This week has been one for the books. Never in a million years could you have told me that I would have very intimate conversations with two young people about their sexuality. Two very different people grappling with the same issue … how to deal with and talk to their parents about their desire to live their lives authentically. These young people could not be more different – one was a girl and one was a boy – one was black and one was white – one is already an adult and the other is coasting there quickly. A lesbian and a gay man.
We all want our parents to love us no matter what without a set of conditions.
In both cases, I did not see the conversations coming but I knew both of these young people were gay. My hope for both of them was that at some point they would not be living the lies that they had been living.
When someone comes to you and they are in pain you want to make them feel better. As a parent my heart ached as I texted one person and Skyped with another and we talked about their parents, their fears, what they wished would happen, what they thought would happen, etc. All I could think about was how I would want my daughter to know that I would love her beyond any condition she could imagine NO MATTER WHAT. I told them that they should give their parents a chance to love them and to understand and hear them. My mind raced as I thought about the shock that the parents were about to get (even if they knew it deep down inside). As parents, we commit a million little transgressions every year and hope that we are not going to be financing some psychiatrists villa in the South of France with our kid’s psychological scars in the not to distant future. (**Disclaimer: I have tremendous respect for psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and everybody else in the field. Please, no hate mail!)
All this has got me thinking deeply about the nature of love, parenting, and trust. What is this bond that we have with our children and how do we make them understand that we really are there for them no matter what? In truth, are we there for them NO MATTER WHAT? Should we be? Let me be declarative in stating that I am here for my daughter no matter what. I don’t care who she loves, I don’t care what college she goes to (or doesn’t for that matter), I don’t care what profession she chooses … I care about her happiness. I care that she is a good human being and that she touches people’s lives and leaves them better than when she arrived. I care that she contributes in some way that matters to HER. I don’t give a fig about the the gender of the human being that she loves – I care that she loves and that she is loved in a healthy, good way that sustains her and her chosen ‘other’.
We bring these children into the world and I think we get confused about whose journey they are on. It is their journey not ours. My daughter is of me but not me. I remember when she was little and if she did not want to be picked up she would do the infamous ‘back arch’ – if you are not a parent you may not know what that is, but if you are, you’re probably laughing. The ‘back-arch’ is the most devious of all the toddler tricks out there, basically your three or four-year-old will arch his or her back like a caterpillar and you will NOT be able to pick him/her up. If you have something in your other hand (like a cup of tea, jar of baby food, etc.) … all the better – TODDLER WINS. The first time my sweet little cherub did the back arch, I understood that this was not my journey, it was hers. We’ve been walking together ever since, I kid you not.
It takes tremendous courage to tell the people you love most in the world, the people whose approval means the most to you in the world, the people who you would like to lose least in the world, something you fear might push them away from you forever. Two very courageous young people expressed to me in language that made me cry that they had to change their lives because they could not keep doing what they had been doing – living ‘in the closet’, hiding how they really felt, and who they really were. I’m proud of both of them. The road ahead of them will not be a smooth one necessarily – but it will be an honest one and that counts for a lot.
Who do YOU love?