Friday, November 19, 2010

Unconditional Love

Last month, a mother allowed her five-year-old son to dress as Daphne from Scooby-Doo for Halloween. She then documented the reaction her son received at his Christian pre-school on her blog, and the discussion began. Should she really have allowed this? He’s five. What message does that send? But it’s his favorite TV show. Daphne is a girl, he’s a boy. But it was Halloween.

Maybe she should have encouraged him to be Scobby instead? Been there, done that. Okay, well then what about Shaggy? Maybe the goatee proved problematic. But Daphne? A female character for a five-year old boy? It’s not like his mother painted his nails or put him in make-up. It was just a simple costume. So why all the controversy?

She’s his mom; it’s her responsibility to protect her child. It’s her responsibility to set an example. Yes, but it’s also her responsibility to raise her child with unconditional love. After all, that’s what really matters – unconditional love and acceptance. Aren’t we all entitled to that?

I spent so many years of my life fearful of what my parents might think or say if they knew I was gay. They were and still are devout Catholics, staunch Republicans, and fairly conservative. A gay son? Their church says it’s wrong. Republicans don’t support that “lifestyle.” It’s undeniably liberal. They’ll never accept it. Yet growing up, my parents walked a very fine line between allowing me to be myself while steering me in the so-called “right direction.”

As a child I played with Barbie dolls, had my own baton, participated in cheerleading practice with my sisters, and even learned how to make hook-rugs and pillows – a craft my mother taught me and one I absolutely loved. When I was ten-years-old, I danced around the house re-enacting scenes from my favorite film Fame (yes, it was rated R, but I so desperately wanted to see it, my mother finally conceded and took me) and became an avid fan of soap operas, obsessed with General Hospital and Dynasty. Not once was any of this ever frowned upon. (Okay, well maybe the dancing was, considering it was usually accompanied by me singing at the top of my lungs.)

On the other hand, they did persuade me to partake in traditional masculine roles as well, such as Little League. Okay, truth is my father forced me to play. I had no say. But I hated it so much that after three torturous seasons, he finally let me quit. Then a year later, my parents bought me a hockey stick to play roller hockey with all the other boys in our neighborhood. I hated that even more. So, then they bought me a pair of bright yellow headphones so I could just roller skate up and down the street bopping back and forth to my favorite music. That I totally enjoyed.

By my teen years, it was obvious I was not an athlete. My parents accepted that and accepted me, but along with puberty, came an understanding that I was definitely different. This was a side I didn’t share with my parents though, because different was certainly not accepted.

At twenty-nine, I finally mustered up the courage to come out to my parents. I had no idea how they would react. My assumption was my mother would start crying; my father would start yelling and maybe even throw me out of the house. Instead, as soon as I uttered those two little words – “I’m gay” – two words that took more courage, strength and energy than I had ever required, my mother immediately responded by saying, “So?” and my father instantly followed with, “So, what do you want money?”

That’s unconditional love. It was always present, has always been and still remains today. It took me almost thirty years to realize that, but I remain forever grateful that my parents didn’t care what their church preached, what their political leaders advised or even what their neighbors would think. They loved and still love me unconditionally, no matter what. So what’s wrong with another mother demonstrating unconditional love for her five-year old son and letting him dress as Daphne for Halloween? Absolutely nothing at all.

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