You know it’s been a while since I blogged when I couldn’t remember how to log in to this site. Weird.
Here’s the short version of what’s been going on with this Orthodox Mom of Gay Kid (After almost 4 years, I completely regret the title of this blog. Oh well. A life without regrets is a life not lived.):
My son is now 18. That seemed to happen very quickly in hindsight. He was 14 when he came out and when I started this blog. He started college in August and by all measures it seems like he is in the perfect place for him and we are thrilled. I haven’t blogged in a while because honestly, I used to use this blog more for thinking about heavier things with regard to my son being gay/living in the Orthodox community/etc. and truthfully over the past year it has pretty much been a non-issue for us personally. I didn’t have much to think or write about. To quote my favorite book series “All was well.”
And all is still well, to be quite honest. The fact that my son is gay is still a non-issue. That might change for me over the next few years- as he brings home significant others, as we try to figure out how we continue to fit in the Orthodox community after that, etc. But right now, all is well.
So why am I writing? ? Well, Today is National Coming Out Day. And last week my son came out. Again. No, not as a gay man. Not as trans or anything on the LGBTQ spectrum. He came out as a Conservative Jew. This followed a very meaningful Yom Kippur and a long time of religious soul searching for him. He stated that he feels most comfortable in Conservative settings. He wrote a beautiful note about this and explained how he values his Orthodox upbringing and schools, but at this point this is where he is Jewishly. He expressed that his pluralistic high school and current University which has a very large Jewish presence (of all denominations) helped him to figure out where he truly belongs. I can write more about his message but suffice it to say, I was and am proud to be the mother of such a mature, thoughtful and appreciative young man.
Which isn’t to say that this was a completely neutral experience for me. My immediate emotion after reading his note felt bittersweet. On one hand, I was so happy that he had been searching and found a place where he feels he belongs. On the other hand, I reacted the way parents often do. I felt a bit of remorse. For the life I lead and tried to raise him in that he now won’t be an active part of. Now, I’m not here to defend that feeling. I do not believe that children should be carbon copies of their parents. To quote Khaled Hosseini in the Kite Runner, “Children aren’t coloring books. You don’t get to fill them with your favorite colors.” I firmly believe this. But I also believe (maybe erroneously) that it is natural for a parent to feel some remorse, sadness, regret or other emotion when their child rejects something that the parent holds dear. Of course, the parent must then make a conscious effort to get past this feeling and be able to look at the big picture and realize that their child’s happiness and growth are more important than the parent’s hurt feelings. But I think it would be intellectually dishonest not to acknowledge the emotion that a parent might feel in this situation.
Since that initial reaction, I’ve had some time to think about this and ruminate (as I tend to do) and here is where I am currently. As indicated my blog pseudonym (Proud Mom), I continue to be SO proud of my son. To know I have raised a deep thinking individual, someone who won’t stop searching for his truth, someone who recognizes the good of where he came from even though it might not be where he ultimately ends up, someone who despite making this announcement about who he is today acknowledged that he is not done searching makes my heart so incredibly happy.
I am so heartened that my son founds a group with which he feels completely comfortable. It would have been disingenuous of me to ask him to continue to identify with Orthodoxy when let’s face it, Orthodoxy has yet to fully identify with him. Yes, strides have been made in some communities and groups, but at the end of the day is it fair to expect our kids to remain members of a “club” that most of the time doesn’t accept them? It’s an uphill battle that I can’t expect him to take.
When my son came out he was angry. At the world. At us. At Judaism. One time he said, “I’m not Jewish.” He didn’t identify at all. It was painful, but understandable. At the time, I wrote the following on this blog:
“And I realized that no matter what, I want my son to have a Jewish identity. I know that he will probably not practice his Judaism the way I do, but I want him to feel something.”
His recent “coming out” has shown me that he feels more than something. He cares. He’s connected. He’s Jewish. And indulge me for a bit, I’m kvelling.