Monthly Archives: May 2012
Which means I’m being inundated with reminders about what the holiday means … a time to remember those we’ve lost, particular those who served in the armed forces.
I understand that. I appreciate that. And I even recognize the importance of supporting those who have served our country — regardless of whether or not we believe in the cause.
But the rebel in me questions if our eagerness to honor members of the armed forces has almost become so cliché that we don’t really consider what being a hero is – and what it’s not.
Being a hero isn’t about a title or a position… it’s about a behavior. It’s about putting your own reputation, sense of comfort or even life on the line for the greater good. It’s about fighting the fight for future generations rather than for ourselves.
And sometimes we forget that there are different types of battles to fight.
My concerns surfaced again when, over the weekend, I was trying to do some “spring is almost over” cleaning.
I found a button that said “Straight But Not Narrow.”
Given the recent national debate over gay marriage, I smiled when I realized I had been given the button more than 20 years ago. My smile soon turned to sorrow when 1) I realized that in the past 20 years, our nation really hasn’t come that far and 2) The person who gave me the button died years ago.
His name was Roger, and he died of AIDS.
He, like so many in our armed forces, died in the middle of a battle and with a great deal of honor.
Roger never hid his HIV status. Nor did he hide is sexual orientation.
In fact, Roger was one of the most open people I’ve ever met. If you asked him a question, he never sugar-coated the answer. He sometimes gave you more information than you wanted, but he never pretended the truth was pretty.
Roger will always be one of my heroes: those people who not only stand up for what they believe, but who put their own reputation and livelihood on the line to defend what is right.
Before he was infected with HIV and before his partner died of AIDS, Roger owned a hair salon.
That was his life before AIDS.
His life after AIDS was dedicated to educating West Virginians about the disease.
West Virginians are good people, but they aren’t exactly progressive… just check out their track record in the last few elections.
But Roger didn’t let closed-minded people get in his way. He knew that closed minds are like closed doors… they just need the right key to open or unlock them. And once they are unlocked, options and possibilities greatly increase.
Roger was the key to opening more minds and more doors than he ever knew. And the possibility he was seeking was a country where no one was infected with HIV again.
And so Roger knocked on and sometimes knocked over closed doors so he could share his message. He went to service clubs. He went to other types of clubs. He went to churches. And he went to schools.
He went wherever he could be heard and wherever people would actually listen.
His voice was definitely heard, and people definitely listened. I have no doubt Roger saved lives.
The only life he couldn’t save was his own. The medical battle against HIV was in its infancy, and Roger eventually succumbed.
But like so many other warriors, he left this world a better place than it would have been without him.
To me, that’s a hero. That someone I want to remember. That’s someone who inspires me.
That’s the type of person Memorial Day is all about.
There’s no doubt I love my children.
But at times, when I’m completely honest with myself, I wonder what the heck I was thinking when I decided to become a mom.
It’s not because I regret having children. Not for a minute.
And it’s not because I think my life would be more interesting or exciting if motherhood didn’t require I put their needs above mine. Being a parent puts a whole new spin on interesting or exciting.
And it’s certainly not out of guilt that as a girl, teenager and even as a young woman, being a mom wasn’t on my list of life goals. Having children helped me recognize what’s really important in life.
It’s because there are times when I think my kids could have done better with another mother – a mom who isn’t as emotional or head strong or outspoken as the one they got. A mom who never purposefully ignores parenting magazines, workshops or other sources of standard parenting advice. A mom who always enjoys her children’s activities instead of attending out of a sense of obligation.
And just when I’ve convinced myself that my kids would be better off with any mom but me, I come face to face with parents who don’t understand what an incredible gift – and responsibility –being a parent is. I witness moms behaving as though they are still adolescents with all the same drama and self-absorption. I have to listen to parents who always blame someone else when their child behaves poorly, gets a bad grade or is fighting with other children. Worst of all, I know of parents who put their children’s welfare and safety in jeopardy.
I may be imperfect, but those situations make me feel better about my own parenting skills. At least for a little while… until my kids do or say something embarrassing or completely inappropriate. Then I’m back to thinking that if they had a different mother, their behavior would be stellar.
Such thoughts bounce around in my brain on a daily basis… sometimes at such incredible speed that I fear an impending brain explosion.
The requirements of my profession haven’t helped.
Because I have a social work license, I’m required to take continuing education. Usually, I seek work-related education. Because I recently changed jobs, I’ve been seeking education that is more closely aligned with parenting issues, which I usually avoid.
I’m not sure the plan has worked for me.
In a workshop on bullying, the presenter disparaged parents who tell their daughters that, when a boy teases her, he actually likes her. According to the presenter, that’s putting her on the path to domestic violence. Having said those exact words to my daughter, I was convinced that, at worst, I was creating a victim. At a minimum, I was teaching her that abusive behavior is a sign of affection.
I was back to being a horrible mom.
But then, a couple of weeks later I attended a workshop on child abuse. The workshop emphasized the need for children to feel comfortable questioning and saying no to adults. Now that is something my children have NO problem doing. Could it actually be good that my children are following in their mother’s footsteps by requiring more than just a command as a reason to follow orders?
My internal confusion isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does highlight the reason I’ve avoided reading all those articles about parenting. Once my children started developing their unique personalities, I had to treat them uniquely. And no expert could tell me how to do that.
So while no parenting magazine will ever put me on its cover, that’s not important to me.
What is important is that someday in the distance future, when I’m not the complete embarrassment or the clueless person that my children currently think I am, I will be featured in their life scrapbook .
I don’t even expect to make the cover, but I do want to be featured.
I’m pretty sure I can fill that role quite well… a long as my brain doesn’t explode in the meantime.
I was incredibly intent the year I had to make a corsage for my mom out of tissue paper. While my fellow students curled the colorful paper around their pencil erasers then glued it to cardboard to resemble bright flowers, I felt the need to put order to chaos. The result was a smiling face that, in retrospect, bore a striking likeness to the Wal-Mart smiley face.
My mother never hesitated to wear the hideous yellow corsage. In fact, she wore it all day on Mother’s Day, even though it thoroughly clashed with her dress.
I was incredibly proud the year I played Mary Poppins in the Mother’s Day program. Families were required to provide the props, and because my frugal family didn’t have a normal umbrella, I twirled a hideous clear, plastic one shaped like a mushroom as I danced through boxes painted like chimneys. I resembled Mary Poppins about as much as I resembled Grace Kelly.
I was incredibly naive when I bought my mother a card that described Mother’s Day as a “gay” holiday.
I’m a lot older now, and I’m a lot less naive.
But I still don’t have a problem describing Mother’s Day as a gay holiday, especially this year.
That’s because, as I’ve aged, Mother’s Day has come to mean more than simply honoring and thanking my own mom. It’s also become a day to reflect on what being a good mother is.
While my experience is limited to 14 years, I’ve come to recognize three primary truths about being a parent:
1. A mother’s primary responsibility is to ensure that her children grow up to be responsible adults;
2. Every child is different, so there is no “right” way to be a parent;
3. Teaching our children to defend and stand up for those who are different is much more important than teaching them how to be popular or stylish.
This week, our President served as a parent to our entire nation when he publicly declared his support of gay marriage. I know the motivations behind his statements can be disputed, but I choose to believe that he was guided by his sense of morality and his need to set an example for all of us.
I heard his message loud and clear; if we tolerate hate and intolerance wrapped in religion then we are acting in direct opposition to the principles on which our country was established: a country in which all people are supposed to be treated equally.
So, while I seriously doubt my children will ever used their hard-earned allowance to buy a card that describes Mother’s Day as gay, I know that if they do, I would be honored to receive it. After all, it might be describing a holiday that looks beyond stereotypes and bias and unites us with a purpose of increasing tolerance for the next generation.
I can certainly hope.