My dad showed up at a soccer scrimmage to surprise me. I never told him I quit the team last year. When he arrived, I was sitting with my boyfriend who is black. My dad saw us kissing, said something racist and started yelling at me to get in his car. It wasn’t my week to be at his house. (My parents are divorced.) I started walking home. He drove next to me, yelling at me to get in the car. I called my mom, crying, and she picked me up. Now they’re fighting. I don’t want to go to my dad’s house anymore. Help!
Let’s turn your trauma into a triumph. Your dad arrives at your scrimmage looking forward to catching you in action on the field. Instead, he sees you making out with a young man he doesn’t know. Not the action he expected. Most parents would panic, honey. But that doesn’t justify the racial slur he used against your boyfriend. Not. At. All.
One upside to stress is that it reveals who we are at our worst. If we are intent on spiritual growth, we can use this information to change. Here’s how you begin evolving: Seek forgiveness. Apologize to your dad for not being honest with him about quitting soccer or having a boyfriend. Be clear about why it’s hard for you to confide in him. Without blame or accusation, explain your concerns about how the two of you communicate. He might not change and you can’t make him change. Accept that reality. What matters is that by sharing your perspective, you are giving yourself a voice. That’s empowering.
If your dad is able to speak freely with you, open your heart for that convo. At the end of it, tell him he must apologize to your boyfriend. Racism is not acceptable. If your father refuses your request, ask the soccer coach or another adult who was present to talk to your father about his unacceptable language. Be unrelenting on this matter. Your boyfriend deserves your support.
I read your column every week. It’s helped me to realize how lucky I am being a 60-year-old single man with no kids, no family and one kinda-sorta girlfriend long ago. When I read people’s questions, and when I think about the problems of people I know, I get a new perspective on my life. Thank you.
Every life includes joy and sorrow. Between the moments of relief, acceptance and contentment that magnify a realization like yours, there are moments of fear or despair. When our life doesn’t fit the social norm, we might despair at our strangeness. Yet, if we study ourselves with a curious mind and open heart, we will discover the joy of being who we are meant to be. For you, that means loving the experience you define as single and without kids or family. But wait—is that your reality? No. You are kin to all of creation. Since many people would benefit from the inner peace you’ve discovered by kicking stale social norms to the curb, you have work to do. The world is waiting.