Care and Feeding

My Teen Daughter Is Rebelling by Going to Quaker Meetings

Can I tell her I’m hurt?

A young girl prays.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Submit it here or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My 16-year-old daughter has started going to Quaker meetings. We’re atheists and have raised our kids to be atheists, and I feel (I know this is unfair) personally rejected by this. Obviously I can’t stop her from going, but can I express my disappointment in a way that owns that I know this is probably an overreaction?

—I Guess They All Need to Rebel Somehow



Seriously though, you’re partway to where you need to get already. You’ve raised a kid who wants to explore something new about the world, and it happens to be “sitting in silence in a roomful of other people who may or may not stand up and say something that’s on their minds.” You also know you’re overreacting.

Go to a meeting with her. I don’t know what you think they’re doing in there, but it will likely put your mind at ease. Also, before you attempt to have a weird and embarrassing conversation with her about how this is disappointing to you as a parent, definitely talk to your partner and ideally a therapist. This is advice I would give to a religious parent freaking out that her 16-year-old doesn’t want to go to church anymore, and it’s advice I’ll give to you: Let it go. She’s trying to make sense of the world, and she’s old enough to do it. Don’t push her away; pull yourself in. Ask her about what she gets from going to Quaker meetings. (She may be drawn to pacifism, to community, to any number of things that aren’t this will really piss off my parents.)

This is an opportunity to get closer to your daughter in the final few years she will be living at home. Don’t mess it up because you had plans to raise a cradle-to-grave atheist that may not shake out. She’s trying something out; give her that space.

Dear Care and Feeding,

We recently fired our babysitter (she was slowly topping up our vodka with water, and our children are all under the age of 8, so we’re pretty confident it was her) and have found a great new one who is a much better fit for our family in general. There had been other issues: punctuality, reliability, failure to respond to (kindly delivered) feedback.

Well, she’s asked if we’ll be a reference for her. I don’t want to screw up her future employment prospects, but I also don’t want to lie.

—She’s Not a Good Babysitter

Dear SNaGB,

Happily, you have an excellent alternative to screwing up her future employment prospects OR lying. It’s called: “No, we cannot be a reference for you.” If she pushes, you can explain why, but if she isn’t an absolute fool, she will likely let the matter lie there.

If you receive a reference call despite this, you can just say: “I’m so sorry. I’m not able to provide a reference for her.” Which is both true and straightforward.

I’m glad you have a better babysitter now, and I hope that you were fairly transparent with her predecessor about why you were letting her go. (I do understand the desire to avoid unpleasantness, but it’s information that will serve her well in the future.)

If you missed Thursday’s Care and Feeding column, read it here.

Discuss this column in the Slate Parenting Facebook group!

Dear Care and Feeding,

I cannot listen to the new Taylor Swift album anymore. My 14-year-old son plays it constantly, in the car, in his room, while wandering through the living room. (Yes, he’s gay. This is not relevant, just hoping to stave off guessing from the peanut gallery.)

I just cannot go on until he picks a new album.

—Not a “Lover”

Dear NaL,

Have we fallen through time? It’s called headphones. Get some. Tell him it’s a mandatory gift.

Also, in the car, the driver gets to pick the music. I recommend Carly Rae Jepsen or Lizzo or Jenny Lewis or Kacey Musgraves. See if you can wean him off gradually.

This made my day. Thank you.

Dear Care and Feeding,

I just need a yes or no on this one. Letting my underage (16-year-old) kid and their friends drink (moderately) in my basement?

—Not Crazy, Just Worried About Them Hanging Out in Parks at Night

Dear Not Crazy,

That’s a no from me, son. I know you wanted a one-word answer, but I’ll expand: You would be putting yourself at tremendous legal liability, and if you don’t want your 16-year-old drinking in parks, may I suggest curfews and such? You know … parenting!

I guess it could be worse. It could be a Quaker meeting!


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