Parenting can be hard, and it's not uncommon for parents to disagree about parts of raising their children.
These disagreements don't usually do much harm, but sometimes they can be stressful.
Reddit user ratpenguinbaseball asked the good people at the subReddit "AmITheA**hole" (AITA) for some advice on a disagreement she had with her husband.
Ratpenguinbaseball began with a little background information on her family, and their current situation during self-isolation.
"I have four children: 5 M[ale], 7 F[emale], 8M, and 10M. They are very close and best friends and they all love to play together. We live in a rural area and a woods is basically in our backyard. The kids love to run around in there."
"I'm working from home and my husband was laid off his job so husband has been sitting in the backyard and keeping an eye on them. I like to let them have free rein a little, but I can't really trust the 10 yo to take care of the 5 yo in an emergency."
Things seemed to have been going pretty well, until ratpenguinbaseball discovered her kids playing a slightly disturbing game while their father watched them.
"I finished my work early and came out to be with my husband and kids. I notice kids are playing this game and they keep calling each other 'gay'. I pull 7 yo aside and ask them what they're playing."
"She explains that they're playing that 'gay game'. Basically you have to do some physical thing (cartwheel, sprint, crazy acrobatics, etc.) and whoever can't do it or whoever does it the worst is gay."
Wanting to get to the bottom of things, she asked her husband if this was a recent development.
"I ask husband how long they'd been playing that game and he said a few weeks. I asked him why he hadn't stopped them and he said it was harmless."
"I kind of understand what he means. They probably picked it up at school or at the playground or something and they aren't intending to offend anyone or something. I'm pretty sure they don't even know what 'gay' means."
"Husband says he played a game like that as a kid and I know I definitely did. I just feel like what was acceptable 40 years [ago] is not acceptable today. We have gay neighbors and this kind of negative connotation [of] gay is harmful in the world."
Just because they don't know what it means doesn't mean they can't still hurt people by using the word this way.
Mom let the kids know that they needed to find a new game and why.
"I told the kids that they have to find a new game to play. They asked why and I told them that what they were playing was hurtful. I don't think they're taking it too hard."
She finished with a plea for some judgment on the situation because her husband said she is overreacting.
"Husband thinks that I'm overreacting and that they'll grow out of it. I just can't get over the fact that he heard them playing for weeks and didn't address it. AITA?"
Nearly everyone said that ratpenguinbaseball was not the a-hole (NTA) in this situation.
Many pointed out that her husband's blasé attitude about the kid's use of "gay" as an insult was not at all okay.
"NTA. Teacher here, kids using 'gay' in a negative way is sadly par for the course. It's a constant battle that I fight in my classroom (and the other teachers in the school as well) to get the kids to stop."
"I've tried everything from giving a (kid friendly) history on why being gay was/is so controversial in America and why using that term in a derogatory fashion is wrong, explaining that nothing is wrong with being gay, calling parents, giving detentions to some of my frequent users of the word."
"All of that to say, while yes it is a typical child behavior, that does not mean that we don't correct the behavior. Raising children involves correcting wrong behaviors, not just shrugging them off because everyone else does them. Your instinct to not let them participate in this damaging game is spot on and absolutely the right thing to do!" -paracrazy
"NTA. That's a horrible game. And it's upsetting your husband let it go on for so long. Edit to add: it actually isn't harmless to be throwing around gay as an insult. Like at all." -Dilxxx7
"NTA. Using gay as a negative is not OK and they all but especially the 10 year old needs to know that ASAP. But I really don't understand why they can't play what sounds like a fun game just without using the word 'gay.' Call it the jabroni game. Or makeup a word." -CheruthCutestory
"NTA. That game was getting them used to using "gay" as a pejorative term, and you put a stop to it. They're definitely too young to really understand the connotations, but your husband isn't. I also find it unpleasant that he knew for weeks and didn't think it was worth broaching the topic." -gh0stworld
"When I was in grade school, my friends and I used to play a game called Smear the Queer. Its was just a modified game of Tag and the game was fun and we didn't mean anything by it."
"But as someone who grew up to be gay, I'm horrified. Why did no adults who saw us give a thought to the ramifications? So NTA, because you're considering what they may think or be thought of down the road." -ArcWolf713
Some gave more detailed advice.
"NTA. Please, please sit them down with a children's book about gay people (ex The one about the penguins) and explain what that word means and why it's inappropriate to use it that way."
"Consider giving them an alternative name to use that is harmless like 'It'. If you lose the game, you're 'it'! The person whose it gets to decide the next challenge. Like with tag."
"It's important for them to understand that the basic game was fine (doing fun, harmless things and deciding an 'it'; it helps children show off or find their individual talents), but the name is really hurtful for people like your neighbors (it's SO important you let them know people you or they know who are gay, it helps them connect and categorize it)."
"If you talk to them like little adults, they'll grow up to be better adults. It's weird your husband allowed this."
"On a bit of interesting psychological note: Your children are in a state of learning where their language is a primary focus of "play". In this stage, they begin to develop categories for objects, like 'dog = animal, fuzzy, warm, good'."
"Using 'gay' like this gives the association of 'gay = bad' and those are hard to break. However, children naturally trust adults to tell the truth (unless given a reason not to)."
"Your 'authority' can help override this association. Reading a story to them can help them associate gay with 'parents, neighbors, family'. It could help with internalized homophobia should they realize they are gay as they get older." -evit_canti
"NTA, your husband is. It objectively is not harmless. People using 'gay' as an insult drives bullying and homophobia, and the fact that your kids might be too young to know what it means doesn't matter."
"If anything it makes it more dangerous for them to have an instilled hate for gay people this early. Teaching them that wasn't acceptable was the right thing to do." -drewmana
"NTA. I am shocked your husband thinks it's harmless to use gay in a negative way. I understand the kids don't fully understand what they're saying but if they're old enough to be using that word in a negative way then they're old enough for a chat about what it means and why you don't say that."
"I'm pretty shocked at your husbands behavior. I'm concerned he didn't bring it up or intervene sooner. If anyone sucks here it's him." -resting_bettcch_face
It is important to call out behavior like this while kids are young, and explain why it isn't okay. Kids can't know what they've never been told, and it's important that they know some things just aren't okay to say.
The book That's So Gay: Microaggressions and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community is available here.
"This engagingly written book describes experiences of microaggressions, or subtle forms of discrimination, toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people."