A couple of weeks ago I would have described the 1967 classic movie, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, (GHCD) as a groundbreaking film about inter-racial marriage.  44 years ago, inter-racial marriage was still derided in much of American society.

Thanks to TCM, last week, I watched the movie again for only the second time in my life and I can say without hesitation that the eyes of a 55-year-old man certainly have greater capacity than those of a 11-year-old boy.

While inter-racial marriage may no longer be unusual or frowned upon in our society, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner still has some refreshing ideas to teach us.

The publication in January, 2011 of the book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, got many people talking about appropriate parenting strategies for maximizing a child’s talents and intellect.  With all due respect, such discussions are about as relevant to most  Americans as are obsessive discussions about which of the most expensive preschools in New York City will accept their little darling.

Talk to case workers and therapists who work with troubled kids these days and they will tell you that long before a parent determines appropriate strategies for maximizing a child’s intellect, it’s sadly true that too many parents need clarification of some pretty basic ideas about their role and responsibilities.

In GHCD, the young handsome, John Prentice, MD., brilliantly played by Sidney Poitier, in a two-minute speech to his angry, hurt father, who can’t believe that his son would betray his parents by marrying a white girl, sums up an idea that is still very radical to many parents today:

“I owe you nothing!  …..You brought me into this world and from that day forward, you owed me everything you could do for me.”

Honestly:

  1. How many parents today believe that parenting is all about creating mirror image of themselves?
  2. How many parents today  accept that the first and most important priority in their own life must is their child?
  3. How many parents today really, really don’t comprehend the concept,  “unconditional love?”
  4. How many parents today unwittingly transfer to their children all of their own anger and insecurities through constant criticism, rejection and disapproval?
  5. How many parents today are intimidated by the idea that their child might eventually turn out to be smarter, better educated and more successful they are?
  6. How many parents today find it unacceptable their child is gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgender?  And as such, delude themselves into thinking those sexual preferences are a choice and not a fact of birth?
  7. How many parents today believe that it is their prerogative to terminate the parent-child relationship because they don’t like or “approve” of who their child is?

Below, are two videos.  The first, is of that remarkable scene from Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner in which Sidney Poitier informs his father that he does love him, but owes him nothing.

The second video is only a few weeks old.  But reflects the same struggle that results from a parent’s misguided understanding of the parental role.  Sam Britton’s parents couldn’t deal with his being a gay man.  So they tortured him with dangerous, bogus, conversion therapies to turn him into the kind of son they wanted.  When that failed, they simply terminated their relationship with him.

A child owes his/her parents nothing.  A parent owes his/her child everything.