When my youngest was in middle school, the questioning began. I was driving them to school when they said, nervously from the back seat, “Mom, I think I’m bisexual.”
“You do honey?”, I replied. “OK! How can I best support you?”
“I don’t know.”
“That’s ok, sweetie. You don’t have to know. But please do know that your Dad and I adore you, and support you no matter what.”
“OK. Thanks, Mom.” I could hear in their voice that they were smiling.
Was this a little jarring for me to hear? Absolutely. But my other child, T.J., who is a year and a half older than my youngest, is autistic. So my husband Sean and I learned early into parenting that when one of our kids throws us what we would consider a curve-ball, we had to separate our confusion, fear, and disorientation from the message we wanted our kids to hear from us.
We never wanted our kids to feel “less than,” simply by existing. Our fear and confusion was ours, not theirs. Through all of life’s “zig zags”, as T.J. calls them, we wanted our words to our kids to be of healthy questioning, love, and support.
I called a friend who is gay looking for guidance
I called a dear friend from home, who is gay, and asked for advice. When you came out, is there anything in particular your parents said to you that made you feel nothing but supported and loved? Whatever they did to produce that result, that is what I want to do.
I got some amazing advice that day, and from that moment on, my goal was to be the never ending source of love and support for my kid, no matter what they discovered about their true self.
When they were in high school, my youngest said to me, face to face, “Mom, I think I’m gay.”
“My love, I hope you know that your Dad and I love you so much, and support you every step of the way. We just want you to feel happy with who you truly are. We’ve got you, one hundred percent.”
“Thanks, Mom.” Again, that smile. I saw it this time. It’s such a beautiful smile.
Then they told me they were non-binary and wanted to change their name
Last year, when they were just 21, they said to me, “Mom, I’ve realized that I’m non-binary. I’m feminine leaning. And I want to change my name to Ari.” This took me a bit aback. This was big. A name change? Non-binary? I don’t know a lot about that and what that entails.
But I said to my kid, “Honey, we love you. So, so much. I’m so glad you are finding out who you are. We love you endlessly and support you no matter what.”
We have seen this beautiful kiddo of ours unhappy. Unsettled. Uncomfortable in their own skin. Now they stand before us, tall and proud, and happy. Truly happy.
“Finally!” I thought to myself. “Look how happy they are! And relieved, almost.”
This is real. This is true. Their truth, finally. Yes, this one was a bit difficult for me. I loved the name we gave them at birth. It had meaning for us.
But there is the catch – it had meaning, for us. Not for them.
I understood that for them, maybe the old name stood for uncertainty. For feeling less than. For standing on unsteady ground. That’s no way to live.
I’m thrilled that my kid felt strong enough to choose a new name, and a new start. A place to begin living their truth with confidence, security, and joy.
Isn’t this what we want for all of our kids?
Isn’t that what we want for our kids, regardless of gender? Joy. Security. Confidence. The fact that my kid is feeling these things for the first time about their identity is priceless. I never want them to lose that gleam in their eye and that smile on their face. I never want them to lose that security, beauty and strength in how they now hold themselves.
I don’t think I had ever truly seen them hold themselves that way before. And it was just a beautiful thing to see. It made me cry, not because I was losing something, but because I was seeing this beautiful child of mine, now a young adult, live in their truth for the first time.
A month later, I asked them to come home from their apartment, as I had a surprise for them.
It was their old Christmas stocking, the same one they have had since birth. But now their new name is embroidered on it, covering their old name. It hung by the fireplace just as it always has, with the rest of our stockings.
It took a minute for them to realize what the surprise was. But when they saw it, tears came to their eyes and they hugged me. “Thank you,” they said, quietly in my ear.
You’re welcome, my beautiful kiddo. You’re so welcome.
More Great Reading: