Help! I Discovered Something Heinous About a Local Parent. Now I Have to Invite Him Into My Home.

Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)

Dear Prudence,

I live in a suburb with an active Facebook community group. My son started kindergarten this past fall, and around the same time, some vocal anti-trans folks were sharing their opinions in the group and with the school committee. I attended the first school committee meeting (meetings are on Zoom) of the year to vocalize my support for trans kids as a mom and educator (I am a teacher in a different district). Many others spoke up for trans kids as well, and the school committee reaffirmed its commitment to keeping our district a welcoming place for all students.

My son is turning 6 in a few weeks, and we have invited his whole kindergarten class to the party. It’s the norm where we are that parents and siblings can also attend kids’ birthday parties. As it turns out, the parent of one of the kids in the class was also at that SC meeting, only his comment included a rant against “gender ideology” and accusations that both the U.S. president and his son are pedophiles. I only figured this out when my son and I ran into him this morning while out walking. He was friendly, and I’m not sure he recognized or remembered me from the SC meeting, though I certainly remembered him. My question is: Can I have this man at my home without betraying my values? We invited my son’s class specifically because we did not want anyone to feel excluded. On the other hand, I have been advocating for LGBTQ+ people all my life, the majority of my close friends are queer and/or trans (I myself am bisexual, though married to a cis heterosexual man), and the idea of having anyone who shares his views at my home makes my stomach turn. Help!

—Sick in a Small Town

Dear Sick in a Small Town,

Having to interact with other parents who I didn’t choose and don’t like is one of the parts of parenthood I dread the most! You’re living my nightmare. However, I don’t think you can exclude this ranting conspiracy theorist homophobe from your event. When there are children involved, fairness to them has to come first, and the “invite the entire class” norm exists for a reason. I hate to think of his kid missing the opportunity to interact with normal, kind people because their dad is insufferable. Not to mention, if you told him why he wasn’t welcome, it would cause a whole thing in the Facebook group and next thing you know, you’d be the subject of one of those op-eds about how liberals are mean and that’s why people are forced to be bigots and hate democracy. You don’t need that kind of drama in your life. Also, I hate to say it, but he’s probably not the only person you’ve invited who has troubling beliefs.

So rather than going through the headache of scrutinizing the guest list, creating criteria for admission, making difficult announcements, and hiring security, how about this: Honor your values by making your home a place where a homophobe would not want to be, or where he would have to keep his most disturbing views to himself in order to feel comfortable. You could send a text, email, or Facebook message to the parents of the invited children that says something like this: “We’re looking forward to seeing everyone who can make it on Saturday! A few notes to make sure everyone is comfortable: 1) For those with allergies, we do have a cat but plan to thoroughly dust and vacuum the area where the party will take place 2) Please let me know if you or your child have any food sensitivities or dietary restrictions 3) Our home is a place where LGBTQ people are respected and feel safe. You may see art/a flag/books that reflect this. And we do not tolerate hate speech about any group. Given some recent comments I’ve read and heard in local parenting spaces, I felt I should be clear about this so you can decide whether it will be the right environment for your family.”

Dear Prudence,

I married my husband two years after his ex died. We had been dating for a while but held off getting married when the accident happened. “Lia” was 10 and ”Lois” was 5. I never wanted or thought I could replace the girls’ mother, but after being close with both my stepparents, I naively thought the girls would warm up to me. Lois did. Lia never will. We did family therapy. My husband did the parenting. We kept their maternal family close. We tried. Lia will not even be civil with me most days. Worse, she actively acts hateful toward Lois if she acts loving toward me like hugging me or asking to be adopted. She was 12 and her biggest wish for me was to be her mom. Lia shoved her sister off her chair when Lois raised the idea and called her a “traitor.” I think she would have hit her sister if my husband didn’t get between them. Lia ran away and we didn’t know where she was for days. The police were involved. Then Lia wanted to go live with either of her grandparents.

Both sides called her out on her behavior (their maternal grandmother called me a “saint” for putting up with it all). Lia turned 18 and skipped right off into the sunset. The only times we would hear from her was when she needed money. Collectively our entire family has tried from us to my in-laws to the girls’ maternal uncle. Her relationship with her sister is non-existent. Lois is blossoming into such an amazing young woman. She is turning 18 soon and she wants her present for me to officially adopt her. My husband is just “What about Lia?” I can’t care anymore. Lia is 23 now. We have been in each other’s lives for over 13 years. I am not expecting love or even liking, I don’t need or deserve this. Neither does my husband but especially Lois. How do we navigate this?

—Adopting Issues

Dear Adopting Issues,

Your husband: “What about Lia?”

You: “Who knows what will happen? If we become closer to her in the future and she asks me to adopt her as well, I’ll be honored. But Lois’ request was really meaningful to me and I don’t want her to have to wait for that.”

Submit your questions anonymously here. (Questions may be edited for publication.) 

Dear Prudence, 

In December 2023, my best friend of 20 years died of cancer. He was diagnosed one year before his death, and in 12 months went from a healthy 39-year-old to being in a wheelchair, before he passed away. I work as a prosecutor, which is a government job. My problem is with my workplace supervisor. In the more than three months since my friend’s passing, my supervisor has not acknowledged his death to me, even though she knew how close we were, and that I was supporting him through his decline in health. She did not call me to pass on her condolences, ask me what I needed, how I was doing, or if I needed time off.

To make things even worse, while I was planning my friend’s memorial there was a recruitment exercise at my work, where I would have had the opportunity to apply to be made permanent (I am currently on a contract despite having worked in the same role for two years). My supervisor did nothing to arrange an extension for me. When I tried to raise my disappointment about this with her, she told me I was hurting her feelings and being unprofessional. Despite my grief, I have continued to work through this time and my work quality has not suffered. Now it feels like I am being punished by my supervisor for not wanting to be “friends” and acting like everything between us is OK. Prudie, I love my job, but I cannot forgive my supervisor for not being there when I needed a supportive manager. Most of the time I cannot believe what I am experiencing, the lack of compassion is astounding to me. Am I right to feel this letdown? I feel like I need to get away from this person as quickly as possible, but I worry it will damage my career. I have tried to raise my concerns with management and HR but neither have been supportive. Prudie, what should I do?

—Unable to Forgive

Dear Unable to Forgive,

Your supervisor is a jerk, unprofessional, and lacks compassion. I totally agree. I don’t think she deserves your forgiveness. But I also don’t think she deserves this much energy from you, especially while you’re going through such a difficult time. She is not a friend (even if she would like to be). She’s just someone you report to in exchange for a paycheck. You didn’t choose her; you don’t have history with her; and her behavior, while disappointing and upsetting, isn’t personal. It reflects her own shortcomings. I know that when you’re mourning, everything can feel more raw and every slight can feel more intense.

But reporting this woman to HR, stewing over her behavior, or starting a job search won’t heal the real source of your anger, which is that your friend was unfairly taken from you way too soon. You should honor your relationship with him by letting yourself feel all the intense negative feelings you want about the tragic way his life ended, not by fixating on the flaws of someone who doesn’t care about either of you.

My sister-in-law has announced she is trans and is in therapy to transition successfully. It was actually a relief because it seemed to explain her past self-destructive and self-seeking behavior (casual drug use, picking family fights, and even getting plastered at our wedding). We kept her at a distance from her past behavior but have been making attempts to bridge the gap, including introducing her (while socially distanced) to our infant daughter.