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DEAR HARRIETTE: At Christmas dinner, my dad called me out about my outfit in front of everyone. He told me that what I was wearing was completely inappropriate and that I should change immediately. I’m a grown woman, but I was absolutely humiliated by the way my dad spoke to me in front of friends and family. I’m not even sure why he still feels that he can talk to me that way. I haven’t spoken to him since the incident, and I’m not sure when I will speak to him again. When I do speak to him, what should I say? — Dad Called Me Out
DEAR DAD CALLED ME OUT: You have triggered a memory for me. I remember going back to my very strict family home for the holidays wearing my hair curly and natural, kind of like a big ‘fro. My father told me that I could not sit down at the table with the family. He offered me a comb and told me to go comb my hair. I was so upset. I never came back to the table. And I didn’t go home to visit for a while. After I calmed down — much later — I realized that my conservative father, who had grown up under Jim Crow, only understood that you needed to conform in the way that you presented yourself in order to get ahead. He was harsh, but in his mind, he was giving me tough love that would protect me in the long run. I still do not agree with his method or his rejection of my natural hair, but I understand it better now.
I don’t know what you were wearing, but it sounds like it was not conservative. Your dad was trying to direct you to a safer version of yourself based on his value system and beliefs, which are grounded in his history.
After you calm down, talk to your dad. Tell him you were offended by how he addressed you at Christmas. Point out that no matter what his opinion is, it was disrespectful for him to call you out like that in front of others. Remind him that you are an adult and must make your own decisions. You might also acknowledge that you believe he meant well even if his delivery was hurtful.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My kids will be learning remotely for the rest of the semester, and I’m extremely tired of them being at home all the time. I work from home as well, and most days I can hardly get through a meeting without having to tell my kids to quiet down. I am thinking of enrolling them in a new school where the classes are resuming in-person effective immediately. Is it selfish of me to do this? — Back to School
DEAR BACK TO SCHOOL: If you can find a small school that has strict COVID-19 protocols and low outbreak numbers, yes, consider transferring your children there. It is optimal for children to be in school with other students. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is so insidious that it is hard to get away from it.
If you cannot enroll them in an in-person school, create a schedule with them that is strict and that has rewards. If they follow directions and remain quiet during your work hours, later they get to do something they enjoy — play video games, play with you, watch a bit of TV, something that will inspire them to exercise discipline.