This story was originally published in This Is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids
When my daughter came out to me at the age of twenty-five, I felt overwhelmed with emotion. As a mother, my mind quickly went to, “How could I not see this? What did I miss? What did I do wrong?” Instead of making it all about her, I made it all about me and my abilities as a parent. I searched for a reason for it not to be true. This was not the life I wanted for my daughter. I wanted the son-in-law and the grandkids. You know—the traditional life. I also knew that she was anything but traditional.
Since my daughter lived in a different city when she came out, she told me over the phone. This was not ideal, but probably worked best due to the high emotions we were both experiencing. After a tearful phone conversation, I ran to her childhood bedroom, thinking that somehow it would make me feel closer to her. I thought maybe some clue of information would be revealed that would help me get my head around this new information.
I pulled out old pictures of her in school, yearbooks, journals, anything I could find to see what I’d missed. Surely I had missed something. A perfect mom would have recognized this early, or would have raised her in a better environment where she could have felt more comfortable and discovered this earlier. Looking back at all of her struggles in high school and college, my emotions shifted from wishing she wasn’t gay to blaming myself for not allowing her to be who she truly was. She had been acting as the person I had wanted her to be, instead of finding herself. I had always harshly judged parents who lived vicariously through their children; now I was coming to the realization that I, too, was guilty of this.
I do not like emotional pain, and I try to find the quickest path through it. My husband says that I can leap to new paradigms much quicker than most people. It only took me a couple of days to realize that what I really needed to be focused on was not what I did or didn’t do in her childhood. That was in the past and couldn’t be changed. What mattered most now was what I was doing today. What mattered most was what my child needed right now: my unconditional love. I could sort things out later—if they even needed to be sorted out. A mother never wants to see her child in pain. My child was going through the most painful experience of her life, afraid she would lose our relationship because of being herself. She needed assurance that I would be there, no matter what.
I so badly wanted to jump on a plane, run to her, and scoop her up like she was three years old again, hold her, and tell her everything would be alright. Instead, we had long phone conversations, fraught with more tears and emotion. She knew, though, through these conversations, that I would continue to stand by her no matter what.
I’m proud of her, and I’m extremely proud to be her mother.