Slate Plus members get more Care and Feeding every week.
Dear Care and Feeding,
My 14-year-old son “Alex” had his best friend “Leo” come over a couple days ago.
At one point, the boys watched a few episodes of Schitt’s Creek (Alex’s favorite show), which Leo had never seen before. I wasn’t aware of what they had watched until after the boys came back upstairs. In hindsight, I probably should have told Alex that although it is hilarious, Schitt’s Creek is not an appropriate show to watch with friends (it is rated mature). However, Leo said he loved it, and everything seemed to be fine. Well, the next day I got a very angry email from Leo’s mom. She said that under no circumstances should we have shown her son such a “controversial” show that “pushes a left extremist agenda.” I was shocked. I always found Leo’s parents a bit odd, but I never would have expected something like this. Leo’s mom said that she will not allow Leo to spend time with Alex because our family is a bad influence. Alex is heartbroken, and I feel awful. Leo is a great kid, and I’d never had any indication that he or his family subscribes to these ideas. He has been best friends with my son since second grade. Is there anything I can do to repair this situation?
—Not Loving this Journey for Me
Dear Not Loving,
Your signoff made me smile—I’m a big fan of Schitt’s Creek, too—though the situation makes me sad. Poor Leo. I don’t think you did anything wrong; I don’t think Schitt’s Creek, with its vision of a world in which homophobia doesn’t exist, and in which every important character turns out to be better, kinder, deeper, more complex, and capable of change and growth, is unsuitable for 14-year-olds. You know now that Leo’s family doesn’t want him exposed to that world, and I’m pretty sure there’s nothing you can do to make this better. You are unlikely to be able to convince Leo’s mother that you’re not a bad influence—to her, you are.
It’s worth a try, of course. You can apologize profusely (write a letter! multiple letters, if necessary), promising to allow the boys to play wholesome outdoor games, board games, and whatever else she considers acceptable when Leo visits you. If she goes for this—I’m doubtful, but I had to do something along those lines once for the sake of my own heartbroken kid, and it worked, so I can tell you there is a slim chance it might work for you too—you would have to follow through.
And then you’ll need to do what I did and be honest with the kids about it: Remind them that different families have different rules, and Leo’s family’s rules are so important to them that the only way Alex will be allowed to spend time with him is if those rules are followed, even when the two boys are at your house. (Another offer to extend to Leo’s mom: that the boys can get together only at her house from now on. I assume you are secure enough in Alex’s values that you’re not worried that her right-wing extremist agenda won’t rub off on him. But just to be sure, talk to him about it!)
And if none of this works, tell Alex that from now on he and Leo can only spend time together at school and whatever afterschool activities they both participate in. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you not to give him permission to sneak around, to help Leo lie to his parents, or to otherwise circumvent them. Soon enough, I’m guessing, Leo will be doing this on his own. And good for you, it turns out, for introducing Leo to another way of looking at the world. His mom is right about one thing: You are an influence on her child. Thank goodness.
More Advice From Slate
My husband and I have been very lucky with our jobs and income. We have never spent money carelessly and don’t go on vacations or otherwise “live large,” but we eat out quite a bit and buy the things we need without worry. We always spent way less than we earned so we could enjoy the lifestyle we are used to and have a nice amount in our savings. As of this fall, we are both unexpectedly out of work. My husband was the main breadwinner. I will be getting back to work shortly, but at the level my husband is (C-level), the interview/vetting process takes a few months. So for now, we are adhering to a very tight budget and cutting back on everything. My question is, how do we properly handle this with our 15-year-old daughter? We have told her what we’re changing in terms of spending, and we’ve told her not to worry. She has asked for a few little things, but I’ve declined those requests. Are we handling this properly?