I recently had a conversation with a teenager I'll call Kathryn*. She and I hadn't known one another very long when Kathryn confided in me her parents had found out she had a girlfriend. Not a girl friend, a girlfriend. I have heard similar stories over the years, so her news didn't rock me. (To be completely honest, I think sometimes kids do and say things just for the shock value.)
Kathryn went on and on about how her parents didn't understand her, how they have done everything possible to block this girl from her life and how the more they try and sabotage the relationship the sneakier Kathryn and her friend are getting. Kathryn's parents are very Christian and do not believe in same-sex relationships. In addition, Kathryn has an older sister who is married, works with special needs kids, and hasn't ever done drugs. Her parents never let Kathryn forget this. Kathryn loves her sister, they get along well, but she is nothing like her sister and says she never will be.
Kathryn's story reminded me of a "coming of age" turmoil I lived through when I was teenager.
I was raised Catholic and my parents spent considerable time instilling "good morals and values" in myself and my brothers. The situation I had gotten myself into (eighteen and pregnant) was not only highly disappointing to my dad, but also embarrassing. He felt my having a child out of wedlock and then raising the child would ruin my life. So determined was he to let me know how wrong I was, he told me I could not come home after giving birth unless I gave my child up for adoption.
I figured out a way to live on my own and raise my son. In time my dad accepted and grew to love my son. But it took his seeing me commit and work hard at being a mom. When he knew I was all-in, he realized if he didn't come to accept the situation our relationship would be over. It was out of love that he pushed the envelope and forced me to walk away, it was that same love that brought him back into my life.
I told Kathryn maybe her parents needed some time to digest the idea of her relationship with her girlfriend. They had been blind-sided when finding them together with no prior concept she had romantic feelings for this (or any other) girl.
Our conversation made me think about all the life lessons my own children have taught me over the years. Responsibility, accountability, dependability, faith, courage, patience, and how important it is to have a sense of humor!
However, I think the most important lessons my children have taught me include unconditional love and tolerance. I have to accept that, at times, they will make choices and forge a path I would not choose for them. But, when I support their passions they have the best chance of establishing the roots they need to grow into the person God wants them to be.
We are the channel through which they arrive, our job (as we understand it) is to guide them in the ways of the world in order that they become productive, self-sufficient members of society. But what if God's plan is really to teach US the lessons of life WE need in the process of raising them?
I'm curious, what lessons have your children taught you?