Sunday, August 18, 2013

Memory Three: A Conversation With My Son About Homosexuality

     I fell behind and Brad is already home now.  It's amazing the affect he has on me.  I've had back to school to deal with while working almost sixty hours a week and yet I've been more relaxed and sleeping better than I have all summer.  Of course, that has lead to less late night writing sessions so it's been ten days since I've posted anything.  I'll try not to let that happen again but no promises.
     One of the problems with falling behind on my list of memories is that we've made new ones since he's been back and I'm tempted to expand the list.  If I keep doing that, though, it would never end so I'm just going to try to finish it up this weekend.  Still, sometime I'll have to write about the conversation we had about his uncles this evening so I can showcase my son's wit and humor and poke fun at my brothers at the same time.
     One other thing I should mention is that Brad's great grandma on his mother's side passed away this past week.  She was a great woman and if any of my ex's family is reading this I hope they know they have my love and thoughts during this time of loss.  I miss you guys and hope to have Brad down there to visit you all soon.
Brad Says Fag
     His Uncle Jerry was giving him shit, surprise, surprise, and Brad was tiring of it.  Jerry has a strange ability to get under his skin like no one else and as much as Brad loves him he also wants to hit him too.  Actually, we all kind of feel that way about Jerry.  Instead of hitting him Brad called him a fag.  I didn't react the first time because I've learned the hard way that the surest way to make him repeat something is too overreact when he says it. Still, he said it a couple more times and I couldn't keep quiet.
     "Stop saying that word," I said without yelling but yelling with my tone.
     Brad looked at me quizzically and I realized something.
     "Do you even know what that means Brad?" I asked.
     "It means fat, right?" he asked.
     "No," Jerry said chuckling.
     "It means gay, Brad," I explained, "but it's a bad way of saying gay."
     "Well, it's not an insult to be called gay so why are you mad, Dad?" Brad asked.
     I hate it when kids throw lessons back in your face but I was prepared for this one.
     "You know how I told you never to say nigger?" I asked him.
     Just hearing me say that word made him realize how serious this was.
     "I remember and I don't say it," he said.
     "I know and I'm happy that you don't," I said, "but calling a someone a fag is just as bad.  Fag is to gay people like nigger is to black people."
     "I didn't know, Dad," Brad said sadly.
     "I know you didn't, buddy," I said hugging him, "that's why I'm explaining it to you instead of yelling."
     This wasn't really an enjoyable talk but it was kind of fun watching Jerry's expression change.  He went from annoyed that Brad was calling him that, to chuckling because he was amused at the situation I was in as a parent, to getting that I want to be a dad look on his face when Brad and I hugged.  This may surprise people about Jerry but he loves watching people learn and teaching people things.  I give him a lot of crap about his biological clock ticking because it gets under his skin but the moments when he's taught Brad something or seen me teach Brad something are the moments I can actually almost see his biological clock ticking.
     That seemed like the end of the conversation.  I had very bluntly explained something to Brad and he had listened and learned his lesson.  The conversation still nagged at me, though.  I had been waiting for a time to talk to Brad about homosexuality anyway.  It isn't any secret, I don't think, that I'm not a very religious but I promised Brad would be raised Christian and it's a promise I've kept.  Still, I knew some churches teach pretty hateful things about homosexuals and I'm determined that if Brad decides to be a Christian that he is going to take to heart the love and understanding parts of the teachings of Christ and not the judgemental, hateful things that some people have distorted them into.
     So later when we were riding somewhere in my truck, and I had him as a captive audience, I said, "Brad, you know how we talked about not saying that word about homosexuals?"
     "And I won't now that I know it's that bad, Dad," he said.
     "I know but there's more about that subject I want to talk to you about."
     "Like what?"
     "Has your church ever said anything to you about gay people?" I asked.
     "No. Why?" he asked.
     "Well," I said, "There are some churches and church people that say that being gay is really bad and they say really bad things about gay people."
     "Why do they do that?" he asked.
     "It does say in the bible that being gay is bad but it says that about two paragraphs above where it says having tattoos is bad," I tried to explain.
     "Why does the bible say that, Dad?" he asked.
     Man, I hate the hard questions and I'd brought these on myself.  Kicking myself I continued on.
     "I don't know and neither does anyone else," I said, "When you're older we can talk about a few ideas some people have about why the bible says those things but no one really knows.  A lot of people will tell you they know the mind of God but no one really does.  All you can do is read the bible, listen to smart people and come as close as you can to understanding but you'll never know for sure."
     "Of course, no one knows the mind of God," he said, "If they knew the mind of God that would mean they were smarter than God and no one is smarter than God."
     "That's what I'm trying to say and so because of that there will always be things we don't understand," I said, "like...let me figure out how to explain it.  I didn't choose to like kissing girls.  I just started to like kissing girls when I got old enough.  Just like some boys just like kissing boys.  Gay people don't choose to be gay.  They're born that way.  God made them that way."
     "Why would he make them that way and then say it's bad?" he asked.
     "That's one of those things we don't understand, Brad," I said, "I don't think he thinks it's really bad but I'm not smarter than God so I don't know for sure.  There's lots of things you won't understand that God does but there is one thing that almost everyone agrees on."
     "What's that?"
     "It isn't our job to judge people," I said, "That's God's job."
     "Yeah, they taught me that in church," he said, "We aren't supposed to judge people we're supposed to love people."
     "I'm glad your church teaches you that," I said, "and most churches are good churches that teach that so I hope you never hear anyone say hateful things about gay people in church.  Even if you don't, though, chances are that you'll hear a minister or somebody say those mean things on television or the internet and I just want to make sure you know that's not right."
     "What kind of mean things, Dad?" he asked.
     "I've heard people say that gay people are going to hell or that they're nasty or that God would want them all to die," I said, "and I just want to make sure if you ever here it you know that's not right."
     "Well duh, Dad," he said, "If I heard stuff like that I would know those people don't know anything about God because God doesn't want us to judge or be mean to anybody."
     "You know," I said to him, "You're a pretty smart fellow."
     "Yeah.  I get that from Mom."
     "You're quite the smartass, too," I said laughing.
     "Yeah," he said, "I get that from you."
     I'm sure some of you reading this are wondering why this is one of my favorite memories.  It's partially because it was parenting I knew was happening.  Most of the lessons you teach a child, good or bad, are lessons you don't even know you're teaching and you aren't trying to teach.  For the most part parenting is something you do while you're doing other things.  It's rare that you can actually point to a moment when you taught your child something important and you actually meant to do it.  So part of why this is one of my favorite memories involves ego.  I think I did some damn fine parenting there and it wasn't accidental or good parenting that happened just because I'm a good parent.  It was something I set out to do and it's a moment I can point at as a concrete moment that I can look at and say I'm a damn good Dad.
     It's about more than ego, though.  It's mostly about pride in my son.  He had just turned seven when these conversations took place and yet he was more thoughtful than most adults.  He learned the obvious things quickly and he asked thoughtful, considerate questions that made teaching the not so obvious things easier.  I love my little man.  I love the way his mind and his heart work and I'm pretty sure I never had to worry about him growing up to be a hateful person.  That's not going to stop me from doing my best to make sure he doesn't, though. 

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