What do you do when your kid’s day care provider doesn’t share your religious and political views?
I’m in a bind.
Earlier this week I was picking up my son, Will, from daycare. I routinely spend a few minutes chatting with my provider, and when I asked how Will did that day, she smiled and told him to repeat what they say before meals. To my displeasure, Will responded by saying, “God is great, God is good, and we thank him for our food.” Some people, like my wife, think that’s cute. But as a non-believer, I was less than amused.
I was fully aware my provider is very religious, but I didn’t expect her to teach religion to my son. Frankly, that’s not something to which I want him exposed. But I let that one go, because eventually he’ll go to church with my wife, MJ, a Catholic, and I figure I shouldn’t get upset about harmless exposure to religion. So I sucked it up.
But she wasn’t done yet.
She then asked me about my job as a journalist. I told her that next week I’m headed to Martha’s Vineyard for a few days because President Obama and the First Family are vacationing in Chilmark, and I’ll be covering a portion of their visit for the paper.
The mention of Obama’s name got her started on a mini anti-Obama tirade, which I patiently weathered with a half-hearted smile, as I listened to the familiar rhetoric. But then she started telling me about a carnival somewhere (New Jersey, I think) where you pay five dollars to throw things like balls and plates at a mannequin of Obama. Regrettably, she said, it was shut down after someone was offended and complained.
“Well, some people are always going to be offended by stuff like that,” I said as I collected Will and my things to leave.
And then she dropped the hammer.
“Yeah, but they get offended by this kind of stuff and never the things they should be offended by,” she said. “You know, like taking prayer out of school and gay marriage.”
I’m not usually stunned or silent; this time I was both. Thankfully, her elderly mother had just come home and that provided me with an out. Because honestly, at that point I was so angry, I’m not sure if the words that almost came out of my mouth would’ve been advisable.
When I got home I let my anger subside and tried to think about things rationally.
On one hand, it’s a free country and everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. This is an in-home daycare, which means she’s free to espouse any viewpoint she wants. She’s religious and conservative, just like some of my friends and family, and so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that she’d be against homosexuals having the right to marry. If I decided to pull my son from her care, simply because we disagree politically, isn’t that me being intolerant of her religious beliefs?
I pride myself on having friends from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some believe in God and others are atheists. Actually, I probably have more conservative friends than liberal friends, despite my left-leaning tendencies. And I’m a firm believer that our differences—specifically our ability to get along despite those differences—are what makes the world go ’round.
But in the end, for me, this is about more than ideological differences.
I have friends and relatives who are gay. I have aunts who are legally married to each other and have children. MJ and I are teaching Will to be tolerant of all lifestyles, races, and religions. Yet the woman I pay to watch Will felt there was nothing wrong with telling us—her paying clients—that our friends and relatives are offensive.
That’s just not right.
I confronted her the next morning. I calmly told her that while I don’t want to preach or make her conform to my more liberal viewpoint, MJ and I are very much in favor of gay marriage. I told her about our family members, and why I was insulted and offended by her remarks. Then I told her, in no uncertain terms, that I did not ever want Will to hear her say that homosexuality is wrong.
She told me that while she won’t preach in front of Will, she firmly believes homosexuality is wrong—that it’s against God’s will, and that it’s a sin. However, she oh-so-kindly said that she “hates the sin and not the sinner”—as if that somehow makes her bigotry palatable. And for kickers, her ex-husband—who she is best friends with—is gay. But she still thinks he’s a sinner.
I know that when you opt for daycare (we don’t have much choice), you take your chances, by having someone else spend so much time with your kids. Everyone is different. I am a proponent of Will being surrounded by all types of different people with varying viewpoints—but I think this is a different story.
This person thinks being gay is morally wrong. She believes a whole segment of the population, my loved ones included, shouldn’t have the same rights that she does. I’ve witnessed first-hand that she has no problem saying so in front of my impressionable two-year-old. Will is a bright kid—sometimes you only have to say something once and he never forgets it. Even though my provider is generally a nice enough woman, the fact that she openly looks down upon gay people for no good reason is very troubling. And unacceptable.
I’m all about celebrating differences, but I can’t tolerate bigotry. I think we’ll be finding another daycare for Will as soon as we can, because as parents, we have to be comfortable with the authority figures we let into our kids’ lives. If I’m paying someone for a service, I don’t think I—and especially Will—should have to be subjected to offensive remarks regarding the people I love.
What’s so hard about teaching young children love and acceptance, as opposed to exclusion and intolerance?