In life, almost everything comes with a manual, a ‘do it yourself guide’ or you can buy a ____ for Dummies book at Barnes & Noble, or if you don’t have time to go look for it, you Google it or YouTube. Wouldn’t life be grand if everything came with instructions? Unfortunately, we are not that lucky. However, I think the one thing many would appreciate like a Willie Wonka bar would be having a manual to raising kids. Now, that would be the golden ticket to happiness.
My mother always told me “un buen juez empieza con su propia casa” (a great judge starts with his home first). Many times growing up I questioned this saying, because as a kid you hear these sayings and think it only applies to laws and regulations. However, as you get older you start making sense of how this basic principle applies to life in general. Growing up, I saw how my parents struggle with my brother, he was destructible and stubborn. Of course, I was no angel but from what I recall and mom tells me, I was a pretty good girl. My brother on the other hand earned the nickname “Terromoto” (Earthquake). Most of the time he was a 7.5 and to feel those waves every day was heavy on my parents, I could see how much their faces changed colors from brown to red. In our adolescent years is when I saw my mom struggle the most with us. Since the teen years are when we develop our personalities and believe we know it all, is when you see the most confusion on parent faces and rebellion grows in our hearts. If, we came with a book, we wouldn’t have been much of a hassle and the discipline would be easy to give.
In the past when I’ve been asked if I ever wanted kids, I always replied with a “hell no!” For the simple fact that I’ve seen what a tough road it entails; the amount of patience, sacrifice and understanding it takes, I’ve always been a ‘free-bird’ and have never wanted to deal with a shit storm. True, babies are adorable and makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside but let them grow a little, wait for the teen years and that’s when the real parenting begins. Showing them how to tie laces, color inside the circles, feeding them and not saying bad words is easy compare to what the double digits bring.
Now, I’ve never given birth to a child, I’m not a mother but I am a parent. Like my mom said, “sometimes, others have the kids, having given birth to a child does not give you the title of mom or dad, raising them does, and that’s what makes you a mother”. That’s where I find myself at this moment in life. My niece unfortunately has been dealt with a set of cards that not many can understand. I believe she’s still trying to make sense what it means to have grandparents and an aunt that invest a significant amount of time in her life and not be her parents. They way how I see it, we are blood. Unfortunately, we don’t have a say in who we want as our family but every household has issues, is dysfunctional, hates each other at some point, specially during the holidays but we still love each other.
This past year, I’ve taken a closer look at my friends who have kids, specifically the ones who have teens; because I wanted to see what works with them. It’s been such a hard transition for me and even to try and understand who I am in this little person’s world and the significance of what this will mean in the future. To be hired to teach a group of teens how to use poetry as a healing tool and to give them inspiration is one thing, but to actually raise one, it’s a world I don’t understand and I pray every day to find the right words to be able to guide my niece in the right path. To try and understand what goes through teens minds, how to find a way of giving discipline and yet still be a cool ‘tia’ it’s mind-boggling. There’s been several times that I’ve broken down to my mom, to my beastie, to my Venus circle, to additional friends and have asked “what else can I do? – can you help me? Because I don’t know”. All I can say is that I’m blessed to have friends who hold me and give advice, I’m even more blessed to have my mom look at me and tell me that it’s going to be okay.
I’ve seen many of my friends become parents over the years, most of them are hetero-sexual parents raising one or two kids and I see how tough it’s for them. To be thrown in a parenting role with a teen is no joke. I try to go back and think of when I was a teen, and I don’t ever recall being that much of a smart ass. LOL Then again, I’m a smart ass now, that can only mean that I must’ve built it in my ‘wonder years’. These are the years that they question every THING, why this, why that, why can’t I do this, why ANYTHING? Most of the time I feel like I’m in a ping-pong match and I have to be on my A game at all times, because anything I say can be twisted. Now, I know my friends have hard times with their straight kids, but I feel like raising my niece is double the work, because I have to educate a queer kid navigating a hetero dominated world. For example, about a couple of months ago, my niece had a paper to turn in for English class; she decided that she didn’t like any of the topics that her teacher gave them, instead she told me she wanted to write her paper on either Youth and Depression or Gay Rights. I must admit I was shocked because those two topics are pretty heavy to discuss amongst adults, let alone having a teen want to present in front of her class. I felt the need to ask her several times if she felt comfortable knowing that there might be some questions from her classmates as to why she would write about gays. She said she understood and was ready if anyone asked her. I educated her on GSA’s, DOMA and “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” and of course Harvey Milk. I have to be honest, I was scared, because I recalled when I came out and was ridicule by some and it’s not easy to find the courage and face a world that doesn’t fully understand yet that we are only humans, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation.
I don’t know if other gay parents feel this way, but I think of her safety, what others will say and how they will treat her, specially because she’s just 15, I worry like anyone else that has a responsibility over another human, a little sponge that absorbs everything; I worry about her surroundings but most of all, my biggest worry is how to raise a conscious strong individual that will love herself first, so she won’t fall in the role that society sets for her, of how she’s supposed to look or act. My biggest challenge has been dealing with my parents and brother who of course aren’t comfortable with me being gay and I’ve thought if my family would even allow me to establish a parent role in her life. To my surprise, not so long ago I cried to my mom and asked her if she thought I was doing a good job as a parent; in return she said, “Si yo crie a mis hijos sin experiencia en la vida y a tan temprana edad, vos lo podes hacer, vas a estar bien hija”. (If I raised my kids without experience in life and at such a young age, you can do it too, you’ll be okay). Hearing those words was like feeling the warm sun rays kiss my face after a night of crying. Those aren’t, “I hope” words, that was a statement, a belief and that’s all I needed to hear from my queen. Sure, I’m filled with fears and confusion of how to be the proper role model for her. Bottom line is that, just like any other parent, I’m going to mess up, I won’t know what to do at times, I won’t have the right answer all the time but in each situation I’ll learn and I’ll find a new way to make an impact and connect with her heart and hopefully she will carry this with her always, so when she finds herself alone in a situation, she will be strong enough to find the healthy path to happiness.
Queer parents are no different than traditional parents, we are as confused and filled with anxiety equally. We too wish we could have a ‘know it all book to raise a kid to succeed in life’. We too go through the sex questions, drug issues, the first heart break and of course trying to motivate them to succeed in school. We are no different, we are just humans raising other humans.
Till next time!