Written by Guest Blogger Georgia DeClark
It goes something like this: “Mom, Dad, there’s something I need to tell you. I’m gay.”
From that moment on, your life changes. Any number of emotions sets in: worry, sadness, disappointment, anger, confusion, relief, joy. But now what? How do we tell Grandpa? What will the fallout be at church, or school, or in the community? The initial questions, most of which are based in fear, can go on and on.
When we are faced with this situation as parents, these initial thoughts may swirl through our heads, many of which are linked to our own future dreams and expectations. Parents’ initial responses to their child may unintentionally involve strong, harsh, unloving words that they’ll later regret saying. And yet, we’re all human, just trying to do our best.
After taking the needed time to sit with this new normal, it’s a gift to our child to check in with ourselves to try and ascertain what’s behind our reaction, if it is not as we wished it were. Do we feel as if we’ll be judged by our family, or community? Do we make this ours, as if to say that if we were better parents, “this might not have happened?” Are we fearful that perhaps we’ll be rejected, or that our child will be rejected as well? We may need to grieve the loss of the child we thought we had so that we can embrace who we now know our child to be. Deep down as parents, we want our children to be happy and lead fulfilling lives that bring them joy. But if we are carrying old stories and scenarios from our lives based in fear, we may inadvertently be dragging them into the present moment with our child. And it’s likely that under closer scrutiny, all of that old “stuff” has nothing to do with our child anyway.
Having come out at 60 years old, I can personally relate to every part of this scenario, except that I needed to come out to my husband and children, after I came out to myself. When asked if I realized earlier in my life that I was attracted to women, my response was that I just did “what my mom said that girls do,” which is: grow up, meet a guy, fall in love, get married, etc. So, I married a man, had three wonderful children, and was leading my life. At some point, however, I needed to address my discontent and admit to myself that I was not living authentically. It was then that the hard work began. And yet I knew that there was no other choice for me except to make some very big changes in order to live my true life.
When I came out to my then 85-year-old aunt, I was more than a little nervous. I was worried about what she would think, what she would say, if she would judge me. But ultimately, I knew that I needed for her to know that I was now going to be living authentically, regardless of the outcome.
Her response? “Oh, Georgia, I didn’t think I could ever love you more than I did, but now I realize I love you even more!” What a gift she gave me! I was relieved, and also grateful to be seen and accepted by someone I love so deeply.
And if we don’t show up as our best selves when faced with this news, what steps do we need to take to mend the relationship and recreate our connection? How can we best support our child as s/he moves forward? As my aunt demonstrated, the best way to react to a child or loved one coming forward to tell us who they authentically are is to step out of our own way entirely. When we can imagine what it feels like to be in our child’s place, we can connect much more deeply with our compassion and be available to offer full, unconditional support. It will be then that we can recognize that all children, as well as all humans, just want and need to be seen, known, loved, and acknowledged that we are enough, just exactly as we are. And lovely things can happen from there.
Georgia DeClark is a PCI ® Certified Parent Coach , professional educator, and mother. With over 30 years of experience working with children and supporting their parents through the challenges and joys of their lives, she has a deep understanding of the demands, struggles and rewards that come from day-to-day parenting. Georgia works with parents to address their unique parenting challenges and concerns. After collaborative conversations within the coaching relationship, parents become empowered and available to support their children as they grow and become their most authentic selves.