Q. Baseborn Baby Shower: My little sister is having a baby with a man who's divorcing his wife to be with her. Unbeknownst to all but a few of her close friends, she's been seeing this man for almost three years. My sister is pretty ashamed of breaking up his family, so she doesn't think she deserves a baby shower or should even discuss her baby in any positive way. I think our mom has been saying some pretty mean things to her, because my mom abhors infidelity. I'm not saying my sister and her fiancé are saints or that I approve of how their relationship began. For the record, I think my sister and her fiancé have caused innocent people (his wife, his kids) a lot of pain. At the same time, I really love my sister, and aside from this she has always been a selfless and caring person. I want to throw her a baby shower, and her friends want to pitch in and help me. We figure anyone who doesn't come because of moral objections to the terms of the baby's conception wasn't going to be a good friend to my sister anyway. My mom and some relatives are really against throwing a baby shower and think we're sugarcoating my sister's situation. Would it be rude or tasteless to throw my sister a baby shower or to celebrate her baby's birth?
A: Ah, another wonderful person except for the fact that she's not. The baby is the innocent party here and does not come baring a mark of shame. Throw the shower and try not to cast harsh judgments on the people who decline.
Q. Peeing in the Aisles: My 11-year-old daughter Meghan recently went on her first solo play date with her new friend Brooke. Brooke's mom Cindy and I have spent time with the girls together, and Cindy seemed sane. Then Meghan came home and told me Cindy let her 4-year-old son pee in the aisle of a bookstore because the bookstore's bathroom was only for customers. Brooke's little brother had to pee, and the sales associate wouldn't relax the rule. From what Meghan tells me, Cindy set her son down and helped him pull down his pants. Meghan and Brooke found the public urination to be hilarious, and Cindy told them the sales associate should have let them use the restroom, because it was "obviously an emergency." I think Cindy behaved like a crazy person, and I'm upset she behaved this way in front of my daughter. I don't want Meghan to spend time with Cindy anymore, but I also don't want to ruin her friendship with Brooke. This seems like an elaborate and weird story for my truthful daughter to create, but I probably need to talk to Cindy anyway. Any pointers?
A: It sounds as if Cindy's goal is to turn her son into the next "Mr. Johnson." Yes, it's a foolish salesperson who won't let a desperate mother take her 4-year-old son into the bathroom. But in response the answer is not liquid vandalism. Tell your daughter that as hilarious as the prank may have seemed, you're concerned about Cindy's lack of judgment and you're going to talk to the other mother about it. Then call Cindy and in as light a way as possible, tell her what your daughter told you. Assuming she confirms, while making some excuse about urgency, tell her you understand what a full bladder means, but you think her solution was unfortunate. Unless her response makes you think she is globally unbalanced, then let it go. Two 11-year-old girls mostly want to hang out with each other, not with each other's moms.
Q. Re: Licky Boyfriend: Too funny! I married my face-licker, but as long as he is clean shaven, I lick him back! I guess that makes me annoying!
Q. Spanking Issues: My ex-husband recently remarried a woman with two kids. The two children I have with my ex-husband spend weekends with their father and their stepmother. I'm married, and my husband's daughter lives with us. My husband and I don't spank our kids. When we were married, my ex-husband and I didn't spank our children either. But my ex's wife spanks her kids, and now she wants to spank mine if they misbehave when they're with her. She has a list of behaviors that will incur spanking, which includes hitting others and cursing. My kids are well behaved and have never done anything that would "warrant" spanking. Even so, I do not want their stepmother to spank them ever. My ex-husband has sided with his wife. She says that I'm making it difficult for them to parent by dictating what they do in their home. But isn't corporal punishment different from other household rules?
A: It is difficult when children are spread between multiple parents and many households, but I agree that corporal punishment is different from, “You may not have to make the bed at your father’s house, but you do here.” The American Academy of Pediatrics is against spanking (and so am I). But many people do it and studies have found that what’s particularly harmful is if it’s done while the parent is enraged and used as an all-purpose tool of discipline. It appears less objectionable if it’s done in a physically limited way for specific offenses. Your children’s new stepmother sounds severe and difficult and she has a long list of offenses that result in tanning kids’ bottoms. Your ex is likely going along because he doesn’t want to incur her wrath upon himself. But she shouldn’t be putting her hands on your children without your permission. In as nonconfrontational a way as possible you should make that clear and say you would like to hear of spanking-worthy offenses and you will handle the punishment yourself. Then tell your kids to let you know if they get hit when they’re visiting their father.
Q. Re: Baby shower: Is there something to the sister not wanting the shower, or do you think that's solely due to her mother's prior comments? If she truly doesn't want it, perhaps she would benefit more from lower-key interactions with her true friends and support system (gift-giving one-on-one as desired), rather than put her in a social setting she'd truly prefer not to be in, and showering the love on the baby once it does arrive. Baby won't be the one to remember the shower, after all.
A: Good point that someone who really doesn't want a shower shouldn't be forced into having one. But however this new life got started, the baby shouldn't be treated differently from other children.
Q. From original writer on breast-feeding: Thanks, Emily. The image of the entire family trotting out of the room, canes, walkers, and toddlers in tow gave me the giggles!
A: Let's hope your niece doesn't file a "hostile family environment" suit.
Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. Have a good week.
In a new approach, we’re publishing the chat transcript in shorter, more digestible pieces. You will still be getting all the questions and answers, and we may even publish bonus letters Prudie didn’t get to address during the chat hour.