Keeping Your Baby Out of The Road
The first time I heard a story of a gay child being shunned by their parents, I was shocked. My Oldest daughter brought over a boy, they must have been 15 or 16. They had some classes together. He came into our living room and my daughter introduced us. He noticed an iron cross on the wall and asked if I was a Christian. I said I was. He gave a side look at Amber and she said it was okay. He said it then. He said that he was gay and that I must hate him. This startled me. Not that he was gay, he was very effeminate, but that he would think that I would hate him, it took me aback. I explained to him that that was not so. That it was none of my business who he was attracted to. He sat down and we talked. He told me about his parents, his family and how they had thrown him out. They felt he was a sinner and that they had to make a choice between their God and their son. I was heart broken for him. He was the first, but he was far from the last. Disenfranchised youth. I did not understand the mindset, how a parent could go from loving their child to not. I heard from some of them. Those parents who loved conditionally. They seemed always to be angry. Angry with their children, with me, and sometimes, with God. I would listen. I never tried to change their minds. I just let them know that if their child was staying in our home, I would take care of them. They would be in school everyday and have a roof over their head at night. It made my heart ache. If these parents could just see the pain that their judgement caused. How much their children needed them. I listened to their stories and handed them tissues as they cried. I tried to make them feel welcome and no matter their personality, I tried to show them love. Some where just as angry as their parents. Angry that they were different. That they did not fit in. That they were other than normal. They were battling their own demons and I tried to give them shelter. Shelter for their broken hearts and spirits. Acceptance. It was all I could do.
In their eyes, their stories I experienced an echo, a reminder of the child I had been, with nowhere to go and no one to care for me. And I tried to give what I could. My children were wonderful to their friends and they would bring new people into our home. Anyone who needed a safe place to be. It was an epidemic in our small town. So many teenagers adrift in the world.
Of all the things I had endured, I had never hated myself. I had felt I was not good enough, but I never was my own enemy to the degree so many of these children were. They seemed unable to accept themselves. I tried to create a place were it did not matter. Where it was not an issue. There was only one problem with Jessica being gay, and it became obvious shortly after she came out. Suddenly having her friends spend the night became an issue. Was this a friend or a girlfriend? I had to investigate the relationship. It was the only thing that was ever uncomfortable for me. I did not like feeling like I had to check each girls sexual status before she stayed the night in Jess's room. I did not want any of my children having sex in my house, or at all really. But I knew that it would happen. I just tried not to enable it. Our house had an open door policy and it was not unusual to have five or six kids spend days on end at our house. Many were from broken homes, parents living with a new found freedom uninterested in the needs of teenagers. Many parents would call to see if their child could stay for a weekend or a week. The reasons varied, but I never said no. It got to be the routine that four or five boys would spend the night. Each with their own TV and video game. Sitting in a semi circle in our family room, all weekend long. Mothers would bring pizzas and soda, chips and popcorn. I loved it. Having a house full of kids. There was usually never a problem. I would not tolerate fighting. That was the rule. There were very few. The first was the most important, and they all knew it. Never take the last Diet Coke. Not negotiable. Never. Then came other things, like the boys were not to be in the girls rooms alone and vise versa. No arguing. If there was a problem, they were to handle it. If I got brought in, there was going to be a punishment. Now, not so unlike my father, I chose creative punishments. Moving a wood pile from one side of the yard to the other and then putting it back in it's original spot. That was called "stop yacking and start stacking. Or I would make them walk around the house holding hands counting as they went. They had to walk and yell out the number of times they had traveled that well worn path as they passed me.
Usually, I only had to threaten a punishment. I did not relish carrying out a one anymore then they enjoyed being punished. My warning to them all was always the same. When they came to our house for the first time, I would explain the warning system. It was simple. They were to consider themselves as a baby. They were to keep their baby safe. If they crossed a line, broke a rule, that was placing their baby in the road. And if they placed their baby in the road, they could not be surprised when their baby got ran over. If someone got mouthy or surly, I would simply say "your baby is in the road"or the bigger warning "get your baby out of the road". Soon they were saying it to each other. My son and I still use it, so many years later. It was shorthand, a warning and a reminder to love themselves.
It seemed we all needed constant reminding to love and care for ourselves as we would a precious child. Because, we are still, in so many ways, those children needing love.