I haven’t used this blog for probably a month, possibly more like 2 months. However, something happened this week that has continued to weigh heavy on my spirit. My oldest daughter, a CHILD of twelve, came home from a day of seventh grade. It was an average Monday. I knew a bit of some middle school, tweenage drama that had ensued over the weekend, but I never expected for my kid to get in the car and reveal to her dad that someone had said that she was (and I quote) “A devil worshipping, lesbian. Who was cruel to people.”
Let me stop and say a few things: I have people, in my life, whom I love and adore without question that ARE LGBTQ. I don’t care if they are or aren’t. I would and have trusted them to keep my secrets AS A TEEN as well as to keep my children while I dealt with grown-up stuff like attending a funeral in another state. I have been unnecessarily “patted on the back” for treating them “just like regular people” when they have never been anything else but “regular people” that I also love. So it ticked me off that “lesbian” was included simply because it was clearly MEANT as an insult. But the “Devil-worshipping” part really just made me want to “show out” as a mom.
I grew up Catholic, cradle-Catholic, in the deep south of Alabama. I know that we’re different. I know that people here have been conditioned since birth that anything “other” or “different” is also “evil.” Being Catholic in the south, I may as well have said I was a Pagan as far as most people were concerned. I grew up being questioned by teachers in history class to account for the ages past history of the Spanish Inquisition, about Mary, about teachings of a religion I’d barely grown to understand, invited to services in hopes that I would choose to be saved, thought that boys liked me only to discover they were only hoping to convert me, the list goes on.
That doesn’t even begin to cover the literal crap that my now husband encountered in high school. Let me introduce/re-introduce you to a young Mr. W:
This was circa mid 90-late 90’s. We weren’t dating at the time. We were friends. He got called to the office for every bit of graffiti in the bathrooms. He made lifelong friends out of other kids who stood up for him when people spit on him. Literally, SPIT on him. He was my friend, and probably the most interesting person I’d ever met. He was smart enough that he actually score the highest on the SAT out of every student in the entire school who took it, much to the bafflement of his fellow students and his teachers. He was even published in a book of poetry and won an award from a local college as a high school student, wrote the senior class poem, etc. None of it mattered because of his “style.” His, what? Taste in music? In clothes? In hairstyle? I don’t know. Mostly, I guess, because he was DIFFERENT.
It’s no secret to anyone who knows us or “of us” that we got pregnant with our eldest child before we were married. There were snide remarks from people we thought were friends, from people we thought of as family about it. There were times where we felt like our sole-combined purpose in life was to prove everyone WRONG.
We’ve been married 13 years. We have two additional children. We celebrate holidays with our families. I love his family, my new sister, my new dad, my niece, my cousins with all of my heart. He has a bond with my siblings and my parents that warms my heart. They LOVE him. He LOVES them. He wakes up early and toasts waffles. He goes to bed late, he works hard to make sure we’re taken care of. He checks our kids out of school when they’re sick. He makes better “sick” soup than me if you ask any of our three kids. He sleeps in a twin sized bed, smooshed between a 7/8-year-old and the wall so they aren’t “scared” at least once a week.
I guess I want you to know that we see you. We see you, people who “knew him then” and are astonished to see his beautiful family on his toolbox at work. We see you, those who spit on him, judged him, accused him, believed of him, and know him now as a man who loves his wife, who is his children’s hero and favorite person in the world. We see you, people from our past who believed he was a “devil worshipper” because he was different. And we see you now, you silly, ridiculous tweens who would say such ugly things about our daughter.
We see how much EASIER for YOU it would be if you could convince any person who knows her that she’s “evil” simply because she is BRAVER than you. Our girl has ALWAYS been proud to be exactly who she is, way out loud. And I’m not a moment sorry that that makes you feel insecure. Our children have been raised to stand up for the different, to take up for the underdogs, to be themselves at all costs. And they have been raised to see the good in people. When my child told me what was said about her, we spent a good 30 minutes discussing why anyone would say those things. Were you hurt? Were you feeling insecure? How sad for you to need to attack someone to feel ok about yourself. Then? She went on with her life.
Yes. We let our teen dye her hair. We let her wear her favorite bands as t-shirts. We let her express her own feelings, desires, and style in her clothes (as long as she doesn’t break dress code), and her art, or her room or whatever. I don’t honestly give one, or even half of one whit what other parents think about us for it. Our girl is loved and will always be loved for exactly who she is. You better believe she is corrected when she is in the wrong. Heartfelt apologies are a “thing” at our house. Compassion is a thing at our house.
So we see you, child. We see you and we hear your words and we’re trying to understand where you’re coming from. Maybe one day, you will grow up and the do the same for the other people who come into your hemisphere. Maybe one day you’ll realize that the kids who are willing to see and live outside the box are the ones who change the world. And hopefully, prayerfully, one day you will realize that different doesn’t mean the same as less than, and most certainly not the same as “evil.”