|Peter and me|
“Was it difficult to adjust to it?” That’s what she asked me. “Was it difficult to adjust to what?” I replied. “To your son being gay.”
I am not sure anyone had ever asked me that question before. I have become accustomed to answering the standard questions about family. How many kids? How old? etc. We were at a weekend retreat for Vistage chairs. So, even though we have only known each other for a few months, we knew each other well. It’s an experience that really opens you up. So, the question didn’t really throw me. It just surprised me a bit.
Her question forced me to dredge up those long ago memories. Yes, it was difficult. And, it was difficult for years.
We have such extraordinary expectations of our children and, even if we can curb our tendency to impose them too harshly, they know what those expectations are. Very few parents expect their children to be gay or envision their prospective spouse to be of the same sex. I never expressed that to my son. I didn’t have to.
The woman who asked the question is the mother of three teenagers (two boys and a girl). So, I asked her two simple questions.
“Do you love your children?” Yes, of course she does.
“Do you want them to be happy?” The question answers itself.
She went on a bit about her eldest son and the girl he had brought home. I gather she hopes for someone better or maybe different. I understand where she’s at. I’ve been there. There was a time when my greatest worry was that my son would marry the young girl he dated in college. His mother and I married too young and I didn’t want him to make the same mistake.
Little did I know at the time …
Robert Holden, Ph.D. has done extensive work on happiness in children and adults. He has surveyed mothers in 67 countries about their wishes for their children. By far, the number one response no matter the culture, race or religion is that their children be happy. Not wealthy or wise… happy!
Dr. Holden would suggest that our challenge as parents is to learn from our children as much as we teach them. “… it's important to understand that you cannot make your children happy,” he counsels. “That said, there is plenty you can do to encourage them to be happy. The distinction between making and encouraging is a vital one. Parents who believe they can make their children happy are prone to making other mistakes like trying too hard to be a good parent, intervening too much, being over controlling and believing they always know what's best for their children.”
That the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and allowed the states to call the shots was foreseeable. For the Justices, the issue is not a family matter but rather aA conservative court that hews closely to the Constitution as it was written was bound to abide by the 10thAmendment and the Equal Protection clause. Preventing gays from marrying penalizes them in the whole host of matters from adoption/custody to health decisions to taxes.
Following the announcement last week, the person-on-the-street interviews conducted by NPR ran the gamut from those who are elated like my son to those who think homosexuality is an abomination. One that stood out for me was a young mother who expressed her views – not in religious or political terms – but in personal terms, saying that it was a “moral issue”. She doesn’t want her children to be influenced by a society that condones gay marriage.
I wish I could have asked her, “Do you love your children?” “Do you want them to be happy?” “And, what if one of them turns out to be gay?”
In the end, every parent learns that our children’s happiness is more important than our own aspirations for them. What’s best for them is to support their dreams not our dreams for them.
I love my son. I want him to be happy.
WHO WILL LEAD?