(originally written on October 7, 2015, edited/updated May 16, 2017)
I had no answer to the question. I didn’t think I’d need one.
So let’s backtrack a little bit. A little over fifteen years ago, our first, beautiful baby boy was born. We couldn’t wait for him to talk. Then when he could talk, we couldn’t wait for him to shut up (parents of talkative kids, you KNOW what I mean… I love him dearly but omgwouldyoupleasebequietforfiveminutes instead of tellingthecashieryourlifestory).
He wasn’t a sporty kid, and although I always encouraged him to give it a try, to join a team, he just wasn’t interested. I was okay with that. He loved Thomas the Tank Engine, Transformers, and when he was fixated on something, he went ALL the way with it. I will never forget his obsession with the weather… and how he had to set up a mini weather station out on our back deck. His grades? Never been a problem. Very responsible kid, we could trust him with a house key at 10, and watching his younger brother for maybe an hour when he was 11. Dependable, smart, trustworthy.. there just aren’t enough positive adjectives to describe him.
He had a crush on a classmate since grade one, they became close friends, went on dates to school dances. Then when I asked him one day, he didn’t like her “that way” anymore. No reason, just not interested.
Then he became quiet and sullen. I tried not to look too much into it. He was 15… I was the same way in my adolescent years. I knew it couldn’t be us as parents, we were always telling him how proud of him we were (and are), always asking him about his day, what’s going on in his life. We have these conversations at the dinner table, nearly every night, as a way to stay in touch and reconnect. We’ve always been supportive of his interests and decisions and encouraging him in any way possible.
He was so quiet, I was getting tired of hearing myself ask him the same question over and over again, Are you okay? Do you want to talk? He always had plenty to Facetime his friends about, but God forbid his father or I try to make him laugh. I could not, for the life of me, figure it out. He began to wear this worried look on his face… well, maybe worry, with a look of guilt too. Again… didn’t want to pry. He’s a teenager, I’m a parent. I know my place. If he needs to talk, he will. We’ve raised him to know that.
We went on our beloved camping trip this past summer. Things became serious when he wasn’t even looking forward to our trip. We were nearly there, and he asked for a big hug, in a Walmart parking lot, as we picked up a couple of things. He apologized for being depressed, and I told him that the fresh air and a week of campfires would do him good.
Two days in, about to head to the beach as a family, and get into our rented canoe, he asked me for another hug. He started crying into my shoulder. Wtf? I asked my husband to take our other son and go ahead, we’d meet up with them… I was bound and determined to get to the bottom of this, which was not unlike putting toothpaste back into the tube.
After several minutes of tears, and hesitation, and deep breaths, and him telling me he was sure I would hate him (I even told him I had a feeling I knew what he wanted to tell me, but that he was going to have to say the words), I needed to do or say something to relieve the tension. I jokingly asked if he’d gotten a girl pregnant. I knew that was NOT it… and the look of horrified shock on his face told me I had done what needed to be done in order to move this along.
This was in August, and I’m still having a hard time even typing the words. Saying the words out loud is like trying to speak a foreign language… even still.
God… I don’t know how I pulled the strength together to be okay that day. I smiled, and hugged him, hard, and told him I loved him, no matter what. That’s my job as his mother. It wasn’t a lie then, and it isn’t now.
My husband and I spent a LOT of time talking about this, once our son told him later the same day. We went for walks, talking, discussing, asking questions of each other, sharing our dread over telling highly-religious family members. I cried when I was alone in the shower, I cried myself to sleep, I cried every single time I thought about it.
I crumpled to the ground and sobbed like a baby, on our favourite beach in the world, mourning the wedding dreams I had for him, mourning the “bride” I would never meet, much less go wedding dress shopping with. Mourning the biological grandchildren I will never have from him.. Mourning all the dreams and hopes and wishes I’ve had for him since the day he was born. I couldn’t catch my breath and my husband held me and tried to comfort me the best way he could think of. He had no idea how to do this because it’s not something you plan for.
Even as I write this, the tears are spilling down my cheeks.
He was afraid to tell me because it’s never been a lifestyle I’ve accepted. I have had gay friends (and been deeply hurt and disappointed when it became obvious). Sometimes you know, but don’t admit it to yourself. With my son, there were always little things, but not enough to make us choose one side of the fence over the other. God works in mysterious ways, doesn’t He? “You don’t accept this way of life? Well, missy, let me fix your little red wagon!” That’s exactly what it feels like. And my son waited 6 years to tell me, as he struggled to come to terms with feeling different, and really, really not understanding why. To be honest, I’m not sure if any of us, even him, understand WHY.
The only solace I get from this, besides the fact that immediately after telling us, he became a much happier kid (which is really the best part of all of this), is that he was honest and told us this is not something he wanted. He never wanted to be gay. He never wanted to be different. He agreed with me when I explained how I now felt about his wedding… he said he had always had the same dreams too if he ever decided to get married.
It’s been three months. On the home front, absolutely nothing has changed except my husband and I watch our comments and jokes a little more closely. He’s just shared his news over Facebook. My heart breaks every time I think about how he’s felt every day since he’s realized it for himself, and he’s had NO ONE. But it feels like it’s way too soon to be sharing it. I’m still not used to the whole lifestyle switcheroo here, can I get some time to catch up? He’s full steam ahead, and we’re still reeling, even if it’s not something we are constantly discussing.
I can’t say I understand how he’s felt all of this time, while slowly making the realization, and then fearing to tell his friends, and then finally, telling his immediate family. There are still many people who don’t know… and others who will open their mouths well before they should. But I will fiercely defend him if he needs me to, like the mama bear I am and have always been. I’m still dealing with this, but there is no way anyone, family or not, is going to make him feel like he is inferior or less of a human being. If that happens, our relationship is over with them, then and there.
I’m finding it to be a very difficult place for a parent to be.. supportive, absolutely, but you cannot shake the lingering questions and all of the second-guessing… did I do or say something? Did I give enough love and support? Did I give too much? What makes this happen? Will he see heaven someday? Is he doomed? Am I doomed to having these thoughts about my own son? Holy f&%#, what kind of a mom am I to think this shit?
All of these equally rational and ridiculous questions make my head spin and this might be why I don’t dwell on it for too long if I can help it. I don’t have any of the answers. And no matter how bad the questions we have, my fantastic kid just smiles and says, “I know, Mom… I have felt the exact same way you feel.”
But I am thankful for that vacation we spent together as a family. Even with as much crying as I did. We became closer to each other than we ever have been before. My son is a young man, and that camping trip literally made him grow up before my eyes. He is more and more like an adult every day… and it is so hard to let go of the little boy he once was. He still pulls the teenager stuff that all other teenagers pull.. trying to get away with things and be sneaky about other things, but for the most part, we talk as adults now. It’s refreshing and scary and new, all at the same time.
To friends of mine who may have gay children, or be gay themselves… please forgive me for my ignorance. I don’t know if I’ll ever be “okay” with the gay lifestyle, but right now, I am okay with my son being gay, and right now, that is all that matters. As supportive as we are, it would still be nice to discuss this with someone who’s been there. 🙁
What would you do if your child told you they were gay?
Update: It’s been nearly two years since I’ve written this post and I wanted to include an update.
My initial reaction, while I was in a state of shock at first, wasn’t as bad as some reactions that other teens receive when they come out to their parents. My own reaction could have been better, for sure… but it was honest.
I am so thankful for his patience as I began my own journey… changing an attitude towards something isn’t easy, but I did it, with his help.
We are close, him and I. We are close as a family. I am proud to call him my son, no matter what.