Thursday, August 09, 2007

Some thoughts while roaming Seattle streets

We had a wonderful time in Seattle. The weather was sublime and a welcome break from the Arizona heat and monsoons. Seattle is such a fun city to visit. There is so much to do and everything is within walking distance. It is a wonderfully progressive and diverse city with so much to see. I am really excited for our daughter who will be joining her brother there for school in September, but I am dreading that trip back up there to help her move into the dorm. She is our third and last child and this event will definitely mark the end of an era for my husband and me.

My relationship with my daughter has been an up and down rollercoaster for the last 4 years. I am told that is a fairly normal description of a typical mom-teenage daughter relationship, but it doesn’t make the down parts of the relationship any easier to take. And it is way different than the type of dynamic I had going with her two older brothers during the same time period in their lives.

I suppose the ups and downs my daughter and I have weathered took me by such surprise because I did not have that kind of relationship with my own mother. But again, I am told by those in the know that my experience with my mom was the exception and not the rule.

Now that is not to say that things were always peachy keen with my sons. They weren’t. But boys are just so different than girls and somehow, they were just easier to take when they were pushing and testing boundaries. I cannot explain why that is, but that’s just the way it was --- at least for me. Just ask my husband who never felt the need to run for cover when things got testy with either of our boys and me but somehow always had a good disappearing act going when it came to my daughter and me.

But when I look back on my relationship with my gay son (before I knew he was gay), I am especially amazed that things between us weren’t more contentious. Being a teenager is hard enough under normal circumstances, but he was dealing with so much more. And, he was doing it all alone. I wonder now how the heck he did it and still remained a decent person to be around. I don’t think I could have done it. And I admire him all the more for it, especially now after seeing how my daughter handled the normal teenage dramas in her life ---- everyone around her felt some of her pain.

I’m glad my son’s story has had a happy ending, but my heart breaks for the many kids whose stories don’t have that “happily ever after” finish. Whenever I get a letter from someone telling me that they are scared to death to come out to their parents, I simply cannot in good conscience tell them that everything will be ok. I now know that there are many parents who’d rather throw their child away than accept them for who they are. I cannot understand that, and I have to work very hard to keep from judging them with extreme harshness. But to go patting myself on the back for accepting my son unconditionally would be completely out of line. I knew he didn’t have any more control over his sexual orientation than I had over mine.

So why go all humble and “aw shucks” now about our son’s easy coming out story? Well because my daughter was another story altogether. I have really mourned the fact that our last four years have been so tumultuous. I had a really tough time accepting my daughter’s antics as normal teenage angst and as a result, I feel her final chapter at home was way more bumpy than it should have been (at least in my mind). This breaks my heart. And it certainly didn’t fit the storybook ending I had in my head of her final years at home.

But some of the most valuable lessons come out of some of the most unexpected chapters in our life. Our children are not extensions of ourselves. And that is where so many of us parents get into trouble. We have these preconceived notions of who our children should be and when they don’t meet those expectations, it can be tough. And for some parents, it can be devastating.

18 years ago I sat in a pediatrician’s office complaining about my (gay) son’s horrendous and most embarrassing temper tantrums. That was when I got some of the best advice I’d ever gotten. He told me that some of the very things that were making me want to squash that child like a grape would be the very qualities later in life that would make that child an amazing success. Now I didn’t want to squash my son like a grape when he told us he was gay, but I can tell you this, I wouldn’t change anything about him now --- even if I could. He is an amazing young man. But I must also make a confession at this point, I have on occasion wanted to squash a certain daughter like a grape …


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There's an essay that's actually about special needs kids, but I think it applies to LOTS of things that just aren't what parents had in mind. The idea is that you're planning a trip to Spain. You're all excited, you've got hotels planned, you know which sites you want to see... everything's peachy. Until you step off the plane, and greeted with "welcome to Poland".

Thing is, Poland can be fun too. It's got it's own sites (albeit different ones than you had planned on), it's own culture, it's own charm. It's just not what you were expecting. From the sounds of it, you've found the wisdom to enjoy Poland....most of the time.