Saturday, September 19, 2009

Ewwwww! From the mouths of babes

A note from Tom: I read this on my friend’s Live Journal account and I asked if I could repost. I know that at some point in my life, I will have the same conversation with either Eli or Anna. I think that the way he dealt with this situation is both real and expected. I am thankful that he has allowed me to do this. I changed their names to protect their identity.

It was so quick. It was off the cuff. It really was just a little knee jerk reaction from a little girl in elementary school. It wasn’t aimed at me. It wasn’t meant the way I took it. It was small.
It was one syllable.

I know my response was excessive. I know it wasn’t intended to injure me. I know my child. I know there is a difference in what you see, know, and experience at home, with what you see, know, and experience at school amongst peers. I know I’m dealing with a young mind that is trying to learn how to better comprehend, better understand, better evaluate...all while dealing with the trials and all involved with being a 10 year old girl entering puberty.
I know.

I know. I know. I KNOW.

But one syllable.....two letters, brought every single fear and doubt I have of myself crashing into the middle of the room.

We were eating dinner. We were re-watching Glee, as Lori doesn’t stay up late enough to watch it when it regularly airs. Yeah, I know. We usually have the TV turned on when we eat dinner. Earlier in the episode, a girl learns that a guy she likes is interested in someone else, and assumes she knows who this someone else is. She is hurt and immediately throws a rock through the young man’s windshield. Later on, she comes back to the young man to express her sincere regret and she apologizes. She explains how she understands why he’d like this other girl she thinks he likes. He responds by telling her he lied when he told her that he likes the other girl. Suddenly, his face blanches a little, he looks around nervously, and you can actually see tears starting to form in his eyes.
He leans in real close and whispers, “I’m gay.”

Instantly, Lori looks up from her plate and says, “Ew.”

Mark and I both whipped our heads toward her, rather offended. “ EXCUSE ME? EW?! Did you just say, ‘Ew.’ when that boy told his friend that he’s gay?”

I raised my hand. “HI! I’M gay”
Mark raised his hand. “I’m gay.”
I sat there stunned. “Does that mean you think, ‘Ew.’ when you think of me?”
She was suddenly very embarrassed and looked down.
She muttered an ashamed, “No.”
”Well, what’s the difference?”

And bam. With no warning, I had tears in my eyes. I thought to myself, “Are you seriously CRYING?! This was nothing. What’s wrong with you?” I stood up, and mumbled, “I’m just gonna go to bed now.” I went into the bathroom. Lori followed me in. “I’m sorry, Dad. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”
”Lori, do you understand? Do you GET it? Lori, how would you feel if they showed a special ed class on TV and we all sat here and laughed at those kids and said how pathetic they are?” I instantly regretted saying it. I watched the pain of my statement come across her face. “It would hurt my feelings.” I could see her crashing. I could see her heart sink and the sadness washes over her.
”I’m sorry. I know that was harsh. But I’m not sure you can know right now just how much you saying ‘Ew.’ about a boy telling his friend he’s gay really hurt me.”
I could tell that I was not yet to a space in my head where I could turn me off and focus on her and try to make up with her. I went in my room and shut the door. I laid on the bed and covered myself.
And I cried.
I cried because part of me believed that everything I’ve tried so hard to do, whatever it all is that I’ve ever felt I needed to make up for, trying to be a good dad, a good man, a good friend, an example......all that suddenly meant nothing, because after all that, in the end, I’m still reduced to “Ew.” in the eyes of my child.
Mark came in to hug me and express he knows I know she didn’t mean it, yet he knows how much that would hurt me. And he just laid there and hugged me.
Lori came in the room and sat on the bed next to me. She was crying. She looked broken. I felt like shit for making my child hurt like this. And I knew she felt horrible for me thinking she would intentionally hurt me. ”I’m really, really, really sorry.” She said through sobs. “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings so much.” “Lori, why are you crying?”
”Because I just feel so so so bad.” And she collapsed against me and cried.
I said to her what I wrote above, why I was so hurt. I told her I knew she didn’t mean it, and it wasn’t intended to strike at me. I reminded her that, yes, I am gay....and guess is this man that lives with us. I explained that it just exposed some of my biggest fears in life....that in the end, my children will think poorly of me. That they’ll see me and think, “Ew.”
I told her that, in turn, I was sorry for making her so upset. I told her we’d be fine and I was tired anyway, so I thought I’d just go to sleep. I told her to go back on out to the living room, and she could watch tv a while longer until bed time.
I felt stupid. I felt sad. I felt overly dramatic.
Intermittently, I had sent out some texts after I first went into the bedroom. Just a few. The responses were all saying they were sure she meant nothing. I was told to just talk it out with her. Of course I’d talk it out with her.
As soon as I sent out the texts, I felt even more stupid. I knew what people would say to me. And I knew that it wasn’t what I would want or need to hear just then.
I just knew that I had this hurt. This irrational, too big a hurt issued from a small sweet child that loves and adores me. A child that still screams my name in greeting and runs to hug me. A child that calls me every single day that we’re apart just to ask what I’m doing and to tell me she loves me.
Of course I know the child’s heart.
It was just a quick moment when my guard was down. A moment where I faced and thought I was realizing one of my biggest fears.

I love my children. I love my children very much. I will protect them, provide for them, go without for them and use my last breath in trying to ensure that they are happy, know love, and feel safe.
I just don’t ever want to feel that fear again. Though, I imagine that it is that fear, amongst other fears and hopes and dreams and wishes that will keep me doing what I do.
If she didn’t “get it” before last night, I’m pretty sure Lori gets it now, though we’re both much sadder for it.

Me being gay is not an “Ew”.