When I was a little girl, if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say I wanted to be a mom. I couldn’t really think of anything else that I wanted to be…it just seemed like that is what I was meant to do. My friend and I would play for hours pretending to be mommies. Her aunt had the most amazing collection of clothing, hats, and accessories. I think she liked to go to yard sales and flea markets and we were allowed to play with the items before they were put up for sale. This isn’t us, but it’s a pretty good depiction of what we looked like. So you can imagine how happy I was when these two came along (smile).
I have to tell you…being a mom has been the most rewarding job by far. It has also been the most difficult. Being responsible for little beings is a big responsibility, and most of the time you just hope you are doing a good enough job. As my kids grew, it was so rewarding to watch their little personalities take shape. My son was very strong willed…oh was he challenging at times. And my daughter was always willing to express her little temper. Her nickname was “little miss attitude”, but overall they were really good kids.
There are times in your child’s life when you get to experience overwhelming joys with them, and at times immense pain. When your child hurts, there aren’t words to express the hurt that you feel with them. This became real to me on April 20, 2008. My husband and kids had just gotten home from an Acquire the Fire event. God had been whispering to me that something was wrong for some time, and I asked my husband to check our son’s computer. We found that he had been to a website on homosexuality. We called him into the family room to ask him about it. He told us that he was working on a paper for school that needed to be about a controversial topic. He chose the topic of homosexuals and the military. I then asked the question that changed our lives forever. “Do you have any questions about homosexuality?” That is when the tears came flowing down his cheeks. He told us that he was confused about feelings that he had for his friend…a friend who was also a boy. It’s hard to describe all the emotions that I was feeling when I heard those words. It was like getting the wind knocked out of me…a jumble of emotions and if you could see inside my brain it would look something like this:
We immediately told him that we loved him no matter what. His response was that we had to…we were his parents (he later learned from other gay teens that isn’t always the case). Through uncontrollable tears, he told us that he was a terrible person…and that he had been praying for a while for God to take away these feelings. He told us if God was real He didn’t love him because He never answered those prayers. It was a long night and I have to tell you that I really had no idea what to say to him. I was completely taken off guard…and I had so many questions myself.
It was clear that he felt really badly about himself so he started counseling. There were times when he wanted to hurt himself so there were many sleepless nights sitting up with him to make sure he didn’t. And when we were not sitting up talking with him, we certainly weren’t sleeping soundly. We were on constant pins and needles; terrified that if we let our guard down something awful would happen. Every little sound was amplified to deafening decibels. This went on for four months. In August, we found a note that he had written. Let me just say that it was a note that no parent would want to read. We called his counselor and we were able to meet that same day. We concluded at the end of that meeting that we needed to take him to the emergency room.
The hospital psychiatrist met with him and then told us that he would need to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital. The doctor was so concerned for his safety that we were told if we didn’t agree to hospitalize him, our parental rights would be taken away. There weren’t any beds available at the time so he had to spend the night in the ER. You have no idea what it is like being told that your child’s care is basically out of your hands. There is no researching doctors…finding the best care. Your child will go wherever a bed becomes available. My husband stayed with him overnight and I went home to get his things. I was given a list of acceptable things to bring. For clothing they had listed shirts without buttons, shoes without shoe strings…the last time I packed my son’s bag for an overnight stay there were legos and stuffed animals in it. Now I was worried about buttons and shoe strings being used to hurt himself. I had to cut the drawstring out of his pajama pants. No one ever should have to cut the drawstring out of their child’s pajama pants so they can’t strangle themselves with it. No one. After I packed his bag, I laid on his bed and cried…and prayed.
The next morning a bed became available. He was taken by ambulance to the next hospital, and we followed in our car. We got him checked in and they put us in a room to wait for a doctor. First they took him and did a strip search to make sure he wasn’t hiding anything on his person that he could use to hurt himself. How humiliating for him. The doctor came in and chatted with him briefly and then we were told we would need to leave. When the doctor left the room…he freaked out. He started screaming that he couldn’t believe we were doing this to him. He said it was going to make him worse. He said he would run away. And when he had nothing left to hurt himself with…he used his own body. He took both of his fists and started punching himself in the stomach….like a samurai warrior would do with a knife…dying the “honorable” way. I’ve been thinking about how to put this into words for days. There are no words. There is nothing in me that can describe what this was like for us. There are still nights when I close my eyes and I see my baby hurting himself.
It was time for us to leave. We were given the times for visiting hours, and we left listening to our baby boy’s screams….and from all the Christian literature we had read so far…this was ALL OUR FAULT…(to be continued).
(So as you can see…this is a very personal post. Why did I feel the need to share it? Well first because it is part of our journey. Second, I think it’s important for people to get a glimpse of what it might be like to be gay, or to have a gay child. I know not everyone’s journey is the same, but I think some people in the Christian culture have this idea that gay people are defying God deliberately…that it’s a choice that they make. I’m here to say respectfully that they are wrong… and I will believe that until God tells me otherwise. I no longer believe that this is my fault and my hope is to tell you how I came to that conclusion in other posts).