Love Your Kids for Who They AREOct 11, 2021
As a parent, do you have lots of thoughts and opinions about your child? I know that I do — How they should behave, what activities might be good for them, what classes they should take in school, what friends they should spend more or less time with, and more?
We have the best intentions as parents. We spend years guiding our children based on what we think is best, because we truly want the best for our kids. That said, we can run into problems when our children want to please us so much that they end up following along with our opinions of how they should be living their life, without developing or standing up for their own.
This happened with my son. He was always particularly adept at math, and also had a fascination with computers and technology from a very early age. One year when he was in middle school, he asked his grandparents, aunts, and uncles for different computer parts for Christmas and his birthday so he could build his own computer. My dad is an engineer, so I figured it ran in the family and decided that engineering was the career that was best suited for my son. My son seemed to agree and the search for colleges focused around schools with strong engineering programs.
The only problem was that my son didn’t like engineering. At the beginning of his sophomore year in college, he finally had a heart to heart with me and shared that he wanted to switch majors. He was having a hard time because he didn’t want to disappoint me and his grandfather. In hindsight I can see how my enthusiasm and opinions swayed my son, and my heart ached when I realized the angst he was going through. He was struggling between choosing what would make him happy and what he thought would make us happy. I had to let him know that in the end, what we wanted was for him to be happy. We wanted him to honor his own truth and follow his heart to what he wanted. He didn’t know that his happiness was what actually made us happy, I had to tell him.
The ability to love your child for who they are and honor their truth is top of mind as we observe National Coming Out Day, because this is where a parent can make or break a child’s path to being true to themselves.
One of my most favorite people in the world is gay. He is also my cousin so I grew up with him. Given that we are both over 50 now, coming out back then wasn’t so easy. But we come from a very large family with over 180 first and second cousins, and we had two older cousins that came out first. They are very strong willed and didn’t care as much about pleasing others. Thankfully our large family is also very accepting and loving. I’m one of the younger cousins so by the time I was even aware, the fact that my cousins were out was very matter of fact and it didn’t matter one way or the other. We were taught that you loved and accepted family no matter what, so I think it made it a little easier for the cousins that followed to honor their truth.
I talked to my cousin that I’m closest to about what it was like to come out as gay. He shared that it was terrifying. There are lots of people that have opinions about who we are and who we should be — friends, teachers, mentors, employers, and our parents. But for him, knowing that his parents and family supported him gave him the courage to come out to everyone else. It didn’t matter if everyone else supported him or not, because he knew that his parents did.
As a child, your parents are typically the most important people that you rely on for love and approval and it is terrifying to come out to the people that you depend on most for your emotional stability. A parent can make or break a child’s path, and parents are often the reason that people don’t come out.
I am so grateful to my two older cousins and all the other trailblazers that stood strong in their truth making it easier for those that followed in their footsteps. I am also very grateful to the elders in my family for choosing love, and for setting such a great example of what unconditional love looks like.
For parents, it’s such a fine line between guiding our children based on what we think is best for them versus allowing them the space to figure out what’s best for them based on their own truth. As a society we have come a long way in acceptance, but there is still a journey ahead of us. There are too many people in relationships, careers, locations, and even identities based on other people’s opinions.
This week I’m really reflecting on how I can support my kids in following their own truth, and not having them follow a path just to please me.
I pray for more awareness for all of us parents as to where we might be unknowingly influencing our children with our opinions, and the grace to support and love our children on the path to their own truth.
If this does bring up anything for you and you want to discuss it further, please feel free to line up a call with me. I’m here for you.
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