Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Submit it here or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.
Dear Care and Feeding,
My 13-year-old daughter just got her first smartphone and made an Instagram account (with permission). She followed her older cousin who is 23, and whom she admires. I also have Instagram and follow her cousin (my niece).
My niece is great, but she occasionally posts inappropriate things. Nothing super explicit, usually just something referencing sex, drugs, or alcohol, and usually in a funny way (she has a very dry sense of humor). After my daughter followed her, my niece let me know she added her to the “kid list,” which means my daughter and any other kids who follow her (mostly family) can’t see her more inappropriate posts but can still see the majority of the things she posts that are kid-friendly.
Despite this, I occasionally see a couple of things slip through the cracks, mostly just posts with swear words that I don’t want my daughter seeing. Is it wrong to ask my daughter to unfollow her cousin until she’s older?
I wouldn’t do anything. If she’s 13, your daughter knows all the same swear words your niece does, and it sounds like your niece is generally careful with what gets posted to her “kid list.” By all means, keep monitoring what posts make it through, but I think some stray curse words are fine, and it’s a fun way for your niece to feel bonded with her cool older cousin.
Don’t sweat this one.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
My wife and I just found out we’re expecting for the first time. It’s twins. I’m in full fucking panic mode. We’ve been planning this for years so I shouldn’t be worried, but oh man am I freaking the fuck out. Every book we bought ahead of time seems like it’s designed for singles; now they all seem useless. Where do I even begin to start planning?
—Panicking in Plano
Your adorable, expletive-ridden freakout has won my heart. So many parents of multiples have these thoughts while smiling fixedly as the doctor moves the wand over the gelled-up belly, and you have put them into words. Let me first tell you: It’s going to be OK. It’s going to suck for a while, but then you actually wind up (ideally!) with toddlers who will entertain themselves for entire minutes at a time, and then you’re a leg up on the rest of us. My friend had twins literally one day after I had my oldest, and now they’re rock climbing and backcountry skiing like they’re Bond villains while I’m trying to wrangle three different ages and ability levels.
Go ahead and hang onto the books you already have (still plenty of relevant information!), and I will add some new ones to your list. The first three I recommend for most people, and then we’ll move into what’s key for multiples: Emily Oster’s Expecting Better, Armin Brott’s The New Father, and the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Caring for Your Baby and Young Child, Birth to Age 5. These will help you both chill out a little and tell you how to do basic shit for your baby.
Now, onto the exciting world of multiples! First, your wife is going to have a lot of extra demands during this pregnancy, so I’d like her to read Twins, Triplets, and Quads: Proven Guidelines for a Healthy Multiple Pregnancy. It’s the most recent edition and has all our current best practices on food, exercise, all that good stuff. I also like Raising Twins, which is written by a pediatrician and a mother of twins. This book is just for you and will tell you when to just listen and pat your wife’s back supportively. Way, way down the road, Weissbluth has a variant of his excellent sleep book but specifically for twins.
Also, remember, it’s not triplets.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
I occasionally give my two grandsons money, maybe a $20 bill, but not every time I see them. Lately, I have been thinking about whether I may be practicing intermittent reinforcement with them, which I don’t see as a good thing. They may be wondering every time they see me if I am going to give them money, and be disappointed when I don’t. Do you think I should stop giving them money, give them some each time, or what?
You may be worried you have accidentally created that experiment where the rats push the lever and get cocaine. For the uninitiated: One group of rats get cocaine whenever they push the lever, and therefore quit trying almost immediately after the cocaine stops coming. One group gets cocaine every second or third time, so it takes them longer to give up when they shut off the cocaine. The unfortunate rats, in the final group, get cocaine randomly and will never, ever stop hitting that pedal in case the cocaine is coming back. Don’t do cocaine, everyone.
You are not creating cocaine rats. You are just sometimes giving your grandchildren 20 bucks. I think that’s a fun surprise! Now, if you notice them looking sad or disappointed when they don’t get money, I would switch to a “holidays only” system and be really open-minded about what constitutes a holiday: “Arbor Day!” (palms them a 20 each) “Linus Pauling Day!” “National Library Workers’ Day!” But, honestly, if they seem jazzed and appreciative of the money and don’t pout when you don’t give them money, just stay the course.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
From the moment that we became parents, my husband and I wanted to make sure that our children received accurate information about sex, as well as messages that sex is healthy, natural, and something that’s not shameful (as opposed to the messages we received as kids). We always used accurate names for body parts, etc. Our daughter is now 8, and so far, she’s only had scant info about sex and reproduction. Given that she’s an only child, we haven’t had many teachable moments, like how was the baby made?, so I have been expecting that she would ask when she was ready to know.
She hasn’t asked. When I’ve gently brought up some of these topics, she’s never expressed an interest in knowing more. I’m wondering how to give her information about sexuality, reproduction, bodies, etc., when she hasn’t asked these questions (she’s usually very inquisitive). It feels contrived to sit her down and say “hey, it’s time to talk …” And (this is probably somewhat alarmist of me), but could this indicate an aversion to sex or intimacy in the future? How do I make sure she’s informed, aware, and comfortable without giving her more info than she can handle?
—I Don’t Want to Mess This Up
This letter is similar to a few I’ve gotten before, but I think it’s important enough to answer again. She just doesn’t want to talk about this stuff with you, and I’m not seeing any signs that means she’s sex-averse in any way. Just a normal 8-year-old.
Leave these two books in her room where friends/random visitors can’t see them: The Care and Keeping of You and the sequel, which is for ages 10+. Put menstrual products under the bathroom sink and casually mention that’s where they are.
I think many of us, especially if we think our parents whiffed on these topics, have fantasies involving having wonderful, sex-positive conversations with our inquistive and appreciative children over steaming hot cups of cocoa. Some of us will achieve that! Others will not. My own sex talk with my father at the age of 17 went as follows: “Nic, where are you going? “My pediatrician.” “What for?” “To get on birth control.” “Do you want a ride?” “That would be great, thank you.” It worked out fine for me, but we’re a very blunt family.
The most important thing is to establish you are there and listening if she ever has questions, to give her educational, age-appropriate reading materials for her growing body, and to make sure she has the products she needs for when she starts her period. Her reactions so far are absolutely garden-variety 8-year-old, and I see no cause for concern whatsoever.
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I’ve been married for 10 years and in that time my mother-in-law has become my best friend. She welcomed me to the family with open arms, we travel together, go shopping, cook together. Unfortunately, things have never been all that great with my husband. “Rick” has cheated on me twice (that I know of), drinks way too much, and loves to spend money we don’t have. I would have left years ago if I didn’t love his mother so much. She knows nothing about our marital problems. I really want to save my relationship with my mother-in-law but don’t want to stay married to her son. Do you think this is possible?
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