Dear Carolyn: I’ve been married for four years. After we said “I do,” my daughter started dating a guy of another race. It was then that I found out my husband is racist. He hates my daughter’s boyfriend. He treats him poorly, and talks very badly about him to get others to hate him, too.
My daughter is now pregnant with her boyfriend’s child, and my husband wants nothing to do with my daughter, her boyfriend or the baby. I, however, love the boyfriend and I’m very much looking forward to my first grandchild. I am having a difficult time accepting my husband’s stance. I don’t want to live two lives under one roof. I want to be able to share my joy with my husband, but he doesn’t respond. Resentment is building.
I have talked to him repeatedly. I’ve explained my point of view. I’ve pleaded with him. I’ve gotten angry. I’m trying to decide if this is a deal-breaker or not. How do you suggest I handle all of this?
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You handle it by admitting your husband is a bad person. Because that’s what his behavior has told you, repeatedly and without apology.
Now, to be fair, you’re asking us to take your word for it that your husband hates the boyfriend based on race alone; you don’t actually cite an admission of racial bias. So my using his purported racism as the sole basis for a bad-personhood diagnosis would be a leap.
But looky here at what else we have: “He treats (the boyfriend) poorly, and talks very badly about him to get others to hate him, too.” Wow. You think he’s a bad person.
If this isn’t a deal-breaker, then what’s your definition of one?
Forget “liv(ing) two lives under one roof,” that’s the least of it. When you stay with someone whose views and behavior you deplore — whose views and behaviors are deplorable — you ultimately endorse those views and behaviors. You’re saying he’s OK by you.
So of the two lives you refer to, the first is love and acceptance of daughter, boyfriend and coming grandchild, and the entire second one is a moral tar pit.
Apologies to those who didn’t watch it, but “The Sopranos” said this better than I ever could: Look for the scene with Carmela and Dr. Krakower in “Second Opinion,” (Season 3, Episode 7, toward the end). It’s easy to find online.
Hi, Carolyn: My bright, giddy, delightful 5-year-old has recently started acting out in kindergarten. As in, kicked three kids yesterday, refused to participate in class the day before, etc. I’ve made an appointment with a child therapist next week and am trying to stay calm, but I’m beside myself with worry. We can’t figure out what’s going on and she doesn’t want to talk about these incidents.
I’m trying to stay calm and remind myself that we’re doing everything we can, but I’m sitting here crying, dreading the next phone call from the school. Any advice on how to get through this would be welcome.
I’m sorry – it is scary when a child’s behavior changes abruptly for the worse.
It is also, though, important to remember that with children too young to express themselves fully – or with anyone who has a language barrier for whatever reason – behavior isn’t always a choice to do something bad, but sometimes instead a primary form of expression. Therefore, your daughter might not be (BEG ITAL)doing(END ITAL) something bad so much as (BEG ITAL)saying(END ITAL) something is wrong.
Which can be serious, of course – but often it isn’t. You are doing everything you can, that is your best form or reassurance, but please take some comfort in knowing that abnormalities are normal. Neither childhood nor parenthood is a straight path. So you can help yourself quite a bit by breaking apart any long-term goals – say, to get your child to a preconceived point in life – into a renewable daily goal of giving her what she needs. Deep breath in, deep breath out. Today, she needs you to be a calm presence she can anchor to, and an attentive listener to what she is willing and able to say.
Good child therapists can be very helpful in this regard – they are trained at child-friendly forms of communication – and they can give you valuable perspective, too, on the rough spots of childhood.
But you don’t have to just worry and wait for appointments, now or in future crises; you can work on becoming the person your daughter can talk to, because that’s not a given for any parent. “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish offers simple, clear, intuitive instructions for working with a child’s feelings versus against them. Or an adult’s, for that matter.
So try that, along with comforting her, of course. Good luck.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.