DEAR AMY: The other day my 11-year-old daughter “Cristal” came home very upset because her friend’s mother won’t allow her daughter to be Cristal’s friend. The other mother happens to be a conservative Christian, and thinks Cristal will be a “bad influence” because she comes from a secular family. My husband and I are atheists, but we stay relatively neutral about religion when it comes to the children (we don’t have any problem with their participating in Christmas concerts, Easter egg hunts or bar mitzvahs with their friends and classmates). They will be free to convert to any faith when they are older, should they choose to do so (so far they haven’t expressed an interest). I don’t know what to say to my daughter. I just never expected, especially in these times — given all the conflicts you hear about between people of different religions — that anybody could have an objection to someone with no religion.
Atheistic, But Not Amoral
DEAR ATHEISTIC: Young adolescents are not always completely reliable reporters, and so if you really want to dive into this, you should contact the parents of the other child, and respectfully ask if they have any objections to the two girls being friends.
If you are sure that the situation is as reported, then this presents an opportunity to educate your daughter about tolerance (and intolerance). She might be interested in learning the basics about religion and different faith practices, and also about your rational understanding of the world and your choice not to believe.
You should explain that some people are afraid of others who are different — or have different ideas — than they have. Tell her that it’s not personal and that you know it hurts, and that one answer she can give to her classmate is, “I know your parents don’t want you to be friends with me, but my parents say I can be friends with everybody.”
I applaud your own tolerance concerning the faith practices of other people. Exposing your daughter to the beliefs and rituals of religions will be an important aspect of her education. Your family’s tolerance will be her guiding light. Keep shining.
DEAR AMY: My 9-year-old grandson played Little League baseball this year, as the youngest member of the team. He did not know any of the other kids on the team. He has worked very hard, “toughing” it out through practice and games. In a recent game, he got an opportunity to pitch. Unfortunately, he made an error and threw over the first baseman’s head, trying to get an out. The first baseman then threw over the catcher’s head and my grandson failed to cover home plate. All the parents in attendance and all three of his coaches were yelling at him. He managed to pull it together and get the third out of the inning. Once in the dugout, one of the coaches started yelling at him again, saying his bone-headed play had cost the team three runs. My grandson was left shell-shocked on the bench. He sobbed all the way home. The next week when it was time to get ready for baseball, he said he did not want to go. My son is working with him, trying to get this gentle, mild-mannered little boy back into playing. But honestly, I don’t know if he ever will want to play again. So here’s a thought for you Mr. Jerk Volunteer Coach. How about we get someone three times your size to jump down your throat when you make a mistake? And for all you “generous” volunteers: If you don’t have the temperament to work patiently with young kids, just stay home.
Not A Fan
DEAR NOT A FAN: Congratulations, overbearing coaches and parents — you’ve alienated another child and squashed that child’s potential.
This is hardly what youth sports is supposed to be about.
Your family should continue to play baseball together and have fun doing so. Next season, if your grandson doesn’t want to play baseball (or even if he does), his folks should explore a martial arts class for him. This builds strength, coordination and confidence in boys and girls.
DEAR AMY: “Probably Overprotective Mom” described a scenario where her son’s ex-girlfriend suddenly turned up pregnant. My brother faced this. He supported a child for 18 years, who he later learned was not his. DNA testing is a must.
DEAR BEEN THERE: I agree.