Parents Say The Darndest Things

“Lainie’s mom said Kira’s shorts are too short and she shouldn’t wear makeup to school.”


“Erin’s mom says Jordan is NEVER welcome in their house again.”


“Anil’s parents told him he’s lucky both his parents are Indian. His family feels sorry for Sarah because her dad is African American and her mom is White.”


“Jill told me it is too bad you’re Christian and Dad is Jewish. That’s why I don’t get a bat mitzvah.”


Parenting books never prepped me for a child coming home parroting these kind of perplexations. Parenting books focus on children. Some of the good ones even specialize in what your kids say and how to respond. But I don’t have a book for appropriate reactions, in today’s politically correct world, when parents hand down judgments at home in private family discussions that their kids then make very public at school.


Especially when the comments are so disparaging of individual children and different families’ values.


My first reaction is: these are children, give them a break! However, I give parents the benefit of the doubt, too. What happens is somewhat like the old parlor game of Telephone. I can imagine the conversations around the dinner table. I can hear the parents’ good intentions: they are just trying to instill their own family values, and sometimes using other families as examples of what NOT to do.


As in:


“No, just because Kira wears them doesn’t mean you can. In this family, girls don’t wear bootie shorts or makeup to school.”


“This is why you can’t have him over again: good behavior in other people’s houses is an important sign of respect.”


“Mommy and Daddy’s families pick marriages for each other. It matters to marry someone of the same culture and religion.”


“Not every one has a bat mitzvah especially if the mom in the family isn’t Jewish.”


And actually, I am one of the offenders in this case. After a boy sassed me about the radio station playing in my car, fought back when I asked him to buckle his seatbelt, and then broke a large light fixture in my basement (without telling me or apologizing) I criticized him at home, in a moment of pique, only to realize later my daughter quoted me at school, her friends repeated what I’d said on the playground, and feelings got hurt.


What are the etiquette rules in this gossipy murk?


Tell the teacher? Jeez, I hope they have better things to do, like teach long division.


Call the parent and say “My daughter said her friend said that your daughter said she dresses like a slut?”


Stop a mom at the potluck and confess, “I’m so sorry I said that terrible thing about your son’s destroying my rec room and my daughter told all 23 classmates, making everything one hundred times worse?”


Send a mass email: “Please, could everyone stop calling my daughter spoiled because she is the only one in class who has an iPhone?”