The movie culminated in two beautiful young women, both wearing wedding dresses, pledging their lifelong commitment to one another, before friends and family.
Last night, Dan and I watched Jenny’s Wedding, a film more serious than we had expected about how a favorite daughter from a Catholic family finally reveals that she is a lesbian and wants to marry her partner of five years. All sorts of relationship twists ensue, with the parents turning their backs and then later embracing the couple, and there were points in the movie when I swiped away tears from the corners of my eyes.
I just didn’t see why.
How could a parent turn their back on their grown child for loving someone of the same gender? I honestly can’t understand it.
In fact, I said to Dan that I can’t imagine anything that would make me turn my back on my children.
You see, love is not conditional. Or at least it should not be.
True love is blind to the clothes you wear or the words you use or the people you hang around with. When you love as I love my children, you simply pull them into your heart and let them stay.
And even if at times you are annoyed, disappointed, angry even, the love never fades. They are still these people who are part of you, and you them, and your lives are forever intertwined.
The thing is, we have been raised on preferential attachment rather than universal understanding. Our popular culture waves huge flags of preference in front of our eyes and we believe that is real. It’s not. I’m here to tell you we have our focus trained on the wrong things.
When I think about parenthood, I am truly amazed.
These little precious souls come into our care and trust so helpless, so tiny, wailing and flailing, and we take full responsibility and hold them close and believe they are ours.
They grow quickly and we celebrate it, encourage them toward their independence. That goes on for years, with them walking into the school building without us, but returning to our embrace every afternoon. They snuggle in our beds for so many years, play with us on vacation and on weekends.
And the whole goal of parenting is to set them free.
Yes, they will one day walk away and not turn back and live in a house of their own, visiting ours but never staying there permanently again. We will be the ones to visit them and help them and continue to love them in the same way that we did when we held them, mute and sweet, on the very first day in the light.
So many cultures confuse parenting with ownership and control, blindly believing our kids are part of us, but that ended so long ago, when their lives began. They may live in our hearts, but they are whole individuals wholly separate from us, with interests and passions and yearnings and goals that we may or may not understand.
To be a good parent, I believe, you must see your child for who they are. As early as possible.
Understand how they learn, what they enjoy, and encourage them in their talents and desires. Build them up to be who they were meant to be, not who you want them to be – or who you wish you had become.
Good parenting is a selfless act. It is a courageous one, an act of taking a step back while cheering from the sidelines.
I can’t imagine anything that would keep me from sharing life with my children – not sexual preference nor religious observance nor choice of career. I just can’t see it. This is a soul journey that lasts a lifetime, not something frivolous enough to discard when it doesn’t feel familiar.