Coming out to your children when parenting is already well under way.
13. 10. 8. 5. 1
These were the ages of my five children when I came out as a lesbian 8 years ago. That’s right, five. I had reached the point in my life where it was either embrace my sexual orientation and live from my truth or…die. And not be here anymore to raise these beautiful little Beings that I had purposely put on the planet.
My age then? 35.
A little background
For the previous 13 years, I had been in up-and-down relationships with two men. The first relationship lasted ten years and brought four children into the world. The second lasted three, and resulted in my youngest son. These relationships were nothing spectacular, but I had always just thought to myself, “this is what all couples go through.”
Because I never felt successful in my partnerships with these men, I threw myself into being a Mother. My kids were all I focused on from the time I woke up in the morning to the time I crashed every evening. And of course, during their respective infancies, the in-between hours as well. I was ALL mother, and completely lost myself in this role. I didn’t have hobbies or go out with friends, unless we all took our kids along which of course is more exhausting than “fill your cup” adult relating time. Right?
Then. All of a sudden I bought a watch.
At Target. On sale. The kind with the large face, silver, wide metal link-type band. I put it on. It was rare that I bought anything “unnecessary” for myself (fellow moms out there know what I mean!) And it hit me. Like a tidal wave. A pulsing energy that I could not deny or suppress any longer. It erupted from my psyche and completely leveled my life as I knew it. It was like my past wonderings and feelings that I had long ago suppressed as an adolescent slammed into my body full force and they were not taking “No” for an answer this time. One thing led to another (that’s a whole other post, y’all) and within a few weeks I was on the cusp of realizing that I needed to come out publicly, embrace this for real.
That meant telling people. Gasp.
Which in turn meant…Telling my children. Double gasp.
All the feels were happening. Even feels I had no name for. What if they hate me? What if they want to leave me and go live with their father? What if they…cry? And it will be my fault? There was so much fear wrapping it’s slimy tentacles around my heart so tightly that I barely knew how to move forward with this. It paralyzed me. It would be traumatic for them, I told myself. I just can’t do that to them. It will ruin their lives. They don’t “deserve” that. I spent sleepless nights, I rationalized, I ate way too much chocolate. But, ultimately, I knew. There was no not doing it. Lordy how I wished there was a guidebook or manual for this kind of thing!
The day came.
In the evening, I decided to congregate my little tribe in the living room. I asked them if they knew what “lesbian” meant. My eldest stated that he thought so, kinda. The others shook their little heads. I explained to them that they had seen Mommy sitting with her new friend Samantha on the couch sometimes, cuddling. Right? Yeah. Little heads bobbing up and down. “Well”, I went on to say, “that’s what couples do, right?”
Again, little heads moving up and down, staring at me intently with the kind of wide eyes that only children possess. More brief and obviously age-appropriate explanation followed.
And all of a sudden it was over.
They barely reacted that day, my children. They were like “cool mom” and went back to their previous activities. The strength I found in those moments of realizing that my children were not going to erupt into panic and screaming fits and be completely destroyed without any hope for recovery and with me, their mother, being to blame…is unmatched. Slowly I began to breathe again. I cuddled with my one –year old baby boy and kissed his soft head about a million times. He of course had no idea what was going on. I tucked the others into bed and kissed them goodnight. They hugged me back like everything was normal. I was still their mommy.
Which of course it wasn’t. Not “normal.” Not exactly. And later, as the days and weeks became months, we lived our way into the nitty gritty details – there would be questions that would be challenging to answer. There would be tears over which peers they felt comfortable to tell and who could come over to our house because he/she was a “safe” friend and wouldn’t blurt it out the next day to everyone at school. We made it through those times- we cried, we laughed, we hugged and none the worse for wear. As they grew older and were able to talk to me about their memories of that day, and their subsequent experiences adjusting to a mother making such a life-change during their formative years, it has offered even more insight to the amazing power of children’s hearts and their ability to love unconditionally, not to mention capability to move through experiences that we think will be traumatic for them but end up to not be the show-stoppers we thought they would be.
When Samantha and I married a few years later, the kids all participated in the wedding and spoke a few words from their heart about what their family means to them. If there is one thing I hope I have given to them, it is an example of courage. The kind of deep courage it takes to be willing to come out into the open for what you believe, and live a life rich with meaning and truth.