ASK A MOM: Summer sitters, sports bras, the return to in-person school
WBTV's Molly Grantham tackles your parenting questions in this ongoing series
Q: I pay a summer sitter to come four days a week, and my neighbor’s kids are in and out of my house constantly. My sitter says she doesn’t mind, but I don’t think my neighbors should get free childcare from my sitter. What’s the best way to handle this?—Jennifer
A: As lovely as it sounds, you can’t drop your kids off on someone else all-day, every day. Especially for free.
I generally encourage people to address what annoys them. It might make for a delicate conversation, but if something is stuck in your mind, it’s usually better to bring up, if for no other reason than it helps you in moving on.
Before you approach the other child’s parent though, a suggestion: Do some homework. Go back through the past few weeks to tally up how much the other child is coming “in and out.” You don’t have to relay those specifics—no one wants a timesheet for their kids—but knowing exactly how many hours they’re typically at your house will give you confidence. Research always makes a mind more prepared.
Then, just do it. Reach out to see if there’s a good time to call. (Call, please, for the love of all that is holy. Don’t text about this.) I suggest gently—not aggressively—saying you’d like to talk about something on your mind. Honesty is key. Say you weren’t sure how to address it, but wanted to try because you feel it’s important. Be direct and phrase in a way that creates a two-way conversation. Maybe explain that you hired a sitter four days a week and have to be conscious of how many children she’s watching at one time. Is there is a way to be more equal in paying to have all kids watched by the same person at your house? Also, you could ask how their family is handling childcare, and listen to the answers. Always listen. They may have more current struggles than you know, and knowing their kids are at your home might be a relief they’re willing to contribute towards.
For added perspective, I gave your question to my nanny, a savvy 25-year-old named Meredith. We have a great relationship and I knew she’d be honest. She ends up watching my kids’ friends sometimes, though my kids go to neighbors’ homes as well.
“If I have just one extra child at the home, I don’t care,” Meredith says. “But if I have two or more along with your three, it gets hard.”
She added that many sitters—especially someone who is temporary for summer hours—might not feel comfortable telling you that truth. So when they say they don’t mind, they might actually mind a ton.
“That mom should try digging in and asking the sitter if they really are bothered. If they are, it’ll give her more justification to approach the other parent,” Meredith says. “She’d be protecting the person she hired. I think any sitter would appreciate knowing the parent of the kids they’re watching has their back.”
Q: Hi Molly. My 6-year-old daughter is asking for a sports bra. SIX! Not because she needs it yet, but she thinks they’re cute on girls when they work out or play volleyball on the Olympics. I saw that Target carries them for little girls. Is she too young for this, or am I sending the wrong message if I buy her one?—Tonya
A: Learning to parent fashion is the worst. My 10-year-old has been wanting to show her midriff for years. I sound like a nun when I say repeatedly, “You can’t show your belly button. Please don’t show your belly button. No, we’re not buying that because I don’t want you to show your belly button.” Call me old-fashioned or unfair—she does—and I’ll agree. But, I just don’t want her showing her stomach. Blame my proper, classically Southern dad. He’s shining through, one generation later.
You’re right though: Our girls see women showing off their bodies. We cheer on Olympic athletes who look half-naked. Disney sitcoms have teen girls in crop tops. Stores everywhere sell racks of stomach-bearing children’s clothes, mini-mini skirts, and sweatshirts half the length of traditional ones.
Though not all of it is acceptable for school or walking around a mall, some is absolutely acceptable in certain contexts. Take the dance world. Have you ever seen a dance convention? Or gone to a typical dance class rehearsal? My daughter was involved in a well-respected Charlotte dance group for a few years. At her first weekend competition, I looked at the other girls in booty shorts and sports bras, and realized Parker’s tank top and long leggings made her look like we were on a winter hike. Dancers say the tighter clothes are comfortable for intense movement and once I got past the fact I was watching talented girls in glorified bikinis, I did start to appreciate the style and creativity of their dance attire.
Point being: The more you’re around something, the more it seems acceptable. I never gave it a green light, but if Parker was still dancing now—she’s not, but if she was—I can see how I might have come around to her wearing skimpier things.
So, is your daughter too young? No one knows that answer but you. If you don’t want to let her try a sports bra, don’t. If you don’t mind her trying one, she won’t be alone. Stores stock them because parents buy them. But remember, she is six. That is still young enough you can parent her outfits firmly. Find the line you can live with, and let her walk up to its edge without jumping over. There will come a time you won’t have as much say… might as well enjoy it while you still have control.
Q: Dear Molly, How do I handle back-to-school anxiety? My rising first grader tells me every day how much she’ll miss homeschool and that she doesn’t want to go back to a classroom. My rising fourth grader says he’ll flat-out refuse to get on the school bus, that homeschool was “way more fun.” How do I convince them that in-person school is safe…and necessary for all of our sanity??—Erica
A: Licensed therapist Juliet Kuehnle—who had a growing business during COVID—says many people are with you. She’s had tons of people ask this same question.
“The re-entry and constantly adjusting to the next normal is exhausting, confusing, and tough,” she says. “Especially for kids given their brain development isn’t able to ‘make sense’ of things.”
Juliet says first and foremost, validate your child’s feelings.
“I can’t stress this enough. Connect with them. Acknowledge what they’re saying. Communicate that you understand it. This needs to come first before any redirection or problem solving. After that, help them name and find language for what they might be experiencing.”
For example: Get next to them and say something along the lines of, “Gosh, I can see how important this is to you and how sad you might feel to be away from mommy for the day. It feels so strange and kinda scary since we’ve been together so much this last year. That has been special for me, too. It will feel really different!” After you reassure them, move into helping them see other perspectives. Like, “Let’s talk about how the people who make these decisions decided it’s okay to go back. Why don’t we come up with ways to feel better about that. Should we wear our masks? Tell your teacher how you feel? Can we come up with a fun plan for when you get home from school? And what are you excited about as you go into the ____ grade? Here’s what I remember I loved about the ____ grade!”
Juliet says this will help bring up positive things that feel opposite to anxiety.
“I’d also remind them that it’s mommy or daddy’s job (or whomever is the guardian), to make decisions to help keep them safe and—THIS IS IMPORTANT—that you know they can handle feeling uncomfortable and have these big feelings. Rather than invalidating by trying to ‘fix,’ you want to communicate to your kiddos that you believe in them and their ability to cope.”
Bottom line: They can be nervous, and a little bit excited/curious. Both at the same time.
In the meantime, if you want to laugh, follow Juliet on IG. She’s a fun licensed clinical mental health counselor supervisor who works to take away the stigma of counseling. So much so, her IG tag is @YepIGoToTherapy. Yep. I go to therapy. She’s a hoot.
Keep the questions coming. I love reading all your thoughts. So many of us are having the same ones.
See you tonight at 5:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m., and 11 p.m.