Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Son Sees Himself Reflected in New School

DEAR HARRIETTE: We moved to a different state because of my husband’s work. I am hopeful this year as my son enters his new school.

My son is at the age when he may start dating. At his previous school, he was one of only a handful of children of color. This might sound strange, but I wanted him to be at a school where there’s a chance that he might meet a nice black girl. Previously, there was only one in his class. I don’t mean to sound discriminatory in any way, but I think it’s natural for parents to want their children to be exposed to people from their own community when they begin to date. It was illegal for many blacks to date whites just two generations ago, so I don’t think I’m out of line to think this. -- Coming of Age and Race, Dayton, Ohio

DEAR COMING OF AGE AND RACE: When children begin to date, any number of questions come up for parents as to whom they will meet and be attracted to. For the parent, there are many natural thoughts and questions, including whether their children will find a partner who shares their values and traditions. This typically means religious traditions and heritage. You are not wrong to look at history and have thoughts and reservations about whom your child will find as a partner. You have the unique perspective on race relations in this country that included laws about whom people of African descent could marry. This is real and worth knowing. What is also true, however, is that your son is growing up in a completely different environment under different circumstances.

Most people partner with those they spend a lot of time around. Classmates are at the top of that list. Given that you surrounded your son with people of other backgrounds than his own, it is natural that he would be attracted to people from other ethnic groups. Rather than press him to date a girl who looks like him, encourage him to get to know his fellow students and to learn more about people who share his values and interests. You can definitely recommend that he include the girls from his own community in his dating pool.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My adult son just decided he had had enough of his job, which he has hated for several years, so he quit. I couldn’t believe it. I understand that you can be disgruntled at work, but I was taught to keep your nose to the grindstone and tough it out -- unless, of course, you are being abused. He just didn’t like it. Now he has asked to move back home while he figures out what he wants to do next. I am furious. He should have made a plan that allowed for him to find another job so that he could remain self-sufficient. I don’t want to say no to my son about coming home, but I also do not want to enable him. How should I handle this? -- Uncommitted Son, Silver Spring, Maryland

DEAR UNCOMMITTED SON: Welcome your son home -- with provisions. Give him a lease with a fixed rent that he must pay monthly. Help him create a timeline for finding a job and saving money. Schedule weekly meetings where he must present his plans. If he does not agree to your terms, tell him he has to live somewhere else.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)