I believe that there is more to child safety than teaching children not to play with matches. Child safety encompasses the whole of what a family provides – love, meals, shelter, fun, clean sheets, maybe a summer camp. And then there’s acceptance – especially acceptance.
We accept that squashy little baby into our arms moments after birth. We burp and change our little wonder, bathe its sweet soft skin, warmly caress it in a plush towel. We buy a new book bag for that first day in kindergarten, put the first lost tooth under the pillow and then watch with amazement as the child we love finds two shiny quarters under that pillow in the morning. Life is magic. And this child is magic, with feet that seem to change sizes weekly. Standing in a sporting goods store with your baby – now a high schooler who’s several inches taller than you – you wonder aloud how size 11 shoes can cost that much?
We accept all of these changes. They are part of the package deal that with comes with being a parent.
But what if that squashy little baby, grown and about to graduate from high school, comes home one day and sits you down to tell you that he is gay? What then? Do you accept your baby for whom he is and continue to love him as you have from the moment he was born? I hope so.
Now I can hear my daughter saying, “Get real, Mom.” She’s a high school senior, a seasoned observer of kids making their way through the crazy waters of teen sexuality. Earlier this week, she informed me that a fellow senior known for his sharp mind, dedication and good looks was in hospital after trying to take his life. Coming out to his parents hadn’t gone well.
Loving our children can be heartbreakingly difficult, no question about it. But if we turn them away when they come to us, refusing to accept them for who they are, then we make a mockery of all that loving and sometimes-hard-work that we’ve invested in as a family. Whether you can help yourself or not, rejecting your child just because he is gay is the cheapest form of trickery and a betrayal that a child may not live to accept.
Look at it this way: This child you’ve reared for 18 years – bumps and all – has just done something incredibly brave, in part because you taught him that being safe includes being accepted.
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