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Carolyn Hax: Estranged dad debates reconciling with ‘queen’ daughter

Dear Carolyn: I have been alienated from my daughter for 30 years. Her mother and I divorced and I remarried. She was in her late teens and early 20s at the time. For a time she lived with me, my new wife and a stepsister. She was an absolute “queen,” thought we should defer to her every wish. No help around the house and no rent. I finally asked her to leave. It was either get her out of the house or lose my new wife.

Later she married, and asked me to come to her wedding, but not bring my new wife. I told her, “Sorry I won’t be there.” She was angry at me and still is, according to her brother. I’ve just “written her off” but have been encouraged by a friend to try to reconnect. I think she has a grudge, like Hatfields and McCoys, and it would be useless to attempt reconciliation or, in the alternative, would open me up to more pain. I think she’s stuck in what happened 30 years back and isn’t about to let go. Your opinion?

— J.: My opinion: Instead of backing your daughter or being patient with her as she worked through the emotional fallout of having her family unravel — just as she was emerging into her own adulthood — you blamed her, dropped her for your new family, and never checked for damage on impact.

Then, instead of taking the wedding half-invitation as a hint to talk to your daughter and try to repair the damaged relationship, you merely dropped her again.

So I don’t concur with your friend. Not unless you’re ready to hold yourself as accountable for your errors as you’ve held her for hers, given you “wrote off” your own daughter pre-full-maturity and fresh off your divorce. Not unless you’re 100 percent sure you won’t dump her again.

Dear Carolyn: Our day-care center is putting art projects together for the kids that are “boy” and “girl” and the kids are separated as they do them. How can I politely object to this?

Anonymous: Yeah that is a head-to-keyboard special. I’m sorry.

In the interest of uniting, not dividing, and because these are people who do the thankless work of caring for small children, and because they are caring for your children, let’s take the organizer of this art project to be a well-meaning form of misguided. (Old habits left unexamined, say.)

Then appeal to those good intentions: “What is your plan if a girl prefers the designated boy project or a boy prefers the designated girl project?” It’s an entirely predictable outcome among children too young for pink-shaming to have taken hold. Just ask any parent during the boy-or-girl Happy Meal-toy era (RIP and good riddance), since the much cooler toy was always, always the one meant for the other sex.

How the center responds to that logical, justified query will tell you whether there needs to be a more formal next move, which can be as mild as keeping your kid home that day or as extreme as switching to a non-reactionary day-care provider.

This is all assuming you bother. The work of keeping kids out of arbitrary gender boxes is essential and ongoing, to allow kids to be comfortable in their own skin rather than jamming them into ill-fitting “shoulds” from judgmental adults. But this is not to be confused with asking every person to join every battle. You get to decide whether the gratuitous gender sorting is systemic or a one-off, harmful or merely annoying, worth or not worth taking on.

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