Sara Whitman

Perfect Parents

Filed By Sara Whitman | January 30, 2011 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: judgmental parents, parenting choices, parents of gay child, perfect parents

I am not a perfect parent. Nor am I a perfect person. I know that. krtillustrations000714-GAYKIDS-ILLU.jpgI try my best, sometimes I do a good job, sometimes great, sometimes, whooooa nelly, was I wrong.

Judging other people's parenting? Not unless it's extreme.

My son- my gay son- has a friend whose parents will not let him hang around him. Why? Because he's gay. And their son? Is gay. They may not like it, they may not want to accept it, but it's the way it is.

I understand they may struggle with it. I understand it's not easy. I ask my other two boys, Are you sure you're not gay? They say, Sorry, Mom.

Sigh. Okay, I still love you.

Today I found out they don't like a mutual friend the kids have. A lovely young woman who has a single mom. Being a single parent isn't easy- being a parent in a marriage isn't easy. Parenting isn't easy.

They feel this young woman has "too much freedom."

My question is, have you talked to her? Spent any time with her? Because she's a pretty great kid.

Some kids have a lot more freedom than my kids do. If you asked my kids, they'd say they have no freedom at all, I'm overprotective and incredibly strict. My rules are different than other parents. My sister in law let her kids watch movies at 5 years old that stunned me.

She has great kids.

Would it have been my choice? Nope. Bottom line? Are the kids good kids? No question. I adore them all. I adore her. She's a fabulous, strong role model for her kids.

We parent very differently.

When I heard about these parents "dislike" of this young woman, I got mad. They are wealthy, have been able to pay for round the clock nannies, and have never had to worry about where the next mortgage payment would come from.

I know I have tremendous privilege. I have been able to stay at home with my kids for years. Not everyone can. Few people can.

I know I'm not perfect. Do they?

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"I know I'm not perfect. Do they?"

The answer is quite simply, no. They are rich and likely massively privileged at ever level. As a general rule the world shifts and twist to accommodate them. This means they don't even have the conception that they maybe wrong. Their station makes them right by the shear fact that they say it.

I'd disagree. I think they probably do. All families have issues and problems and very few are able to gloss over everything entirely and live in an imaginary world where everything is perfect. I'd imagine they just have different problems and privileges so they don't even consider some areas where they're fucking up.

Aubrey Haltom | January 31, 2011 11:52 AM

I would guess that these parents you describe are doing what you mention your sister-in-law doing. They are parenting in their own way. It might seem discriminatory (probably is), and not informed, but perhaps these parents should be allowed the same space to make their own determinations as you allow your sister-in-law.

As to whether they know they are not 'perfect', I would agree with Bil. Most parents are aware of their imperfections - whatever the income level.
You chose not to allow your kids to watch certain movies at a certain age. These parents are concerned about peer influence. Maybe they don't handle these concerns in the most enlightened manner, but we all parent from our own experience.

I was much more judgemental about the parenting of others prior to becoming a parent. Now with an almost-5 year old, I'm amazed some days that any parent (and child) make it out alive.

I've got to add that I was a kid who was 'banned' from 2 of my best friends in high school.

Primarily because I was openly gay, also because my mother allowed me a wide degree of 'freedom'.

And these actions hurt me, and actually hurt my mother (she took them as a comment on her parenting, I think, as well as being hurt that I was hurt...)

I was highly critical of both friends' parents at the time. Now I see how scared these parents were, and how they were just trying to manage the best way they knew.

Aubrey Haltom | January 31, 2011 12:03 PM

Another thought, Sara.

The wealth of these parents seems to matter to you. Would you have the same issues with these parents and their choices - their dislike of this young woman, their dislike of your openly gay son - if they were not wealthy?

I'm not sure why income/privilege is a component here. My experiences as a high school kid (mentioned previously) involved one very wealthy family, one working class family. Neither set of parents wanted their child to be friends with me. For essentially the same reasons.

When I re-read your column, I wondered why the 'privileged status' of these parents was important.

Yup, the privilege status does bug me. They were "horrified" that the young woman had to take the T home at 10pm.

Her mom was working.

Did they offer to drive her home? Have her spend the night? anything? No, just their judgment.

It made me feel like they were so far away from having to worry about making enough money for the week, they lost all empathy for the situation.

Ultimately? I guess I expect people who have privilege and wealth in this society to be aware of it and what it means. I realize that is a ridiculous expectation.