Care and Feeding

My Son’s Soccer Team’s Name Makes Me Deeply Uncomfortable

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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,

I coach youth soccer and have for over five years. I recently got the roster for this fall’s team for my 4-year-old son, and our team name is the Monkeys. All the teams are named after animals. I feel really uncomfortable about this team name as I will almost certainly have Black players on my team. I thought about reaching out to the director, who sent me the email, to request a name change, but I see two issues with this. Firstly, the email specifically said to not ask for name changes, which I think is because they provide teams with certain equipment that already uses these names. Second, the director is Black himself and I am white, so I feel very uncomfortable explaining the racism of the name “Monkeys” to him for a team that has Black children on it. (Based on his accent, I think he is an immigrant from Africa, so he may not be aware of American sensibilities?)

Is it OK to reach out to him, and explain why we should change the name, or should I go around him to someone higher up who is white and get them to change it? I thought maybe I should leave it to Black parents to bring up but I don’t want to look complicit in the choosing of the name. I really do not feel comfortable coaching a team with that name for obvious reasons, but unclear how to proceed. Thanks for any help.

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—White Youth Soccer Coach

Dear White Youth Soccer Coach,

It’s mind-blowing that in 2021 there are adults who think a team name like the Monkeys would be a good idea—especially if there are Black kids on the team. I don’t know anything about the African guy who runs your league, but I’d be shocked that he doesn’t know about the troublesome nature of that nickname. If you’re Black and lived in America for a year, you know what’s up.

I’m a youth coach as well, and there’s no way in hell I’d coach a team called the Indians, Redskins, Eskimos, or any other culturally insensitive name. I’m sure some non-Black parents in your town will probably roll their eyes and say, “Ugh, here comes the Woke Police again!” but thousands of enslaved Black people, and thousands of Black people in the Jim Crow era and beyond were called monkeys as a racial slur. It’s harmful, dehumanizing, and completely unnecessary. There are so many animals with cool names out there—Alpacas, Hellbenders, Goblin Sharks, and Spiny Lumpsuckers are a few that come to mind. OK, maybe not Spiny Lumpsuckers, but you get the idea.

You should absolutely say something. Racism and white supremacy feed upon good white people who do nothing, so even if your league director doesn’t get it, that doesn’t mean you should stay silent. There are many ways you can go about it, and you listed some good options here. I’d start with the Black parents on your team and tell them your concerns and see if they’re onboard with a name change. Unless they’re living in the Sunken Place, they should immediately agree that it’s problematic. From there, I’d approach the director with the Black parents beside you to present your case. If he balks for whatever reason, then I’d run it up the flagpole to the people in charge.

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Hopefully one of those actions will make a difference, but if not, you may have to consider making your own uniforms if it bothers you that much—and it should bother you that much.

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From this week’s letter, “I Just Walked In on My Husband Spanking Our 2-Year-Old:” “He said only kids who don’t get spanked are the ‘spoiled and soft ones.’ ”

Dear Care and Feeding,

My husband struggles with severe anxiety. He’s gone on and off medication, tried different therapists, etc. and has really had a hard time with the pandemic—the constant media culture of fear, plus the very real concerns around catching COVID, has really led him to believe his level of anxiety is an appropriate response to the world around him. Here’s the problem: He reacts with high anxiety when interacting with our 5-year-old daughter, and she is starting to pick up on it. For instance, our daughter will be playing in the (fenced) front yard when a large truck drives down the street. My husband panics, opens the front door, and screams, “Watch out! That truck is coming!” even though our child is nowhere near the truck. The next time our daughter sees a truck, she panics that it will run her over, even though—again—she is nowhere near it. My husband’s tone of voice conveys sincere danger despite there being little to no actual danger.

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This is driving me absolutely bonkers. I spend so much time soothing my husband and daughter that I feel like I’m babysitting two children. I know my husband can’t help it, and I feel awful that he has to move through the world this way, but it places a tremendous emotional burden on me to always be calming everyone down. Our daughter just started a day camp this year and around arrival and drop-off time, I frequently saw her warning other kids about nonurgent dangers. (“Be careful because if we stand too close to the curb, we could fall and hurt ourselves!”) The other kids seemed mostly nonplussed, but I’m concerned. I know this will escalate unless we take some action. What can I do to support my husband with his anxiety and validate his emotions, while emphasizing to my daughter that his level of anxiety is not an accurate representation of the world? I don’t want her to grow up worried about everything. Believe me, it’s exhausting for everyone. What should I do?

—Anxiety Is the Fourth Member of Our Family

Dear Anxiety,

I’m sure you’re aware of this, but anxiety is the most common mental illness in America, so what your husband is going through isn’t abnormal. And you’re certainly right that the past 18 months haven’t helped. I know his behavior is driving you nuts, but my heart goes out to him. I suffer from a mental illness as well—depression—and let me assure you that no one wants to be trapped in a constant prison of fear—especially if that fear is having an impact on your young daughter. In other words, he doesn’t want to be this way, but his mind has other ideas.

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You quickly mentioned in the beginning how he’s inconsistent with medication and therapy, and that seems like the glaring issue here. You need to make it clear to your husband that therapy is not optional—it’s absolutely mandatory. This may require you to do some of the heavy lifting by scheduling therapy for him and even sitting in with his sessions as a sign of love and moral support. My wife supported me this way, and it was a huge help to me.

When you talk to him, be loving and firm. Something along the lines of, “I love you very much and I’m always going to be in your corner, but we need to get your anxiety under control for the sake of everyone in our family. I scheduled a therapy appointment for Tuesday, and I’m going with you.” You may consider bringing your daughter along as well to help her with any issues that are coming from her dad’s mental illness. If your kiddo articulates to a therapist how much your husband’s anxiety bothers her, it could be the lightbulb moment he needs to take professional help and medication seriously.

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

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• Discuss this column in the Slate Parenting Facebook group!

Dear Care and Feeding,

My son’s school is putting on a show version of Moana at their school. While my son’s school is very diverse, as is the faculty, there isn’t really any Pacific Islander representation in the school. This is going to lead to children of other races playing Pacific Islander characters. I don’t like this, but the school has a Black principal, mostly teachers of color, and the teacher putting on the show is Asian American, so I will defer to their best judgment that this is OK. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it, and I am still not comfortable with him trying out for the show.

My son—who is 9 and white—really loves acting, and is begging to be allowed to audition, but I have pretty firmly said he is not allowed to and explained why. My wife says I am being ridiculous and wants him to try out. While first and foremost I don’t like the idea of a white child playing a character who isn’t white, I am also very worried that photos of him in this play could possibly hurt him down the line. I’ve read stories where kids have had scholarships and even admissions to colleges pulled after things they did as kids were discovered online. In today’s age no doubt some photos will end up on Facebook of the show somewhere. I only really know one person who has any Pacific Island decent, and he thought it was great and I should let him try out. Combine this with the faculty saying it is OK and I don’t have a great leg to stand on here against my wife and son. Should I stand firm here or let him try out?

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—Anxious in Acting

Dear Anxious,

I appreciate your concern, but I highly doubt your son is going to get canceled or have a future scholarship revoked for this. There’s a big difference between playing a role in an elementary school performance and dressing up in blackface for a Halloween party.

Now, if we’re talking about a white person in Hollywood getting paid millions to play the role of a person of color when there are plenty of diverse actors to choose from, then I’d have a problem. But you mentioned how there’s very little Pacific Islander representation at his school, so it’s not as if there are a ton of other options here. Of course there will be some people who will have a problem with a white kid in a Moana play—but there are people out there who have a problem with the shirt you’re wearing right now. You can’t please everyone.

I think you’re building a mountain out of a molehill. No college or employer in their right mind is worried about a 9-year-old’s extracurricular activities. More importantly, he has the support of his Asian American director and Black principal and that means a lot. Also, your kid really loves acting, and you should let him follow his dreams.

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I love the fact that this concerns you as a white parent, but you should take a deep breath, let the kid try out, and trust that everything will be fine.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My husband was promoted at his job, and it required us to move to Texas in the beginning of this year. He’s a hardworking guy and a great provider, but he’s not vaccinated for COVID. I feel that some of his new Texas friends are against the vaccine and he’s watching a lot of anti-vaccination videos on YouTube and has been swayed by them. Anyway, last week his company announced that all employees must be vaccinated by Sept. 1, or they will be terminated. Even with that news, my husband says he refuses to get the vaccine. He constantly says it’s un-American to force people to do things, and he will not allow his rights to be violated like this. Not to mention, our only child just turned 12 and he refuses to let her get vaccinated, even though she wants to. I don’t know how to talk sense into him. Please help!

—Anti-Vax in Austin

Dear Anti-Vax,

I gotta let out this rant, so bear with me. We’ve already asked everyone nicely to get vaccinated. Now it’s time to take the next step. If you’re old enough and eligible health-wise to be vaccinated, vaccine mandates should be required if you want to go to the movies, sporting events, concerts, hotels, restaurants, schools, your job, travel, etc.

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Your husband is complaining about his “rights”? You can argue he has every right not to take the vaccine—but every organization has the same right to deny his service. There’s nothing un-American about that. You don’t see smokers getting upset because they can’t light up on a plane. You don’t see beachgoers whining over “no shoes, no shirt, no service” signs. Rules are rules. You don’t get vaccinated, you can’t sit with us.

I cannot wrap my head around people who have witnessed more than 600,000 people die from COVID in the past 18 months in America—including countless others who are suffering mightily after testing positive—to say, “Nah, I don’t care about those numbers or what seasoned virologists and scientists have to say. BootyEater69 on YouTube said vaccines are bad, so I trust him.” Get the hell out of here with that nonsense.

In regard to your daughter, you need to step in and empower her to make the decision to be vaccinated if that’s what she wants. You would never forgive yourself if she fell gravely ill to this virus if it could’ve been prevented.

As for your husband: I’m sure you’re not cool with him uprooting your family to move to Texas only for him to be unemployed a few months later because he’s refusing the vaccine. Tell him to step away from social media misinformation, and have him talk to a doctor about the safety and effectiveness of the COVID vaccine.

If he still digs his heels in, then explain that the expectation of him is to bring in the same income and keep your family as safe as possible. You need to follow up by explaining how his views are affecting your marriage, and you should seek the help of a marriage counselor going forward.

This nightmare will never end unless people get vaccinated.

—Doyin

More Advice From Slate

My husband and I are both in our early 30s and we have a wonderful 3-year-old whom we both love very much. About a year ago, I approached my husband about having a second child, and he said he would rather wait, as raising a toddler is difficult (true). But recently I brought up getting pregnant again and was floored when he said no, he didn’t want another child. What should I do?


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