S1: The following podcast contains explicit language. Welcome to Mom and dad are fighting Slate’s parenting podcast for Thursday, April twenty nine in your parents edition. I’m Elizabeth Newquay. I write the homeschooling family travel blog that such I’m the mom to three little Henry who’s nine, Oliver who’s six, and Teddy who’s four. And we are currently nomadic on our drive to Colorado Springs. I’m in Atlanta for the week, visiting with my parents,
S2: celebrating Nomad Land’s historic Oscar winner,
S3: and Jamilah Lemieux, a writer contributor to Slate’s Care and Feeding Parenting column. And mom to Nyima, who is ait’s. And we live in Los Angeles, California.
S2: I’m Dan Coates. I’m a writer at Slate and the author of the book How to Be a Family. And I’m the Bad of Harper, who’s 13, and Laura, who turned 16. Today, the day of the podcast comes out. Happy birthday, Laura. We live in Arlington, Virginia.
S3: Happy birthday, Laura.
S1: Laura, 16.
S2: She’ll read your birthday wishes. In the transcript,
S3: she’ll see Lyrup pop up 10 times. Laura, Laura, Laura.
S1: We wanted to know that we wish her happy birthday. Yes, well, on today’s show, we have a question from a mother who hates nature with a passion. Does she have to suck it up and do outdoor activities with her kids? Then Jamila will be talking to journalist and author of The Eating Instinct, Virginia Soul Smith about raising kids to have healthy relationships to food and body image when you as their parent are struggling with those same issues on Slate. Plus, if you’re in a couple, who’s the one who makes sure to sign up for camp will be discussing a recent New York Times piece on the gender gap in cognitive labor. But first, let’s start this week with triumphs and fails. Djamila, what do you have for us?
S3: I have a triumph. I took my vaccinated ass to Oakland for four days and I felt like a person and I’m so glad that I did that. I was anxious and nervous and felt weird about traveling at all, but I realized that I don’t know, I’m an American. And I guess selfishness is just what we do. I don’t know. Like I mean, I practiced social distancing on this trip. I spent time with one person and I needed it.
S2: There’s nothing selfish about it. And there’s no I mean, you’re vaccinated ass is totally OK to go to Oakland.
S3: Yeah, I agree. And I didn’t do anything to put people who were not vaccinated in any high risk, I don’t think. And I didn’t have any covid symptoms. And I’ve been tested recently. And yes, I got out of Los Angeles and felt like a real person.
S2: I want to hear less obsessing about what you didn’t do and more excited as far as about what you did to.
S3: Mushroom’s, thank you. In downtown Oakland and I was definitely overwhelmed by how much of the city is still boarded up from the uprisings last summer, and there’s all of this beautiful street art that is still there. But there’s just such a drastic distinction between how that stuff was cleaned up in L.A., particularly in the more affluent areas versus Oakland, where it’s like, whoa, you’re still at this. You know, it was reminders like, oh, we are still very much in this light. Don’t think that at any moment now these wars wouldn’t be up for a reason. One lot of these businesses have now reopened and many of them had and were still, you know, boarded up. But anyway, I we walked around Lake Merritt. I got to say, I’ve been there before, but I got to see the barbecue, Becky. Location, I guess, up close for the first time since that big thing. And it has become apparently even more of a destination for families and people of all creeds and colors to come together and be loud and present in the park, which was a really beautiful thing to see. Ugly, just a great city. And I hadn’t been there a long time as my first time going since I’d moved to California because pandemic. So, yes, I love you, Oakland.
S1: Great triumph. Take it as a triumph all the way down. What do you have for us?
S2: I also have a triumph, nothing as exciting as going to Oakland, but we did finally get our kids to watch Sense and Sensibility with us, which is a perfect movie. We’ve been doing movie nights for a long time and we recently started doing this thing where we would present five choices and everyone on the family would vote whatever one. We would watch that and like that was fun. That helped give the kids like a little more option. But every time I would include sense and sensibility and every time they would vote for something else. But finally, apparently, I chose just the right unappealing for other options because they both voted for Sense and Sensibility and we watched it. And we had to pause a lot of times to answer questions from Harper, even more questions than usual, because it is admittedly tricky for a 21st century kid to understand why on earth 19th century people do anything. And we also got into a big argument with Liara halfway through about whether drawing on your iPad in the same room as a movie is the same as watching a movie with your parents. But nevertheless, I truly, honestly think they both really liked it a lot, which makes sense because it is a perfect movie.
S1: It is a great movie.
S3: Come on now. You all were looking for me to come. I’ll surprise you at some point. I never I figured since the ability came out in nineteen ninety five. Ninety six. Yeah.
S2: Ninety four
S3: I think. OK so I was just a hair too young and it was just a bit too white for me to have been like oh I must see this. I thought wait and exhale but I did not see sense and sensibility but now I’m old enough to be able to understand it. I will take your recommendation.
S2: In many ways one might think of sense and sensibility as a white waiting to exhale.
S3: Yeah, I like
S1: that, but no. No. Yeah, ok. Well I am claiming like an epic fail.
S3: Oh that must be that you don’t have the cat.
S1: I don’t have the cat. The cat may have fixed this whole situation obviously. So Henry who is my child with pandas, which is his brain is swelling as a result of some autoimmune issues. We’ve just been having some some trouble. We’re sort of on a down and say on a downward slope with him. And then on top of that, we have like the anxiety of the move and everything. And he has to get all this bloodwork done. And it it felt like like when we were in Novar, we kind of had a system and the lab knew us. And all of this while we’re in Atlanta and this lab work still has to be done. And so I made an appointment at a wonderful, like blood draw place, called them ahead of time, kind of explain our whole situation. They’re at a hospital. They deal with children all the time. I thought this was going to be great. He was in a great mood like we got in the car, we got there. And then there’s just like there’s more security, there’s more people. There’s like cars all over. It’s just not a great situation for him. We get up to the blood work place and they, like, take us back right away. But then the blood work is really complicated. So it takes a long time for them to, like, log all the stuff in. And he just completely loses his mind, climbs underneath the blood draw chair and is like screaming things. So part of the thing that happens is that he gets into this, like, fight or flight and he is like honestly convinced that either like maybe someone is trying to hurt him. Like medically they’re they’re trying to do like he kept saying, I don’t want to be an experiment. Like he he’s like, you know, yelling all these things. And I was struck by this moment of like, I’m trying to explain to the nurses, you know, like, OK, he has panned us. This is kind of what’s going on. These two women were the nicest, just so nice. They actually brought in another woman because he was underneath the chair. But I’m like, how much explanation do I owe them? I can’t do anything about that. At this point, I have to just kind of let it run its course and keep him safe, but also like I’m embarrassed, right? Like I’m embarrassed that my child is acting this way, even though he has no control over it. And this went on actually for a while. And the phlebotomist just kept prepping everything. And I said to her, like, I don’t know that this is going to happen. And she was like, that’s totally fine. I’m going to get it ready and let’s just see what happens. And I was like, OK, once they had everything, I kind of squatted down. I’ve been talking to him, but he doesn’t want anything. He’s like, so scared. And I just said, listen, if we don’t do this now, we’re going to have to come back and do it another time. I’m I’m so sorry. That’s just like how this is. This really sucks. It sucks that you have to do this. And he was like, OK, are they ready? And I was like, yeah. And he just climbed into the Cherrie’s like crying turns on his iPad and lets them take the blood. And this woman was so quick. And so just like like the minute he sat down she tied his arm, put it in and we just did it. And then the other woman pulled up a chair so that when he was done, he could sit outside the room because there was like I had to check the labels, do all this stuff, and it was just like done. And then I’m like apologizing to them. And, you know, now Henry is like, fine. He comes out of these things just as quickly. Once the fight or flight is kind of died down, he’s like, bye, have a great time and thank you so much. The women are like, oh, it’s been such a joy, you know, to have you here. And I just thought how much compassion these women had for me in this moment. And I said to them, you guys were so common that kept me calm. And they were like, well, you were so calm. But just this, like pressure that sometimes I feel to, like, have Henry act like a nine year old, even though he is not like he’s just not capable of that. And so then I, of course, spent the rest of the day feeling like terrible about this experience that in the scheme of things like these nurses probably don’t care. They they got done what needed to get done, but I don’t think I, like, ruined their day or anything. So why do I feel so bad about this? You see what I mean? I’m just in like I had a mom headspaces mess.
S3: I wish that I knew the thing to say to make you not feel that way. But I will say I empathize with you and not entirely from the perspective of a parent, but from somebody who deals with some health issues that at times impacts my own impulse control and behavior and just the guilt that I feel in relationship to something that I cannot control. Right. So I just hope that you find freedom from that feeling soon. But I do. I know that, you know and you know you know, it’s not you. You know, it’s not I feel
S1: I appreciate like your words on that so much, but it does just feel like the pressure to be perfect in that moment.
S2: That’s a real mom loop.
S3: That’s a real mom. I saw this. The other something, I swear, something I swear the other day from a very young person to stand out to young people. They’re a value. But it was about how certain helped I believe they were talking specifically about neurotypical, you know, health issues that impact your behavior can make one unlikable. Right. And that we don’t talk about that because we’ve created essentially what we think of as likable is this standard of behavior and action that is not realistic for all people. Right. It eliminates somebody who has panis right there, at least in that situation. It eliminates somebody who has Tourette’s. It says that if you cannot fit into this thing, that your body and your brain, it is simply not going to allow you to fit into that. You’ve done something wrong. So there’s nothing bad or wrong with any of your son’s behavior that day. And I think that’s what we don’t always tell ourselves why we might try to say it’s OK that he did that. But it’s like, no, it was not a bad thing that he did. It was a natural reaction to what his what he is going through and it is to be expected. Right. And so that is beyond not needing to apologize for releasing that. It’s not that you all were not perfect. You were perfect. He perfectly showed up as a child who happens to have parents.
S2: I love that kid. And I’m sorry that he went through that. I’m also very proud of him for getting through it the way that he did. This is. A great reminder to me, and I hope to listeners as well, that not only do you not have to feel guilty about the situation, it’s a reminder that in general, parents don’t need to feel guilty about basically almost any public situation with little kids, any tantrum on an airplane, any freak out, you know, in the lobby of a restaurant. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter. And the vast majority of people around you may not have the saintly patients of those nurses, but feel basically the same way as those nurses that they understand that it is not. Something that is controllable, yeah, obviously not to the level of Henry and his pandas in most cases, but every kid is subject to being a kid, which is its own set of pre-existing conditions, which creates behavior. And we all remember we all understand it. And it’s hard not to feel guilty. I have trouble with it, too, even even though I’m not a mom, but. But you don’t have to.
S1: Well, I appreciate it, I it’s a really good point that, like, that’s normal behavior for him and that’s perfectly fine. Like it’s like you said, it’s normal that it’s not even fine. It’s just normal. Well, you guys both made me feel pretty good about it. So maybe I should just count it as a as a triumph because I always like to try to love classic dad tradition.
S2: Yes. I would count it as
S1: if I were you. Exactly. So that I should be able to just say we survived it. Right. All right. Well, before we get on to our listener question of the week, we have a listener recommendation we’d like to share.
S3: A few weeks ago, we shared some advice with a mother who lost her first daughter to stillbirth. She was looking for a way to remember her daughter and to let her newborn know in the future that she had a big sister. We’ll link to that episode in the show notes if you want to hear the full segment. Anyway, one of our listeners, Erica, lost her own baby in December and she was kind enough to pass along some book recommendations that were helpful for her that she thinks could be of use to other families that are going through a similar situation. She suggested Perfectly Imperfect Family by Amy Lands Someone Came Before You by Pat Schwiebert. The Invisible String by Patris Cast Some Kisses and Hugs by Susan Schaefer Bernado Love You Forever by Robert Minch and Wish by Matthew Cordell. We got quite a few really touching emails about that segment and as always, we love hearing from you. So thank you so much for writing in, especially because this is a particularly difficult topic to speak about. And it means a lot to us that some of you trusted us enough to open up about it. So thank you.
S1: One more point of business, which is, of course, the business. First and foremost, subscribe to the show. You never have to spend time searching for our newest episode. It’ll be right there in your feed. Plus, you’ll be helping us out by supporting the show. If you want to be notified about all things late parenting, you need to sign up for Slate’s parenting newsletter. Besides getting all of Slate’s great parenting content in one place, including mom and dad are fighting. Ask a teacher, Karen feeding and much more. It’s just a fun story from Dan directly into your inbox each week. So sign up for that at Slate Dotcom Slash Parenting Email. Finally, if you want to connect with other parents, join us in the parenting group on Facebook. It’s super active and moderated. Just search for Slate parenting on Facebook. OK, let’s get on to our first listener question. It’s being read, as always, by the incomparable Shasha Leonhard.
S3: Dear mom and dad, we have a six year old son and a nine year old daughter who have always loved outdoor activities. My husband is from Arkansas and is exactly how you would think an outdoorsy Arkansan would be. He water skis, he wakeboarding, he kills and needs defenseless animals. I mean, he hunts and fishes. I hate the outdoors with a passion and would prefer never to leave the house. We live on a lake so the kids love to fish, catch minnows, swim in the pool, etc.. I have never done any of those things, nor do I want to. Now, my son has expressed an interest in soccer like his sister. He currently does gymnastics, but he isn’t really feeling it. The primary reason we chose to steer the kids towards gymnastics literally is and I’m the one with the car and the driver’s license and they’ll go where I make them is because it’s a fully indoor sport. We live in Orlando, where it seems like you could get heat stroke outside most days of the year. So I’ve always chosen indoor sports. But do I shut down his newfound interest in soccer because mommy has no intention of attending the outdoor games? The complicating factor is that I’m the primary caretaker since I stay at home and my husband works quite a lot. So if he’s the only one facilitating outdoor excursions, they aren’t as frequent as, say, games of exploding kittens. Is it OK for me to continue to be the indoor parent, playing board games with them and teaching them how to code, which I do professionally, sending them outside to play by themselves and letting Daddy do all the yucky outdoor stuff when he’s home? Or do I just need to suck it up by a sun hat and get outside with my kids?
S2: I cannot wait to hear what you guys have to say about this, because what I have to say is very simple. Yes, you have to suck it up by a sun hat and go outside with your kids. You are fully outnumbered in this family. Everyone else in your family loves this shit, as you say in your letter, because your husband works as much as he does. He cannot fulfill those needs that your kids have. So you got to step up. And I feel like I can say that because there’s no truly compelling reason, as I’m sure you know, letter writer, why you can’t do it, as you say. It’s just that you just you don’t like it. You would just you would rather not do it. But but this is one of those situations, as we tell our kids all the time, in a usually futile attempt to get them to understand where part of being a family sometimes just means giving in to the majority and doing the things that they want to do because it makes for family peace and happiness and is the gift that you give the people that you love. This will be the gift that you give to the people that you love. And I hope that Elizabeth will be able to step in with a whole bunch of great recommendations for things you can do that maybe you won’t even hate. I don’t have any you’ll probably hate it, but I still think you’ve got to do it. But what do you guys think?
S3: Unfortunate, cosine. I’ll just briefly and be intentional about creating some sort of regular family activity that you also enjoy because you are going to be spending a somewhat significant amount of time doing things that are on some level of sacrifice for you, that they are not for your husband. Right. Because you don’t enjoy being outdoors. And sounds like you’re going to be a soccer mom soon. Don’t make it a big deal like everyone sees me doing this thing that I hate. You know, I hate being outside. So everyone shout out to mom, be grateful for mom, you know, and most mothers don’t have that sort of attitude.
S2: You get some T-shirts made and
S3: say, thanks, mom. Like every time you go outside, I think I’m
S2: only doing this for mom.
S3: I’m only doing this for mom. I’m sorry. I know I do this for me. Exactly right. Mom is only doing this for me. So just just make sure that there’s something that you all do on a regular basis as a family that you also love so that all of your family memories are not centered around something that you’re doing that you would rather not be doing, that you’re only doing because of the family. And you will make beautiful memories there, too. But the things that make you you and the things that you like should be a part of the vibe as well. Enjoy the soccer season. Best of luck to you with that.
S2: Jamal, I really thought you were going to stand up for inside cats.
S3: I you know, she’s so outnumbered. If it were a smaller family, I feel like it’d be a little bit easier. But also being the one with the driver’s license and being the one who hates outside is not really the most logistically sound way to avoid being outside. So I think she’s stuck.
S1: You have to go outside like I don’t even understand this. There are a million scientific studies that say being outside is good, is good for you, it’s good for your kids. You don’t even have to do anything outside to get these benefits, like just Google scientific study and outside. And there’s this like like they’re like you don’t even have to exercise and it’s better for you. You just have to sit outside. OK, first of all, going to a soccer game, it’s not I mean, I know it’s technically being outside, but you can like get a pod and a fan and they got all the products and you can sit at your child’s game and essentially be inside outside. So I don’t I don’t think soccer is like really the issue. I understand that it’s like hot and it’s not great. But like, just just they make these little pods and you just get one, you get a little fan, you’re going to be fine.
S2: Are you suggesting that she goes to her child soccer game and sits inside an enclosed like have you been to a no
S1: to her in these little like part these like their little individual pop ups. And yes, they both say, yes, they pop up around your fan and they have their little cooler.
S3: Of course they do.
S1: I’m like the only person out leading. I’m leaving all the other children in some kind of adventure while they sit in the inside pods. All you got to do is find Elizabeth and she will take your children on some kind of adventure while you sit in your pod outside, outside in air quotes. OK, next. So soccer not really outside because you can make it kind of inside, drive your kids, sit in your pod. It’s going to be fine. I think that you can find something that you like doing outside, and it is OK to have like the fishing and the hiking and the like, quote unquote, like dirtier aspects of being outside Florida. I know you’re in Orlando. I know Florida. Listen, the summers, they’re terrible. They’re really hot. But like the rest of the year is pretty good. Like it’s there. There aren’t really bugs in the winter. You can get outside, you can, like, be doing stuff. You can go sit by some. In Orlando, you’re near some of the most beautiful natural springs ever, which is basically like going to some you don’t have to get in the water, just go sit by it and like absorb some of the goodness and let your kids frolic around. I mean, I just think if you like coding, there are all these like multipart geocaches you can do and they don’t really have you going into the woods like you can go like your local golf course has a geocache and local focus.
S2: Yeah, absolutely. In Orlando,
S1: actually. I just think that you don’t have to be outside all the time, but the idea that you like are just never going to go outside. And I want to suggest just starting by, like, get a good hammock with like a net and put it in the backyard and you sit in the hammock by your lake and you’re in, you know, and the kids frolic around because I really feel like you will feel good outside at some point. Like maybe it’s not in the middle of summer, but there is some day in which the weather is perfect and the sun is just perfect and you will just feel good and you can do like your board games, get a giant Jenga, you know, thing and play outside. I just for me, the kids are so much better behaved outside and I think that has driven me to do more outside, like I liked being outside, but I really love it because the kids are so good and enjoying themselves. And I don’t I mean, I’ve said this a ton of times that like half of parenting is doing a bunch of stuff you don’t really want to do. But you do it because it’s the it’s the right thing to do to have your kids playing soccer and making friends and being outside and, you know, your whole rest of the family likes going out there. And that that does not mean, though, that there can’t be like camping weekends where your husband takes the kids and does that and you have a nice, quiet indoor weekend, just coding Cody for color, whatever you want to do. But I think that because you’re home with them, you need to get out. You need to find things that you like. You know, as the CDC now says, we can be outside more with people vaccinated en masse, like go find some friends to be outside with, go to a park. And if you like to have some wine and let the kids run around, like whatever that is, find that. But I would definitely recommend for soccer the pods. I think you’re a good candidate for a nice chair pod and having a nice little soccer. There’ll be other pod people there too. So you guys can just be pod people, friends, a whole bunch of money.
S2: That has got to be a Florida thing.
S1: I promise you, they’re everywhere.
S2: Go to OK, I’m fascinated by this woman who hates the outdoors so much but lives on a lake. Right. How did that happen, do we think?
S1: I mean, Florida lake. Right. Like most of Florida is kind of a lake because her husband
S2: was in Florida. It just means a swamp.
S1: So he likes being outside.
S2: Right. I enjoyed seeing the militant side of Elizabeth come out.
S1: At all and no situation, not even like alfresco dining, come on. Anyway, we’re wishing you good luck. We really want to hear how it goes. Please don’t forget your sunscreen, everyone else. If you have something for us to mull over or for me to get angry about, you know, emails that mom and dad at Slate Dotcom or do what this listener did and posted to the Slate Parenting Facebook group.
S3: All right, let’s move on to our next segment, as I’ve mentioned a few times on the show, I am working on my relationship with food and body image. And I can say one of the most difficult tasks that I faced as a parent is trying to teach my child to have a healthy relationship to things that I, quite frankly, do not have a healthy relationship to. That would specifically be food and my body. This topic came up recently and I had a great chat with our producer, Rosie, and we decided that we should bring in an expert to help with this complicated conversation. So I’m excited to welcome Virginia Soul Smith to the pod. Virginia is a journalist who spends a lot of time covering the intersection of weight, health and kids. And she’s also the author of The Eating Instinct Food, Culture, Body Image and Guilt in America. Welcome to the show.
S4: Virginia, thank you for having me. It’s great to be here.
S3: So one thing I am going to be transparent about, you know, I’ve dealt with eating disorders growing up. I battled an eating disorder. So I’m going to honestly say I have an eating disorder and no point since it started. Did it end right? Like this war that I’ve been in with my body, with food has persisted since I was, you know, maybe eight, nine years old and really wrapped up around middle school and has been a consistent issue throughout much of my adult life. And so now I’m raising an eight year old girl. And I’m terrified. Yeah, you know, there was nothing that my parents, you know, that I can recall that they said or did that would have ever made me feel anything other than good about my body. Food was always available. There was not shame around, quote unquote, junk foods, but there was also intention around healthy eating. You know, it seemed like I had the foundation for a healthy relationship to food and body, and yet I do not. Yeah. How much of this should I be disclosing to her?
S4: That’s a great question. And I think the answer really lies in, you know, how you would frame it to her. What we know from the research is it’s really damaging for kids when they see a parent actively in eating disorder behaviors and presenting that as sort of normal. Right. So if you were actively body shaming yourself or actively saying, I don’t eat X, Y and Z, we’re talking about other people’s bodies. And certainly we know from the research when parents do talk about their kid’s body or the child’s eating, that can be very damaging. I’m guessing you’re trying really hard not to do those things because obviously you’re putting so much thought into this. So, you know, in terms of do you talk to her about the fact that you’re struggling? I think kids can see the parents struggle as long as it’s framed very clearly in the message of all bodies are good. Your worth is not your body. Your body size is not your worth. As long as there’s that framing to the conversation, I think it’s OK to say. But I struggle with this because we live in a culture that gives us so many messages about our bodies. And it can be really hard to navigate that sometimes. And what you’re doing then is creating a safe space for if your daughter is struggling with something along these lines, she knows that you’re going to get it and that you’re going to empathize with her about it. But you’re not going to say you’re right, your body is the problem. You need to fix X, Y and Z. You’re going to say, yeah, this world we live in makes it really difficult to have a body sometimes and to feel safe around food sometimes. And we can work on this together. And I will help you find the tools you need to work through this.
S3: When it comes to helping children develop a healthy relationship to food, what are some ways that we as parents can do that without mirroring diet culture? Right. Like how do I help you to understand that? And overindulgence in certain foods is not good for you? I don’t want to create a hierarchy of good foods versus bad foods necessarily. Or then, you know, eating something that is unhealthy is a bad action. Right. Like, it’s OK that you want a Snickers bar, we can have a Snickers bar. But how, I guess, how do we create that boundary between I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want and I should not feel shame, which is true. But also if I eat whatever I want, whenever I want, there may also be consequences for me in terms of how I feel physically.
S4: I think what parents often do is we get really hung up on the specific food for the Snickers bar or I was just talking with a friend this morning who was like, why is there chocolate milk on the cafeteria menu at school? They’re having chocolate milk every day. It’s too much. We get really hung up on kind of trigger foods. And often what that is, is that’s our own stuff around that food. That’s our sense of like, I can’t control myself around that food. This is like outside noise or our own issue that we’re putting on it. What we really want to do is stop thinking food, buy food with kids, because that’s not a healthy relationship with food. It’s not good to walk around with these lists of good and bad foods and have these hierarchies. What we want to think is like, how do I help my child connect to their own hunger and fullness senses and their own intuition around eating. And we know that kids do this naturally. There are a few genetic things that disrupt natural hunger and fullness to use. But for the most part, most typically developing children have a really good innate sense of what they need to eat and when they need to eat it from the eating end of the spectrum, all the way to those sort of like kids who get hyper fixated on foods and seem like they don’t have an off switch. Most of that is coming from the child’s appetite, not matching up with the parents expectations, and that creates tension. And then the child is going to dig in and eat way less because you’re doing you’re so picky or so you don’t need anything. And now eating doesn’t feel safe or the child’s going to dig in and really want that food more because you’re saying you’re having too much, you like it too much. What’s wrong with your appetite? So huge and that feels scary and out of control that we get. We have to start by trusting them to trust their bodies and telling them what your body tells you is what matters the most in this conversation.
S3: Could you talk a little bit about the distribution and preparation of food and how it’s made available to children in the house then and how mealtime goes in terms of creating this healthy relationship to food where kids feel like they’re satiated, they’re getting enough and they’re not being cut off?
S4: Yeah. So a really common misconception parents have is. Every meal opportunity needs to be perfectly composed nutrition wise, and B, that we’re failing if our kids don’t, then eat every food group that we put out. And you know, what the research shows is that the best thing parents can do is take a giant step back from which foods and how much their kids are eating at every meal. And so that doesn’t mean it’s a free for all all day long. You still have some structure. The concept I refer to often is called Division of responsibility or responsive feeding. And people can Google those terms for lots more resources. But the basic concept is that you, the parent, are in charge of which foods are offered at a meal. But that doesn’t mean that it’s always only healthy foods. You offer a range of foods and always at least one thing on the table you know your child likes. And then you’re also in charge of where food is offered and when. And the schedule is kind of the most important piece of it. We know that kids listen to their bodies best when they have a little time between snacks and meals to get hungry again and come to the table hungry. So you try to get away from the kind of endless grazing patterns that lots of kids fall in, especially during pandemic life. My kids. And they’re no shame. Absolutely. But you try to work towards a sort of structured meal and snack schedule based on when your kid kind of naturally gets hungry and it makes sense to serve food. And then when it’s time to sit down at the meal, they can choose from whatever’s on the table and they can have as much of what you’re offering as they want. They decide how much. And so that might mean for dinner you’ve got chicken and pasta and a salad and they eat three helpings of pasta and ignore everything else. That’s fine. That’s you roll with it. You don’t say anything. You don’t make a fuss over it. You don’t push the salad, you don’t barter. You don’t require them to eat a green vegetable to get dessert. You let them make that choice and let you see over time is the structure lets kids really start to listen to their bodies. And you’ll see, like I have to notice, one of my children will be on like two weeks. We’ll see. Like, it’s just the carbohydrates. It’s just the carbohydrates. And then they’ll be a day where she’s like all about the broccoli and raspberries and it’s evens out. If you sort of step back and look at their intake over a week or two, you see that they start to hit the different food groups. They just don’t hit them. And that’s sort of my plate perfect model that we’re expecting. And that means that you can then really relax and enjoy meals and not fight over bites. And that puts foods. And it’s like such a less stressful way to eat with your family. And that’s when you start to get into the true benefits of those family meal times that we are so protective against future eating disorders and all sorts of other issues. Right. Because now you’re able to connect as a family over food and enjoy it. Your kids see you modeling, eating different foods. That’s going to encourage them eventually to want to eat the brussel sprouts or whatever other thing. And it’s just a much more relaxed, pleasant, less fraught way to go about it. So, yeah, that’s what I really encourage people to look into.
S3: What happens if you realize that the food groups are not all being covered, particularly with, say, maybe an older child, you know, someone who’s not OK, you’re seven or eight. You might really only be able to do chicken nuggets right now. And that’s fine. Say, if you’re talking about a 13 or 14 year old, ideally,
S4: you would be doing this responsive feeding model when they’re little and then over time, you can start handing over more responsibility to them. So a 13 year old is going to have more input into what foods are served than a six year old because they they can do some of the meal prep themselves. Like you don’t need to be feeding them every single snacking meal. So at that point, you might start to more actively talk about, like, what does a balanced meal look like? And, you know, do we need a vegetable to go with this or what do you do for OK, we don’t have a lot of protein in this meal. What should we do and give them some choices? What would they want for the protein? You know, you can start to kind of like talk about this idea of putting meals together, but you just don’t want to be banning foods and you don’t want to be commenting on how much they’re eating that is up to their body then only they only they know. I mean, if you think about it, like if someone told you how hungry you were, you’d be like, what? I mean, how can you know? I don’t know how hungry you are. I’m not your body. So that’s that’s really important. And just one other thing I should add. There is for someone who’s in an active acute stage of a restrictive eating disorder, it is true they cannot hear hunger and fullness cues at that point because the eating disorder is very loud and is dominating that. So if someone’s an active recovery, there does need to be much more structure and meal plans. The division of responsibility of eating model doesn’t work for somebody in that stage of recovery. It’s something you work towards. So I will just put that out there, that if you’re dealing with a 13 year old with an eating disorder, you’re going to need to give them a lot more structure and you’re going to be picking the foods much more. But yeah, if it’s a kid who’s just really loves pasta or really loves pizza and is kind of leaning into those comfort foods, the worst thing you can do at that point is ban the comfort foods,
S3: even for many of us that we consider ourselves, for lack of a better word, progressive or, you know. Very in tune to the need to parent outside of societal norms and disrupting beauty standards and societal standards of all sorts, as an adult who rejects those norms, you still understand how I’m going to have to engage with them, right? That no matter how I feel about the way I look, there is the way that the world might respond to it. How do we prepare kids for what they might meet outside in terms of diet, culture and beauty standards in a way that supports their self-esteem and encourages them to be better than what they’ve been presented with, but also braces them for what might come if they run afoul of what is considered to be acceptable.
S4: Yeah, this is a really big question and it’s so important. And what I will say is we don’t have a solid research on this, as I would like. So some of it I’m going to say is what I am sort of putting together based on what we do have. This isn’t like someone’s done a double blind, placebo controlled study on this. So what we know is that kids start to internalize fat as bad as early as ages three to five. That research is pretty clear. So often we want to tell ourselves that our little kids don’t know to worry about their bodies or they don’t know about this. But we’re kind of kidding ourselves. The research shows that by the time they hit elementary school, kids have started to be exposed to beauty standards Barbie and Bethen Ideal and the thin white ideal and all of that. So that means we have to sort of actively get out in front of this and then it’s not too early to start talking about this. I think often parents think, well, I don’t want to start talking to her about fat phobia or weight stigma because I don’t want her to start to worry about her body like I’m a teacher to worry about her body. If I tell her that the culture and I’m saying her and I should be this is all done or sorry. But you know, the culture. If I tell her that this is bad, then she’ll think she’s bad. But A, the culture is probably already getting that message across to your kids. And B, I think of this as much more like we know that white parents don’t talk enough about racism and race with our kids. And then this is why white kids are not great on race. You know, this is how you build racism is when you don’t talk about it. And similarly, I think we need to, from a very young age, be saying to our kids, bodies come in all different shapes and sizes. It is hard. You are going to be navigating your own internalized stuff about this, but your child needs to hear that all bodies are valuable. And that’s so important. And at the same time, you can also start calling out fat phobia when you see it in culture, because kids media will give you plenty of opportunities. Peppa Pig is full of fat phobia about daddy pigs tummy and it comes up all the time. It drives me nuts. So, you know, you can start saying, like, hey, I don’t like how they’re talking about daddy pig. You know, you’re reading Harry Potter and I don’t like the all the muggles are fat. And then she makes fun of them. And there’s I mean, there’s like all these different examples and that can start educating your child in what weight stigma is and being able to see it. And from there, you know, whether you have a kid and a bigger body or a smaller body, it’s about how do we advocate for this? How do we stand up for kids if they get bullied about their weight? Even if you’re a thin kid who has a lot of privilege in this category, how can you be an ally to someone in a bigger body? So I think there’s a lot of similarities. And again, like how we would talk about race, how we would talk about sexuality with kids and gender. We need to be actively trying to raise kids to be not fat phobic.
S3: You know, it’s interesting, you mention kids television shows and how much material there is there, and I think back to the shows that I watched growing up beyond just the kids television shows, the family sitcoms. Right. The amount of fat phobia. I suspect that I one of a lot of parents whose girlhood was set to that backdrop and who has lived with eating disorders, who is now in this moment where body positivity is an aspiration, at least for for so many, and that there are more affirmative and more diverse messages say there are more diverse visuals in terms of who gets to be represented and who gets to be. It is beautiful, but I think about how some of the messaging that I’ve heard in in writings and in conversations around body positivity doesn’t allow for the nuance of being a person who has internalized that phobia to the point of disordered eating as opposed to, well, if you don’t want to be fat, then you are fat phobic and thus you are a part of this problem and not leaving space for a particularly very young people to be products of simply their environment or what you or perhaps to be dealing with something that is hereditary. What are your thoughts on navigating that kind of tricky terrain like that? Makes sense.
S4: Yeah, it does. I get the attention you’re getting at here. It’s really OK. How do we hate that culture and not hate dieters and in particular not hate people who it’s beyond dieting. It’s a true eating disorder. And you know, the other place I see this playing out a lot is within the fat community. There are often folks who live in very large bodies who reach a point where they decide to pursue bariatric surgery to become smaller. And they often experience a backlash of sort of like, you know, you’re letting down the side or whatever. And I often think, you know, I don’t know what it’s like to live in a body that large. I don’t know what it’s like to live with that daily level of stigma and oppression around my body. So how could I possibly say to someone like, you’re making a bad choice? Like, I, I don’t know, you know, like they have to do what they have to do to survive. Sometimes you can’t access health care. You can’t they’re hiring discrimination. There’s all these issues. And so the person who’s making these choices or who’s struggling with a disorder is not the enemy. It’s the larger cultural messages that we have to push back against. Yeah, this is really challenging. It’s definitely something I think the body positivity community could be doing a better job of because I do see that. And it’s also difficult to explain to kids because you want to be able to sort of hold up the body positivity community as these great examples. It’s so wonderful. We can show our kids, these people in larger bodies, doing all these great things and having these experiences. And as you said, it’s a very different landscape than what we grew up with. I think what we also need is to sort of remember that eating disorders are complicated mental health conditions, that they are not a choice. The initial diet may have been a choice. You know, responding to pressure, you decide, yes, I’m going to go on a diet. But when it gets to the level of a disorder, it’s your brain chemistry responding to this whole set of circumstances. It’s not something that you’re saying like I am going to just keep doing. You know, often people eating disorders really desperately want to stop the behaviors and that’s those struggles. So we have to have space and empathy for that. And I think in terms of explaining it to kids, I think there needs to be that mental health awareness, education piece of it. You know, and I also will say, I know so many folks at different levels of eating disorder, recovery, or even still very much an active eating disorders who are still phenomenal advocates for body positivity and fighting against stigma. And you can be both. There’s no question. You can be both, just like someone who struggles with a drug addiction, can say like heroin is cocaine or like you can say like this is something I don’t want for my kid. I am struggling myself, but I am fighting for a better place. So this is easier for you. And I think kids can understand that nuance, I think, especially as they get older and you can talk about these things in more detail. Again, I would probably draw the line at maybe talking tons of specifics about behaviors. You know, there’s always the concern you’re going to sort of hand kids a template of what to do. But you can you can be both. You can be struggling and you can also want to make this change and be making the change.
S3: What would you suggest, Virginia? This does if they’re starting to see the signs that their child has an unhealthy relationship, perhaps to food or to their body?
S4: I think you just want to check in in a curious and nonjudgmental way, you know, I mean, about what you’re seeing. I think, you know, you can say like, hey, I’m noticing the younger kids, like, I’m noticing your lunchboxes coming home full every day. Are you not liking what’s for lunch or is there a reason you’re not feeling like you can eat lunch right now? What’s going on with lunch and just sort of keep it very broad because you also don’t always know what you’re seeing until you give them a chance to kind of talk to you about it. And I think it’s really important to to make this the space that you kind of just hit on that tension of. If you were, you know, making your house a very body positive, you know, the fat acceptance kind of spaced, your child may feel like guilty, that they’re struggling because they know that this is a value you hold and so you want to make space for, you know, these feelings are real and the struggles are real. And parents do not show up for parenthood with this stuff figured out. We are all working through our own stuff. On a similar note, I think one of the biggest mistakes parents have to make, if a child comes to them and says something like, my father, often parents rush in and say, you’re not fat, you’re beautiful. And what that does is it puts that beauty in opposition to each other. Right? I mean, that reinforces that. That is that. So if your child comes to you and they’re thin and they say, I feel fat, you want to say, well, what’s really going on there? Why does that feel bad to you? And explore why that cycle is starting for them. If they’re fat and they come to you and say, I’m fat, you say you’re fat and you’re fabulous, your body is amazing. I don’t want you to make yourself smaller and you have to sort of keep reinforcing it from that perspective. But at the same time, to the fat kid, you also say, but I know the world doesn’t make it easy for you to be in this body, and I know that you’re probably struggling with some stuff and you validate those feelings that they’re having while continuing to accept their body.
S3: Absolutely. Virginia Smith, thank you so much for joining us. This is a really, really helpful conversation and I’m sure that our listeners will find it helpful as well. So thank you.
S4: Thank you for having me.
S1: All right. And now on to the segment where we recommend things. So, Dan, what are you recommending?
S2: It is not a perfect movie, but one of the movies that in a previous vote beat out Sense and Sensibility was office space, which our kids actually ended up really, really liking and which I thought really held up its Mike Judge’s 1999 comedy about how shady it is to work in an office sometimes. I’ve worried recently that the popularity of the American office on Netflix has fooled the children of today into thinking that offices are not really that bad. They’re just full of like fun loving goofballs. So I feel like office space was a great reminder to our children that actually the world is full of Lundberg’s and there’s nothing you can do about it. So if you can find a way to stay out, stay out.
S1: That’s great. Good movie recommendation. Djamila, what do you have?
S3: I have a fancy candy bar this week. It is. I hope I’m not pronouncing this incorrectly. And this is a store that I know they have won and Midway Airport and I’ve seen in a few places massages, chocolate massages, hot chocolate. And I’m recommending specifically the smoke and stouts bar. So it’s beer, dark chocolate and salt. It is a delicious combination. I know that many of you all love Stout. Quite a combination.
S2: Would you like to know the actual way to pronounce the company’s name? Yes. And just how far away it is from what you said.
S3: I know it was three years old.
S2: It’s Vogue VWs. It’s French
S3: Rose. Oh, like my last name. Why am I so bad in French? It’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing. OK, I’m going to work on this. I should have a reminder on my phone every day at nine o’clock. This says Learn French and one day you can.
S1: Fantastic. Today you just learned how to pronounce.
S3: I did say it again. Bozo’s Boge.
S2: I’m going to put a reminder on my phone every day at 9:00. That’s just like text Djamila.
S3: Why don’t you learn to
S2: be better than
S3: I have. One like that is earlier in the day though
S2: I would definitely eat that chocolate bar. I cannot.
S1: That’s so great. I am recommending having your children carry their own water and snacks on your hikes. Why did my children not have this? I just got the kids for their birthdays. These kids, CamelBak, they’re called mini mules and they are the perfect size and they can carry all their own water and snacks. And we did a great little four mile hike with them that they were just wonderful, me and the kids. And normally I’m like trying to carry all the stuff. And I’m one of the kids wants to be carried. And I was like, forget this. Everyone’s carrying their own stuff. Someone carry teddy stuff. It was so great. They were great. They snacked when they wanted they drank their own water. So if you are an outdoor person or not an outdoor person, but your kids are, you should get them a mini meal and tell them they’re on their own. So that’s the kids.
S2: CamelBak, I have a question about this. Yeah, I totally get making them carry their own water. So they’re not constantly bugging you for water, however. One thing I like about being the person with all the snacks when we hike is that. I’m in charge of the stacks and so there, because if they were in charge of the snacks, they would stop every 17 steps to eat another snack. And we because we can’t say, like, let’s go. But if I have the snacks, they’re like, can we have a snack? And I could just be like, nope,
S1: oh, I’m there. I’m not stopping. So if they stop, they they I disappear off the trail. Yeah. Plus there’s three of them. So like they have to kind of negotiate. I mean
S2: so you’re saying they can take care of themselves and once you’re gone,
S1: they go out of sight, they get too scared, they come running. All right. One of the children, Oliver, did eat all of his snacks, like in the first six minutes of the lesson, but he’s learned that lesson. Even self reported to my parents that that was not a good, you know, strategy. All right. I’m convinced, Max, exercise, but I hear what you’re saying. Yes, it was it was definitely a slower, but it was less wait for me to carry. And that’s ultimately
S3: what I want. All of Elizabeth’s recommendations and triumphs are going to like point toward her ending up in one of those pods with like a one point five liter bottle of wine, just completely letting the kids do whatever they want.
S2: Right. While her kids have their own snacks and their
S2: snacks. And what next week is going to be like. Teach your kids to drive.
S1: So you can get home from the farm. From your pod. Exactly. Exactly where I’m at. Wow. That’s it for our show. So one last time, if you have a question for us, email us at Mom and dad at Slate dot com or post it to this late parenting Facebook group. Just search for Slate parenting. Mom and Dad are fighting is produced by Rosemarie Bellson for Be a little of You and Dan Course, I’m Elizabeth Encamp. Hello, sleepless listeners, thank you so much for your support. We’ve talked a lot on this show about the gender split in household labor and straight couples over at New York Times parenting. Jess Gross talked to a researcher who’s studying a different kind of labor, cognitive labor. Who is the person who plans ahead in your family? Dan, can you summarize the study for us?
S2: Yeah. So she had this great conversation with a sociology researcher at Harvard named Allison Damager, where she attempted to sort of breakdown the mental load of parenting, of sort of being in a household broadly into four parts. And she calls them anticipate, identify, decide and monitor. And so, like anticipate means I have to start thinking about summer camp in December because by January, everything will be filled up and identify is I. So I have to get online and research all the different camps and figure out which is the right one. Decide is obviously decide which one you’re going to do and then monitor is like you actually got to pull the trigger, you got to sign them up, you got to make sure they have their medical forms, make sure that the camp sends you everything you need, make sure you know the address of the camp, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And that what her research showed, I think, unsurprisingly, is that in straight couples and hetero couples, most of this cognitive labor tends to fall on women, but most particularly anticipate and monitor are the ones that women do thinking way in advance about. This is something our family is going to need five months from now or six months from now, and then doing the sort of boring scut work of remembering to check your email, to see if this thing came in, finding out if you need. We know what how many things have bug spray you need to pack for the camp. All that crap is the other stuff that women just always ended up doing. And it’s a really fascinating conversation and it’s nothing especially surprising about it. But it does what good research on these kinds of sociological issues often does, which is that it gives you a useful framework for thinking about the way that your family does or does not conform to the sort of nationwide habits and that sort of four parts delineation of the of the four parts of this cognitive labor I found really helpful in thinking about, well, what of these things do I do? What am I good at? Where do I fall down on the job? I forwarded the study to Alere and I was like, Oh, this seems exactly right. And she wrote back, Yes, I agree. We need to think about what Harper is doing for camp in the fourth week of the summer because we don’t have anything that week. Here’s a list of five camps we should consider. What do you think? What about you guys? What happens in your family?
S1: So I am definitely the person on top of everything. Like, I’m I’m keeping track of what needs to be done. Jeff does a great job of doing the things he’s tasked to do
S2: in classic fashion.
S1: Yeah, yeah. But I feel like what I have done is just especially with three kids, is gotten better at tasking him the stuff. Right. Like Henry needs to go somewhere for this week. Here’s a Facebook group we cut down. Figure it out like I’ll take care of the other two. It just feels like it’s not ever on his radar. Like no matter what. He that’s not his skill set. But I also don’t hesitate to say, like, we’ll call and figure this out, like I need you to call and do this task because I don’t have time, because I’m doing these other things, like I’m doing the long range planning and looking at the, you know, what’s coming up and camps and all that. I mean, when I read the article, I was like, oh, yeah, this is exactly how it works in my house.
S2: Is that exhausting?
S1: Yes, yeah, but some of it, too, is like his memory is terrible, like he doesn’t he doesn’t remember what he’s done or what he you know, like if I had a conversation with someone about a camp or thought about this camp or read something, I will remember that, like, until it is off my list, it’s like he’s like, oh, I think maybe I called about something that’s not very helpful to me. What do you do in a in your co parenting relationship?
S3: So to be fair, we never had a name only has done one summer of like regular camp and that was the summer that we moved here. And so her dad and stepmother had picked it out. You know, when it comes to these things, I am not naturally organized. I have a lot of strong mom instinct, but I’m also very forgetful about certain things. But my call parent is also married, so there is a wife present. So I by the time things get to Superheat, yeah, it’s not really fair for me to say, like, oh, he’s just, you know, he’s stronger with you and I am because it’s a, you know, a two person effort. But I am lucky that, you know, I should perhaps say I’m lucky that they’re married because, you know, I know that between the two of them, there’s a level of research into things like camp and school. And, you know, that they’re able to do has been very, very, very useful. But they also have another child. So it’s you know what I mean? Like there’s another child being considered. So like. I will say that I had the oh shit summer camp realization myself two weeks ago and have still yet to come up with a definitive plan as to now what. So I might be looking to them to see what their notes were and what exactly they had planned, because I am scared.
S2: Back in the day when HBO aired the popular series Big Love, Alere often commented that she thought to be fucking sweet to have a sister wife, not because of all the like weird sex stuff, but just because maybe she could make that person be in charge of, like, signing up for daycare and making sure we have the right groceries and stuff. What we really want is a personal assistant. It seems like being incredibly rich and having her personal assistant would be fantastic.
S3: It’s the way to go.
S1: I think one of the things I really missed from not having kind of like a home school like, let’s say co-op is that when in the past I’ve had those the moms act like this, like I am likely to be the mom who’s like this science thing is coming up. Let’s all sign up for it. Here’s the link. Let’s do this. And then I usually email the group and say, like, did everyone, I got this email, did everyone turn in their forms? Right. But then like another mom is like, I bring the awesome snacks, like I’m I cook while I’m doing the snacks. Your children will never be without the fun snack because I’m taking care of that. Right. And like another mom is on top of, like, what things are going on in the like not necessarily long range planning, but like short term like did you hear these food trucks showed up, like, let’s all take the kids there. Like I definitely am down for like some sister moming or sister parenting. Right. Like just other people to do the stuff I’m not good at and don’t like to do and keeping me on task and letting me do the things that I enjoy doing and, you know, organizing the pods for everyone to sit in.
S2: So here’s the one thing in all this that I am really good at. I think that I’m not quite as unable to think ahead as like Jeff is, but I definitely recognize many of those characteristics and in myself that he has I also I forget things a lot and I just am frequently not as focused on what what are the things that need to happen. So I have like an elaborate system of like reminders and my Google Calendar for extremely basic stuff that a normal person would just keep in their brain. But the thing that I am really good at and the thing I feel I can really contribute is deciding I’m a fantastic decider. And Alyea actually doesn’t like deciding very much. She is much more of I like to assemble a lot of options and think about the options and talk about them. But she I think it freaked her out a little to decide. And I decide so well that sometimes it becomes a trouble, like last night when we were like a once again, another fuckin camp that Harper was supposed to go to fell through because it’s on a college campus on every college campus in America, is canceling their in-person summer camps because all of a sudden the softball camp she was supposed to go to cancelled. So we’re like hunting for a bunch of other ones. And Olia. We had a list at the ready of possibilities, and she sent it to me and I wrote back, I was like, she should do this one of these few weeks and this one of these two weeks. And I have all the websites and I’ll sign up right now if you want. And she was like, we should we should ask Harper. You know, I was like, why? I decided.
S1: And she’s just happy with you to make those decisions. Like, I think
S2: I mean, I think so. I think that she is happy that she doesn’t have to generally.
S1: Yeah. I also don’t like to be like the sole decision maker, so I ask him, but then it seems like when he gives me a really fast, definitive answer, I just assume that that’s the wrong one. I’m somehow offended that it happened so quickly. And then he always is like, why did you ask me if you had an opinion? That’s a great
S2: You make like second decisions in the cockpit every day.
S3: But here.
S1: But here. Yeah, I mean, I think I was hoping for more of like I didn’t like I guess it was great. Like I didn’t want to make the decision. But now that he made it so quickly, I feel like that wasn’t how I wanted it to go. This is definitely my issue.
S2: We all have them.
S1: All right. Well, we hope that now if you haven’t made summer camp plans, that you are doing that
S2: and just want to make summer camp plans that don’t say
S3: that it’s taking everything. I mean, not to just drop them off at my mother’s house this summer like
S2: camp mom, I can’t recommend camp grandma enough
S1: camp grandma. Yeah, it’s always open.
S2: That’s true. Absolutely free. Except there are other costs.
S1: Yeah. You pay and guilt and shame. That’s fine. All right. Well thanks as always. Slate plus. And we will be back in your ear next week.