I have loved you since the moment I saw you pass before my eyes, right before the doctor placed you on your mother’s chest. In truth, I loved you before then, and since we’re on the subject, I would say I was in deep, deep like with the very possibility of you, but certainly having the actual you around is much better.
I read a horrible letter the other day from a father who was cutting ties with his son only because his child had asserted he was gay. I’ve known people like this, who wielded their ignorance against their own families, and yes, it is astonishing how human beings can revolt against their own kin. But it does remind me that this is why we have chosen families, dear confidants, and supportive systems of loved ones that may or may not share DNA with us.
That man is misguided. It’s clear to me after only 11 months of knowing you, that my mission as your parent is to help you grow into the best person you can be, and I ought not attempt to control who you become–it’s folly, for one thing, and mean to boot. Yes, I should expose you to ideas, talk with you as you sort through your place in the world and what to make of this great big mess, and tell you I love you, but your path is your own. If you tell me tomorrow that you want to be known as Priscilla Queen of Splendiferousness, I’ll simply be astonished that you’re talking this soon. I won’t worry that it’s because we dressed you up like Liberace for Halloween last year–you did look fabulous, by the way.
I’m also not going to fret if you insist on playing with trucks and dinosaurs, because my goal is to avoid foreclosing possibilities for you in your childhood. And when you tell me you hate me and to leave you alone at 13, I’ll remind myself that this is normal for adolescence. You need to find your independence.
So calling me at 19 to tell me you’re gay, joining a circus, found the love of your life, or declaring your membership in the NRA, will all be met with support (though do expect some literature about gun violence if you go the NRA route, my love). I will never write a letter instructing you not to send me any presents or to imply you need not show up at my funeral. I hope that no such stupidity and cruelty ever comes between us, Emile. You are my love and I owe it to you to model through the rest of my life, the kind of person I hope you aspire to as an adult. Generous, thoughtful, supportive, and genuine.
I hope you find love. It tends to come not when you are looking for it, at least in my experience. I really don’t care what the gender identity of your partner is, as long as they’re nice to you. Mutually supportive relationships are nice, too. I’m certainly not going to cut you off just because you fall for someone of the same sex! And I’ll try not to hold too high a bar for anyone you bring home to meet us, and I say that knowing it’s going to be challenging to live up to that. I’ll do my best.
Incidentally, that’s all I expect of you. To do your best. We’re going to make a lot of mistakes along the way, but that is how we folks improve over time.
Now then, there are a few guidelines I can impart that should increase your chances for success:
1. Never drink orange juice right after you’ve brushed your teeth.
2. No matter how appealing it may seem, never lick a steak knife.
3. Good friends agree to play by your rules some of the time. Great friends agree to make up the rules with you.
4. Cuts and bruises are totally worth the price for a fun afternoon. Lasting damage is not.
5. Yes, you should question authority. You should also question peer pressure, and anyone who doesn’t seem to respect you.
6. If you can’t talk to mom or me about it, find an adult you trust and talk to them.
7. Inside is for walking, and outside is for running and climbing trees, and watching the clouds, and plucking daisy petals, and counting the cars that drive past.
8. I’ll try not to lay down an inordinate number of rules to obey and in return, I hope you’ll try to listen when I remind you of the ones we do have.
9. Don’t hit or bite other people, even if they’re mean or you think they deserve it.
10. Don’t trust people who say they don’t like great stuff like chocolate or pizza.
I love you. We’re just about ready to celebrate your first birthday! I can’t wait to have even more wonderful days with you in your second year.