I’m in a bind.
Earlier this week I was picking Will up at daycare. I routinely spend a few minutes chatting with my provider. When I asked how Will did that day she smiled and told him to repeat what they say before meals. At that point, to my displeasure, Will said “God is great, God is good, and we thank him for our food.” Some people, like my wife, think that’s cute. I was less than amused. Because while I was fully aware my provider is very religious, I did not expect her to teach religion to my son. Frankly that’s not something I want him exposed to. But I let that one go because eventually he’ll go to church with MJ 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. 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 mere 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, go figure!) where you could pay $5 and throw things like balls and plates at a mannequin of Obama. But 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. But 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 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/her own opinion. And this is an in-home daycare, which means she’s free to espouse any viewpoint she wants in her own house. She’s religious and conservative, just like some of my friends and family, and so it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that she’d be against homosexuals having the right to marry. And 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 atheist. Actually, I probably have more conservative friends than liberal, despite my left-leaning tendencies. And I’m a firm believer that our differences, and 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 with children. MJ and I are teaching Will to be tolerant of all lifestyles, races, religions, etc. And 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 in fact, offensive.
That’s just not right.
So I confronted her the next morning and 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. And 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 she “hates the sin and not the sinner.” As if that somehow makes the bigotry palatable. And for kickers, her ex-husband — who she is best friends with — is gay. But she still thinks he’s a sinner.
Look, I know that when you opt for daycare (as we have to), you take your chances by having someone else spend so much time with your kids. And 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 wrong. She believes a whole segment of the population, my loved ones included, shouldn’t have the same rights as she does. And I’ve witnessed first-hand that she has no problem saying so in front of my impressionable 2-year-old. Will is not dumb. Sometimes you only have to say something once and he never forgets it. And 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 there’s no room for intolerance and bigotry. And 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. And 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 derision?