Did you have a nickname when you were growing up? Maybe you still have it to this day. I had several…the first of which I gave to myself…unbeknownst to me. My name is Lesa Page (yes my parents spelled both my first name AND my middle name incorrectly). When I was little, I couldn’t quite pronounce the two words and they came out as Esa Peach. So, Esa Peach was my very first nickname and some family members to this day will sometimes call me by that name. When I hit my teenage years, my nicknames became more related to the fact that I am vertically challenged. A few of those names were:
Stump – I of course didn’t care for this one too much
L – my dad calls me this today – I think he’s just lazy (smile)
Lesa Page – as a teenager there were so many Lisa’s that my friends called me by my first and middle name. Kind of wish I would have stuck with that as an adult…I kind of like it.
When my son was a baby and toddler, his nickname was Booper. My mom was so afraid that was going to stick. I’m not even sure how Mike and I started calling him that, but it just seemed to fit him. He was a pudgy little guy and Booper just seemed to work. I’m sure he is happy that it was short-lived. His nickname now is Kai (his name is Kyle).
It seems like yesterday that he was that little baby. I remember holding for the first time. To be honest, he looked like a little old man…kind of wrinkly and very little hair. He quickly grew and like I said was a little pudge. He unfortunately had colic as a baby. And not the kind where the baby would cry during a certain time of day…it seemed to bother him all the time. It made me feel so bad for him. As I held him, his little legs would bunch up and he would throw his little head back with the most heart wrenching cry. There were many days that I would cry right along with him as I bounced and paced the floors with him. Man did I do a lot of pacing.
He eventually grew out of that and became a happy little guy. I can still see his little face when I would walk into his room in the mornings to retrieve him from his crib. He would say my name with his pacifier pushed to one side of his mouth and would give me the biggest smile. It was as if his whole world just walked through the door. I remember his first steps…arms stretched out like Frankenstein, teetering from one foot to the other with the biggest grin on his face. He was so proud of himself. He was a stubborn little bugger too. The terrible twos are an understatement. He was so smart which I swear made it worse. Once he got something in his mind, boy was it tough to re-route him. And the older he got, the harder it got. Once he hit the elementary school age, it took a lot of creative thinking to stay one step ahead of him. And when we really got stuck in a battle of the wills, it seemed like humor was the ONLY thing that would snap him out of it. Good thing I’m a goof ball (smile). It just took a little humor to break things up and then you could have a conversation with him.
He was always well liked in school by his teachers and classmates…especially the girls. He was a straight A student all the way through high school. I think he got a B or two in college, but seemed to always make the deans list even though he struggled terribly with anxiety and depression. I’m really not sure how he did it.
As I’ve mentioned in other posts, we noticed a change in him around the age of 14 and things came to a head when he was 15 and we found out he was gay. My friendly, preppy, kind boy turned into an angry, depressed, anxiety ridden boy. The music he listened to changed, the clothes he wore changed, the kind of friends he had changed. It was as if the internal struggle that he had been going through for years that we were unaware of came out to the surface in every way. It was terrifying. It was as if aliens had come in the middle of the night and replaced our child with someone who we didn’t recognize. All of the hurt that he had hidden for so long was now out in the open.
I wish SO BADLY that I had the resources back then that I have now. I would have done things SO differently. I know I hurt him…before I knew he was gay…and after I found out. You see, I lived in the place where I thought being gay was something that needed to be fixed. I felt that way because that is what I had learned from the resources I had at the time. I was given a lot of hope from those resources…unfortunately it was false hope. Stories of change that were told later turned out to be lies. And I transferred that hope to him. It gave him hope and when things didn’t change it only added to his frustration, hurt, and depression.
Society gives gay people a lot of grief about being gay. Names are hurled at them like butch, fag, dyke, fairy…not exactly endearing nicknames. And despite the little saying of “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me,” they do indeed hurt. The hard part though is when a gay person’s family is the cause of the hurt…not by name calling necessarily…although that does happen, but by attitudes and statements that are made. Something I’ve heard more than once from a young gay person before coming out in regards to their family is this….
“They don’t like me….but they don’t know that they don’t like me.”
What we need to understand is that they are absorbing every remark, comment, facial expression, body language, etc. when it comes to our attitudes about gay people. The first time I heard that from someone…my spirit was crushed because I know that my son felt that way before he came out. Looking back…it explains a lot. I’ve never said anything bad about gay people. I’ve worked with them, have a gay family member in my extended family, etc. and I’ve never felt anything but love for them. But when you come from a place where you think they are broken and can be fixed, it is hurtful. And I know my son overheard comments from me regarding this.
I don’t write this to make you feel guilty if you have a gay child and have gone about things differently then you would have like to or feel like you have messed up. I can tell you that I messed up. You can move past it. You can ask for the person to forgive you…and then do what is hard and forgive yourself. I still struggle with that part. This post is more for everyone else who may or may not have a gay child, family member, or friend. Be careful what you say and how you say it. You never know who is listening…and if they are struggling they will be hyper sensitive to your speech and demeanor. Let’s not have another child think…they don’t like me…but they don’t know that they don’t like me.
Today my son is a young adult. The other day we were leaving for work at the same time (he is living at home to save money to one day move out). I was sitting in my car as he walked down to his car that was parked in the cul-de-sac. As I watched him in my side mirror with his slouchy hat (to control his curls), skinny jeans, and messenger bag slung across his shoulder, I was overwhelmed with thankfulness for his forgiving spirit for a mom who didn’t have a clue when he first came out. I’m so thankful that his spark is back and I once again have my funny, happy boy. He knows without a doubt that I love him. But he can also say…
She likes me…and I know she likes me because she shows it in her words and actions.
Love each other…because it matters.