Mom and Dad Are Fighting: Parent Under the Influence Edition

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate Plus membership. The following podcast contains explicit language.

S2: Hello and welcome to Mom and Dad are fighting Slate’s parenting podcast for Thursday October 30 first. The parents under the influence Ed..

S3: I’m Dan Coates. I’m an editor and writer at Slate and the author of the book How to Be a family. And I’m the dad of Lyra who’s 14 and Harper who’s twelve.

S4: My name is Jimmy Lemieux. I’m a writer and a contributor to care and feeding Slate’s weekly Parenting column. I am the mother of Naima who is 6 and we’re based in Inglewood California. I’m Rebecca Lavoy. I’m a journalist and podcast here in New Hampshire and I am mom to Henry who is 18. Teddy who is 16 and a half and my stepdaughter Lily who is 19 and this is Rebecca’s final show as a regular host.

S2: She has assured us she’ll be rejoining us from time to time over the future but she has had. We’ll have you as she is leaving us for the glorious grind of the Daily New Hampshire news cycle.

S5: Rebecca I’m just gonna ask you a quick question to commemorate your years on this show and the many many many wonderful episodes that you put in.

S6: What was the worst ever fail that you presented on your show. Just the stupidest dumbest most terrible fail you ever pulled off.

S7: Well it’s more of a compilation of a thematic fail because listening back to the show sometimes I realize this sounds familiar. I think I’ve said this before and it usually is oh shit I didn’t know this thing was happening in my son usually Teddy because he’s younger one in school and has more like stuff I need to know like I didn’t know that meeting was happening so I just blew it off. I didn’t know this concert was happening so I almost missed it. I didn’t know this like a regular thing that all these other parents seemed to know is happening so I had to make some sort of last minute scramble just to like do them better. So that’s sort of the theme for me I always feel like out of the loop like I like I’m not the adult in the room when it comes to parenting my kids and just knowing what the hell is going on. So that would be the one I think I’d point to the most.

S8: That’s very in the spirit of Mom and Dad are fighting a show that launched with one of our original co-hosts Allison Benedikt confessing that she never opens her mail and therefore as a result she often finds out about stuff like parent teacher conferences three months after they happen. That’s right.

S6: I will know it’s Rebecca that several Facebook commenters noted that your triumph from a couple weeks ago where you discovered that Pastor you had assembled all the stuff you needed financial aid yes had in fact been priest aged one year before. That’s right. Actual passed you claiming as a triumph on the show that you did that thing that Lily forgot it.

S9: Yeah. Then I heard it and it was a trap forget. I am so stupid.

S7: I mean layers literal documented audio evidence on the Internet of exactly how out of the loop and stupid I am and all the dumb tricks I have to do just to make it through my very basic life.

S10: It’s really really amazing. And it was funny cause even as I was saying that I was like wow this really feels familiar coming out of my mouth I don’t know why it just feels familiar and yes it was in fact because I had a year before said proudly Oh I’m putting all this stuff in a place I can find it in a year. That is how stupid I am.

S6: Now you all know the cat is out of the bag or you’re just like smart enough to like create that audio trail as part of the extensive breadcrumbs you do in order to get back to those these things. Correct. Correct. We all miss you Rebecca. We’ll be very happy to have you back any old time but hopefully the removal of this show from your weekly life will make it a little more likely that you won’t forget Teddy’s next confirmation or something.

S10: Yeah I already forgot about signing up for parent teacher conference. The boat salesman that what I just saw up like thank you to everyone who has signed up for your car and it already did it again.

S8: Yeah good times today on the show we’ve got a question about imbibing while parenting plus a question about a grandpa who has advancing Alzheimer’s. How do you talk to your kids about that plus triumphs and fails and recommendations. And of course happy Halloween everyone. What are your kids dressing up as for Halloween this year. Harper is going as Megan Rapinoe and Lyra is dressing as Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service stripper home.

S11: Well I have to say we usually go not all the way out but I usually do homemade costumes and so this is the first time in years that I’m not doing once I feel a little bit sad about it but it just felt like too much to pull together this year. And then my daughter came home with somewhat unclear instructions. I feel like any official communication needs to be that only electronically.

S12: On paper you cannot tell kids things they’re not going to deliver the message accurately. So she told me that they were supposed to dress at school as community helpers like somebody who does something in the community that they would like to do. I would like so like a doctor or nurse and say yeah or you know a scientist. I said OK well do you want to be like Katherine Johnson from hidden figures because she was a scientist and she got all excited about that. And so I get her vintage looking dress on eBay and some little stuff to go with it. And then the clarification I get from the teachers that they are doing college or career days so they can either come in college gear or as the career that they want to be someday. So even though I considered just like abandoning ship and starting over I don’t feel like it. And so Naima is going is what she wants to be in the future which is a woman from the 60s who worked. And it is this has to is very cute. And that’s that. And so after school she’s going to be one of the Descendents humor.

S2: I don’t know if any of your kids into descendents that they it’s my Harper just it wasn’t the tail end of the right age to watch the first descendents maybe it’s I have a vague knowledge of that property.

S11: We’re all in on the descendants. There have been three endowments at this point that are not going to make another one. Because when the lead actors camera was passed away but it’s about the descendants of Disney princesses and villains as teenagers doing all types of crazy teenager stuff.

S13: And it’s very cute. And I’m going to present in our household.

S2: You guys are your kids dressing up are they too old.

S10: There is like a grand tradition of like nice teenager trick or treating in my town and Teddy usually dresses up especially going to dress up again probably repeat. He told me his costume from last year which I think that he didn’t do it on purpose but he basically dresses up as Pony Boy from the outsiders like vintage leather jacket white t shirts licks his hair back and his hair is so big now that he can make like a kick ass pompadour. So.

S14: So he basically wants to grow up to be a great area sexy and S.E. Hinton. Boy it is beautiful.

S6: All right now let’s do some tribes or fails. I would love to start today. My continuing fail is that I have continued to fail the world series tickets. As it turned out the Nationals lost every single home game in just terrible fashion. So in a way it was like a gift I gave my daughter not to take her to the World Series but this week I have a actual triumph.

S8: So I don’t know if you too or if our listeners heard anything about this but I had a book come out this fall. Oh yeah. Yeah. So I’ve been all over the place promoting it but the publicity tour is now done it’s officially over. I’m totally officially sick of myself but I’ve been thinking back on this experience a little bit and especially in the way that I’ve talked to the kids about it and they participated in a few events and you know we’re a little bit involved they recorded a podcast about it for Slate but in general I’ve been a little bit leery of sharing too much response to the book with the kids like it’s already weird enough that this thing exists with the idea of like people reading it and responding to it and then them having to like wrestle it that seems hard like they definitely don’t need to hear the bad reviews like the person I’m good reads who said Dan is so much fun as a podcast or but as a parenting writer.

S10: John thanks for that but I’m sorry am I laughing too much.

S8: No that’s fine. But also I don’t even really want to share like the good ones. It just seems weird as well but on Slate parenting Facebook page the other day a wonderful parenting locus of information and advice. Someone posted something that I didn’t decide to read to Lyra. I was listening Jessica and she wrote I listened to the audio book a couple of weeks ago. I love Lyra. She is my hero. She’s going to lead an amazing life. I still think about her a lot how she didn’t have a choice but went along with her family. When I don’t feel like doing some adult thing thing I think of Lyra and pretend Dan is making me do the thing. So I read that to her. It can be hard to break through liras like teenager carapace but when I read this to her she like blushed with joy and she stammered out just how totally delighted she was by that comment and then a few times over the next like 10 or 15 minutes I would just see her just like think of it again and grin. Year to year and I just almost never see that kind of like unabashed delight out of her. She’s 14. So anyways. I’m saying that for now reading this Facebook poster and also you know like having an experience and writing the book and all that that felt like a triumph I felt like the ending triumph of this whole saga. And it felt really great. That’s awesome.

S10: It is awesome. I once had my kids read a supercar of all of the worst reviews of my podcast on my podcast. I liked it. They loved the assignment like they put together the montage themselves with music and stuff they loved it and I loved seeing all the horrible things about me that people had written and I found that super fun.

S14: So maybe someday your kids could do the same. Did we not recruit kids to read everything that people posted about you on Facebook this week. Oh yeah. Oh they can and should. It would be very funny. All right Rebecca try for fail.

S10: I could you say fail for posting something on the Facebook group that turned into a fucking disaster. I didn’t think it was going to be so complicated. But anyway I mean honestly though we’d still do get so many of the same questions about should my kid wear X costume for Halloween. And the point I was trying to make and I will make it again is that it should not be that complicated. If you feel like you have to dig and find a million articles that explain why it’s okay for your kid to wear a certain costume then why don’t you just air on the side of saying no and picking something else. It’s actually not that complicated anyway but to be a little bit more big picture and a style. I just want to say my triumph is answering an email from former Slate person Steve Licht high back in early 2017 asking me if I wanted to guest host and Mom and Dad are fighting and saying yes which I was not going to do. My kids actually talked me into saying sure you should totally do that you are judging and you love giving unsolicited advice that sounds like you should try it. I am so happy that I did because the last almost three years has been so rewarding being part of this crew and part of this team and I have just learned a ton. You know that I am not the same as other parents and that other parents do it differently than I do and it all works out for the most part we are all doing the best we can it just been really rewarding and wonderful thing you know getting to know the two of you and getting to know gave and Cabell and having these conversations weekly. It’s just a big triumph professionally and personally for me that I took the chance of saying yes I could perhaps give advice so thanks to everyone to L.A. for letting me try and triumph to me for saying yes that time back in the day for listening to our kids just this once exactly this one time while it’s been a triumph for us obviously as well.

S6: So thank you. Thank you Rebecca. We will miss you. Jamila what about you try and fail.

S15: So I have an accidental triumph last night at dinner. I looked at my phone and I pretended that I had gotten the message and I said oh mama looks like I got a message from someone at schools or something. Then went on to say that I should know about. And it was like it seemed obvious that I was kidding. But like her face changed and I saw that like clearly something had happened at school. And so instead of simply saying well there was no text message but is there something you want to tell me. I just continued to pretend that there was a message that I had and I looked in my phone. I said Okay I am. Who would be sending me a message like this. And she said oh I said Naima I already know what happened. And she’s realized that it turns out that she’s been having some issues with her teacher. Mm hmm mm hmm.

S11: Yeah I tripped and fell in line landed on an issue and we ended up having a really what I think was a pretty productive conversation about it. And you know I let her know that her parents have her back when she’s made a mistake and when she hasn’t. And that we can advocate on her behalf if need be and will but that we really need to be made abreast of what’s going on at school. And if she’s had an uncomfortable moment with the teacher you know that that doesn’t mean that the teacher is a bad person or that she’s a bad student. And it’s OK. And sometimes you need to talk through those things and you may not feel comfortable doing that on your own or you know saying hey you know Miss So-and-so I didn’t like the way that you spoke to me or I feel a little uncomfortable about some languages if you’re using in class etc. And that’s where you know mom and dad step in. So where I’m not trolling my child is trying to make her uncomfortable for no reason I would not have found out that she’s actually going through something in school. So it’s an unintended triumph. But also now I have to figure out how to get her to a place where she feels comfortable opening up about these things without me having to badger her yea or fool her.

S6: That’s really interesting. I I honestly have never even thought of that as like a accidental or on purpose parenting technique and I’m very impressed with your very high stakes bluffing through that experience like.

S8: I think I would have cracked at some point but you didn’t and you got like the good shit out of your kid. That’s very impressive here. All right let’s talk some business before we move on to our listener questions. Jamilah and I are coming to Miami for a live show on November 20 3rd Mom and Dad are fighting live comes to the Miami Book Fair. We’ll be joined by Pamela Paul from the New York Times Book Review and the author of How to Raise a Reader and add a man’s back. The author of the bestselling go the fuck to sleep and fuck. Now there are two of you. We’re gonna have a lively discussion plus answer some questions. I think it’ll be super fun. It is a free show a free four o’clock in the afternoon show so you can bring some kids. You can hire a babysitter and make a day of it. But we really want to meet all our our Southeast Florida listeners. So come on by 4:00 p.m. Saturday November twenty third Miami Dade College part of that Miami Book Fair particulars and information go to sleep.

S15: Dot com slash lie and Dan and I are gonna go to the club. Oh yes. Going to the club. Pack your heels. Click on fashion of a couple new dresses.

S6: We’re gonna go turn up so my understanding is that Jamila has invited all attendees to the club with yes that are going to the club. Yes I guess right.

S16: She’s going to be there. Daddy’s gonna be hosting then maybe a situation.

S6: I just hope I run into Dwayne Wade at the club. Also while you’re on Slocum I’m going to Slate dot com slash live. Go sign up for Slate’s parenting newsletter. I write it every week. It is a little e-mail that I write to now.

S8: I think 4500 of my closest friends. I also inform you about all the stuff we publish our new mom and dad or finding episodes and care and feeding columns and all our other parenting content but also usually I just tell a story or crack a joke or give you some other fun e-mail to arrive in your inbox at 4 p.m. on Thursday afternoon sign up at Slate dot com slash parenting e-mail and check us out on Facebook just search for Slate parenting on Facebook. It is a really fun community where we all yell at Rebecca about her opinions. Yeah it’s completely delightful.

S10: Checking out each other about my opinions.

S6: Oh yeah. Just a lot of yelling and Slate Plus today we will be talking about a fantastic parenting fail a fail that puts all our fails to shame with our good friend Faith Smith executive producer of Slate live and occasional guest host of this very podcast. Here’s a quick sneak peek of what you’ll hear if you have Slate Plus.

S17: So I did Benjamin go to school today and she responded that no. He’s on a break. He was not on a break.

S8: To hear segments like that and to get ad free podcasts sign up for Slate Plus that Slate’s membership program is a great way to support all that we do for 35 bucks for your first year. You can help cover the costs of producing this show and your other favorite Slate podcasts and of course in return you’ll get extended ad free versions of Mom and Dad are fighting. Plus other lesser shows and a ton of other great benefits so support Mom or Dad or fighting support. Slate go to Slate slash mom and dad plus and join Slate Plus today.

S18: Oh OK onward we have to listener questions this week. This first question was e-mailed to us so it could be read by the one and only the fabulous Shirley art.

S19: Dear Mom and Dad I’m a mother and a two parent house where we both work full time gigs. We have a three year old and almost 1 year old to maintain a healthy lifestyle. My husband and I don’t drink more than three nights per week. But it turns out the nights I do have a few beers make parenting not only more tolerable but fun. For example my 3 year old wants to brush his own teeth. This irritates me usually but with drinks I’m able to be present and enjoy the process all of a sudden. What would have been a fight is now easy and fun. He wants another story. Guess who’s got creativity waiting in the wings. Maybe through dinner on the floor. I empathize more than condemn and I got time and patients to clean it up and give kisses what makes a good modern parent. We hear we should be slow to anger quick to listen engaged in stories and creative time less attuned to schedules and more tuned to our kids. Turns out I’m much better at that after a few and I can imagine many other parents feel the same way. For some listeners this might be more pot than alcohol so where do you all fall on the question of parental imbibing or smoking signed tense. Wishing I was tipsy Mm hmm.

S10: Well I have talked about this on the show many times. I fall on the I probably drink too much side of not just parenting but just like life in general. You know three times a week it’s good for you. That’s not bad. I feel like a good week is if I don’t have a glass of wine two of the week. So that being said kudos to you for being aware and for thinking about it and being thoughtful about it. But to me this question is less about you know whether or not it’s okay that sometimes you have beer and then interact with your kids than it is about what you are describing because what you are describing is actually kind of I think you’re learning more about your capacity as a parent than you think you are. The problem here I mean it’s obviously like I could get into questions of substance stuff. I could tell you like all of this sort of boilerplate stuff about like if you need a drink in order to be you know a calm and better person perhaps you should look at the drinking. I’m just gonna put that aside and leave that to the people who know more about that than I do and I’m going to tell you this. What you’re describing is your parenting style when you are more relaxed and when you are more present and when you are not worried about the other things that are swirling around which is sort of they affect that obviously alcohol has on you. You’re describing being happier as a parent. So what I wonder is are you thinking about ways that you can get there besides having a few drinks. Are you thinking about how the feedback loop of being sort of happy and having a good time with an interaction say when your kid throws food on the floor and you’re not super angry or you’re just like UPS and then you clean it up and give him a kiss. That is like a feedback loop that you are expressing to me I’m assuming you haven’t been drinking before you wrote this email but you’re expressing it to us in your email that you feel good about that kind of parenting that you feel like that’s the way you’d rather be that you know when you’re not on edge when you’re not distracted when you can be present. It’s good. So you’ve kind of drawn the line there yourself assuming that you don’t have you know what some people would call like a true addiction where you like you know can’t make it through the day without drinking or you can’t function without using a substance assuming that’s not what you’re talking about which I don’t think it is. Given your email I would just look for ways to let that feedback loop itself inform your parenting in the future. Remind yourself on a daily basis of how much happier and easier and lighter and more fun the experience of parenting is not when you’ve had six or seven drinks but when you are chilled out when you feel like you can take a moment as it comes when you have a situation where your kid wants to brush his teeth himself and by the way. Good for him. Three years old wants it himself. Who cares if he’s doing a terrible job. It’s amazing that he wants to if you can figure out a way to just pretend that’s how you feel in the moment and the nights that you haven’t been drinking. Perhaps that feedback loop will be the reward that will make it stick. Not the pleasure that you get from alcohol in those moments because it’s not the alcohol that’s giving you pleasure in the moment. It’s the sense of feeling like I handle that better than I would have otherwise. So try to get there without it all the time. And some of the time don’t do as an experiment try to get there without it and let the feeling and the positive experience that results which it will come from that more laid back relaxed present kind of parenting. I think if you really try and dedicate yourself to getting there as many days as possible you’re probably going to find yourself relating less with drinks equals good parent versus when I chill the fuck out equals good parent. That’s what I hear when I listen to you and that’s my advice for you.

S15: I think that’s like a perfect answer.

S12: Rebecca somehow its drinking brings the couple or this parent to a place where they can be the sort of parents that they would rather be without the inhibitions without the stress without whatever’s blocking them from being carefree enough to indulge in a Philly session of messy tooth brushing with the 3 year old that would otherwise be annoying or stressful. And no you don’t want to be in a position where you have to have alcohol to get to that place. I agree that you should look for ways to identify what the stressors are even if it’s just checking in with yourself and saying hey why does it bother me so much that he wants to you know dip his fries in ketchup instead of letting me put them you know all over again in a meter fashion.

S11: Why can’t I just be free in this moment like I would be if I’d had a cocktail or two.

S15: In addition to doing that work however might I recommend marijuana and letter writer you make reference to it and you say you know some people may get this feeling that I get from a few drinks with pot and as one of those people I will say that being a conscientious cannabis user has enhanced the quality of my parenting in terms of I think the experience that I have in taking care of my child and at times the experience that my child has with me it lessens my anxiety.

S11: It allows me to put some of my stressors to the side. I have to do the important work of making sure that I don’t always have to use marijuana to be in the presence of my child which I certainly do not. And also measuring just how much I’m using and how my using it and then what method of consumption am I looking to. And it’s a science you know and everyone is different it doesn’t work well for everyone. And you know years ago when the first wave of pot moms who were largely you know upper middle class white suburban and not the first wave of marijuana using mothers of course but women who were coming forward and you know being interviewed on talk shows or from magazines and saying yes you know I may not look like the stereotypical marijuana user and you know forget what do you think about stoners. It has helped me to be a better parent. I like a lot of other folks laugh that off you know felt some resentment over this particular group of people being able to have the ability to talk about those things in public without concern that child protective services would be at their homes the next day looking for them or that they would be pulled over for suspicion of having marijuana because of the way they looked and that they could just be free and happy with the thing and they also sound like some bullshit to me that it made them better parents. And then I had a kid. And so I deeply relate to this challenge that you’re having but again I can’t help but to stress how important is it to listen to Rebecca’s advice more so than mine. But you can definitely see Rebecca’s and figure out how you can get to this more euphoric feeling without having to look to that substance. And there’s also I mean there’s lavender oils and all the stuff that my parents would have encouraged me to try before looking into marijuana. You know there are other herbs and things that you can use for stress. It could be having a cup of peppermint tea before the kids come home and could be meditating. It could be yoga but it sounds like there are some things that are going on in your life that are making it hard for you to do the most important job that you’ve ever signed up to have been addressing them will certainly make your walk a lot easier than looking to something outside of yourself to help you get through the day.

S5: It is really fun to like joke about those T-shirts that people selling out See that’s a suburban white mom are like talk about mommy juice and all that. But like this letter with it’s like sort of desperate clenched teeth devil may care joyous ness read as much like a letter from an incipient alcoholic as I’ve ever seen. And I have no idea actually how dependent you are. Letter writer on the few beers the few glasses of wine that you have three nights a week. But I like Rebecca and like Jamila I am deeply uncomfortable with the idea that you must medicate yourself in order to be happy with your parenting. I think that that’s a real warning sign.

S20: And I also think that that that raises a bunch of difficult scenarios inside your household when you have a 3 year old and a 1 year old which are the exact ages when you frequently need to exercise really good judgment in dealing with them.

S5: You are in a two parent household. You said you mentioned your husband maybe one of your shrinks and the other one doesn’t so someone’s always sober. Well like I don’t want to be totally alarmist but like if if each of your three glasses deep into the night and there is like a real problem or a real emergency it is tricky to handle those things with a baby and a 3 year old when both of you are drunk like that is hard. And while I have often been a big fan of the occasional parenting while drunk I have found that the ways that it makes me freer and easier also coincide with the ways it makes me less reliable and more likely to do something that I later feel like oh that was slightly stupid.

S18: And those things often go hand-in-hand and the more you start thinking about drinking as the key to your healthy parenting even as tongue in cheek as he maybe intended for this to be presented I think the more likely you are to run into situations where the drinking doesn’t actually help your parenting that much. It makes it a little bit harder while making you view yourself as slightly more fun but that the ramifications afterwards get tougher and tougher as you go on which is all to say Rebecca is right on her final show. Listen to Rebecca find other ways to give yourself this free ness and ease with yourself with your environment with your family and with parenting. Then when you are that person the occasional night when one or both of you has a couple of drinks is like a fun departure from the norm not the norm.

S7: Yeah I mean just practice as is the thing. The question I probably get the most often from people who write to me directly about this podcast is how are you so gel with your kids. How do you not yell. How did you do that. How did you stop yelling. The answer is that I stopped. It was just as much of a practice as anything else. And it was fucking hard. I wanted to yell like I wanted to fall back into the old pattern of being tense about things that I now realize in retrospect didn’t matter. But the bottom line is it is the practice that makes it work like we expect our kids to learn things through positive reinforcement. We expect our dogs to learn things through positive reinforcement. But as parents were often just not willing to do that work and reinforce ourselves positively for better parenting practices and being more chill when a kid who’s 3 dropped something on the floor like that is a practice that’s worth doing because your kids 3 but you still have 4 5 6 7 and 8 to throw and you’re not going to be done with the food on the floor.

S14: You know bad teeth brushing stuff like any so you need to be that mom every night. Yeah the three nights you drink or try to try to try to you know is perfect for God sakes don’t give up on the idea that the other days you could never be that mom. Exactly. Yeah.

S8: All right. Thank you for reaching out. Letter writer we hope this was helpful. Once again if you have questions for us please email us at mom and dad at Slate dot com and we’ll do our best to answer them. Let’s move on to question number two. Read once again by Sasha Lenard.

S21: Dear Mom and Dad I have a 3 year old and a 4 month old and we live near my parents. My 3 year old has a close relationship with my parents and they care for her a few hours a week. We usually spend some time together as a whole family once a week as well. They actually moved to be near me and my husband a couple years ago because my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. They’re both in their 60s and pretty physically healthy from my dad’s disease is moving slowly so they live independently with my mom as the main caregiver for my dad as my daughter gets older and my dad declines. My husband and I are having trouble explaining the situation to her for quite a while. They had the best relationship. In fact we found that a healthy 3 year old and a 65 year old with Alzheimer’s have similar senses of humor and joy in doing the same thing over and over again. But now my dad is not simply forgetful. He is overwhelmed by lots of noise and movement has trouble following more than two step instructions and processes decisions really slowly. What’s more he is totally enchanted by the baby it seems to be therapeutic for him to sit with the sleeping baby on his lap or to interact when the baby is calm and smiling at other times he loves running around the yard and being goofy with their daughter but her general noise and movement level have been bothering him lately so he’ll try to avoid her. She is starting to act out around my dad yelling at him and demanding that he do things getting mad when he doesn’t understand and getting jealous of her little brother do you have any advice for explaining this to a kid too young to be logical about it. I’m worried about discussing his overall cognitive decline as well as his preference for the baby. I also haven’t even broached the fact that we are all really sad about this and my dad himself is sad about it sometimes because he has moments of recognizing his own confusion.

S8: Thank you. This is a really really hard. Thank you for writing to us.

S20: I wanted to start on this one because I really relate to this question because we’ve gone through it in two different ways and are still going through it. I think I’ve talked about this a little bit on the show before about my father in law was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia in 2015 and that same year my dad was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s so he had to Grandpa’s about what on each side of the family dealing with different kinds of dementia at different times. Both those guys were and are really fantastic grandpas with great relationships with their grandchildren. But the experience of talking to our kids about it was really different for each of them. My dad lives in Milwaukee. We only see him a couple of times a year and his Alzheimer’s has progressed really slowly even now like 4 years after his diagnosis. He hasn’t really undergone any of those very traditional personality changes. He’s just like a forgetful version of himself. Otherwise he’s mostly unchanged and so because of that because of the relative slowness of the changes and because the girls don’t see him that often they understand what is up with him but it doesn’t really affect their interactions with him that dramatically or that regularly. But for men my father in law it was very different. And it’s this particular experience that makes me most relate to this question. It makes me want to offer some advice be men who the grandkids called sir. That was that the grandpa name. He chose cancer lived. It was great. When Ali was pregnant Lyra she was just like well what do you want your grandpa name to be anyhow. And he goes well they can call me sir. So that was what we did but So Kiki is lived near us for almost aren’t kids entire childhood they lived in P.G. County we saw them all the time you know probably once a week once every two weeks at the at at the least. He was super engaged very active with them very funny and loving but his dementia changed his personality a lot very quickly and within a year or so of his diagnosis he like your father letter writer. He started not to be able to handle noise or busy activity very well he started to get snappish and cranky and very easily upset and this all went in tandem with a very rapid decline of his memory and with the onset of new obsessive behavior and a worse temper and many other issues and it was really hard for all of us to see this happen to holiest ahead and and we all tried to help her mom however we could. Of course one of the hardest parts was finding the language to talk to our kids about it. Now our kids were older at that point than your 3 year old. So we could use logic a little more but I do think the real benefit that we had in talking to them are benefits that you can share and the two things that we learned were be as clear as you possibly can in language that they understand and don’t sugarcoat it and no to use the changes that they see to help them understand how it is that they can have a new and different relationship with this person who still loves them.

S5: So you know for these kids it’s for a 3 year old. It’s something like grandpa is sick. His sickness is in his brain and it’s changing the way that he looks at the world and the way that he behaves. And you can see that Grandpa seems confused sometimes. You can see that sometimes he doesn’t want to run around with you the way that he used to. And that’s not because I’ve been hitting the you did. It’s that the sickness in his brain makes it a lot harder for him to do those things with you. But he still can be very creative and fun with you. But just in quieter ways he still loves you a lot. And so we want to find some quieter things that the two of you can do together because those are easier for his brain. So you and grandpa can draw together you can look at photographs together you can tell stories together or listen to music together you can be silly and fun still. But please remember that he feels happiest when you two are having quiet time together that’s when he’s happiest when his brain makes him feel the happiest.

S20: You may find that there’s different language that you end up using but I think you ought to be clear that the change she’s envisioning is not in her imagination. It’s real that the change will affect what her relationship can be but also it does not mean that she can interact with him anymore. It means that she needs to find ways to help him express his and her creativity together and do that in a different setting than maybe she’s used to and it will require saying this a bunch of times and reminding her a bunch of times and it will require as Rebecca has talked about already in this episode the positive feedback loop of her sitting with him having those quiet experiences and finding them rewarding in their own way for her. And the more that that happens the more that she will buy into that.

S5: The competing with a baby thing is really tough for 3 year old and I’m very curious Jeremy Lin Rebecca if you guys have advice on that specific front because that’s not something that we had to deal with at all.

S22: You know I would and I love everything she said Dan and you know I would add specific to managing the difference in how grandpas interacting with the baby now versus the 3 year old that you know the baby doesn’t make a lot of noise typically. And when a baby does usually they would be handing him or her off to the parent anyway. Typically wear a diaper change or something but that grandpa is very sensitive to noise. So you know like you said there’s a different way that you have to play with him now and you know a different way to engage him. That is still fun and filled with the love that you all have for one another but you know you don’t want Grandpa’s ears to hurt you know you don’t want to scare him. And you know this is just a different type of play. And so it’s not that grandpa likes the baby or loves the baby more than he does you. It’s just that you know he’s got this sensitivity to sound and to you know a lot of movement and running around that he didn’t used to have and so once we get this adjustment correct and you start to adapt to that then they know you know that you’ll find that Grandpa will have a delightful afternoon with you and the baby.

S13: You know in some ways like it was before things got tougher in other ways different but that it’s still a special and important love and that you haven’t done anything wrong and if you accidentally get too excited and started jumping up and down or you scream and Grandpa gets startled you know that don’t think that that he’s not going to care about you anymore and I’m going to love you anymore that we’re gonna be angry at you.

S11: You know we’re gonna be helping you to learn how to be the grandkid that Grandpa needs you to be right now and this is a process and it’s going to be hard for all of us. But you know I just wouldn’t want the little person to internalize any sort of guilt or shame or fear that they you know are doing something wrong for behaving like a 3 year old. All right Rebecca.

S10: Yeah. No I agree. Honestly Dan your answer there is one of the best answers to this question a question like this that I’ve ever heard on this podcast.

S7: I really don’t have anything of substance to add other than you know this is such a tremendous really opportunity also as something to think about and it again worth making the investments to have these conversations with your young child over and over again in terms of really developing a sense of empathy and understanding around the older people in their lives. You know I didn’t have the benefit of having these thoughtful conversations with my parents about the older people in my life when I was a kid and as a result with no information. I just find it really difficult to be around old people like I really had to learn how to be around old people. I really didn’t like learn to be empathetic enjoy the time appreciate the time until I was in my 20s because when I was a kid it was just like keep the kids away from the person who said keep the kids away then why we don’t want to set Grandma off or whatever and so I learned that there was something to be feared that like I could do damage that it was going to be inconvenient for the adults in my life to have me in the room and I you know if I could go back in time and give my own parents advice that would be a part of it. It helped me have a better relationship with the older people in my life because then I also would have a better model for helping my kids have a better relationship with the older people in their life and it only good can come from everything you’re talking about. I’m really sorry to hear about you know your parents and it sounds like you’re already really thoughtful and I wish you the best of luck here.

S5: Here’s the other advice I’d give that isn’t about your kids specifically but it’s something that we all and our families have learned the hard way which is I want you. Letter writer to please take your mom to a support group for families of people with Alzheimer’s. Get a babysitter for your kids get your husband to hang out with your dad for the day and get her to that meeting and you too get you to that meeting as your letter suggests it can be really hard to find time and space with all the other things going on in our lives to be sad about what’s happening and to think about it and talk about it. And it is really crucial for the next few years in your family’s life which are going to be difficult. Do you give yourselves that chance and you need to give your mom opportunities in support groups and outside in conversations with your family to talk frankly about the arrangement that she has caring for your father the things that are working the things that are difficult in a judgment free way so that she doesn’t worry about making you feel guilty or bad but you need to make sure that she has an opportunity to be clear about that relationship and where it’s going. So there you can be ready to step in and help find in-home help or residential care that can support her when she needs it. Don’t wait to do that and tell their life together becomes too hard for them to bear because then you are setting yourself up for months and months of very very torturous times as you try and solve these problems once they’ve reached crisis mode. The reason I suggest a support group is because it can be really beneficial but also it’s an easy place for her to hear other people talk about their experiences with caregiving. And for her to start thinking about her own experience and start talking about it because those are things that you’re going to have to face at some point and you don’t want to face them when the shit has hit the fan thank you for writing in we’ll really be thinking of you. And good luck and all our love to you guys and your family. Once again that letter was emailed to Mom and Dad at Slate dot com. Please send us questions. We’d love to talk to you about them we’d love to hear from our listeners about what you want this show to be about Mom and Dad at Slate dot com. All right let’s do some recommendations. I will start with recommendations. I am recommending the Nintendo switch.

S14: I’m recommending buy the Nintendo switch. It’s that bad. It’s so good.

S8: I’m recommending buying it so your kids can play games together. Particularly I’m recommending the game The Legend of Zelda breath of the wild particularly I’m recommending helping your daughter as she plays it and helping her work her way through the puzzles. But then after she goes to bed just playing it yourself for a little while and getting ahead of her in the game and just thinking well it’s great that I’m ahead of her in the game so I’ll be able to help her with all these different tasks and quests when the time comes. And then I’d recommend you just even playing it a lot more like getting way way ahead of her in the game so far and getting super into the game and reading web sites about how to succeed at different tasks in the game that I’m recommending taking your children’s Nintendo switch with you and you fly across country for a week because there’s actually no better invention for enjoying a cross-country flight than an intend to switch. And that I guess I’m recommending letting your kids play it if there’s any time now.

S7: I love it and tend to switch honestly like it is the best like form factor of any gaming device any of my kids I’ve ever had like the cool part is you can hook it up to your TV and everyone can play Mario Kart together like on your living room TV without you having to have like we have a whole separate TV set up for gaming with our X blocks and stuff. It’s like have a basement. But I have to say bringing the Nintendo switch into the living room during like family Mario Kart on a regular TV it’s so frickin fun. It’s the best. It’s the best. If you’re hesitating just get it he’s right just get it.

S18: Jamilah what do you recommend this week.

S11: So my daughter and I recently started taking a self-defense class together and it’s great. I mean we’ve only went once but I’m really excited about it and I really want to feel like it’s necessary and to I was surprised at how excited my daughter was about doing it.

S16: My parents attempted to put me in taekwondo at the local JCC when I was maybe six and I vaguely recall just sitting on the floor every week and just refusing to participate until the instructor finally said please let her go. She doesn’t want to be doing this. But my kids are all in and she keeps saying Try me Try me. And I think it’s important that you know all children are prepared to defend themselves in some way. And girls we know are particularly vulnerable in certain ways. So with the clear instruction that what we’re learning here is only to be deployed in an absolute emergency I would recommend getting your little ones particularly your girls but really all of your kids into some sort of self-defense training. And I would love to tell you where we’re taking the class because it’s free and it’s great.

S11: But then I may have to defend myself against people who may show up. So if you know me in real life in my line I’ll tell you where it is.

S6: Otherwise no. That’s a great recommendation. I love that. Rebecca your final chance to recommend that our listeners as a regular host enter super weird one.

S7: You ready. So I am really glad that you just went with that self-defense thing because I did something even crazier yesterday. I asked my husband for my birthday which was last week if he would take me to a shooting range. And last night I spent an hour with an instructor and on a range firing a Glock 17 pistol at a man shaped outline target. And I did this for a couple reasons. One is I’ve never handled a gun before. There was no hunting where I grew up and there was no at like safe responsible gun ownership pretty much the gun culture I was surrounded with as a kid it made me just very afraid of the idea of guns. I have now lived in New Hampshire for 27 years and I am surrounded by lots of like liberal gun owners I guess. It’s always been like weird to me like that the idea that the whole gun culture conversation and debate around it I think that very often what gets missed is this like huge wide swath of America which are like you know relatively normal people who also happen to be gun owners. But anyway that’s pretty much who I live with. I have no interest in being a gun owner. I don’t want to have a gun in my house for a variety of reasons however between kind of deciding that like as a journalist who very often like helps other reporters report gun stories using data and sort of anecdotal stuff interviews with people as parent of kids one of whom just is like in guns just as mechanical objects and all that stuff like my ignorance is not help in any of those aspects of my life just in terms of like having had no experience ever having had a gun in my hand. Plus I also have this weird reflexive fear situation going on right now with all of California being on fire apparently which by the way any listeners out there who are in or near the fire zone like I can’t stop thinking about you. All of you not just listeners but other people who live in or near the fire zone. I know it’s terrifying. Or or co-hosts.

S23: Yes and closing. I live in California.

S7: Yes I know you do. I know you do. I mean I had one of my podcast listeners like send me like they were looking for I had to. One listener up with another listener I could like go somewhere with their dog. It’s incredibly scary that the sort of you know signs of potential Democratic unraveling happening in our country. I’m mostly thinking about like the zombie apocalypse right now and I know I have that sort of like thread of uncertainty that everyone has and like I said no interest in becoming a gun owner but for some reason I felt like holding one of my hand and firing it and we did that last night and all the weirdness of it aside all that stuff.

S10: It was so frickin fun. It was really fun. Like not in a way that like I want to go again today and do it again but that to do something that is so deeply outside of your comfort zone once in a while to face a huge fear that you have with somebody that you trust and to do it like in a safe and regulated environment where it feels like it’s OK to be a beginner.

S7: That kind of experience can just feel really empowering really freeing. Whether it’s you know shooting targets or doing something completely different that has nothing to do with firearms. I realized during this last night it’s just been a really long time since I tried something new.

S10: So yes while I am recommending going shooting in a safe and regulated environment if it’s something you want to try what I’m really recommending is pick a thing that you are either afraid of or are curious about or know you need to know more about to just be a more informed person. Or that you’ve just always wanted to try and just do it. Because honestly I am like super psyched it all day.

S7: It’s really been like refreshing to my mood and my general outlook on life and it’s less about firing the gun than it is about having put myself out there and tried something.

S14: So that’s my recommendation. Go shoot it for me. That it was me. That thing was buying and Nintendo switch and I fine.

S8: That was a fascinating recommendation. I’m very intrigued by that. I have very little experience with guns. I mean I haven’t fired one since the YMCA came in Akani and like nineteen eighty seven or something and I’m so interested as to whether I would find that like a good experience or an awful one. I just I truly don’t know which is maybe one recommendation for trying it.

S7: Yeah. I didn’t know either. I was gonna be they’re gonna walk out after five minutes or I’m going to ban it being super competitive and like super into it and it was the latter of course as I’m just super competitive but. Yeah. No it was exactly the same. I was very open to the idea that I would hate it and I asked Kevin in advance like if I want to leave. And he was like Yeah. And so going into it knowing I had that safety valve also really really helped.

S6: That was great. All right ladies and gentlemen that’s our show. Farewell.

S10: Rebecca Lavoy. Oh thanks.

S3: If you have a question you’d like to ask us on the air. Leave us a message at 4 2 4 2 5 5 7 8 3 3. Or of course email us Mom and Dad at Slate dot com so short you can read your question plus join us on Facebook search for Slate parenting and also post questions there. We often see them there and might borrow them for the show. Mom and Dad are fighting is produced by Rosemarie Belson Jamilah Lemieux and Rebecca Lavoy. I’m Dan Quayle. Thanks for listening.

S20: Hello Slate Plus listeners thank you so much for being a member of Slate Plus Slate’s membership program. You support all the work that Slate Does on page and on podcast. You help pay for the costs of producing the show plus other lesser shows. We’re really really grateful for all that you do.

S6: As always we’ve got about a segment for you sometimes on these bonus segments we talk about new topics answer new questions but sometimes we just like to present a bonus try and for fail really always a fail.

S5: So a couple of weeks ago in Slate slack the slate messaging board for employees. My co-worker faith Smith the great faith Smith who you may know if you’ve come to one of our live shows as our great director of all alive entertainment as I think of her confess to truly an amazing parenting fail.

S6: And she is now here to confess to it to all of us. Faith Smith Hello.

S23: This is very affirming to hear my heart from my fellow Slate parents that the film is so spectacular we had to record it for posterity. Yeah. All right. Go tell your story. Yes. So because of my job I travel a good amount and two weeks ago I was in New York for the IAB podcast upfront where the slate team killed it and I was sorry that was the one by I want to be podcast upfront where we present what’s coming and Slate podcasting. It’s very true to like marketing people and advertising. I had no idea such a thing happened that happened and it had me away from home for two days. And when I’m gone my son my husband works in construction. He leaves out really really like five or five thirty normally. So when I’m gone our beloved nanny has to come to the house at 6 a.m. to get the kids up and ready and take my 6 year old school and hang out with my 2 year old for the day. So she had two days of doing that and she’s been with us for three years so I don’t do a lot of texting and checking in on the way and on the morning of the second day I was gone. I sent our casual text around 9 a.m. and I was like Hey how are the boys everything good. And then I got really busy with the event and I looked at my phone again and like twelve thirty and she’s like Oh it’s great.

S24: The boys are playing they’re fighting over toys today haha. And I was like why are they fighting over toy stores like I did.

S25: Benjamin my 6 year old go to school today.

S2: Oh yeah. Say that again.

S17: So I asked did Benjamin go to school today. And she responded that no he’s on a break. He was not on a break. So I said he missed two days of school because I’ve been gone for two days and she was like oh I’m yes I’m so sorry. By the time we put it together it was like 1 p.m. school gives out too. So two full days at school just completely skip for no reason the school didn’t call me.

S24: My husband didn’t catch it like I’m sure he asked my 6 year old like Hey how was your day. How was school and as always he was like right.

S25: Is what he says no matter what school I call you know. So this is a small caveat for why it slips through the cracks.

S24: And my nanny had some reasoning so I had mentioned on this podcast before my son goes to this it’s a public school but it’s kind of strange as a modified calendar so they have only five weeks break in the summer to in the fall to in the spring. However you can for like 100 dollars keep sending them to school during those breaks on the spring and in the fall and it’s like special learning around like a different thing or whatever. And so it’s intercession. So he was on in our session but it is school you are required if you sign up to go for it you have to commit to going for two weeks and you do get absences but everything’s definitely his new teacher for the two weeks. And she looked at the calendar saw intercession and assumed it was a break.

S26: So that’s yeah. So there was I go a little bit of a caveat for why that happened. I don’t know why she didn’t text to confirm.

S2: I don’t know I like my husband and I figure out she’s been working for three years she’s trust her own judgment which she usually is impeccable it’s often impeccable. Yes that’s true. So the fail is due to you not telling anyone that your kids do have school. Yes your kids just didn’t go to school just to go to school.

S23: But why would you say the kids have school when the schedule is the same. The needs are the same. The difference yes it’s the default is go to school and it’s life as usual in my absence.

S6: Yes well you did not know you needed to say to your nanny not your disappearance did not know.

S20: I have a question which is do you get the impression that your son was delighted when he discovered that he had missed two days of school that he’d gotten away with this thing. Was he upset because he loved school so much. No I can’t.

S26: He’s sort of like the puzzle in all of this right.

S14: Know he sort of knew you were supposed to be nothing puzzling about this.

S10: He knew he was supposed to be in school. He knew it right. Yeah. They like kids of divorced parents all the time. I see this a million times they’ll tell one person and one thing I’ll be like long yes mom said Blank Dad. All right.

S26: Yeah. He doesn’t like school. But I asked him what happened. And he’s like I forgot. And he just like trusted when his. And he’s like You’re right. But he did go to school the day before when I was there. So there’s some B.S. there’s some blame to go. Yeah. So it’s a collective failure.

S12: I’m I’m curious about the school structure how many of the kids like don’t know how many families are not taking advantage or I shouldn’t say taking advantage how many families are not enrolling their kids in this extra bonus school that you had to pay for. Because it sounds like maybe he talked to one who’s a little bit ideas and found out they like when he’s dealing with a weird teacher who he’s never met at two weeks they’re at home watching Teletubbies or something and he decided that he too could have a little bit of time to himself.

S25: It’s possible.

S24: I think I think I wish I knew why some parents didn’t send their kids to that because it’s like free or almost free care for two weeks.

S23: So that’s crazy I assume it’s because they love their children more than we are more than we do. Yes I think it’s because they take vacations. Oh right. So remember we’ve heard of those.

S25: I don’t know I mean he was excited about it and some of his old kindergarten buddies were in his group for an hour session. I think about half the kids go. So maybe maybe I think he was not.

S23: There was no premeditation on his part. I think when it was presented to him he went along with it.

S2: He chose not to raise the obvious obvious opposition. Yes he still loves golf. No I just find this really fascinating because it is sort of like it is an encapsulation of sort of my sense when I am travelling for work that sometimes if I’m not paying very close attention everything could just go completely haywire. Despite the obvious capabilities of say my wife or the people who we have care for our children when both of us are away like I just have the sense like like maybe if I’m not managing everything everything might get fucked up. I would assume as a professional event planner you have this feeling more acutely maybe than the average parent.

S23: Yeah I’m going to start sending out runners showed in the nanny I think 6 a.m. call ticket for breakfast. Yes.

S26: Yeah. It is crazy. I don’t micromanage a lot when I’m away because I can’t. Like I’m just bound to mention s you’re busy micromanaging a bunch of I micromanaging you guys right. So yeah it’s frustrating that something so big got dropped like it definitely made me feel like well. That happens when I’m not paying attention. Who knows what small things happen that aren’t to. All right.

S8: All right. Last question for you. Are you coming with Jimmy Lanai to Miami and then whether you could be just not going to school for a couple of days.

S23: So I am very sadly not going home but I’m so excited that you two are going because it’s going gonna be an amazing show and I hope that you see lots of Florida listeners there.

S6: I hope that your kid find some other way to catch his way out of school those days just just for old times sake I hope he somehow. That’s right. All right thank you. Faith Smith great fail it puts our fails in the shade this week but thank you all Slate Plus members for listening. We love having you along for our bonus segments every week. We’ll talk to you next week. By.