competing are younger and would not have come through his training. And so this is somebody who’s given a lot. And today what she gave was to herself. And I think by doing that, she gave to her teammates and she gave to her country and she said a really great example for young people everywhere.
S2: I completely agree, like we, especially as Americans, expect these athletes to be role models to our kids and to us, and what she did was be a role model. She was someone who stepped up. And when everything was like, you should just do this like you, you know, that was even going through her own head. Right. Like that’s part of this is that you are on every commercial in America. You are on every NBC ad for the Olympics saying you’re the best and you’re going to bring home gold. And every announcers talking about how to you know, you’re going to become the most decorated, you know, woman at the summer gate, all of these things. And for her to say, I’m not right, I’m not right to compete. I’m not right that if I compete, I don’t know what that does for my future. And then not only that, but to come back and be a good teammate, like she doesn’t just walk away. She comes back. She tells her teammates what she’s going through, and then she says, I’m here. She’s handing out chalk bag. She’s giving high fives. She is that to me is so much more of a role model of the person or people I want my kids to be than someone who is like amazingly gifted at doing these flips, which she is. And she works hard for that. But to be able to say in this moment, I’m not OK. And I I think so much of the dialogue we’ve had about self care and about being in control of our bodies, and especially for women to say we need to take care of ourselves and if we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t take care of other people. And what she did is on a national stage, she did that. She said, I’m going to take care of myself and therefore really took care of her team and also said, I trust you guys. You guys are good enough to do, you know, yes, I I am great at the sport, but I trust that you guys are also great. And even her like tweets since then have just been this praise for her teammates. And if that isn’t an example of what women should be doing for each other, I don’t know what is. And also her teammates then giving back to her saying, you know, you we’re so glad you did this for yourself and we went out there for you also. I just can’t look at this at any other way than to say this is a woman who is a true role model, not just because of her athletic prowess, but because she, in the moment when it was so hard, took care of herself. And I think we’ve just seen this pressure destroy so many other athletes. I mean, if you look at kind of Michael Phelps post Olympics and what he goes through with substance abuse, I, I imagine that this is he’s in a very similar place, right. Like this. There’s this pressure and you have to be this great. And the way he deals with it is fundamentally different than what we just saw. And I hope that for Simone, this gives her the ability to take back the control that I think she needs. In so many ways, this has kind of spiraled out of her control and whether that had to do with her mental state or just like life. Right. I mean, Jamilah mentioned things that are going on our life. We don’t know what else is going on, but just the the magnitude of covid and the Olympics and covid outbreaks at the Olympics, like all of that must be so heavy that I just feel so proud to see someone doing this and being able to have these conversations, like we want to talk about mental health and we want to be able to have it be normal to talk about mental health. That’s what she’s doing.
S1: I totally understand all that. And yet, Jamilah you mentioned, you know what we are asking of these athletes. And that strikes me as like. Slightly different. You’re right that there are plenty of people who are, I’m sure, judging her and being dicks about it and who do view it as like she has disappointed them personally in some way by settling for silver. But fundamentally, these Olympic athletes are people who themselves have have made the choice to to compete at this elite level. But they’ve made this kind of commitment. And I guess I feel two ways about it. In one respect, they’re the ones who made that decision. So obviously they should and can be the ones who make the decision when they don’t feel they can compete. But I also still am having trouble getting over these ideas of, like, you make this kind of commitment and, you know, whether it’s. My kids commitment to her soccer team to play through the season and be with her teammates and and play to the best of her ability or an Olympian’s commitment to her teammates to give them everything that she can. It’s still I still struggle with how exactly to talk about that particular aspect of it, this notion that you have made, this determination that this is this thing that you are going to train for and when do you know or understand that you have to step back? And how do you then sort of justify that along the lines of the decisions that you’ve made up till then?
S3: I think it’s listening to yourself and to your body, you know, a big part of this is that so much of the spectacle and the rules around sport are created and led by people that are now no longer active competitors, if they ever were right. And so I think about Shikari Richardson, like just three women who have just had to find this moment for me, Shikari Richardson, Naomi Osaka and now Simone Biles. Right. And that they’ve all openly talked about having some sort of mental health issue or challenge to face. And we see that in the case of Shikari, she was not able to access legally, according to the sport, what she needed in order to cope with what she’d been presented with, which was the stress of this overnight fame, the loss of her mother, etc.. And so I think about Simone having competed as a child while enduring sexual abuse. Right. And a culture of sexual abuse. And so I’m just so. Fixated and fascinated by the idea of we all know, like the three of us come together every week, we did this podcast, we talk about our personal lives on the show. We share things with one another. You know, I have some idea of some of the challenges in your respective lives and vice versa. But I don’t know your full story. You’re dealing with so much more than I can ever conceive of. Right. When it comes to something like this, these these people are also dealing with the stuff that we don’t know about, you know? And so I think it will never be fully accepted in the court of public opinion to make these kind of choices. But the only way that we can what we would want for our children who are interested, you know, this could be a makeup competition, right. I’m going to this makeup competition and I’ve been doing makeup for all this time and I’m really good at it. And in this moment, I don’t feel that I’m capable of doing it or I feel that me doing this in this moment is going to perhaps cost something that, you know, obviously you’re not likely to get a physical injury during a competition. But, you know, I. Yeah, right. But if you understand it in this moment, you can’t show up at your as your best self and that there’s a way in which you can step back and also protect your team, I think is the lesson. I don’t think there’s really much else to say to our kids about what Simone did other than to look at it as an example. And that’s not always going to be your story. Sometimes it may be the right thing for you to push through the injury, to push through the anxiety and keep going. But when it’s not that you have to trust that voice inside and be OK with it.
S2: I mean, this is two weeks of their life. This is I understand it’s a big two weeks, but to me it’s two weeks. And what if in those two weeks you don’t do the thing that’s right for you? And as a result, the next six years, 12 years, 40, you know, those sort of things become a problem so that you could win a medal in in which, listen, like, yeah, we win a medal. And that is important. And it’s amazing to watch these athletes. I don’t I mean, I love watching the Olympics, but it is we are so wrapped up in this idea of like do everything to win. And and I think some of that is kind of the problems we’re seeing in this country. Right. Like everybody has to be right and has to win as opposed to saying, like, we watch some amazing performances and some are better than others. They’re all amazing. No, I can’t do any of the Olympics.
S1: They literally give out for second and third prize. I know. But like I mean, it’s I don’t know that we have suddenly made the Olympics competitive. The Olympics have always been competitive.
S2: Oh, come on. I have a French exchange student here and he cannot believe the coverage we have about how many medals America is going to win and who’s going to become the most decorated. And, well, we have more golds than any other country. Look, a lot of these other places, they don’t care. They’re excited that there are people when they’re excited to just send people and have them compete on the stage. And we have become wholly obsessed with being the no. What can our athletes be? You know, the best just to be the best not to say like, hey, we’re seeing some amazing athletic performances that come from all over the world.
S1: It is true that NBC had Steve Kornacki on the big board yesterday is circling medal counts and it’s hard to imagine another country doing that.
S3: Very American.
S2: Our our friend cadet here has his you know, he’s like, is this what they do all the time? You know, like, why can’t you appreciate the sport? Or like, wow, look at what that person did, pushing everyone to be better. I mean, I guess that’s kind of what all this feels like to me, is that the if you feel like her stepping away somehow lost something like how do you care more about having a gold medal versus the silver medal that the team won enough that she should do something that is against what her body and what she is saying she needs. I think everybody should have that opportunity, no matter how like no matter how much you’ve trained or how hard you’ve worked for something, if your gut is telling you this isn’t right, that’s something we need to learn to listen to. And I want my kids to listen to. I don’t want them to say I’m going to do this anyway because of all this back stuff I put in. I we know that these athletes are I already know that was part of her calculation. Right. Or she wouldn’t be here. Right. And so the minute that she says and I think this is the discussion with your kids, the minute that she says this is too much, it’s just too much. It doesn’t matter if it wouldn’t have been too much for you, it’s too much for her.
S1: Well, I think we can all agree it would have been too much for me.
S2: Yeah. I mean, I can’t even do a cartwheel, right. Like, I if they asked me to run down at that vault, I would hurt myself.
S3: Listen, I don’t know now that I am a dancer and I do. Yes, I
S1: do. I’m glad to hear that.
S3: It’s been a month, even though I had to take off some time, actually posted the video on my birthday of me doing some flips on my Instagram page and they weren’t my best flips. And it’s I know how to do a float. I’ve learned how to do a flip and dance class and six in seven inch heels, whole thing. But like when I don’t feel like I can do it, I can hurt myself. Like, I’m very clear that, like when I don’t feel confident or if I didn’t get my leg up high enough the like, that injury is right there looking at me. I can see this. Right. And I don’t think that just because you are the best in the game that something changes where if you don’t trust your body like I’ve got to throw my leg this way, I’ve got to throw my arm this way, or else I’m going to land on my wrist or I’m going to fall down. I think she protected herself from serious injury. I think that I don’t take nothing about Simone Biles says to me, you know, I was just lost my Krystal’s last night and I meditated on this. And I just I think she was like, I’m not about to go fuck up everything for myself and my team. I’m making a very difficult decision. I think that’s the other thing, that this could not have been an easy decision. You know, and I know that they’re going to be folks who want to make this, you know, a millennial thing, a lazy thing. This is a participant. There’s no ribbon. There’s nothing left for Simone Biles to do is she did not participate in this Olympics. She would have still been Simone Biles.
S2: I agree.
S1: All right, there’s a totally fascinating discussion. Thank you, guys, I appreciate it. This will help me as I chat with Harper about this over the next few days. Addendum lady with a dance daughter. You should just let your kid quit dance. It doesn’t seem like it seems like you care about it more than she does. All right. We want to hear from you guys. We’re going to post this on the Facebook page. We’re also going to do a transcript on Slate. I think. Let us know what you think about this. Talk to us about how you’re talking to your kids. Email us at moment at Cybercom or post on the Slate parenting Facebook page. All right. Let’s move on to our listener question this week. Red, as always, by the fabulous Shasha Leonhard.
S4: Hi, mom and dad, I’m a mom with two kids ages five and two, and we are very lucky to live in the same city as all four of their grandparents. Our kids regularly visit with each set of grandparents one to two times per week. And we were even our own little bubble during most of the pandemic. The problem is with my mom, she gets really overwhelmed when she babysits. She and my dad will volunteer to take the kids somewhere or agree to babysit for an evening, but then always seem to end early. One time she asked us to come home because the baby was crying while we were literally locked inside an escape room with our friends. The most recent time this happened, she had taken our older child to the park and another kid accidentally knocked her over. She was mostly just shaken up. But because she was crying and asking for me, my mom felt compelled to bring her home. After less than an hour, I told her I wasn’t available. I had things to do while they were going to be out. And I encouraged her to take her for ice cream to help her feel better. But my mom then accused me of not being there for my daughter when she needed me for context. My daughter has a lot of separation anxiety and she’s slowly working on it in therapy. I see my mom’s behavior as enabling these anxious patterns of thinking that I’m the only one who could possibly console her. I know I need to clue my mom into this, but I don’t know how to get her to listen to me, she’s always had her own way of doing things with our kids and isn’t really open to new ideas. How do I go about repairing this relationship with my mom while getting her to look at some of her patterns more closely and more generally? What should my expectations be when I let them babysit? I believe that unless my kids need to go to the hospital, I’d really like a night off. But my mom seems to think I should still be on call for any small thing.
S2: OK, well, you need to fire your babysitter. No.
S3: Thank you for a
S1: segment of all time.
S3: Thank you. Another great episode of Mom and Dad are fighting, produced by
S2: time to look for new help. Seriously, though, it just really doesn’t sound like your mom is ready to watch your child’s on her own. Like, I think you have to think of this situation like this is not working right. Like if you had hired this person, if you would hired your mother, you would fire her, in which case then the the damage is being done to the relationship because you continue to repeat a situation of which you know the outcome and you’ve made no changes. I think it is really unlikely that you are going to change your mom’s behavior. You can certainly have conversations with her and try to get her to understand the separation anxiety. But I just in my experience, like grandparents do things the grandparent way. There are some grandparents who are very flexible and there are other grandparents who are not flexible. It sounds like you have a non flexible grandparent. There are lots of other opportunities to have good interactions with your mom. It sounds like she’s close. You can have her over to very controlled situations or situations where she’s playing at the house with your children, but you’re also there. I just I really think that because she’s not hired help, you have to accept what she is able to give and what she is able to give is not what you need. And so you have to come up with other ways to where the focus is. This is going to be a good interaction between the grandkids and grandma. And the interaction is not one of I need care, you’re going to care for my child so that I can go do the things I need to do. You either need to ask your other set of grandparents that you luckily have in town or hire a babysitter for those situations, because when you hire a babysitter, you can say, is anyone bleeding now? OK, try these things and then hang up and go on on your date. Right. That is a or whatever errand you were running, whatever that time was being used for. When it is your mom, you cannot say those things. So I think the goal should really be to try to have a good relationship and not necessarily to fix the babysitting problem.
S3: I agree. I think, as Elizabeth said, your mother is the babysitter that she’s capable of being at this point. So it sounds pretty obvious that your children’s time with her should not be in the context of caregiving so much as it is just quality time. You know, like perhaps she can babysit for you while you have a task to do in the house because you understand that. When she is taking care of your children, it doesn’t matter if you’re an escape room or at a movie theater or down the hall, if something goes wrong, she’s going to call on you. At least then everyone can be comforted knowing that you’re right there. I also think in terms of the anxiety your daughter experiences, separation anxiety. Your mother may have some anxiety, too, around not being able to meet what she sees as your child’s needs being, either because she’s worried about her having the separation anxiety and how she feels being away from you or if certain situations such as seeing this little one get hurt cause her anxiety and she just goes into panic and can’t deal with it. So there’s something else that she mentioned about wanting to repair the relationship with your mother and like her, always kind of doing things her way. She’s always had her way of doing things. She had her way of doing things which she raised you. That’s not going to change here. I think you just have to disabuse yourself of the notion that she can be your caregiver. But I think you should also. Perhaps consider having a little bit more empathy for your mother. It’s disappointing that somebody who I think many of us, you know, the default person that we think, you know, can care for my children is the person who cared for me when I was a child. Your mother is, however, many years older now than she was when she was taking care of you. And you don’t know what anxiety or what a bang me looks like from her perspective when she was taking care of you, these might have been things that were always hard for her to deal with. And now she has a lifeline because these aren’t her kids. I just encourage you to not only do as Elizabeth and as I’m sure also say and find another babysitter, but maybe just kind of rethink some of your feelings or just take some time, considering how you feel about your mother and how she’s reacting to these things and how she’s feeling about caregiving. And maybe you all should be having some conversations about that, too, as opposed to it being a matter of trying to correct her. What is she feeling that she doesn’t feel confident taking care of a bruised knee and going to get ice cream? I think you all should have a dialogue that starts there.
S1: Yeah. This question, how do I go about repairing this relationship with my mom while getting her to look at some of her patterns more closely? You repair the relationship definitely by not demanding that she look at her patterns more closely. That’s not going to do shit. And, you know, I understand the tone of this letter. I have felt this tone when people I have been counting on to give me, like, just the tiniest bit of break from, you know, these kids are five and two in this letter that’s extremely demanding ages. When that falls through for whatever reason, that disappointment is so intense and all you wanted was just like two fucking hours away from your children to do anything. And when you don’t have it, it’s like crushing. And so I get that. But that’s all the more reason not to put that weight on this relationship, which is important to you for totally different reasons. Your relationship with your mother should not depend on whether she’s a good babysitter. It should depend on all the other things that it has to do with. So, yes, fire her kindly. I mean, what we mean by that is just don’t ask her to do it anymore. Don’t actually say you’re fired. But yes, find other things, things that you do with her and with the kids might be a great thing to start with because that allows the separation anxiety not to be an issue at all. It also allows your mom to see you calmly and purposefully dealing with the little things that have been giving her anxiety and stressing her out about interactions with your daughter. Maybe it paves the way for her to be able to be with them on her own in the future. Maybe it doesn’t. Who knows? But that’s just a really simple thing. That is what the tenor of your encounters with your mother and your children should be for a while at least. And I love the idea that Jamilah proposes of thinking a little bit more about how your mom feels, taking it a little easier on her and even starting these conversations about, you know, what it is that that is giving her trouble. But I also think it’s OK to let that lie if you want to let that lie for now to just try this new way of all of you being together, see if that sort of helps some of these things go away and helps her get a little more comfortable in this scenario than she currently is. There might be time. It might be a time to have those discussions a little bit later. It might not. But either way, I think that the first step is changing your expectations. And as Elizabeth said, stop expecting that this thing will get better when really the the fault is yours for not changing the thing that, you know, isn’t working. And I hope things do get better because it’s really frustrating. And I hope you find a great babysitter in your neighborhood for the times you want to go out. I mean, one thing that helps is that it’s not this is not a situation where you are depending on grandma for five days a week of child care so you can work. This is occasional dates and hopefully that is something that you can find and afford in your current living situation so that you don’t have to put this weight on her. All right, listener, thank you for writing in. Really sympathize with your situation. I also sympathize with your mom and I hope you guys can can work this out. We love an update on how it’s going. We love updates. Folks, update us. Elizabeth gave us her update so I could tell her she was wrong. But probably it turns out she was right. Mom and dad, it’s safe Dotcom. So I can do the same for you. Anyone else out there if you want some parenting advice? Well, that’s what we do. Will it be excellent? We don’t know. Email us and mom and dad at Slate Dotcom. Let’s move on to recommendation’s. Elizabeth, what do you got for us?
S2: I am recommending this series of kind of like activity books. The one we’re currently working on is called Draw the World’s. But there’s also like Draw Africa, draw Europe, draw the USA, draw the world specifically is about continents and oceans. And then each of the subsequent ones is about learning. Like all the states in the United States, all of the countries in Africa, all the countries in Europe. You draw them out, it gives you kind of simple instructions starting on one corner at the bottom and drawing the hole and labeling a whole area. And not only has it been great for the kids, it’s been great for me. Just we’ve completed Draw the world and draw Europe and draw the USA. And we’re currently working on Dry Africa. And it’s just a really fun way. It really gets kind of that hand eye coordination involving like the drawing. And when you look at a map, then you kind of remember what you drew. And because you’re taking the time, you remember the names of all the places. And so we’re doing that as a family and it’s it’s just super fun. So draw the world love.
S1: It sounds very wholesome, very new, campy. People are going to eat that up Jamilah. What about
S3: you? I am recommending quarantine has as Dan and Elizabeth know, I am getting over covid. I had a very, very mild case. I am fully vaccinated and tested positive last week after losing smell and taste only had to deal with some fatigue and low grade fever. But otherwise I have been fine. And for like eight days nobody has been allowed to need me. And I don’t know how you know, I’m particularly issuing this edict to mothers, but all who are stressed and overwhelmed, if you can figure out a way to be in the business of not being needed for seven to 10 days, like, no, I miss my daughter. God knows I miss my daughter. But like, nobody has asked me for shit. I don’t think this has happened this long in my adult life. And so mom’s just like cough and pretend you have covered and go hide for a week. Thank me later.
S1: I don’t get covid. But if you get that.
S3: Yeah, I don’t recommend covid. But you know, she’s
S2: recommending the vaccine and
S3: absolutely. Double header.
S1: All right. Great one. We’re glad you’re feeling better and we are glad you are back with us. We missed you last. Yeah, I am recommending a extremely fun activity that we did this past weekend. The Cat Video Festival, a yearly event, a motion picture shown in motion picture theaters around the country that is nothing but cat videos. Just an hour and a half of cat videos. This year’s cat video of House was fantastic. And it had some artsy cat videos. It had some two seconds, silly cat videos. It had the cat lawyer from Texas. You remember the cat lawyer, the guy who went on the zoom has a cat. He was on there. Everything you love about cats in video form, you can find information about it at cat video, fast dotcom that will show you what theaters it’s playing in. It’s playing all over the country, different theaters for limited engagements over the next couple of months. I will also say that the map on the website is not is not complete. We found a theater that wasn’t even on their website that was showing it closer to us. So look around your local theaters. If you’ve got like a weird local theater that shows artsy stuff, it’s totally possible they’re doing a couple of showings of the Cat Video Festival the next couple of weeks. Take your kids. You will not be sorry.
S3: Oh, and they’re doing it. And a lot of Alamo theaters, which is always the.
S1: Yes, yeah. Alamo is the classic. So if you’re in a place where you feel comfortable going to movie theater, you feel like you can mask up if you need to. If your theaters are socially distancing, if you feel like they need to do that and you want to go to a theater for a magical movie experience, do this.
S2: I’m finding my theater
S3: and I’m definitely going right. This sounds like the most fun.
S1: All right. That’s it for our show one last time. If you’ve got a question for us, email us at my dad’s site, dot com or post the Slate Parenting Facebook group so we can get for the show. Just search for Slate Parenting. My Dad Are Fighting is produced by Morgan Flannery for Elizabeth New Camp and Jamilah Lemieux. I’m Dan Kois. Hazlet purposelessness, thank you so much for joining us. We are so grateful to you for your support. It makes Slate Dotcom run and it makes this podcast possible. So here’s our bonus segment. A listener recently posted on the Slate parenting Facebook page asking for people’s thoughts on children’s birthday parties. Specifically, can you request no gifts on the invitation? Emily Post thinks it is a major faux pas, but she’s like 200 years old. On the other hand, kids are buried in junk already, and no one likes having to pick up some crappy toy at the last minute. What do you guys think? Can you go no gifts or when people do that to you, are you like, wow, you are tacky.
S3: So I’ve never noticed, like, if someone came to want to name his birthday parties, you know, when we were doing birthday parties in Brooklyn, they were pretty big. We don’t know that many people here. And it’s been a pandemic. So we haven’t had a birthday party in two years. I don’t think I would have been able to somebody coming in without a present, like I think even in my baby shower, there’s an attempt of like we’re going to catalog all the gifts and see who gave what. Make sure you do adequate cards. And so I’m not worried about somebody showing up without something. Like there’s usually a reason for that. If you ask me not to bring a gift, I will not bring a gift. I personally would not do that to my child because I know how much of the magic of the birthday party is getting these presents from lots of other people. And I’m also guilty at times of being the parent who when got the Amazon gift card, because I feel like, hey, the kid can get what they want and if they’ve done a ton of gifts, then the parents are like, well, should I spend my dad’s birthday party? Maybe I need to buy some stuff. They can do that. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people saying no gifts. I don’t think it’s important. I just think it’s a matter of knowing your child because they’re children that can handle that emotionally. I just would not do that to it. I don’t know any child that I would feel comfortable being like, no, it’s to this party, but nobody can bring you anything. Not like I’ve done present. I’ve indicated in the past your presence is a present or whatever. You know, like gifts are welcome. These are her sizes. Don’t feel obligated like I’ve tried to make it feel, you know what I mean? Because I know that there will be people who maybe we don’t have the money this week or maybe I’ve got three kids and I just really don’t have time. Like getting to the party was the thing. And if I have to stop and now buy something, we might not make it there. I understand that, but I don’t know. What do you guys think? Are you all have you all ever had a birthday party in which you said presents don’t matter?
S2: Well, I, I feel like, first of all, it’s like I both want to come to the defense of Emily Post, but also say, like, you don’t have to listen to her. You can do whatever you want and if you want to put it, put no presence on there. Great. And I’ll tell you that so and so. And Emily Post would say, if you receive an invite and it says no gifts do not bring a gift, because the entire point of the Emily Post, you know, like etiquette advice is to make people feel at ease as a host. You are supposed to make people feel at ease. She says don’t put no gifts because you’re never supposed to mention gifts because then it feels like I’m sending you this invitation. I expected that you would get me a gift and now I’m telling you not to do that.
S1: So some twelfth dimensional chess right there.
S2: Yes. Yes, of course. She says, like, you should never mention gifts. I mean, if you follow her wedding registry advice, it’s like you’re not even supposed to tell anyone. They’re supposed to ask someone from the bridal party and then the bridal party is supposed to pass it on. Right. Like, this is crazy. So but I think that as long as you are approaching it in a way that doesn’t make anyone feel awkward. And I think some of the debate around this is because when people say no gifts, it can come across as we have so much stuff we couldn’t possibly want. The thing that you picked out for us and some people’s language like love language is gift giving. And so picking out a gift or your child wants to pick out something. Right, that can feel offensive, like it can feel like, well, I wanted to do this thing for you and now you’re telling me, don’t do this thing. And I think, you know, the other thing is, like Jamilah said, what about what the child like teaching our children to to give a gift when you want to give a gift or the right way to do that, the right way to say thank you for a gift like those kind of opportunities. That being said, if you for any reason do not want gifts, I think it’s it’s perfectly fine to just say don’t bring gifts. If someone then brings a gift, you cannot be rude about it or refuse it. That would you know, you need to stomp
S1: on it, throw it to the floor.
S2: I mean, we tend to not do birthday parties like we did a couple when they were really little that were more just like opportunities for us to get our friends with babies together. But because I, I don’t like to have, you know, a lot of stuff and we try to kind of keep the amount of, like toys and things to a minimum or controllable. We tend to just do activities instead. And if people ask, you know, about. Gifts, we will tell them, you know, this is what our kid is actually wanting or this is what we want our kid to have or don’t do this, you know, make a charitable donation, like we are honest about that. But we’ve just kind of avoided it by not really having big, big parties and then not receiving a whole bunch of gifts.
S1: Speaking of a 12 dimensional chess answer to this question, my is not even giving your kid a birthday party is incredible. Great job. All right. I’m going to I’m going to speak frankly here because this is plus so I don’t have to censor myself. Birthday presents are bullshit for little kids and everyone should do no gifts. All it does is put an enormous amount of stress on the parents. It creates this insane target economy of just millions of dollars pouring through target for last minute crap that people bought on the way to the party. Plus they have to buy wrapping paper, then you have to wrap it in the car, probably endangering other drivers and then you get there and the kid opens it. Either way, they already have it. B, they’ll never play with it once. C. The very unlikely event, they love it then the parents are just like, great, now I have to play with this fucking talk about them forever. And so I I’m such a fan of the no gift birthday party and I have an alternative. Longtime listeners may remember I presented this alternative way back when my kids were little. And that alternative is the book exchange. It is the please bring a book. It can be wrapped up, but everyone comes with a book and everyone leaves with a book. So everyone who comes to the party gets the opportunity, if that’s their love language, to bring a present. But everyone also leaves with something. Your house is not overwhelmed with more fucking Legos and there’s a little ceremony that everyone gets to participate in. So you don’t have the nightmare of the party being interrupted by the birthday child actually opening every present in front of everyone, which is also bullshit. And instead, everyone just takes a book, they bring it home. You, the host, wrap a couple extra in case someone forgets or doesn’t have a chance to pick one up. That’s fine. You can specify it can totally be used. It probably should be used. And then what a glorious alternative for everyone. Everyone leaves happy and your house is not overwhelmed with crap.
S2: Can we also get rid of party favor bags? Because I hate them about as much. Agreed. Yeah, like I don’t want the twelve erasers and the chocolate. You put it in a bag and headed to my child.
S1: If I wanted my child to have a candy bar I would just give them a fucking candy bar.
S2: Yeah. I mean they’re already eating a bunch of crap at your party.
S1: So Jamilah are you dismayed by our hatred of birthdays and and happiness?
S3: But I will say I don’t believe in kids opening presents at the party. I think that’s in just incredibly poor taste.
S1: God, people do that a lot.
S2: Oh, I have. Yeah. I think I
S3: haven’t been to maybe though maybe in New York it was just out of style like but I don’t remember any kids opening their presence at birthday parties like I haven’t seen that done in a really long time. I think that’s so important because sometimes presents are underwhelming because somebody was just doing it out of obligation and just, you know, and other times it’s a duplicate gift or whatever. But I will say coming home, you know, we never had the parties at our house then my daughter having like, I didn’t have to buy toys for, like, years, you know, like they were just like the birthday toys. Like it was just like, oh, let’s take something from the birthday Biles. I love the book idea. I think that it might be better once a kid gets the third or fourth grade. Yeah, yeah. No, I do think that in five or six, you know, especially somebody who is the new reader or may not be a super confident reader and who, you know, three, four or five requires somebody to read to them. More often than not, it may not be as compelling as something that you can hand to them that they can entertain themselves with. But I do like that idea for bigger kids. And I would totally do something like that with Nyima for maybe her ninth and tenth birthday.
S2: We haven’t been in the school system here in the US, but it seems like our friends in Florida for a while it was like because the whole class had to be invited to all the part. It was like every weekend there was so many school and they like then you’re just going to all the parties and everybody’s buying each other gifts. Like if you have a party, everyone has to be about. It just seemed completely insane because it ate up so much of people’s time too. And here are parties not drop up. So the in the Netherlands, which is really where we did the birthday party thing, you invited the same number of people as the age you were turning. That was just like the rule. You went and you did an activity and it was very like the way they did things was very specific. But everybody just kind of knew, like we only got to invite five kids or six kids.
S1: So really secret cultural norms in the Netherlands and everyone just. Yeah, just crazy.
S2: Crazy. So they are, you know, like when we had parties there, they also made a registry at the toy store and all the gifts were under like ten year old. And you just went and picked something out of the box. And I forgot
S1: about the ten
S2: year old, ten year old and the box. So you you didn’t ever pick out the gift. You just went and bought something from the kid’s toy box. I mean, it was just so it was just nice, like and all the parties were drop off. The parents never stayed. So it was also like our gift to you for coming to our party is, you know, three or four hours of you don’t have to have
S1: I won’t say there is a certain age at which that becomes insane, like when we had Harpe, maybe Lyra’s birthday party at a playground and it was in the area where you had to invite everyone and somehow a bunch of parents decided it must be a drop off party. And so was us, like me, Alere, one other parent and twenty two kids in a playground by a busy street. And we don’t even have these kids. And that was like a nightmare. So, you know, use your use your best judgment. But the ten year old rule was great. I yes, I forgot all about how you got in the Netherlands. It’s just everyone understands that if you’re getting a gift for a kid, it’s never over 10 euros.
S2: And they also open the gift one on one. So when you arrive at the party, the person, Grete. You at the door, they open the gift, they say thank you to your face and the gift is put away. And it was like very you never orderly and regimented.
S1: Hard to
S2: believe. And you take your seat in a circle and you wait. Yes. Right.
S1: Then everyone agrees on what the activity is based on the engagement bouldering. Yeah. All right. Well, I’m glad we solved this for everyone. Everyone now knows birthday gift suck. Unless your kid really loves gifts, then it’s OK to get them. But for God’s sake, don’t open them during the party. Thank you, Slate. Plus members, your membership is a gift to us. We really appreciate it. Of course, I would never say that’s bullshit. Thank you for listening and we’ll talk to you next week.