Dad Can Play Too Edition

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S2: This ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership. The following podcast contains explicit language.

S3: Hello and welcome to Mom and Edified Slate’s parenting podcast for Thursday, April 16th. The dad can play, too, Ed.. I’m Dan Quayle. I’m a writer at Slate. And the dad of Lyra was 14 and Harper, who’s 12. And I’m currently quarantining in Arlington, Virginia.

S4: I’m Jamilah Lemieux, a contributor to Slate Parent Feeding Column and a freelance writer and mom tonight, Emma, who is 6 and reside in Los Angeles, California.

S5: And Elizabeth, new camp. I write the homeschool and family travel blog that Stach Goose and a mom to three boys, Henry 8, Hollenberg 5 and Teddy 3. I’m coming to you from Navarre, Florida in what used to be my office and now is firmly the Lego room.

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S3: Today on the show, we have a question from a mom whose son is hitting a mommy only phase in the middle of quarantine. Is it because she enjoys playing little kid games more than her husband?

S6: What can she do about that? And today, I’m going to tell a story. The story is called Shirley Valentine. It’s a story of theater, teen crushes, college decisions, and how absurdly in the dark we all were can be pre-Internet era.

S3: I think you’ll be surprised by the story. And I think if you have a teenager, you might want to listen to it with them. So that’s this week’s Everyone is Fighting Now segment for parents and kids. If you want to zip ahead to that teen friendly segment, we’ll put the timestamp in the episode notes. As always, we will have tried some Fales and recommendations. Let’s start with Triumph’s and fáil’s Jameela.

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S1: You have a triumph for fail for us this week.

S7: So I’m going to say I think I’m on the cusp of a triumph. I’m going to just claim it in advance. Last week was spring break. I mean, hasn’t it been spring break for the past month and a half?

S6: Spring break forever is James Franco.

S8: It’s say spring break forever. But last week there was no instruction from the school and you know, nothing to check off in terms of the completed assignments checklist that may or may not exist.

S9: Whatever the things that we were supposed to do, we didn’t have any for last week. So she was able to indulge in her short passions, which are screentime dancing and general mayhem. Plus, you know, some quality bonding time with her brother, which is great.

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S8: I was talking to her the other night in the bath and I apologized to her again because as I mentioned before, I didn’t initially tell Nyima when the first two weeks of school were canceled. That this is undoubtedly going to go on much longer than two weeks as that this will probably go on a bit longer. But, you know, I realize now that she didn’t take that in. And so now L.A. schools have been closed through the summer, but there’s been talk of the county reopening May 15th and that information was passed along to residents before the announcement that school will be closed for the rest of the school year. So we’re operating with May 15th as a possibility, with, of course, most of us knowing that that wasn’t going to happen either because it’s less than a month away. I told her the other night. Listen, there’s talk of things opening up in a couple of weeks, but I just want you to know that we need to be prepared to not return to school until next fall. And I don’t know what’s going to happen with summer or summer camp. I think it’s pretty unlikely we’ll be able to do those things. I know dance space right now, just as if we hadn’t thought of, oh, I’ve done nothing.

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S9: But I every time it comes up, it’s like a slug to the chest. It’s like gnome. That can’t be true.

S7: Sonal says that that makes it more. Sure.

S8: And so anyway, she looks at me and she says, I think you think I like school a whole lot more than I actually do.

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S9: And she proceeds to tell me how it’s great knowing she misses her friends and she really likes her teacher. But math is just getting completely ridiculous. And how is she to do things on her fingers now? They’re dealing with numbers more than 10. She’s the fingers. You know, it’s just it’s stupid and ridiculous and she’s happy not being there. And so I said, you know, I understand. And I have my math issues as well. And we’ll continue to work with you on those. I said. But, you know, I know that this is destabilizing and difficult for you. And I want to try and make this time better than it has been. So I think we need to integrate some classes that reflect on your interests. And so this week, we’re going to have at least one fashion class. And I’d like to do a music history class. We’ve done a lot of listening to music. And I’ve tried to say like, hey, you know, that’s the sample from Bobo.

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S10: You just tell a joke. Whatever, mom. And I’m like, no, we’re going to have some dedicated time to these arts. The fashion class was inspired by the fact that name was very big into picking out outfits and is very much a little fashionista, but also doesn’t know about coordinating just yet. And sometimes it literally I just can’t even when I see her wearing like black and blue and brown, red and pink all together and it just looks like I don’t take care of my child. But I want to encourage her creative expression through dress. So we’re going to do a little bit of learning about the foundations of all this stuff and how it works. So that’s my triumph.

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S11: My home-school heart is. Exploding.

S12: What I hope for all like those are the best lessons, that sums up why I love homeschooling when the kids get really into something and then we can do it. And you’re passing on like real world knowledge to her.

S13: And they’re important things and they’re even more important if they’re important to her. You know, I love that.

S14: Feel free to use Slate’s incredible Wunder Week series for your music history lesson on Stevie Wonder if you want to just take that as the curriculum.

S9: I would love that D a very big Stevie Wonder fan. So she absolutely loved.

S15: She can learn everything about him, including the people who absolutely, positively believe that he’s lying and isn’t blind at all. OK. Elizabeth, do you have a triumph or a fail for us?

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S16: I have a fail. And before I get started, I just want to say that I blame my husband for all of the good. So we had I don’t even know how this started, but basically six months ago, we kind of made up these other children that lived in our house named Frank and Gary.

S11: And like I said, it was sort of just idea they got out of control.

S12: But like when no one would clean up or like we’d walk into a room and it would be a complete mess and we’d be like, all right. Who’d dump this out? Who did best? None of the three kids want to take credit. So we’ll just say, OK, well, it must have been Frank and Gary, but since they’re at soccer, we all have to clean up and then we would all help clean up. And this just kind of went on about everything. Also, Frank and Gary are busy, so they’re never here and they’re also model children. So like when we all had to go get our vaccinations, it was like, oh, well, Frank and Gary got theirs and they weren’t worried. So we’re all gonna be fine.

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S15: So it’s like, not me and the Family Circus about responsible.

S11: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. But they’re never here. They go to public school. The school bus stops in front of our house. So the children believe they got on.

S12: I don’t think they believed any of this. It was just kind of like we thought it was this big joke. It was funny. We weren’t sure if the now 8 year old was playing along or asking questions, but he would say things like, oh, well, we have all these extra bikes, because when we moved back from the Netherlands, we brought bikes for all the kids. He’d say like, oh, well, we do have enough bikes for two extra kids. And we do have like these extra beds in our house for two extra kids. So it’s just been this like thing we’ve been doing. And I thought joking about, well, this week at dinner, just like out of the blue, we made some joke about, gosh, we wish they were here because they would clear the table and the 8 year old just burst into tears.

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S11: And he says, I think that, Frank, here you are not real, but I’m really just not sure. And we were like, oh, gosh, it’s a joke. They are not real. We never thought you thought it was real. He was like, I know they’re not real, but like, we do have these bikes and the bus does stop in front of our house. And like we do sometimes check out library books that get left out. It was just like this. Pouring of everything we have ever said about Frank can get so high. We apologize, we assured. But it has been the topic of conversation at every meal. Like they all want to talk about the fact that they are not real. So I feel terrible because it was supposed to be this like rallying joke, but apparently only Jeff and I were in on it. So that’s amazing.

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S17: I’ve never heard of adults creating imaginary friends for kids.

S11: Yeah, we created imaginary children. That’s exactly what we did.

S18: That is incredible. So fail.

S19: Did you all have imaginary friends? I don’t know if I did, but Henry, when we moved to the Netherlands, he had this book of Disney princesses he would check out from the library in Colorado.

S13: And when we moved to the Netherlands, he announced that all the princesses had moved with us in miniaturised form, and they were with us for many, many months.

S15: I had an imaginary friend named George, and I believe I created him in collaboration with my grandfather during one visit. Then he just hung around for a couple of years.

S17: Did your grandfather want you to play with somebody else? Was it like I assume now. That was the case. Yes. Go watch TV together while grandpa takes a nap. Something like that.

S18: Right. I mean, I get that now, Jimmy. Yes, sir. Did I just ruin George as a 10 seconds ago? We are killing imaginary friends. That’s right. Today neither will commit.

S20: I think part of it is that she’s not sure only child. I had the, you know, like out of necessity in a way. I don’t think she necessarily does every once in a while will pop up, but they don’t usually stay very long. But mine, I feel like I might mention this on an early show and I joined the cast. My primary one was Peter Bergman from Ghostbusters.

S18: It’s a very sexy imaginary friend. Yeah. To this day, I just can’t understand why was my imaginary friend, a 30 something year old man as opposed to a kid?

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S15: I like that. He maybe helped to get a little bit of trouble, but really, actually, he was a good guy. But he talked back to authority.

S18: I liked that he called the mayor a dick. I like the sarcasm quite a bit.

S17: That was a big selling point for him in Raffia Ninja Turtles, but. You know that RAFEAL became an imaginary friend so much as a crush, but that’s totally something to talk about. Never.

S15: Mom and dad are fighting after dark. Elizabeth Great fail, fantastic faith. It’s not only Jeff’s fault. Nice try. I have a triumph this week. Longtime listeners may recall that the extremely catchy anagram for the daily system we have to give a little structure to our kids is Assal Ticker ogham. Part of that policy, in addition to the jostling and the ticker iGaming is that each kid has to make dinner once a week. That was the announcement we made when quarantine began. We said, you know, you’d have some parental support. We would help you with planning. We’d even help you with cooking things if you need the help.

S1: But it’s mostly up to you. And we said that, you know how you say things and in your heart, you know, you’re never actually going to do it. You’ll never pull that off. But my triumph is that we have so far successfully stuck to it.

S21: And every week since quarantine began, each kid has cooked one meal and triumph beyond triumph. I can even say that cooking with both of them has been really very enjoyable. Like I sort of thought it would be horrible, but it’s something that we just felt we had to do because we said it once in a spirit of being good parents and then we’re stuck with that terrible decision forever. Like when you punish your kids by taking the ATV, then you’re like, Oh, that only punishes me. But it’s been really great. Last night, Lara made chicken tenders out of some chicken thighs and some cornflakes. And then we made a salad and she put it on top of the salad. And Lara mostly followed the recipe. And then even at one point said outloud, I guess there are some things that I like about cooking. She was referring to pounding the corn flakes with a rolling pin.

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S15: But that was great. That felt like a legitimate triumph that we’ve stuck to it and they’ve enjoyed it.

S19: Here’s Shi’ah take any joy? Yes.

S17: Were they any cooking when they were younger? I wonder, like so many teenagers are averse to it. I’m like where they into when they were kids and it was messy. Fun play or these are the kids that were never into it.

S1: Harper has always been into it, though, mostly baking. She’s less into making a meal. Lyra, like when she was three would, you know, make meatballs with her grandma, which meant that she would just like give her some ingredients and she would make an enormous mess with them for an hour and that would be it. But I don’t think she cared about the cooking part now, and she never has, really. Food appears on her plate. She eats it. She never thought about it before and she never thinks about it again.

S16: And now she can prepare it herself. Well, almost. Yeah, but we’re getting there. They’re moving towards a point in life in which they will need to prepare food for themselves should they ever leave the house again.

S6: That seems good case. All right. Let’s talk some business before we move on to the rest of the show. Slate’s parenting newsletter is the best place to be notified about all the parenting content on Slate.com, including this very show. Plus, the Jamelia is Karen feting columns and much, much more. Dot com has actually been a smorgasbord of extremely fascinating parenting content in the last few weeks, both coronavirus and non-current, a virus associated. They’ve just spent a lot of really amazing writing on parenting to read essays this week from Mark oconnell and Emily Gould, excerpted and adapted from their new books. You can find out all about that in the parenting newsletter. Plus, it’s just like a personal e-mail for me where I complain about things every week. Sign up at slate.com, slash parenting e-mail. Also check us out on Facebook. Just search for slate parenting. It’s a really fun, active community. We moderate it so it doesn’t get out of control. But, you know, moderate it so much that you can’t express your disagreement with our opinions on the show has many, many people did after last week’s show, we didn’t ban anyone. We promise. On to this week’s listener question.

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S21: It is being read this week by the brilliant Shasha Leonhard.

S22: Hi, mom and dad. I am mom to a three and a half year old boy. We are starting to see signs that we might be entering a mommy only phase. And I’d like to minimize it as much as possible, especially since we’re under a shelter in place order for the next month at least. The problem is I am naturally suited to engage this age. I love toddlers and their silly games and ridiculous imaginations. So part of me wonders if my son prefers me because I’m just willing to play his games while his dad finds that kind of play difficult to engage with. I know some adults just don’t like little kid play, and that’s OK, but that’s where our son is when he’s older and ready for video games or big Lego sets or Nerf guns. My husband would love to share those things with him, too. Any ideas for activities they could do now that both the toddler and his dad would find engaging to do together? Their current pastimes are wrestling, reading stories and watching movies. They love all the activities. Which gives me hope that we can minimize or sidestep this phase. Thanks. Mama needs a break sometimes.

S16: So I think that it’s very normal for kids to go through a phase where they like one parent over the other. In my house it has been me for all three children.

S13: I think just because of like contact time and then I’ve talked about this before. But Oliver is like in a constant mommy phase, like I am his preferred parent for everything. I totally get where this mom is coming from. It can be totally overwhelming. But what we have done that has worked is that in our daily routine, there are just things that dad does that I just don’t do. And some of those are fun and some of those are just like mundane tasks. But when it comes time for bath time, for example, that is a Jeph activity and he makes it fun or reads or whenever they do during that time, even if he says, like what? I want mom to do this. I just sort of say, dad does bath. That’s just how it is. Dad also does a lot of the like outdoor exploring, wrestling, the kind of thing she’s talking about. And Jeff also does our bedtime stories. I read a lot during the day, but those are just things that unless he is not here. I just don’t offer the opportunity for me to be there. And he has found a way to sort of acknowledge that he is not their first choice, but that he still loves them and he’s excited to be with them. And that has I mean, we have had some days in which they cry and they say, you know, I only want mom to do this. And he sort of like, OK, well, I’m reading story and we’re in bed and he pushes through. I will say that’s what happens, is that they have just accepted that he is the parent that does these things. He has made them fun. It sounds like she has all this fun stuff. She loves to do. That’s great. And she should keep doing that. And when she needs time to herself, she should just take it.

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S12: And the dad should step in and say, like, I know you really want mom to do this with you, but she’s busy. So, you know, you’re stuck with me. I love you. And we can have fun because I think acknowledging that, you know, I know that you are in this phase in which you want your mom to be here. You can say, I wish she was here, too. But I think at the end of the day, you just affirm that you love them. I also think it’s important that dad does not let this get to him in any way or at least show that to the child, because getting a reaction can also be something that kids really like. And so just acknowledging that it’s frustrating, but continuing on with the fun thing and the more you build these routines in, like Oliver still says, like, wow, I want mom to do bedtime. I want mom to do baths. And we’re just sort of like, oh, well, dad does it.

S13: And then I hear him laughing in there and having a great time and, you know, just does his bedtime. However, he wants to do it. And I just don’t go in or don’t get involved unless Jeff asks me to, because once I am in there, it’s like, well, now I’m here and I can’t do it. So I think if she needs the time, she should take the time and just make sure to give dad those opportunities, even if he’s not the child’s first choice.

S23: So building routines and making sure that you take the time and you build things into the day that thoroughly starts things. That’s really great advice. Tumelo, what do you think?

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S24: That was essentially you’re gonna be my advice that there were dad rituals that are built into every day because I get the impression that that’s not the case now. I think a combination of both that learning to get silly and they already like to wrestle, which is great. Maybe we need to have WrestleMania Castillos and the stage and more of a production around. You know, this thing that usually could just be the two of us kind of cuddling on the floor, rolling around, doing some of the stuff that you don’t like doing. I’m not a naturally silly person either, so I totally can relate. Like I’m funny. I like to tell jokes. I love that my dad is old enough to deal with sarcasm.

S25: Now we’re having a whole lot more fun than what I had to sit in. Let’s not lose their tomato. Tomato? Who?

S26: I’m a tomato. You know, like that was not a fun era, but is an era that all parents have to suffer through.

S25: And so you have to just kind of lean into it. But I think that ensuring that are things that are specifically yours are always perform value that becomes special and have some meaning to you is perhaps the best approach to ensuring that it doesn’t become mommy is the source of all comfort and joy in this household.

S21: I think that is all really good advice. I would like to maybe add some specific ideas.

S23: I agree with you that it doesn’t sound like this is a house where they have a lot of built in D&D rituals, but it also sounds like the. Dad needs things that are just sort of off the cuff ways that he can spend time with these kids where it’s not like pretending they’re in a castle or whatever bullshit they want to do. And I can really relate to this, dad. And I’m jealous of this mom because it is a very particular skill to be able to do certain kinds of pretend or imaginary or silly play with kids exactly that age and to enjoy it in our house. Neither of us particularly enjoy that, neither me nor Alya. And so that age for both our kids was often a struggle for us to like feel engaged and feel like we are offering something to our kids that they liked and that we weren’t just like going through the motions. Okay. So first of all, I would suggest, especially in this time of quarantine, if they like watching movies, you should be fuckin doubling down on movies, for example. It’s Totaro Time slash every other Studio Ghibli movie that I’m forever recommending on the show. But like that is the perfect movie for three and a half year old. Watch it right now. Watch it again tomorrow. Watch it again the next day. You will never be bored by it because it’s beautiful and great. Your kid will love it. And if they watch one movie a day right now, I can watch two movies a day. Who cares? It’s the quarantine. You said that big Lego sets aren’t quite right yet, but you think that your husband would enjoy those things. So I would maybe suggest magnet tiles or Duplo. Those are like not as fun as a Lego set. Well, for adults has a Lego set. We’re like at the end of it, you have a castle or a tie fighter or whatever, but you can build interesting fun things with them. There are also a lot of simpler model kits for little kids out there. If you think that your son is a kid who would sit for a while and follow instructions. If your husband likes cooking, cooking with little kids is really fun. Like I do remember those days of sitting with Lyra and making quote unquote meatballs. I mean, it makes a huge mess of your kitchen and only very seldom with do you come out of it with edible food. But like it’s a thing you can do together that isn’t always just like, imagine you’re a banana. You like doing something with your hands. You can do nature walks together. You can do some kind of like kid yoga or kid fitness together, which is something that benefits you in some small way and might also be fun for the kid if he likes reading with a kid who maybe expand the repertoire to the kinds of books where you’re finding things on the page like the Richard Scarry busy town books. I’m also a fan of the Richard scarey busy town game, which is great for kids that age, which also involves a lot of finding things. And then also if you are a handy person, if you’re like a guy who has a workbench or tool area and you know how to use tools, unlike me, for a lot of families, I know three and a half is right around the age where kids love to start working with tools with a parent. I mean, obviously, you’re not gonna break out the belt sander or something. But just like hammers and nails and screws and a bunch of two-by-fours and a handsaw and you just start cutting and hammering things together and screen things together and you see what kind of crazy shit you make and then go see if it floats in the bathtub.

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S16: That’s great. Yeah.

S23: And eventually, like, maybe your kid will get interested enough to start making real things, but that’s just like a way to occupy time with them. You can maybe even be working on the thing of your own while they’re hammering on their own shit over in the corner. But like that’s a way to be working with them. The caveat to all of these things is that your husband will still find doing a lot of these things boring with a three and a half year old, because no matter what you’re doing a three and a half year old, often they want to take the play into pretend play her imaginative play. Even if they don’t, they yell at you about stuff and they take forever to do stuff. And at the end, probably what they made is bad and you have to let them do things their way. And honestly, anything becomes dull if you’re doing it for like two hours with a 3 year old. But as Jamila and Elizabeth have already said, that’s just part of the drill. When you have a three and a half year old, so let a writer tell your husband find things you hate the least and fuckin feign enthusiasm for them because you let a writer can not be the only parent who plays with this kid for the next 128 weeks or whatever. You’ve got to find a solution for this. And that solution is sometimes going to be for him to do stuff that he doesn’t like.

S24: Three and half is difficult age to entertain at times, but it’s also a child that is old enough to be introduced to things that the parent is passionate about, you know, depending upon what those things are.

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S25: To be a sport, it be NASCAR. You know, the new addition story came out when my daughter was three and a half and it was a three night, two hour mini series. I’m very excited to see. And this is at a point where you’re watching Disney Junior with dinner every single night without fail. And it was our daily TV time was always how we really watched it. You know, I said, we’re going to watch something else. And she was super upset about it. And within 10 minutes, she was completely rapt.

S26: You know, I think about Dan talking about it. Was it maybe a hard day’s night?

S25: Yeah. But he’d introduced his girls to recently. So you’re a Beatles fan. Like, I just think that things are not typically tailored towards gender and in finding. Ways to you know, we ended up having this great bond over this group that I grew up listening to as a very little girl, and she ended up having a new edition thing, fourth birthday party. You know something you never think. And to this day, she’s seven now. They are still a constant subject of conversation and interest and wonder in our home. So you could get them hooked on your favorite band if you’re a big hip hop fan. They’ve got all types of kids, hip hop books and records and things now. Music art in general could be a really fun way to spill some of that space.

S16: It’s important to remember that your child is not in charge of the house and that you are still the parents. And for as much as yes, you’re gonna be bored some. It’s also okay for the activity to not be like their first choice all the time.

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S12: And I think three to five is like this sweet spot where they. Dan, you sort of suggested this, but they are happy to help with things. Now, granted, they’re not a lot of help, but like my kids love folding laundry with me. And it’s yes, it’s kind of Iraq. But like, my 3 year old will run pieces, you know, from the laundry room to where he keeps his clothes one piece at a time where we can do that for 20 minutes and I can fold some stuff in between. You know, I say like, wow, how did you get that one there? Oh, I flew it there. Okay. Can you fly this one there? And then he’s like, well, no, I’m a tiger. It’s like, great, we’ll just take it there. So I think there’s ways to like have them be imaginative while you’re getting stuff done.

S19: And if your husband isn’t sure what to do, that. I know for me, I sort of when Jeff says like, oh, I’m going into the yard to do X, I’m like, great, Teddy would love to come with you. And it’s like he can’t say no. Laughter. But, yeah, right. You know, just like I have all three in here. So you’re gonna take one. Death is like the big cook in our house. And I am constantly like, Teddy, grab an apron. Daddy’s cooking and just sending him into the disaster zones. I think that’s okay, too.

S13: Again, if there’s like a power song use or something dangerous, I’m not going to send him along. But if Jeff’s weeding or building, something like a kid can totally be there messing around nearby and pretending they’re building something and, you know, give them a little tool belt and then they think they are pretending and you don’t really have to pretend because you’re for real doing the activity that they’re pretending to do. So these are great suggestions of like ways to get dad involved and dad get involved.

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S27: Play this segment for your husband, for fuck’s sake. Okay. Thank you. Good answers, everyone. And thank you, letter writer for writing. And we hope this helps you have a question or a problem for us to send it our way. You send it to mom and dad at Slate dot com. We’ve got a bunch of great letters. We are so grateful for them. We have a bunch lined up for future episodes. We can’t wait, but we always want more. Okay. Here on mom and dad are fighting. We are trying to create a little something each week the families can listen to together. The segments called Everyone Is Fighting Now. We hope you enjoyed last week’s Q&A with the zookeeper and we’ll have more interactive interviews like that soon. But today I am going to tell a story. I think that the story will be most interesting to adults and to teenagers, especially teenagers who have started thinking about college. If you have little or kids, they might like it, too. But I’ll just let you know in advance that there are a few suares fewer than my usual number of suares, but still some squares. The story is called Shirley Valentine. My oldest daughter’s a freshman, which means that this year is the first year that she’s gotten all kinds of advice from adults telling her how important her choice of college will be. Everyone’s like, better start thinking about it now. And she sees older kids, like sweating their extracurriculars or touring campuses, and they’re all waiting.

S1: Early admission or regular admission? There’s a lot of pressure about this where we live. This is the story I will tell her when she seems totally overwhelmed by the weight of the college decision. It’s the story of how I ended up at the University of North Carolina.

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S28: The day I first saw Shirley Valentine, she was reclining on a sun dappled Mediterranean beach in Milwaukee.

S29: It was October 1991. I was a senior in high school and my mom’s boyfriend, who was on the board of a small local theater company, had gotten me a job as a non-union stagehand for a production of the play Shirley Valentine. It was the first afternoon of Tech Week, and Johanna Morrison, the actress playing Shirley, was running through Act 2. Shirley Valentine is a one woman play by Willy Russell. First performed in 1986 about a Liverpool housewife who frees herself from the shackles of matrimony for a holiday of sun, sand and sex in Greece. The space was empty, but for the actress on stage, the director and his assistant in the seats, a small crew in the booth and me.

S30: I came in just as Johanna has. Shirley spoke to the empty seats, kissed with stretch marks.

S31: You know, he didn’t, he said. He said they were lovely because they were part of me and I was lovely, he said. He said stretch marks were to be taken, to be hidden away. They were to be displayed, to be proud of, he said. My stretch marks show that the tide was alive and the tides survived, that they were marks of life.

S32: Men further.

S33: The director called out Hope, please join us. We need to work on this cue. She stopped talking, stopped acting. You could see it happen, and introduced herself to me. She asked if we were going to be working together.

S34: I’m down. I said hi.

S33: Yes, we will. I’m gonna be a stagehand on the show. Surely can we have you back on stage, please? Well. That was it. I realize now that my mom’s boyfriend was probably trying to demonstrate for me the drudgery of an actual day to day commitment. The theater was not glamorous and starry, but hard work, but any less than he might have hoped I’d learn. Vanished the instant they restarted the rehearsal. When Johanna and her frumpy one piece bathing suit shifted her focus to me, hungry for an audience in the middle of a dull tech through nearly thirty years later, I still remember the force of that actally attention.

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S35: Like the moment when the lamp in the Pixar logo turns and looks right at you.

S33: The second best thing about Tech Week was the rehearsal started at 3 o’clock, so I got to leave pre-calc early.

S36: Every day I would fidget in my desk for 10 minutes before collecting my things. And Mr. Young would say, Oh, I guess Kayce has to leave for his play. He believed that to be belittling. I found it so rewarding. Of course, a buffoon like that wouldn’t understand what was valuable about an experience like this. Mr. Young clearly thought I was an entitled little shit, which I was even in subjects I liked. I rarely worked hard and precalc. I basically did nothing. I gravitated to teachers who exhibited that crucial willingness to look past a teen’s demeanor to see who he might become if steered in the right direction. Mr. Young must have had that of other kids, but he did not have that with me. He bent my distain with antagonism, a response that even that I couldn’t say I didn’t deserve at revelled in the dislike of a math teacher and baseball coach with a blond mustache and short sleeved button down shirts. I thought this is the exact kind of person who should hate me. I was hyper and hectic. I had a girlfriend and a group of buddies, but I was lonely all the time. I was young for my grade and didn’t drink and never went to a single party. I had inarticulate ideas about the world, but that didn’t stop me from loudly articulating them all the time. I was insufferable. Understand now that I was searching for some clue as to the kind of person I might be. When I finally was a person and I dream that someone would reach out a hand and touch me and say This is who you are. I would never have articulated it this way, but I hoped working on this play would help me make sense to myself. I hope Shirley Valentine would help me figure it all out.

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S37: And she did.

S38: During Tech Week, I learned I like the work silently moving around the stage in a black T-shirt, black jeans, setting and clearing furniture like ninjas, but much more than that. I simply liked being in the theater hearing. The stage manager and the HSM telling jokes to each other over the intercom, noticing that adding a single Fornell to a light wash. Change the way the stage looked and listening to Joanna and the director talk about a certain line speaking a kind of shorthand to each other. I liked that the drudgery and panic of tech had us all a little bit on edge. Are most alive selves. I’d like that we were solving problems in the service of making art, and I like that everyone treated me as a partner in making that art. A junior partner? Yes, but a partner, especially Joanna, who’s exceptionally kind. The show had been mounted first at an outdoor theater in upstate D-OR County and transferring it to Milwaukee required some last minute redesign. So the designers and the director had to fix endless technical staff issues during tech week. The first best thing about Tech Week was that during that time I sat in the green room upstairs and talked with Johanna Morrison, with Shirley Valentine. As far as I was concerned, they were the same person in the years afterward. As I told and retold this story to everyone I met, I could not remember, for example, whether Johanna Morrison, the actress, was from England. When she spoke to me, was it in Shirley’s working class? Liverpudlian accent Plummy Royal Academy of Drama Voice or in a flat American tone? One afternoon in that upstairs lounge, Johanna asked me where I was planning to go to college. I said I hadn’t decided yet. I wanted to study theater. I was applying to four or five schools, but I hadn’t fallen in love yet. Johanna was an acting professor. Turned out North Carolina. North Carolina. She said, doing the accent perfectly. And she told me I’d love it there. Oh, it’s grand. You can act in direct shows from your first year, she said. Or maybe it’s great they’ll let you act and direct as a freshman. I don’t know. I know. I told her excitedly how much I always wanted to do that.

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S33: How directing plays that I wrote was my real dream. But I remember clearly not her exact words, but the way she treated me as someone worth giving advice to someone with a future worth talking about. I was invited to the opening night party, but I didn’t think to bring a change of clothes. So I remember sitting on the stairs in the audience bank and my stagehand blacks. I watched Shohat and her husband surrounded by well-wishers, holding forth like theatrical royalty. Her husband was also a theater teacher.

S35: She told me and the director in my memory, he wore an ascot. I think it’s very unlikely that was actually the case. But looking at them, I realized that was what I wanted. Not her. I mean, I had a big crush on her, but even in the full bloom of 16 year old, last I knew, that was patently absurd. She was old for starters, just to say younger than I am now.

S33: Know what I wanted? It was to go someplace far away and do amazing things so that when I came back to Milwaukee, it would be as the person at the center of the circle drinking wine, not the kid on the edges drinking a coke.

S37: I wanted a big life.

S30: Shirley Valentine is a two act play, Act one is set and Shirleys Kitchen in Liverpool in the first scene. She makes chips, an egg for her husband’s dinner.

S33: She really cooked in our production. We had a little gas burner embedded in the fake range. Every night she actually fried a couple of eggs while she talked to the audience. Well, she talked to Wall. The kitchen wall. The only person she talks to and other children are gone. Shirley tells Wall about how her friend bought tickets for Greece. And she wants to go. She doesn’t have the guts to ask her husband, Joe, in the second scene. It’s the day of her flight. Her bags are packed, but she’s agonizing to wall over whether to leave. Act Two is set on the beach in Greece. Ray Tan and a happy Shirley reveals all that’s happened to her new friend, Rock. Joe isn’t a bad guy. Exactly, not as Shirley describes him. He’s just absent and inconsiderate and extremely set in his ways. He stopped loving Shirley, stopped seeing her. Really? I would sit in that lounge upstairs during every show doing my homework or trying to read a book. But really, I would be listening to Shirley Valentine.

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S36: I grew to love that play. It was a storehouse of wisdom about how to treat a woman. For one thing, Shirley is very funny on the way. That guy’s never really listened to women and how they drive conversations where they want them to go.

S39: Most men really do no good talking with women.

S40: They don’t know how to listen.

S39: Why does they feel they they have to take over the conversation? Like most fans, if you said something like like my favorite season is often.

S40: Well, most folks that go, is it my favorite season in the spring?

S39: See, what I liked about spring is that in spring and then you get 10 minutes of what you like about spring and you won’t be talking about spring.

S41: You were talking about autumn.

S21: I had a lot of time to listen.

S30: It was really a very easy stagehand gig, much simpler than other jobs I’d have later. And other theaters we had that set the eggs in the on-stage fridge and arrange the other cooking stuff before the show. At intermission, we had to switch out the kitchen set for the Greek beach set. We only had one change to make under time pressure between those scenes and act one. We had to go out in the dark and clean up the kitchen, collecting the fried eggs, the pans, the fake styrofoam chips. While backstage, a dresser quickly changed Sherley into her traveling clothes. We had two minutes and 37 seconds to accomplish this change, which is the running time of the song that played during the blackout. When I’m 64 by the Beatles. By the third week of performances, we had the changes down me and the other stagehand, the union guy.

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S38: I remember us giving each other five backstage done with the change while the song was still in the bridge and we’d look at each other backstage and sing in unison with McCartney. We a Chuck and Dave.

S30: I can remember that stagehands name calling Chuck.

S33: So now it is sometime the third week of the run. We’ve got this down to a science. Me and Chuck, we do our presets. We tell Johanna, break a leg and we head up to the green room and I pull my homework out of my backpack and we hear the audience quiet as the lights go down. And through the intercom speakers, we hear Shirley say her first lines of the show.

S40: You know, I like a glass of wine during the cook in that tumble down that like a glass of wine when I’m preparing the evening meal.

S36: And then I realize, oh, my God, I forgot to set the eggs. I completely panic. I lose it. I drop my homework and run to the reading room fridge where we keep all the eggs in between shows.

S30: And there they are just sitting there. The four eggs that in just about 15 minutes, Shirley is supposed to start cooking onstage, but she can’t because I screwed it up. That is the whole business of act one, scene one. She makes fake chips and real eggs, but she can’t make pretend eggs because what is she supposed to do? Mime the eggs?

S29: Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God. And Chuck, who is an adult. Calmly rips a page out of my AP English notebook, finds a magic marker and writes in big letters. Eggs in pantry. And he says basically, Dan, stop it. Stop freaking take the eggs and wait backstage behind the door to the pantry. Stay where the audience won’t see you. When she opens the door and he walks out of the lounge with the sign, I take the eggs, I carry them carefully down the stairs, into the wings. I sort of stumble for a second and imagine the eggs flying through the air. But I keep it together. I pick the record and home and see Chuck sitting halfway down the aisle and the audience bank holding the sign he made down by his feet where audience members can’t see it, but where Johanna hopefully can. And so I crouch in the dark behind the pantry door. I hold the eggs on a wheat, sweating and terrified, wondering if I ruin the show, wondering how. I’ll explain to my mom and Mr. Young if I get fired from a job as a non-union stagehand halfway through the run, wondering what Johanna is gonna think of me. The dumb kid who screwed up the one job he had. Will she see the sign? Will she get what Chuck means by the sign? Will she be able to? But then the door opens and she comes through it in the middle of a line. And I got up and hold out the eggs. And she takes them and she looks right at me, still talking, and she winks and closes the door. winx as if as if we were in cahoots or something. As if this was just another lark. A funny story to tell. I had another opening night party while sipping a glass of wine. The next morning, I went to the guidance office at my high school and use the phone to call the admissions office of the University of North Carolina and asked them to send me an application, please. The lady in the admissions office had the kind of southern accent you hear in movies. She sounded like an actress.

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S42: I got in. I applied to Carolina late, but I was a good tester and I got in.

S43: It was 1991, not 2020. When a kid with my academic record would need his parents to donate like a business school. I think I wrote some damn essay about how being a stagehand on Shirley Valentine changed my life. At the time, u._n._c accepted me. I’d already done all my college visits, but somehow I talked my dad into driving me to Chapel Hill during spring break. On the way down, we stopped overnight and still remember this beaver like Kentucky, just off I-75, right down the road from Big Bone Lake State Park. We laughed for like a week about that. When I got to Chapel Hill, I took a tour and saw the outside of the theater building. Students were gone for a break and everything was locked up tight. But by the student union was a billboard for the drama department’s big show for the spring Crimes of the Heart.

S28: I knew that play at the campus campus was about the most beautiful place I’d ever seen.

S43: Bear in mind, I was comparing it to Syracuse in January. My parents and my friends couldn’t believe I was heading south, farther south than anyone in my family had ever been. Farther south than anyone in my high school is going. My girlfriend went to Madison like maybe 40 percent of my graduating class. She in particular couldn’t believe I wasn’t going to Madison with her. But that August I said goodbye to her and to my friends and to Wisconsin and drove down to North Carolina again with my parents. We all laughed a big bone lick together. Could that possibly be right? They’d only been divorced three years at that point, and they weren’t on the greatest terms, but they were both at orientation with me. So I guess that is what happened. Memories of that time consist of vivid and sharp moments with long detail, free feelings, and between them the moments are things like my parents riding the elevator up to my dorm room with me or meeting the woman I would eventually marry on a volleyball court. The first day of classes or my my mortifying interview to become a deejay at the super eclectic college radio station, even though I only ever listened to R.E.M.. Those were the moments. But the feeling was this sense that the world had indeed opened up, that I was someplace big, far bigger than me, a place that could swallow me whole unless I worked hard to make myself seen the feeling that something was beginning. I was gonna play it cool with Johanna Morrison. Obviously, I was both a little embarrassed at my previous crush on her and also deep, deep down thinking, well, this was fate. Although, of course, I was very devoted to my high school girlfriend and we were gonna make it work anyway. I didn’t want her to think I was a stalker. I wasn’t. I had applied out of SMI infatuation, but I was here for myself, not for her. But.

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S44: What would she do when she saw me?

S30: Of course, probably she wouldn’t even recognize me. I was at a tiny blip, the second best stagehand on a show she’d done half a year ago. Just just one show in a whirlwind of acting and teaching and parties and marriage.

S38: But wasn’t it possible that I had meant something to her that she remembered this kid she told about North Carolina all those months ago, but the fun and excitement of those weeks in Milwaukee would come back to her when she saw me in the halls of the theater building.

S30: Then she would say, maybe with Shirleys. British accent. Love. Yeah. Yeah. She’d take me under her wing, introduced me around, tell the story of the eggs. I’d refer to my cool headedness under pressure without being braggy. Of course, the other faculty would nod give me parts in their shows. I didn’t understand that there was no Johanna Morrison until the first day of classes when I mentioned her to my drama 10 professor and he said, Who? He didn’t know or had never heard of her. I don’t know, maybe she teaches somewhere else. He said she doesn’t teach here. Was she in the communication studies department or English or something?

S36: I went to the library and found the faculty directory and looked her up. No Johanna Morrison in any department.

S45: Who was she? Where had she gone? Whose life was she living?

S36: I confess that in that pre-Internet era, I had not done much due diligence looking into u._n._c theater program before I arrived. The school had a brochure about its various arts programs which didn’t list individual faculty. I applied late, had rushed my decision. I never actually talked to anyone from the drama apartments. It was a series of idiotic mistakes that I like to imagine no one in 2020 would ever make. A bit of simple googling would answer the question Is this amazing actress actually a professor at the school she’s talked me into applying to? I checked out a copy of Shirley Valentine from the University Library and re-read it. I heard every line in her voice and I thought of her sitting in the bright lights in her bathing suit.

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S32: Considering her life until that moment, what I kept thinking about was how I’d lift such a lift to life a long way or another. Even that would be over pretty soon. I thought to myself, my life has been a crime, a crime against God because I didn’t feel fully and allowed myself to live this little life living inside me. There was so much.

S36: Her name isn’t Shirley Valentine for most of the play, it’s Shirley Bradshaw. Shirley Valentine is her maiden name, who she used to be. But then by the end of the play, it’s who she is again. She embraces more. She stays in Greece and gets a job as a waitress. She lives. I didn’t know where my Shirley Valentine had gone, but I like to imagine her on that beach talking Iraq.

S45: Living the big life she taught me was a possibility. The big life I was setting out to live.

S36: I did finally find Johanna Morrison. Twenty five years later, we met in Hartford, Connecticut.

S46: She still taught theater and acted when we met for lunch at a cafe in town. She wore a brilliant white pantsuit.

S47: I’m a monogram person, she said in her British accent.

S46: Her face was the same as I remembered her vivacious actor’s face that worked hard and conversations responding to nearly every word I said with a raised eyebrow. Her smile, her twinkle. I’d emailed her that as a teenager, I’d worked on that Milwaukie production of Shirley Valentine before our spinach salads arrived.

S47: She said, Will you please forgive me for saying that I don’t actually remember you?

S46: I told her. No, of course there’s no reason she would. As I recounted the disaster of the eggs, she laughed.

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S47: Oh, I do think I remember that.

S46: I worried that I traumatized her. But she said that after the torture of Daw County, where raccoons peed on the stage mid show, nothing we could have done in Milwaukee could have faced her in the least. When I told her the story of my college decision, she smiled and I saw the actor inside her switch on.

S47: She gave me a tiny gift and beginning to remember you a bit more. You were very kind and well-mannered. I do remember that. I truly do. And you did have stars in your eyes.

S46: She sipped her tea fondly.

S36: It was a wonderful lunch during which I learned just how much I’d never known about her. And that show how the nature of memory was such that I didn’t even truly know anymore. What I remembered wrong, what I subconsciously changed all the times I’d retold the story, but I’d never even known in the first place. But I already knew the answer to the most important question of how it was. I ended up a u._n._c, and she wasn’t there at all.

S48: My sophomore year in college, the World Wide Web finally came to Carolina and at some point in the computer lab in the basement of the undergrad library, it came to me that I should search for Johanna Morrison. The Internet was still in its infancy, but her name had to come up for some theater company somewhere, right? So I went to Altarpiece TED.com and typed in Johanna Morrison plus North Carolina. And there she was, a headshot first show with the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival. I clicked on the page and read her bio. Johanna Morrisson teaches acting at the North Carolina School of the Arts. It turned out that for all those years, Shirley Valentine hadn’t been in Greece. She’d been 75 miles away in Winston Salem. My daughter will be applying to colleges someday. And I’ll tell her the story. Course. Because it all worked out fine. I loved school and found friends and a wife and eventually the big life I dreamed of. Even though I made my college decision for the absolute stupidest possible reason, you can imagine what I think of this story. I don’t think of that lesson. I still think of her. Here’s to you, Shirley Valentine. Thank you for your patience and your kindness. Thank you for that wink which send my life spinning in a direction I never could have anticipated. I’m sorry I blew it. I guess I wasn’t listening as carefully as I thought. I was sitting in that green room in 1991 with stars in my eyes. You weren’t talking about spring at all. You were talking about autumn. Extra special thanks to Joe Morrison for reviving her role as Shirley Valentine.

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S36: And well, has herself.

S12: OK, Dan.. Now we know how you ended up in the school you ended up and given this. What advice are you going to give her about finding schools? Because essentially you say, like, it was fine. I ended up here for kind of the wrong reasons. But what does that transfer into for like advice for the kids?

S1: I think the advice is that it doesn’t matter, right. That if you go into whatever your college experience is going to be or even a non college experience, even if you decide not to do college, but do some other route, that if you go into it with the expectation that you can make something big and exciting out of it, probably you’re gonna like if you go into it in that kind of spirit, you don’t have to spend hours and hours and hours obsessing about whether like the quad at UVA is better for you personally than the quad somewhere else. Like that should probably in the end doesn’t make that much of a difference.

S12: You were excited and you thought this place held all these things.

S21: And so whether it really did or not was sort of her after the brief moment of crushing like humiliation.

S11: Yeah, sure, sure. But I mean.

S1: Right. Yes. I went there, I thought because of this person. But really, I was going there because of what that person represented to me, which was a very particular kind of like enthusiastic pursuit of an exciting big life. And I was still able to do that. And so wherever you end up at this stage in your life at the like 17, 18, 19, part of your life, if you go into it with a real desire for something, you can get out of it, some kind of person, you can become there. It probably doesn’t matter what the thing is like that’s transferable to almost any human experience.

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S49: How do you think that something like this can play out with one of your kids today now that the Internet exists? And it would be so easy to answer some of the questions that you’d have without having to wait years and years.

S1: I mean, surely this would never happen, right? I mean, my assumption is something this stupid would never happen today. I do think, though. That my kids in particular and kids in general, I think are very likely to take what they see on the Internet at face value. And so when a kid is, for example, making a college decision, I think they are very likely to maybe lack a certain amount of skepticism about the way the school is presenting itself online, about the kind of experience the school says it’s going to offer in their marketing or other materials. I don’t know if that transfers to real life. I don’t know if kids today on a tour are more likely to, like ask the questions that I never asked on that tour because it didn’t even dawn on me to do that. But I do wonder if, since my kids have that, if it’s on the Internet, it’s real in some ways realer than real life. We’ll transfer in some way to them being a little bit credulous about these things. I also think that the Internet means that when my kids get to the college decision point, it seems kind of impossible to even make that first cut that you have to make when you’re doing a college decision. Right. Like there’s a whole universe of schools out there. You have to decide, well, what are even the twenty five say that I’m even going to think about that. I’m even going to spend five minutes looking at. That’s even before you do the kind of what are the five or whatever I’m going to apply to. You know in nineteen ninety one that twenty five was basically these are the twenty five schools that my guidance counselor has brochures for. And that was it like that was how I made my decision of what I was going to look at. USC wasn’t in that pile so I didn’t even think about USC until I got sold out accidentally by someone else. And so I do wonder if there’s gonna be a kind of paralysis of choice. And I’m very curious if listeners who have kids who’ve gone through this college decision have experienced that, that your kid sits down and absent a lot of guidance from some kind of outside source, they just feel a little bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of possible college experiences they could have because they all have equal weight on the Internet.

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S50: It made me think of the ways that college students rally around their school or present their school online. You know, and I follow a number of alumni. Yeah, and alumni for sure. I went to Howard in D.C., the fabled HBCU. So there’s that going forward. But there’s also just the way that alone are so loud and proud about having gone to Howard.

S51: And you think how the younger, you know, Howard students and I followed them accounts that are run by current students or their re-Tweet current students.

S52: And I feel like just the way that they talk about it, OK, to 2020, we’re doing this. We’re doing that. And I think of teenage Djamila as looking at not necessarily making a decision 100 percent based on this, like I find following a cute boy who’s a sophomore at that school and he seems smart. And I just wonder how that might have factored into my decision or my passion for Howard.

S50: Or maybe I would have been directed towards Fellman because there was a cute Morehouse boy. There is that thing.

S1: And just in general, that like social media enthusiasm, which I think really does exist for many schools. But there are certain schools that it’s like it’s huge. Right. It’s like, you know, I think of SCC schools are a lot of HBCU use. I think of those schools as having like just really active, loud and proud online fandoms, both among students and alumni. I do think that that is is like interesting and appealing for a certain kind of kid who lives online that provides a kind of authority that maybe like a guidance counselor or a parent does not doesn’t kind of your point there that even if you end up at the wrong JUTSEN, it doesn’t necessarily matter as long as you can get there, right?

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S6: I think it doesn’t. But what I see here in Arlington releases that there’s like a solid 2 years of kids just like obsessing about this and their parents obsessing about it and. Part of it, I think probably is the sheer number of options that they have and certainly in a privileged place like North Arlington, those options are much broader than they are for lots of other kids. In a way that obviously has its real benefits. But I think in the moment of making a decision can be paralyzing in a way. But yeah, it does seem like there’s just an enormous amount of, like we said, effort and energy into something where probably if you just put the names of 20 colleges on a dartboard that you can afford without going into debt and threw a dart at them and went to the one that landed on, you’d be fine. All right, listeners, I would love to hear your stories of the crazy decisions you made in the pre-Internet era before you knew anything about anything. And those of you have kids who are on this college track. Do you think that, like, they’re paralyzed by choice? Do you think there’s too much for them to think about? Do you think they’re freaking out in a way that worries you? I’d like to hear about that, too. Send us an e-mail in Miami-Dade at slate.com or post on the Facebook page. Thanks for listening to my story, guys and listeners. Next week, we’ll have another Everyone is Fighting Now segment. We’ll probably do another interview. So let us know how you’d like to hear from what kind of person you would like us to be talking to, or your kids would like us to be talking to drop us an email at mom and dad at slate.com. All right. The show isn’t over yet. It is time for recommendations. Elizabeth, what do you have to recommend?

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S16: So I am recommending doing a time capsule with your kids for Koven, 19. And there is a wonderful printable from kiddie charts dot com that we’ve linked to in the show notes. It’s just a great way to kind of sum up the experience.

S13: It has some coloring pages and also ask some things about your kids, but then encourages you to write letters about the time and write a letter to your child. And we’ve just been working through it. One page at a time. And I plan to take a picture of it because I’m sure I won’t hold onto this piece of paper, but it’s been a really nice way to kind of process what’s going on and also find out what they find interesting about this time. And I am sure that it’s something we will want to look back on. And my kids got kind of interested in this because for the new year they got this peaceable kingdom time capsule kit which has like a ton of prompts and cards and a thing to put it all in and keep it all in that we have been doing as well for this year. But I really like this principle because it has some stuff about covenant team, but also ask some specific questions about it. So a great way to maybe summarize some of the stuff we’re going through and be able to look back at it in the future.

S23: That is a good recommendation. Harper for English class has been keeping a Corona virus quarantine diary, which is why she asked me the other day Dad to stir crazy. Have a hyphen in it.

S21: But I do think that like keeping track of this weird time will be so interesting to them in the future and to us as well. Good recommendation. Jamila, what about you?

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S52: OK. So with the caveat that the thing I wanted to recommend is currently unavailable on Amazon, which means no people purchase it since I have there are other companies that make a product very similar to it. I want to recommend the easy washe mobile washer, but they’re not the only game in town. There are other companies that make a device that looks like this. It’s essentially like a plunger of sorts that’s designed for hand-washing your clothes.

S53: And so if you are like me and live in a building that has a laundry room but have decided that you don’t want to expose yourself to your neighbors because you see their comings and goings and you realize that they’re not socially distancing as much as you’d like and you don’t want your clothes mingling with theirs or it’s you know, some of them are going to work or you just simply don’t have access to a washing machine.

S52: I got a big, huge pail and I did my first load yesterday.

S51: Came out fine. It smells nice. You don’t necessarily need a device to do this, but it’s one thing to hand wash underwear.

S53: Something very delicate. But when you want to break up some of that dirt from your child rolling around on the floor in boredom, you may need a little bit of help. And it’s pretty cool. I mean, it definitely reminded me a little bit of watching an episode of I Love Lucy or something that is maybe 20 or 30 bucks and a mobile washer.

S49: I think that it will make this process a lot easier.

S19: Do you use regular like laundry detergent with it?

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S52: You use regular liquid laundry detergent. You can’t use tide packs.

S16: You don’t throw a Tide pod and they’re like roadside tile there.

S51: And I heard from a good source that you really don’t want to bust one of those open and get it on your hands. It may burn. You know, don’t try that. If you absolutely have to use a tripod to wash your clothes, you need to dissolve it in water.

S52: Basically make liquid detergent out of a tripod, which is certainly a very poor use of money, but in a pinch, I suppose it would do. But yeah, this beats the dirt. It lets you like beat the dirt out of the clothes, rinse and roston rinse again. A few times before I felt like everything was adequately clean and sanitize and it’s hanging on my patio now. So hopefully I’ll actually get warm enough in California for my clothes to dry.

S15: The opinions of Jamilah Lemieux about whether Taipans will burn your hands, reflect on her own beliefs are not repeated by sleep RT.com or anyone else who works here. Great recommendation, I love that. I will have to look into that because hand-washing is a problem around here. I am recommending a hammock because right now what is at a premium in our house is ways to be alone. It is very difficult to be alone in our house and a hammock is a great way to be alone.

S6: We got one last week for Lyra for her birthday, which is coming up very shortly from a site called Hammock Universe. It costs less than 200 bucks for a big, beautiful Brazilian hammock.

S23: And also the stand that it attaches to, which is super easy to put together even for someone like me who doesn’t know how to do anything. So now it is sitting out on our back patio and our nice days. We’ve had several nice days already this spring when someone needs some alone time, including me, they just head out there and they sit in the hammock and you can’t be seen very well from inside. So people don’t notice here, there and you can just read or listen to music or play on your phone for a little bit. It is totally great. Very affordable for how much pleasure. I believe it is going to deliver over the course of the summer. Get yourself a hammock if you have a place to put it.

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S13: Have you seen those like zip up weather pod things you like, put it around you and zip it up. Moms have them at soccer. Dads have them to at soccer practice and stuff, you know, to sit ins. They don’t get when we don’t happen.

S23: You can be like bubble boy while you’re sitting in the rain.

S16: Yeah, I do. And then they cheer from in there and they have all their stuff, just a white wine cooler and they’re ready to go. I’m making fun of it, but I know I’m like a year away.

S23: The only thing that will protect you from the pollen in Florida.

S11: Yeah, exactly. But I’m saying you could just give it up in your house.

S21: There is absolutely no way that if I was ripped up in something like that in my house, that I would be alone for more than seven seconds. Are you crazy? Like Harbaugh would immediately be up there, be like, what is that? What can I get in that? Why can’t I use that? Can I get it?

S16: Yeah, but you would get one for everyone. You’d be like that’s you know, he goes, everyone needs their own for.

S21: I encourage you, Elizabeth, to look into the past.

S11: Sounds like a better fit. Sounds like a better idea.

S54: All right. Good recommendations, everyone. Thank you for listening. That’s our show. If you have a question. Email us at Mom, Dad at slate.com. Please join us on Facebook. Just search for slate parenting. Mom and dad are fighting us. Produced by Rosemarie Bellson for Jamilah Lemieux and Elizabeth New Camp. I’m Dan Coates.

S1: Hello, Slate Plus listeners. Thank you so much for supporting mom and dad are fighting. It really means a lot to us. Late last week, we spotted a pretty funny question on our Slate parenting Facebook page. It’s a little bit of something of a parenting landmark. It’s one you probably didn’t imagine when you first thought about the joys of having kids. So what do you do when your kid calls you stupid for the first time? Here is the Facebook post read by the fantastic socially and art.

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S22: OK, my three and a half year old just called me stupid for the first time. I know a couple of kids that call their parents stupid a lot and it’s super embarrassing for the parents. Needless to say, I want to cancel this shit now. Any pointers for the next time this happens? I completely ignored it this time because I didn’t want to give it any power.

S1: I would like you to take first crack at this. Nyima, I understand sometimes says mean things about people who she believes are being mean to her. Has this ever happened to you?

S49: Oh, absolutely. I am no stranger to name insults. At times she. You know, when she gets herself worked up in name and does have some anxiety issues. It can manifest in self-deprecation for sure, but it can also become lashing out against her loved ones. I’ve been stupid a few times. I’m more likely to be hated, but I think this thing in the same sort of way. Yes, I can remember the very first time that she called me stupid. But I do remember feeling almost paralyzed for a moment. You know, it’s just you knew this day was coming. Right. It’s like the first time they come home with a hickey or something. It’s like this was inevitable.

S52: Anytime the name insults me or someone else, I just try really hard to help her understand why what she said was hurtful and inaccurate. And with an emphasis on how it makes me feel as opposed to the appropriateness, because I think that you know why.

S55: Oftentimes we shift things around. You know, there’s some sliding goalposts as it relates to decorum and behavior and what’s allowed. You know, they’ll be times where it’s like you said, we don’t do this. And I saw you do that or you said this. But I’m not supposed to say that, you know.

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S49: And so I didn’t want it to be about don’t call me stupid, because it’s wrong for a child to speak to an adult that way or even that is wrong for anyone to speak to sound that way. But that is very hurtful, you know, and it makes me sad.

S55: And I know you don’t feel that way. And I want to talk about like, what are you feeling that made you want to make me feel bad? Because ultimately, I know that that was the intention in saying something like that. I am frustrated.

S50: I can’t articulate my feelings better and or I want to hurt your feelings. So why on earth would you want to hurt my feelings? At one point, I was not just stupid. I was a dumb ass.

S52: And that was truly a moment in which I had to go sit and compose myself a little bit because it wasn’t a matter of why I’m gonna hit you. Go scream, go crazy.

S56: I was just like, What the fuck do I say to this? Like, right. Like I said, calm child calling me a dummy. Why is my second child calling me a dummy? How could this possibly have happened?

S6: I’m interested by this response of focusing on feelings, focusing on the hurt that it causes, which I do think is a way of really getting through to kids because they obviously they really relate to that. And then turning it as quickly as possible to what is it that you’re feeling that makes you say that? I think that that’s good advice, Elizabeth. What do you think?

S16: My advice is pretty much very similar. My oldest, Henry, has like some defiance issues.

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S13: So he says a lot of things to try to get a reaction out of us when he’s angry. And so I find just like mirroring nothing back initially until he’s kind of done so that he doesn’t get any kind of reaction. And same thing I like to tell him, like the things you said really hurt my feelings. Sometimes that means that then I need some space or I don’t want to engage with them, but not in like a hurtful way, just in a like very adult. These are my actual feelings and you’ve hurt my feelings. And I don’t really want to hang out with someone that hurt my feelings right now. And when I’m feeling that, I’d love to talk to you about this or when you’re feeling better. I’d love to talk to you about this and then having that conversation about kind of naming the feeling, because so often it’s not you know, it could be anger, but it could also be jealousy or, you know, over something else that’s happening in the house or feeling sad about something like just trying to get that reaction. So I also try to just not like not board the crazy train is what I always say, like this is the crazy train happening and I’m gonna let it chug by and then we can discuss kind of what happened at a quieter time. And again, focusing not on these like SAT responses of you need to now apologize, but like what you said really hurt my feelings. And that’s important because we have a relationship and hurting feelings in a relationship is bad for the relationship. So what are some ways now that we can rebuild that relationship? And if he chooses to say like, I’m sorry. That’s great. Then I make sure I say like, I forgive you because that is part of that relationship. But sometimes, too, it’s like he will because he can’t necessarily say he’s sorry or he doesn’t feel like he’ll bring me some water or bring something to me. And I feel like also accepting that as a relationship. Step in again, Jamelia, like I think, you know, you were saying saying like, let’s talk about what you were feeling when you said that to me. And what are some better ways? Like instead of saying I’m stupid? How about you just tell me what you did made me really angry or I don’t agree with you. These are other words to express that. And as usual, I have two great books that I love for this age that kind of give language to that. And one is called The Way I Feel and the other is called the way I Act. And they’re both by Janeane Cahn. And they are just really simple introductory vocabulary to feelings and then actions with simple pictures. And I have found that as we read those, it gives my kids more words to use, which is helpful because that’s what we’re asking them to do. Like use your words. Don’t just choose this limited vocabulary of your stupid. Like, let’s be really specific about what you feel and why you feel I’m stupid and then we can have a conversation about it.

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S1: All really good advice. One thing that I do find really interesting about this letter and about responses that I’ve heard, I will say that this did not bother me at all.

S21: At age 3, it didn’t feel hurtful at the time. It wasn’t embarrassing at the time. Letter writer I wouldn’t be so certain that it is super embarrassing for every other parent. I mean, when our kids at 3 would, you know, have a tantrum or be upset and yell something like, You’re so stupid at us. Just generally we found ourselves nearly unable to keep a straight face. And when that happened, because, you know, because they were just like their tiny little red faces would be so angry and it was always about something totally absurd. And we had a very hard time taking that seriously, which I think had its own set of problems, because we often would respond just in sort of general amusement instead of like really, truly taking seriously not their declaration that we’re stupid, but the emotions that are behind that declaration, the things that are frustrating them. Conversely, I have found it much, much, much harder than I ever expected to find it to deal with them. Sane, angry things to me, probably like once they hit like 10 or so, because that for me is when it changed from feeling like a thing. A little kid says in the heat of the moment, something that all little kids do without really thinking about it or about the consequences at all to what it feels like. They’re being delivered about it, right? It’s like it’s not just them saying something in a little tantrum, but it’s that they thought about it and then they made an affirmative decision to hurt you, to say a thing that they knew would be hurtful to you as like a small grown person. And. I found myself much more likely to be deeply hurt by that. And then I found myself to be really bad at saying the thing I should say then, which is a very simple what you said hurt my feelings. It’s much harder for me to say that when my feelings truly were hurt. And that is the thing that I always struggle with the most now. It was easy for me to say, oh, what you said hurt my feelings when it was bullshit. My feelings were hurt at all. It’s much harder for me now. In the sting of the moment when Lyra Herber has actually said something to me that actually like cut me to the bone to do that, to respond calmly. So that is the thing I’m working on and like forever working on. And so I know that it’s hard, whatever age your kid is at which those things start to really actually hurt you or bother you. It is hard to respond in that way. The extent to which you can, as Elizabeth says, give like no response given like the nearly blank face or the face of kindness, you’d like to force yourself into that. I think that’s really beneficial, even as hard as it can be.

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S16: Dan, I would argue, too, that doing these things now, when they’re 3 or 5 or whatever, is good training for when they get older, it sure would have been for is just the way that we handle things.

S12: I mean, it’s ridiculous sometimes, right. But I just think like I’m training this interaction and what they’re going to expect my response to be to this. And then when they do come to me with better explanations of stuff, so when they scream at me like I’m just so jealous that, you know, this happened over Easter that my brother found the golden egg. I was like, thank you so much for telling me exactly what’s going on. It is really frustrating that he found what you perceived to be the better egg.

S11: Laughing All right. Yeah, it was. But to have it was a big deal.

S13: He knows that if he just tells me that instead of screaming like this activity is stupid and running off that like we can now have a conversation to fix or remedy the problem. Even if the remedy is like, hey, give me a hug, sometimes you don’t find the golden egg like you know. But that’s also a lesson. I don’t know. Check in with me in ten years and see how it’s going. Probably I’ll still be screaming at me.

S21: Actually, what a bank would be great would be if you could travel back in time 10 years and give that advice to me, please.

S51: It does not feel good when I know that name is trying to hurt my feelings. I certainly know it’s not the same sort of thing as some of the things that I was able to say to my mother as a teenager.

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S53: You know, Lebanon’s twelve year old and I do agree that like getting in the ritual of talking about these things now helps. But I also I tried to and this would even go for a teenager. Remind myself that an insult or hurtful words from a child is a cancer being shot with a B.B. gun or water gun.

S17: You know, like this can hurt, but it was not designed to kill. You know, like this person is not operating from a place where they even understand everything that they’re saying. Even as a teenager or the damage it can cause as many times as you may have said, no words can hurt people. Words can hurt people. Your parents love you more than anyone else.

S57: You know, separate to treat us with such contempt is even worse than just being a generally mean person. To treat your family this way is really awful. I also consider not just that the kids don’t fully have the capacity to comprehend what they’re saying, but there’s some of it is just performance, you know, like the other day, like my thing with Nyima when I get really upset with her or frustrated and not really clear on how to proceed, I’ll say I need a moment, you know, and I’ll step away or I’ll ask her to just step into her room for a minute.

S17: I’ll just say give me two seconds and I just need to put my hand, you know, through my hair for a second and have a glass of water. Just calm down, you know, or just think about how I’m going to approach this as opposed to trying to deal with it right then and there. And so the other day I forgot exactly what she’d done and maybe it was revealed something that she’d done, you know, and I feel like she was telling me something that had happened that kind of threw me because it was pretty bad and that’s it.

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S58: Okay. I need a minute, she said. Oh, I bet you do, don’t you? And I said, Yeah, I do. I need a moment. What does that even mean? I am. She said it just means that I bet that you do need a moment, you know.

S59: And I realized that she heard somebody say, I bet you do. She may have heard me say, I bet you do. But she had no idea that there was no logical reason for her to say those words at that time.

S57: And calling you stupid is code for I’m upset, I’m unhappy.

S17: I don’t like the thing you did, but it’s not connected to somebody deeply believing that they have an inadequate parent.

S21: Right? T minus three months before our name starts saying I need a moment in the Middle East conversations. Oh, absolutely. I think that would actually be great. I wish my kids took a moment more often.

S59: Yeah, I feel like she has to die with me. And I’m operatives who ask, do you need to take is that gonna use? She’s resisting so with me.

S57: But I feel like there have been times in school and maybe.

S17: Dad, where there’s been a negotiation around like name and he’s the. The name is going to go over here and quietly color.

S57: So I’m waiting for her to do this right when I’m in the middle of the casino of my speech is when she’s going to be like before you get to that point.

S18: Really? So it’s put together. I just need a moment.

S6: All right. Well, thank you both. Thank you, listener, for posting that question on Facebook. We don’t believe you’re stupid. Don’t worry about it. And thank you. Slate Plus members, we really appreciate the support that you give us.

S27: Talk to you next week.