Dear Ms. Vicki,
All hell just broke loose in my family, and I could really use your help. My daughter is a naval officer. We are very proud of her. She is the first one in our family to graduate from college and to serve our country.
About 18 months ago, my daughter went to Washington, D.C., with some friends to hang out. Well, she met a young man. Not a problem. She's a cute girl, and I think any guy would want to be with her.
She deployed for about six months at sea. I've learned that she kept dating this same guy that she met in D.C. Now I find out this guy is a Muslim. I was stunned and more shocked when I found out my daughter has met his family on more than one occasion. I almost fell over when she told me that they are "very nice people."
I want to find out how I can stop my daughter from ruining her life? I'm so scared for her. She doesn't realize this could be the end of her stellar career as a naval officer should her leaders find out she is dating a Muslim.
How do we know he is not radical and is not trying to use my daughter for something sinister? As you can see, I am pulling my hair out with worry. I haven't told her Dad yet because he will hit the roof and lose it.
My question is: Can I get her commanders involved in this matter? I know she's 28 years old and she's an adult, but surely there is something they can do before a tragedy happens?
-- Very Frightened Mother
Dear Frightened Mother,
I've learned that discussing these four things will cause people to quickly leave a room: sex, politics, race and religion.
It's not uncommon for people to be uncomfortable when they are around situations and people who are different. Think about it: We tend to flock to "sameness." We enjoy being around people who share the same interests etc.
Now, I will be the first one to say that change can be frightening too. This is normal. It's also normal for us to be concerned about our children, even if they are adults. We want what's best for them.
It sounds like your daughter has achieved a great amount of success, and I know you are proud of her. I would like to try and calm your anxiety about your daughter's boyfriend. I think you have catastrophized him and the entire situation to the point that you think your daughter and our country are at risk.
You think he is a radical Muslim. But stop and think for a second. You have raised a very smart, bright, intelligent young woman. She is obviously very serious about her career. Why would she date someone who would be threatening on any level?
I don't think she would do that. I think it is the fear of the unknown that keeps us from getting to know each other. Couple that with basic stereotypes and false perceptions, and we can hype up a situation that can spiral out of control.
This Muslim family that your daughter is spending time with are more than likely an open and embracing family. They want to get to know her.
So, I think if you love your daughter and you want to protect her, you should try to get to know this young man and his family. I think it may be a good time for you to ask questions about hard topics like his religion or way of life. This not a time you would involve the command.
You may be like me. I find these difficult conversations exciting and interesting. I find that I grow more every time I discuss some difficult subjects that I mentioned above.
Conversely, I think your fears will cause you more anxiety and may alienate you from your daughter, and it doesn't have to happen. Thank you for writing and sharing with me. I hope I wasn't too preachy. We can discuss this further, so please stay in touch.
-- Ms. Vicki