Would you disown your child?
What would be so bad that you would cut yourself off from your child?
Is there anything your children could do or become that would make you disown them? What if they chose to become a soldier, and you’re a pacifist? What if your carefully reared Jewish son one day fell in love with a Muslim, or your boereseun became a vegetarian anti-gun lobbyist?

When I was at school there was a small handful of things that carried parental censure and extreme punishment: interracial love affairs, smoking, falling pregnant or owning up to homosexuality were the horrors we used to hope would not befall any of our friends for fear of them being turned out of their homes, or beaten.

Not that my friends had awful parents – it’s just that some ‘behaviours’ were expected to have horrendous consequences for children’s relationship with their parents and community. In some countries, lesser crimes still carry physically and psychologically extremely cruel consequences.

What, I wonder, could cause me to disown my children? Certainly none of the four reasons above. Drugs? No – though I can imagine that in extreme situations a parent could wish to not have to put up with the ugly manifestations and dangers of addictions, and would want to change the locks on the house.

Homosexuality? Nope. Teen pregnancy? No. Smoking? Uh-uh. Partnering with someone from another race? Nah.

I am an atheist. Would I disown a child who became a Christian? Or a Sufi? Or a Muslim? Or a Jew? No.

Intolerance and unkindness, selfishness and a lack of empathy, arrogance, intolerance and superiority over other people, violence (including the routine smacking of children as a form of ‘discipline’) and rude, hurtful interactions – these are things I would find very difficult to stomach in my children when they are adults. And I suspect that if any of these were the unlikely consequence of the accepting and supportive home they are being brought up in, we would butt heads most terribly.

But would I disown them? Unimaginable.

Loving someone – it seems to me – is about caring deeply about their happiness and their ability to find their own authentic place in the society, even if how they choose to live does not overlap perfectly with your own world view, or conveniently fit into the picture you have of your own life.

And love, surely, does not want to save face in the world more than it wants to simply do what it does best: to hold and nurture and really care about the people it touches – even when their choices are not the same as the ones you would make.

Is there anything that could make you disown your child?

Read more by Karin Schimke

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