My son Parker and I finally talked about the harassment he was receiving in high school on Monday night. The silence up to Monday since last Wednesday was painfully awkward. On Monday morning, on their drive into school, Parker let Dean know that he wasn't mad at Dean primarily, but mad at me. There was a softening or weakening of the hard brick wall he had built around himself, removing one brick at a time. While we told him he did not need to be the victim of abuse as we will not be victims of the harassment we face as men who are gay and living in relationship with one another--and that we cannot control the perceptions that others have of us, but the problem of us being gay or part of a gay household is clearly the other person's problem--it took awhile for these words to soak into his soul, body, and mind.
In the aisle that carries salsa and other "international foods" (the name cracks me up, as if all food wasn't, at one time, international), he asked if he could have "unlimited text messages" for his new cell phone (a birthday gift). I said, "Well, the attitude may need to be tweaked first, because you've been slinging some attitude at me for about a week." And then it the loosening of more bricks began: "Well, imagine what it would be like if everyone in school knew your business, knew your family, knew your name!" I reminded him that I asked he and his sister if I could put their names in the book, or use a pseudonym, and they both said "their names," to which he responded, "Well, I don't remember that conversation." I also said that I wasn't putting their name in the most recent articles, though there just aren't too many "Webb-Mitchells" in this world, in which it isn't too hard for some people to put our names together and figure out he is my son, and that his dad is gay.
And that was all it took. Once that last brick was un-lodged, he joked and kidded me as we bought some ground turkey meat for tacos, some soft tortillas (a Monday night ritual), and made our way to the check-out line. "And did I tell you that I may need new shoes soon?" he said with a smile on his lips.
That evening, Parker the jokester was back, making fun of his gay dads, playing with the dogs as they leaped high to catch the Lacrosse ball from his stick, which he was playing with in the smallish kitchen. I was waiting to see if the hard small ball would crash into something in the kitchen.
While we created a buffer around Parker to vent and feel protected to experience his hurt of being called names in high school (an act of bullying), it can take days to break through a wall of defense. But, given time and reminding him he is loved seems to be a winning strategy.
Better days are here again!
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