Jaime and I are not developmental psychology professionals or parenting experts; however, we love our children fiercely and are doing our very best to be sure they become great human beings. In doing so, it is incredibly important to us that they find themselves. We both spent much of our lives trying to be the person we thought the world wanted us to be, suppressing who we truly were, so it is incredibly important to us that our children have the freedom to be their most authentic selves. This can be difficult for parents who naturally want their children to follow in their footsteps, but Jaime and I are big proponents of having our children blaze their own path.
Our daughter is a truly remarkable example of this. She grew up in a conservative Christian home in Virginia, surrounded by the church and conservative politics. She was given every example of traditional relationships, traditional views of gender roles and identities, traditional thoughts on social issues. After coming out, Jaime was definitely worried about how the contrast of this conservative upbringing and her gay father would conflict, but she has really embraced the differences in philosophy. She continues to practice her faith, but also maintains progressive views in politics, expresses strong opinions regarding women’s and LGBTQ rights, and stands for racial equality. Jaime has recently had a conversation with her regarding how it is our stance that we will never tell her what path to walk, but that it is our hope that she takes the good from everything she experiences and create her own world view, and this is truly what she is doing. We are so proud!
Our oldest son truly is currently in an interesting place when it comes to developing his sense of self. On the edge of puberty, he’s suddenly finding new interests, caring about his appearance, and noticing girls. This is definitely a delicate time, one where we will be there to offer support but not pry, and offer guidance but not judgement. For example, career aspirations with our oldest son are lofty - he’s decided he either wants to play in the NBA or be a rapper. We support him in dreaming big and encourage him to pursue this with support at his basketball games and listening to his lyrics; however, we’ve also had conversations about the importance of education and a fallback plan. An interesting point of growth recently occurred regarding his understanding of the LGBTQ community. In the early days of Jaime’s coming out, Cooper expressed his uneasiness because he had never been around gay people. He was unsure of what to expect, what to say, how to interact. When we felt he was ready, we invited a couple friends over for a cookout. We had a great time lounging by the pool, eating hamburgers, and having goofy conversations. When the day ended, Cooper, without any prompting, said, “Daddy, I liked your friends. They were nice.” Jaime mentioned to him that he was glad to hear that and asked if he knew they were both gay. Cooper was surprised and had no idea, which allowed Jaime to emphasize that LGBTQ people are just like everyone else.
Our next son is also at a crucial point in personality development. Sawyer has just begun school and has become exposed to the opinions of the world. Prior to starting school, he confidently would let everyone know that his favorite color was pink. One time, he noticed that Jaime was wearing socks with pink flamingos on them and he was in love! He told Jaime how that was his favorite animal and favorite color. Of course, I sought out a pair of flamingo socks in his size after that! Also, he’s expressed a strong interest in engineering, especially robotics, and has recently found a love for sports. Jaime and I are happy to foster his interests and help him to develop into his most authentic self.
Our youngest son is certainly the most impressionable. August is so young that he doesn’t have any concept of societal norms or biases. He is currently a beautiful mound of clay, waiting to be formed. His relationship with Jaime makes me so incredibly happy. When the two of them began chatting, they formed a very special bond. It is not uncommon for him to tell me, “Hi Daddy. Where is Jaime?” When he wants to cuddle, when he wants a treat, when he wants to play, quite often he goes to Jaime. This innocent, uninfluenced love is truly beautiful.
It is both exciting and scary to see what’s next for each of our kids. We want to protect them from any possible harm and set them up for the greatest success, but we also want to be sure their individual thoughts and opinions are fostered. What we know for sure is that we will do everything in our power to give our children the necessary tools to reason through decisions and make smart choices.