Passing On Our Shame
I was getting off the phone yesterday when Clare asked me who I was talking to. I said, “My dad.”
Merit looked up at me and innocently said to me, “I want a dad.”
My heart sunk. I bent down to her level, looked her in the eyes and after I validated her then I asked, “Why do you want a dad, Merit?”
She replied clearly, “Well, all of my friends have dads.”
I explained to her that there was a kid in her class who has two moms, another one who has a mom who is a single parent, and that while some kids have dads, not everyone does. Some families have two dads. Some families have one dad and no mom. And some families have a dad and a mom. And some kids live with their grandparents or are raised by people who aren’t their parents.
She said, “Ok.” And that was the end of the discussion. She went on being her happy little self.
But it wasn’t done within me.
The last few weeks as I have been promoting my book on podcasts and doing interviews, the most popular question I get is, “You got out of Mississippi once, why in the world did you go back?”
I’ve been thinking about that. Especially now that I have a daughter to think about. What will she face in school as she grows up having two moms? Am I putting her through what I went through? Is she going to grow up feeling shame about her family? How do we make her feel “seen” and “celebrated” for her differences – not in spite of?
The tears streamed down my face this morning and my heart broke a little because my own shame began to expose itself. The last thing I want to do is put my history on my daughter. So, I have to cry. I must deal with my feelings.
There is a part of me that is always dealing with being different and yet still trying to integrate into a society where people like me are not well represented. It’s easy to get lost if I am not careful. People have been kind and accepting over the years as I have been willing to be vulnerable and open about who I am – but when vulnerability is constantly required to get beyond labels, I get tired sometimes.
It’s not that I am not ok with who I am – I just feel like I am always having to make others feel ok with who I am.
Shame is sneaky.
I don’t want Merit to know shame the way I have.
As I was talking to Clare and my mom about this, this morning, I said, “I just don’t think I can do this – I don’t know if I have the heart to put Merit through what I have been through.” I was alluding to the fact that maybe we need to move to a place where LGBTQ+ families are better represented. And then I cried, hard. It felt like grieving.
For me, when I deal with what I am feeling then the skies part and I can see more clearly. I saw my parents, Merit’s cousins, Merit’s aunts and uncles, Clare’s mom, Josh (Merit’s donor) and his family, our home and our land, our friends…and I was reminded that I was never close to my grandparents or my cousins and neither was Clare. That’s why we have stayed here to raise our daughter.
But it’s more than that. We’ve stayed here because we feel whole here.
Also, one day, once Merit understands how she got here – she may decide to call Josh her dad, and that’s ok with us and between the two of them. He is in her life and will always be in her life. She is surrounded by so much love – I often find it completely overwhelming. Her experience is going to be so different from mine.
We will do ANYTING for Merit, even if it means continuing to be vulnerable. My mom reminded me of what a joyful little girl she is and that she will see the world and experience the world so differently than I ever did.
This little soul that I call my daughter continues to push me to dig deeper and let go of even more fear that is embedded within the crevices of my heart. Her existence pushes me to be a better version of myself each day. And it's hard fucking work.
We’ve already called Merit’s school to talk about how we can work together to make “different” families feel more represented and special. We will start getting together regularly with other LGBTQ families in the area as well. We are setting intentions that require vulnerability and action – I am ok with that.
This wave of doubt will pass, and when I do have these honest and open conversations with others to make our community more aware of how we can include one another in a more meaningful way, I know that I will be reminded, once again, that love always wins.