Since we are on the topic of parenting (given my last post), I thought I would share an important conversation I personally feel parents should be able to have with their kids. Many of us unfortunately do not have either the guts or gumption to have with them.
In my last blogpost I had shared my Northstar of parenting. On that note, one of the taboo subjects that I talk freely about with my girls (at an age appropriate level of course) is about dating and sex.
So about 3 years ago, soon after my eldest moved to a co-ed school (age 13), I had a conversation with her around how I am okay with her dating and please do bring the young man home to visit. The philosophy underpinning being “Better the devil I know than the devil I don’t”, with the supporting underpinning philosophy being potentially “if I know the devil then I at least will know who to aim the shot gun at”.
It was a few months later, at a moment of inspired reflection that I realised whilst it was a good conversation, I had not gone far enough, especially given the professional work I do day in and day out in the area of Diversity and Inclusion.
So one evening, I remarked to my eldest, “Hey, you remember that conversation we had a few months back, about me being okay with you dating and do bring the guy home?”.
“Well, in the event that it turns out to be a girl, I am okay too and do bring her home to meet us.”
<Pause> and then “Are you trying to ask me if I am a lesbian?” laughed my eldest.
“Well, no I wasn’t trying to find out if you are a lesbian, just wanted to let you know I am okay whether you like boys or girls.”
In that moment, I’d like to believe I had made her feel safe because I was telling her that I would love her no matter what, straight or gay.
(And for the record, she is heterosexual)
Interestingly, a few months ago, a parent, surprised (perhaps shocked) to find out that I was a practicing Catholic who was pro-LGBT, had asked me what would happen if I ever found out that one of my girls was a lesbian. I replied in a heart beat that I would love her no matter what. For what else can a parent be called to do but to love their children for who they are? Unfortunately, I don’t know if that parent who asked me that question would have the same response for his child, ironically because of his strong Christian values and beliefs around the subject.
I should emphasise though that the point of the conversation isn’t about establishing your child’s gender identity or sexual orientation. The point of the conversation is about the strength of your relationship with your child and your vocation as a parent to live your commitment to love them no matter what.
It takes courage and vulnerability to love, always. And in this case, are we prepared as parents to be brave and vulnerable enough to have this conversation and love our children?
Too true Shoon. As awkward as they might feel about these conversations, it’s so much better to have made sure they understand your position than are left guessing. I forgot to talk to my 10 year old about the correct way to finish a little primary school relationship. Didn’t occur to me until he was in tears because he had upset her, and they had been good friends. Teaching them about being in relationships as well as how to respectfully end them is another good life lesson.
Thanks Shelley, indeed an important life skill to share with the kids. I have told my eldest – always make it clear in a respectful manner where she stands. Importantly as well that they learn not to feel guilt-tripped or obligated to stay in a relationship.