Disowning one’s child

Fellow FtB blogger Ashley Miller is going through a rough time. When her father learned after Thanksgiving day that she was dating a black person, he disowned her and refuses to talk to her anymore. As one can imagine, this has upset her.

I was startled by the news. Such an action seems like such a throwback to a long forgotten time. What makes it seem so futile is that nowadays parents wield so little power over their grown children. It is also rare that disowning or the threat of doing so actually changes the other person’s behavior. The main consequence of disowning an adult is to create hurt and anger, not actual hardship. But after Ashley told others of her experience, I have learned that being disowned nowadays is not as rare as I had thought.

Some parents don’t seem to realize that if your child grows up to be a decent human being, is making a positive contribution to society, and avoids drugs and jail, you are already a lucky parent and should be grateful for what you have. But as she points out, “I sit here and wonder… would my father like me better if I’d gotten drunk and run someone over and been sent to jail and dropped out of school… and I think the answer is yes and I don’t know what to do about it.”

The answer is that there is probably nothing she can do apart from not reacting equally harshly. Many parents eventually come round. I am old enough to have seen instances of parents freaking out at something their child did, swearing never to have anything to do with them again, and then over time slowly accepting the situation. So the best thing to do is to be open to quiet feelers for reconciliation and hope for the best.


  1. jackiepaper says

    Mario, I have a sibling who was indeed in and out of jail, a drop out with a child out of wedlock and various chemical addictions. She’s right to assume a good southern family prefers that sort of child, especially if that child is male. See, they have wild oats to sow and so long as they are straight, cis gendered and Christian, they can still be the apple of their parents’ eyes. They are Good ‘Ol Boys and accepted as such. They can also be abusive and violent. See, Good ‘Ol Boys get in scrapes and sometimes women overreact or need to watch their mouths.
    But leave the church and be a progressive liberal with LGBT friends who are *gasp* allowed around the children, and you’re not welcome in those parts anymore. They don’t cotton to that kind ’round here. That’s why I’m out and the jailbird is in.

  2. patricksimons says

    As everyone knows, once you’ve been raised in a particular fashion, it’s impossible to change. Right. What a cop out. I am very sad that this lady is being put through this, but if her father is really that shallow, she may be better off in the long run.

  3. says

    It’s too late, I’ve already imagined Professor Singham wearing a red cap and racing around on Yoshi trying to collect coins and mushrooms and to defeat Bowser and rescue Peach.

  4. says

    My father was a little uncomfortable at first when my sister started dating her Vietnamese boyfriend (which is kind of odd because we already have relatives married to ethnically Anglo, Chinese, Malay and French people, and other ethnicities). My parents were willing to give him a chance and welcomed him pretty quickly, though. Part of the problem was that my father especially was uncomfortable with the two of them living together without being married.

    Anyway, now they are married and it’s all good. I’m pretty sure my father would disown me if he knew I was gay, though. My mother is more pragmatic. She always says that nowadays children do what they want to and parents have to accept that and stop trying to control them.

  5. baal says

    Mario is the lead character for a long series of games by the Nintendo company. He’s a plumber who uses a variety of power ups to save a princess from evil humanoid turtles. The games generally use a 2d game world with the play area constantly sliding along a ribbon shaped board. You have to then jump over, on or blast enemies and avoid pits or projectiles shot at you. The Mario games are generally popular and have been going on for ~ 2 decades now so some of the themes and motifs from the games have permeated other cultural spaces (cf http://www.geekologie.com/2012/09/what-a-secondthis-is-the-same-castle-i-j.php). There is a lot of merchandising.

  6. slc1 says

    I don’t know if Prof. Singham is familiar with the saga of a physicist colleague of his at Washington Un. of St. Louis, Prof. Jonathan Katz. Prof. Katz a number of years ago wrote a couple of gay bashing posts on his blog, proudly admitting and even trumpeting the fact that he was bigoted against homosexuals.

    Well, guess what, it turns out that his son Isaac is gay and came out of the closet a few years after the notorious blog posts. Although Prof. Katz was quite reluctant at first, eventually he apparently reconciled himself to the situation and accepted his son as he is.

  7. Mano Singham says

    No, I was not familiar with him. I am glad that he has accepted his son. It is really painful to be estranged from one’s close family members. I know families where this has happened and the pain never goes away.

  8. Mano Singham says

    Thanks for that background. Now you how how really out of it I am when it comes to popular culture! I had heard of the Mario Brothers game but never played it and so did not know about mushrooms and Yoshi and whatnot.

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