My Kindergartner Is Not a Racist, I Swear!

Posted February 16, 2018 1:40 p.m. EST

Q: My son goes to a kindergarten where considerable time is devoted to discussing all the glorious varieties of skin tone and how they continue to influence racial discrimination. Recently, he refused to let his best friend join a game of tag because the friend has dark skin. I reached out to the parents to apologize and ask how they would like us to discuss the issue at home and between the kids. Radio silence! We love this family and don’t think our son really knows what he did. What can I do to reduce hurt and retain friends? — Anonymous

A: I keep trying (and failing) to get past your ironic-sounding phrase “discussing all the glorious varieties of skin tone.” (Are you trying to be cute?) Because however much time was devoted to the subject at school, your son needs more: at least enough to stop segregationist games of tag. I also don’t buy that he doesn’t “really know what he did.” He is plenty old to understand the cruelty of excluding others, and given the copious classroom conversations, the special cruelty of his behavior here.

News flash: Kids can be mean. Yours was awful. Don’t make excuses for him. Your son clearly owes his classmate an apology. While I applaud your reaching out to these other parents for guidance, they are under no obligation to provide it. (I wouldn’t be roaring to get on the phone with you, either — especially if your message played down your son’s awareness of wrongdoing.) The good news: As an adult, you can supervise your son’s apology all by yourself.

Consider making it a written apology (dictated by Sonny, if needed). This may impress upon him the gravity of his error. And when the other boy brings the note home, his parents may be impressed, too. Now, if I was wrong about the ironic cast of your email (and it was merely florid), I apologize. But there’s nothing children pick up on faster than cues from their parents that a problem is really no problem.

Hot for Roommate

Q: I dated a woman for two months. We had a nice time until we spent an evening with her roommate, who dazzled me: smart, funny, empathetic — just a delight to be with! The three of us hung out two more times, and my feelings for the roommate were confirmed, though she and I never flirted. I ended it with the woman I was dating in a friendly, non-traumatic way. It’s been a month now since I stopped seeing her. May I ask out the roommate? Do I need permission from the woman I was dating? — Michael

A: I’m not going to lie to you, Michael. This is no slam dunk — especially if the woman you were dating had stronger feelings than you did, or if the roommates are close. (Or if the one you were dating is prone to jealousy, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.) Start with the roommate. No need for anyone else’s permission.

Call her and tell her you were taken by her. Give a few choice examples to show why you are smitten, but don’t go sticky sweet. Then say: “May I take you to dinner, if that won’t cause trouble with Sue?” She may ask to speak with her roommate first, or refuse out of loyalty (or — gasp! — lack of interest). But if you hear any consideration, let her know you’re prepared to be patient. Good things are worth waiting for, correct? A month may be too soon, but three, just right!

No Love for Carbs

Q: I’ve baked cakes and other goodies for family gatherings. After initially enthusiastic greetings (“Oh, Jim loves German chocolate cake!”), my baked goods remained largely untouched. Each time, I stayed silent and secretly seethed. Should I have said something? — G.K.

A: I’m sure your sweets are magnificent! Isn’t it more likely that your relatives are avoiding high-calorie desserts than delivering personal smack downs to you? And this being a free country and all, what exactly would you say? “Nobody leaves this table until that cake stand is licked clean!” Better to give the people what they want. Next time, try a healthy fruit salad. Or better still, a farro salad — everyone seems to be eating those.

When the Ring Doesn’t Fit

Q: My boyfriend asked me to marry him. (Yay!) As an engagement ring, he gave me this ornate diamond ring that belonged to his grandmother (who is dead). I hate it! Now what do I do? — Anonymous

A: First, you wait. Live with the ring for a few days to make sure that you really dislike it. It may simply be different from what you were imagining. Still hate it? (I was afraid of that.) So, go to your fiancé and tell him how happy you are to be marrying him. Then, in a calm voice, add: “But I’d like a simpler engagement ring. Can we go to a jeweler to see about putting this wonderful stone in a more modern setting?” Keep the heirloom, revise the ring. I’ll bet he agrees, and not a single feeling will be hurt.