To a parent I may never know,
So innocent. So pure. So perfect. So unique. So loved.
What an incredible gift they are. We, as parents, are so blessed to be given the opportunity to be the one who get to raise them, protect them, love them, and show them what this life is all about. It seems so simple when they are young when keeping them alive is a huge accomplishment. Teaching them manners, how to be kind, to share, and to be a decent human being isn't easy, but we work at it every day for them. We show them love so that they can love in the capacities they want and need in this life. We embrace their individuality for them so that they can see for themselves that this life is theirs to live.
Or do we?
As a woman who discovered my true individuality as a lesbian long after I think I could have, this is a question I ponder often, even now, as a parent.
I was raised in (what I assumed to be) a loving home. It truly was. I felt loved. I felt safe. I was encouraged in my education and my athletic ability. Family and faith were of the highest priority. I was given all that I needed to succeed in this life. I was a part of a happy Christian family. I was given the tools needed to be whatever I wanted to become.
Or was I?
Those of us who identify as LGBTQ+ usually have a coming out story. I have one as well, but I don’t call it a “coming out”. I was shoved, by my mother. A woman I was supposed to be able to be vulnerable and safe with, and above all- loved by. She took my journey and pushed it in front of pastors, my father, and others to “fix” for her own personal comfort. Where did the woman who raised me to be whatever I wanted to be go? She and my father no longer existed to me in that capacity from that point on, and that was a scary place as a child. Here, today, I still stand, 12 years after being dragged out of the closet, and my parents and I still don’t have a relationship. Those “good hearted” people are no longer a part of my life, and yes, it still hurts like hell.
Now as a parent, I can’t fathom how any human being who loved as I thought my parents did could no longer love their child in the way they used to, solely because of that child’s individuality.
It begs the question how a love I thought I knew could change so quickly? LOVE.
It’s such a big word. Its definitions are endless in ways that I know I have yet to fully understand that one day will become so beautiful to me, but it also has definitions that contain lies and hurt, as I have experienced. I’ve heard many parents use the term “hard love,” a definition in which a person loves another, but doesn’t agree with their behaviors and therefore, change their boundaries in hopes of it making an impact on the other’s actions. As a human being, I understand there are differences in opinions and beliefs that we all are entitled to. We all love in certain ways that we think are right. We all accept love in certain ways that we think are right. The same goes for how we think it is wrong to love and be loved, and when it is wrong for us, it turns from a beautiful experience into a traumatic one. Love all of the sudden has conditions. When love has conditions, it no longer possesses a beautiful definition, but the complete opposite.
So where does that love go? Where does that dream that you had for your child as a little one to embrace their individuality suddenly disappear to? It didn’t disappear, it’s just clouded by desires and a comfort for a life that you think is best for them. We’re parents, so of course we want what's best for our kids.
But what if the best thing for our kids isn’t what we think at all? What if we listened, actually listened, to what they are saying? What if we paid attention to how they need to see and feel love, not how we think they should see and feel it? My parents showed love the way they thought I needed through giving me every materialistic thing I could possibly need to be a successful and kind human being. All of us kids gathered around a table for dinner every meal that we could. I was chauffeured to all my sporting events, and of course, church events every Sunday and Wednesday. I had opportunities for all kinds of experiences that would shape who I would become. But what about a deeper love? That kind of love that looks at your soul. Looking back, I never felt that kind of love, a love that allowed me to be vulnerable in a safe space as my unique self that would shape me into the human I wanted to be.
What made that expression of love go away? Fear? Pride? Comfort? Society’s influences? A pastor’s opinion on church doctrine? A gray area for a black and white world? There are millions of reasons one can use to explain the change, but that doesn’t negate the issue at hand. In the eyes of that child, the love they so desperately need is no longer there.
So here I stand, in hopes of opening your eyes to the deeper argument and how to erase this argument before it even becomes a thought.
Love. Compassion. Kindness. Inclusiveness.
How do we forever show our children the depth of how much we love them? We can embrace their ever evolving uniqueness for the entirety of their lives. We can encourage individuality in the purest of forms. We can accept any sudden shifts in what defines them. We can listen with an open heart to create their safest place. We can love them in all the ways we want that complement the love in the all the ways they need to see it. They are just as human as we are. The differences between us all as individuals shouldn’t be factors that tears us apart. They should bring us together as a family, just as they should bring us all together as a human race.
Ultimately, we are all human beings with a desire to love and be loved, and to have the chance to do exactly that in so many different capacities every day, for us, for them…
That’s the kind of love I want to live all of my days. And I hope you want to live all that love with me as parent just like me, doing the best we can for them.