jetsetgreen

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Family Land Mines

Say you have some close family members that hold views that are contrary to yours. I’m not talking about politics, or minor disagreements, I mean views that are normally considered hateful. What if those views were, for example, race-based biases or other insensitivities?

We have some family members that espouse those kinds of views. They are people we still need to include in our family’s life. Our kids are going to hear opinions and language that we find objectionable, even abhor. How do we deal with that?
Have you ever dealt with a similar situation?
Have you parents ever had to explain to a child why Aunt Bev says such things?

Other Half wouldn't mind cutting those people out of our lives, but I don't think that's the best solution. I think we should be open and loving, while being cautious with our children's impressionable minds.

I’d like to hear what you have to say.

37 comments:

Mrs. Dub said...

my situation isn't so extreme, but i have some ILs who sometimes hide behind the LDS Church when it comes to really conservative views that i don't agree with. and i worry what i'll tell our kids so that they don't think having a different opinion means being a bad mormon.

my best advice is to limit contact, and talk to them after any get-together. stress that you aren't a bad person for having those ideas, but clarify why those ideas are bad and can hurt people. let them know that being a good example will be the best way to teach the offensive family members how to behave.

and then totally vent with your hubby behind their back. because that would so get under my skin.

Tori :) said...

You sound like MY husband and I sound like YOURS. So I'm probably not much help. How close are the family members?

Justine said...

We have some similar challenges in our lives. I'm with you that maintaining the relationship is ultimately more important.

I've had to be kind of frank with the people involved, and now they don't bring it up around us. I actually think for awhile they were trying to sell us over to their point, but that very thing forced the issue with us, and we confronted them (yikes!)

Now, both parties more consciously focus on the things we have in common, and our shared family ties. It's much, much better!

Good luck...

sue-donym said...

I think this is a great opportunity to teach them about views that they will run into throughout their life. Now is the time to tell them that others have opinions that are different (and even wrong)and we can be around those people but not agree with what they are saying or doing. I have had that experience quite a bit and I know if I don't talk about it afterwards with the Princess, she will get really quiet and then weeks later bring it up. Better to have the discussion immediatly and use it as a teaching moment.

April said...

If the objectionable commenters are in the 45 and under crowd, then they should know better. I think it would be okay to let these people know (only after the subject comes up) that you wouldn't mind discussing their views privately, but you would appreciate it if they didn't express them in front of your children.

If they are members of the AARP, I highly doubt anything you say, no matter how delicately you put it, will be anything other than outrageous to them. Sorry.

Chanel said...

yeah the family members you speak of in my life were: my mother, father, grandparents, & aunt. Just imagine this upbringing!!!!
SO I survived being inundated and seriously not knowing better, to knowing much better and telling them a thing or two.
SO I don't worry too much about my kids hearing things b/c I have already planted the seeds in their precious heads that grandma and the likes are a bunch of CRAZIES!!!
A roll of the eyes or a big wide eyed glare is all it takes anymore to alert them that they are treading on dangerous IRGNORANT territory.

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for posting about this. I am interested in reading everyone else's responses.

Queen Scarlett said...

I'm no help here... I'm like your hubby in this regard. I always figure they're going to have to deal with unsavories in the world eventually... why do I have to let them in? But ...that's me. ;-)

I'm a big on ...just because they're family doesn't mean they get privileged rights... it's all about character for me.

b. said...

Absolutely ditto Sue.
What a great opportunity to teach. Yes, it's harder when it's family. I wouldn't let my kids spend too much alone time with them. Yours are babies....but teaching them different views along with your own values and opinions can only help when the day comes to send them out the door.

metamorphose said...

I really like Sue's comment, but I'm probably more of a cut them out though at the same time.

Could it be these close family members are just ignorant to the fact that these views are hateful? Or do they claim morality as a reason to hold such views? It's a tricky thing. If I felt I couldn't cut them out, I'd also try to talk to them about it, and let them know how you feel.

Caitlin said...

I think it's important to let your kids hear other people's perhaps questionable opinions. I think it helps them grow to be more well rounded and to form their own opinions - and we want that, right?

La Yen said...

I think that it depends on the views. If, for example, I had Bek's family, I would make it known that anyone who said disparaging things about african-americans would not be allowed around my kids. If the things being said were not on such a personal nature I would, and have, just been careful. ("Are you going to have any real kids?")

A small example..we have a family member whom we love dearly, and who is a tremendous force for good and love and righteousness, but is a gun nut. A certifable nut. Framed pictures of infants holding bullets. Anyhoo, said member brought a loaded gun to my home, unbeknownst to me, and left it in the suitcase, which was unlocked and on the floor. When I found out, I freaked, because, come on. We had no kids at this point, but ~J's kids were in and out all day playing with the neices and nephews (who, we were assured, would NEVER touch the gun. Because six-year-olds are the most trustworthy.)
After I freaked and we got in a huge "values" conflict with this person, we decided that we just needed to be careful with them. (Like that book "A bargain for Francis.") Meaning that when we visit or they visit we talk about gun safety, and we teach that our kids job is to, the instant they see a gun, run to a grown up. And they are not left alone there, and we make it clear that any weapon that they choose to bring on vacation must stay in their car.

And if the rules get broken we will reevaluate.

Because our job is to protect our own, but not to keep them sheltered so that they become freaky and join anachronistic societies where they make their own chain mail.

This is me said...

I had a similar experience in my childhood and it was great to see the way my parents handled it. Basically, my extended family is not LDS so at holidays and family parties/reunions, etc pretty much everyone would be smoking and drinking. My parents did not make a big deal out of it but just explained that some people make different choices but we know what is right. So, when I was a teenager and around kids who smoke and drank, it was not a big deal to me at all. They could do their thing and I didn't have to and we all got along great. My parents just set a great example in a situation that I know was uncomfortable at times and it continues to save me in lots of social situations.
Sorry for the long comment. Good luck with it.

~j. said...

The power of the word choose. We choose to not do those things. We choose to do things differently. It is ALWAYS important to emphasize what your family's standards are so that your kids know what you DO choose, and not just what you DON'T choose.

We've been dealing with this for eight years. And now it's, "Does Xxxx know that it's not healthy to smoke?" "Yes, Sweetie." "Oh. It's too bad they choose to do that. I would never choose that because I know it's bad for my body."

This transfers to language, as in, choice of words and choice of content.

Queen Scarlett said...

Totally agree with ~J. And I think there's a difference between stuff like drinking and smoking... vs. someone's character. Does that make sense? I have no problem with what people choose... one of the kindest, best people I know is my Great Uncle - and for the longest time he drank and smoke... he was the most entertaining drunk by the way. But has the best heart and is just a GOOD person. And then there are people who are Mormon/Christian - who do everything for show and don't do the drinking/smoking but do do emotional abuse (manipulative, etc) and what not. Those are the people I choose not to have in my life. Character to me... matters more. I think we have a right to choose who we want in our life and who we don't. (ie... if you know someone's abusive, dangerous... but they're family... come on...that's a no brainer - sometimes "family" is an excuse...)

pflower10 said...

There have been a lot of wise words here.
I fully agree with all of it too. Sometimes we just explain the differences of opinion and answer any quesitons and sometimes we cut them out or limit their time together.

I have some IL's that I have to see this summer who have really hurt my family and I'm sure there is going to be a situation (it wouldn't be a family gathering without one) where I will need to do damage control and these words will help me keep my cool.

wendysue said...

Great topic Azu. . .
I agree that you need to keep some contact with them. They're your family, whether you like it or not. Certainly, I'm sure, they have SOME goodness to them (SOMEwhere in there!). That said, I don't think that means that you need to invite them to your home for dinner and game night once a week. If they're offensive, simply limit the time that you're together.
I would maybe have a conversation (sans kids) and discuss that maybe these topics that you don't agree on, could be left to adult times only. And when the kiddos are around those topics are just not talked about. (My sister did this with her IL's (mainly religious conversations/drinking/smoking) and it has helped their relationship immensely!)

I also agree that it's a great teaching time for your children. I know that you are the type of person that will sit down the babes and have a frank conversation that whatever 'so and so' said is not what we believe. And I agree with ~J that it's a great opportunity to talk about choices. Kids are smarter than most will give them credit for, and although they are impressionable at that age, they also have more empathy for others than most adults and would completely understand that "we don't talk about others like that; or we don't treat others differently just because. . ."

Anonymous said...

Wise words. I am not that mature. I will learn from you.

(Some of the most offensive influences I feel I need to protect my family from are self-righteous bigots who profess to have the same values I have. So somehow I feel justified going head to head with them. I shouldn't. I am trying to grow up and remove my children from conversations I find offensive or have enlightened and intelligent discussion with them afterward. But it's a work in progress.)

Melody said...

Snip, snip.

Or perhaps just trim the time with said offenders.

Bottom line: children are most effected by who they live with day in and day out. They will follow your lead, not the lead of the bad-mouthed-bigotted-gun-toting-beer belly-smoking crowd.

Good luck. You seem like a wise and thoughtful person. And thanks for the fun comments on my blog.

Puerto Rican Princess said...

I agree with This Is Me. I'm the only member in my family and while both of my parents drink coffee and have the occasional glass of wine (neither of which are big offenses in my book) I always remind my kids that everyone has their own choices to make and that even though our choices might be different from Grandma's, we love her all the same. And I think that in order to make this world a better place for the kids that we're trying so desperately to protect, we need to teach love and tolerance, not judgement and oh-I'm-so-much-better-than-you. I also think that cutting out a family member because of their choices is not a great example to kids either. I certainly don't want my kids not playing with kids on the playground anymore because they went to a movie on a Sunday....know what I mean?

BTW-I found you from Meta. Thanks for letting me ramble. Very interesting post today.

Chelle said...

My dad used to say that it's more important what comes OUT of a person (their words, how they treat others) rather than what they put in. Not everyone that drinks alcohol is a "drunk" and a danger to impressionable youth. Do people really cut others out of their life because they drink coffee or alcohol? Wow. I am all for being very clear about what your values are as a family, but if you live anywhere but in Utah, you might get kinda lonely if those are the lines in the sand you are going to draw about who is "good" and who is "bad".

Azucar, it sound like this is not the issue you are dealing with, though. I would fall in the camp of limiting visits and considering it a valuable teaching opportunity. Depending on what it is they are saying, a frank discussion about what is appropriate to discuss in front of children might be a good idea, too.
Good luck.

My two cents. Probably worth about that much. ; )

Kiki said...

HELLO!!! Am I from the Deep South? Do I have a parent from the Deep South? Worse, do I have a GRANDPARENT from the Deep South? A grandparent who's home state still boasts the STARS AND BARS on its state flag? Worst, does my family have receipts from purchasing slaves?

You don't know the answers to all of those questions, but the answers to all are YES!

Yes, I have been in such a situation. It's embarrassing to hear my g-ma talk of "nigrahs", that "nigrah gal", "that nigrah sure does have a great voice", etc. I will never be able to bring someone home to these people. It's my deep, dark blemish. Gotta love 'em, right?

pflower10 said...

Just to be clear, I would never cut someone out of my life for alcohol or smoking seeing as how my family and my hubby's family are the only members in close range. It's the abusive and dangerous ones that get the, for lack of a better word or phrase, axe.

compulsive writer said...

I have some generations past who have said some pretty ignorant things in their pasts, but I have also been impressed to see how sometimes people can grow up and evolve. I have two grandmothers who have shocked me by their bigotry on occasion, but when my brother and SIL adopted an African American baby they both rose to the occasion and embraced her. I can only hope for your sake that the future looks brighter than does the past.

I do like what ~j says about the word "choose." I think it's good for our kids to learn to love people who choose differently than we do. As long as it's not harmful, you know what I mean?

(La Yen, sometime I will tell you about the year I let my husband do the Christmas shopping and I didn't think a thing of it until Christmas Eve when he brought out guns for the two older boys. Uh-huh!)

Bek said...

You mean like the BIL that won't stop calling my children Niggers? And he thinks that b/c he does it in a funny/rap way it is ok? And then he asks why we don't get "mutts" next time? Yes, he was cut out (well, we pretty much told his parents that they needed to keep him in line and have a talk or we would not be joining them again for family functions...). He has stopped, for now.

Or, the octeginarian grandfather that so proudly proclaimed in his yearly Christmas letter about the new "colored girl" we adopted. No, we didn't cut him out. We figure he will be dead before we have to expalin it...

With race stuff, we are very specific and ultra sensitive.... but with other stuff, it is a toss up. Our kids will always hear/see people that are different than we are and it is a fine line between helping them know we can love people just because they are family, but not love what they do/say......

Hmmmmmm

April said...

Bek, that's awful!! I don't know how people think they're being funny when it's actually so cruel. I remember a certain family member who commented when my sister was pregnant that she was going to have a Buckwheat baby. Nice.

Bek said...

Yeah, I have had "negress" and "nigglet" too. NEVER OK... and if you say it around me, you will know it. I also won't allow anyone to be called a "chink" in my presence or anyother racially charged name...it is never ok to let that go.

April said...

Is "goomba" a racial slur? Because I called some kid that in my dream last night, and I have no idea what it means. I'd hate to think I'm a racist dreamer! :)

pflower10 said...

Bek,
How old is this BIL??? I can't believe that he would do that.

lisa v. clark said...

I would go to Bek on this one. She knows what to do.

MY advice?! Have another cookie and watch the Office.

compulsive writer said...

I can believe it. I have a BIL from whom I've heard such words. That's why I was ready to beat up anybody that said anything nasty about my niece. I guess we were both lucky I didn't have to.

pflower10 said...

I have to say that everytime I check your blog that COOKIE makes me want one, and want it I do.

I'm going to have to make some now

mmmmmmmmmmmm, cookies, mmmmmmmmmmmm

Kiki said...

I KNOW, pflower10!!! I want cookies every time I come here!!!

Bek said...

Great, now I want cookies...

BIL is 22....

I really don't know what to do, it is so hard to reconcile the way you would do it in your mind with the way that you do it in real life....

Kiki said...

I'm making cookies today.

Is BIL being malicious, or does he think he's being cool and hip-hoppy? If it's the former, I would just tell him off. Actually, *I* would totally beat the snot out of him, OR I would press charges for his verbal abuse and hate. If it's the latter, I would calmly and rationally explain why that doesn't fly with me, and if that didn't work, I would beat the snot out of him, or I would start calling him little d--k or something humiliating. But that's just me.

Kiki said...

Oops, bek, I just reread your first post, which answers my question.

La Yen said...

Bek, next time I see you I am calling you a chink. Just because I haven't heard that word in about a thousand years. (Because I don't live in 1982 Facts of Life reruns) And it is in my head now and I am going to end up calling someone that in my dreams. Thanks a lot.

Also, KiKi, I have been doing W's geneology, and have found some slaves that his family owned. And some men named after Jefferson Davis. Oh, would they be mad that his mother married a Cuban....

And CW, I don't have a problem with guns, just babies playing with loaded ones in my house. Under my home owner's policy. And trying to shoot my god-children. Did you tell your sons that they would shoot their eyes out?