DEAR NATALIE: I'm 62 years old and I've raised three children. I started in 1980 and my last child left home finally in 2013 when I got married. Mind you, the middle and youngest stayed with us and we helped them out financially. To make a long story short, my son recently found out he has a six year old. I've met them and have grown to love the child. My grandchild's mother has another child one year younger than my son’s. When the mother came to pick up my grandchild, she had the other child with her. Her child asked me if she could come next time. I said, “We'll see.” I've been thinking about that ever since. I was going to take the mother to lunch and explain that I wouldn't want to start something with the other child. My son’s child is six and full of energy. Even though I say I'm a young 62, sometimes, I feel my age. I know I don't have to be obligated to the other child, but after she comes home from a visit, I don't want to create any animosity between them. -NEED YOUR OPINION
DEAR NEED YOUR OPINION: Let me start by saying that I think it is admirable that you have decided to embrace your new grandchild. It’s beautiful that they will grow up having more family around to love and support them. I also respect and understand your concern about taking on more responsibility by having their sibling -- who isn’t related to you -- with you when you are alone. It takes a lot of energy to entertain one six year old let alone adding a smaller one to the mix! I also understand why you don’t want the other little one to feel excluded. But maybe there is a compromise here. Perhaps you can plan a playdate with both of them while the mother is present. Maybe the next time you go for ice cream or a walk through the park with your grandchild, you could have their mother and other child meet you so they can have some play time together without the burden being placed on you. This -- of course -- only works if you get along with your grandchild’s mother. But if you do, try that and see how it feels. Maybe it’s just for a half hour once a month, but perhaps integrating their sibling into your world a little bit will help them feel included without you feeling depleted.
DEAR NATALIE: As a bi, homoromantic (coupled for many years) male who works in early childhood, I am faced daily with mothers who breastfeed in public. While I am 100% in support of their decision to freely breastfeed without constraints, I am still struggling with how to respond. Of course this is non-sexual in nature, and I am not getting any *jollies* from this natural providing of nourishment. Yet, I still feel uncomfortable and want to know how to show deference to the situation. Do I just remain in eye contact? Do we speak about what is going on or should I just ignore it? There are so many social taboos left over from our puritanical society that make me feel uneasy at best. Thoughts on how to best put everyone at ease? —BREAST IS BEST
DEAR BREAST IS BEST: Thank you for your thoughtful question. I understand that someone who breastfeeds in public can make some people feel uncomfortable. For centuries, women’s bodies have been sexualized and seen through the patriarchal gaze as not their own, but instead to be enjoyed and used by men. While it may seem archaic to some, remnants of it exist everywhere. So how can you combat those feelings? Remind yourself that breastfeeding is natural, it’s healthy and normal. When you are with a person who is breastfeeding, try not to stare. Ask them if they need anything if that feels appropriate or if they are comfortable. (Are they in need of an extra pillow, for example, if you are in a lounge or sitting area.) If none of that feels comfortable to you, simply ignore it. Not in a dismissive way, but carry on with your conversation while they breastfeed and try to follow their lead. If they are comfortable, smiling and seem at ease, attempt to match that energy. Over time, I think people will become less nervous and more comfortable with breastfeeding, but it takes people like you who are willing to sit with their discomfort and examine it.
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