Dealing with another parent shunning your teen

Guest post by Polly Trout
Happy Birthday, Me

Last summer, my daughter wanted to celebrate her birthday by having her two best friends over for a slumber party. I emailed both moms with an invitation and some possible dates. One of them emailed back that it didn’t matter what the date was, because she didn’t feel comfortable having her daughter in my home. Ever.

Whaaaaat? Sure, I’m unapologetically counterculture, but my kids are safe, healthy, happy, and thriving. I routinely care for other people’s children without any mishap greater than sugar overload or a mud fight.

What could I have possibly done to convince this woman that I was unfit to supervise children? Had I shown up drunk at a school function? I didn’t remember doing that… maybe I was blacked out? Had she been stalking my Facebook page and found out that I “liked” the Black Panthers and Zapatistas? Was it my neo-pagan wardrobe? Was it the tattoos on my hot young lover? Because bitch, he might look like a gangster, but he would never hurt a woman or a child.

My daughter was heartbroken and inconsolable, so I swallowed my pride and emailed back: was the problem the house itself, and if so could we have the party at a different location? Was it me, and if so could somebody else host, maybe my completely inoffensive mom?

She snapped back that it was rude of me to imply that she was being intolerant — it didn’t matter where the party was or who was supervising — I made bad choices and her daughter would not be attending.

Following a different drummer is all well and good, until your kid gets shunned for it. Then the panic sets in.

Six months later, the anxiety attacks are subsiding. I think I can go to the school’s winter concert without Xanax. My daughter has been resilient and gracious about the situation. And I’ve gleaned two blessings from the experience.

First: I am so grateful that I don’t have to live with the fearfulness that this woman must have. It must be so terrible to be afraid of people who are different than you. I’m glad that I can raise my daughters to know better. I’m grateful for my joyful and diverse community of friends who agree with me that shunning a child for a parent’s perceived faults is not OK.

Second: I have increased awareness and compassion for other people who have to go through this. If my white and middle class daughter had to endure this awful attack, how many other kids in her class have gone through it, too? How many more times would it happen if I was transgender, or mixed race, or lived in public housing? How many times does something like that have to happen to a child before they internalize the shame and stop reaching out to people? How many adults secretly carry around those ancient wounds?

I wish I knew, and knew who they were. So I could invite them all to a slumber party.

With too much sugar and a mud fight.

Comments on Dealing with another parent shunning your teen

  1. Censoring children’s friendships is a fine art. I learned the need when my daughter first reached sleepover age and was invited several times to another girl’s home though her parents knew she had a horrible case of head lice. Even better, my daughter told me (only after we moved to a new town) that the mother also gave them liquor at bedtime!!

    On the other hand, I wasn’t allowed to sleep at my best friend’s house for years because of her mother’s live in boyfriend. My mother decided that a boyfriend was more likely than a husband to be a pedophile.
    I’ve both been judged inadequate and declined permission for sleepovers with certain friends, but try not to unless there’s a very good reason.

  2. When I was in the 8th grade, in 1996, I lived really close to the school and invited a few classmates to have cake at my house during lunchtime on my birthday. All the mothers said no, because my mother was single, dressed like a hippie, and had me out of wedlock.

    I’m goth, married, and at an age where I should decide soon whether or not I want children. I define myself as “undecided leaning towards no” at the moment, and the ‘no’ is partly because of incidents like the birthday one. Even though my husband looks “mainstream”, I know other parents would be prejudiced towards our family, just because I wear 20-eyelet Dr. Martens, and our apartment is decorated with horror movie posters and Dia de Los Muertos trinkets.

  3. My boyfriend was a single dad for three years to his three beautiful daughters. He kept them safe, happy, healthy, and as ‘normal’ as possible. Yet other parents in this smaller town looked at the wonderful man as if he were a pedophile or pervert. Their kids were not allowed to play with his girls. They wouldn’t even go to the movies with them. He protected the girls from knowing about this rejection and since my presence here; there have been far fewer comments made about his parenting abilities or lack of them.

  4. At least the other mother was up front and honest, even if it was really rude. Being a new mum, I have spent too much time on forums reading other brand new mums declaring they would never ever let their kids sleepover with friends when they were older. My daughter is now a toddler, so taking her to the playground now involves being surrounded by parents ‘coaching’ their littlies all the way up to bigger kids (say age 8) on how to play in the sandpit, what to do on play equipment, etc etc. It’s awlful – no one seems to be able to back off at all.

    When I was a kid though, I sent myself home from several sleepovers (watching horror movies at age seven was not ideal, and walking around at 10pm in a badly lit and nortiously bad area of town creeped me out so much that Mum had to come and collect me). The year I was 12, about 10 of us girls went walking on a beach in the middle of no where for three hours (again, very late at night), and the parents looking after us came and rounded us up on motorbikes and sent us back to their beach house – and never told any of the other parents what we did. None of this stuff did any serious harm to me, but for someone else, they might look at their own recollections of previous sleepovers and think the risk is too great. That has to be okay – it’s their child after all.

  5. Our daughter has a friend who she adores at school, and while they’re “allowed” to hang out at school, the friend is never allowed at our house, or any non-Chinese houses outside of school hours. The family is cordial to us, and they like our daughter, but that’s just how it goes with them. They did let her go Halloweening together a couple of years ago – as long as the older brother came along. Daughter doesn’t mind, we’re in an unusually multicultural area, and each house has their own set of unique rules. Some pray at sundown, some have to get home on time for Shabbat, and we quote Sherlock.

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