Thursday, August 20, 2009

Generation Gaps

Yesterday I was talking to my mom on the phone, and she mentioned visiting her new illegitimate great-grand baby in the hospital.

She started out with "She is a cute baby, and [names of family members] were all there."

And then it led to "But [my daughter-in-law]--or "grandma"] and [mother of grandma] just seemed so proud to have a new baby in the family. Is it wrong that it bothers me that they were so pleased?"

Me: (some kind of sound to indicate I am still there and listening, but somewhat distracted due to the soccer practice that is going on a few feet away.)

Her: "I don't know about this younger generation. I guess I just have a hard time accepting things like this (a baby born to an 18 year old and 19 year old that are not married), and also with things like . . . Scott's issue. "

What the heck?

Me: "But those are not the same thing at all. Scott hasn't done anything wrong."

Mom: (thinking oops, sounding flustered) "I know, I understand that they are different, but I still have a hard time accepting both things. Does that make sense?"

Me: "Yeah, I think I know what you mean." (Calmly change subject and friendly chat for a while longer.)

So, what did she mean? Does she mean that it is hard to accept that some people actually have gay feelings? Does she mean that it is hard to believe that people don't "choose" to be gay because it is not what she grew up with? Does she mean that it is hard to accept that Scott is talking about his feelings instead of staying deep in the closet?

And is it okay that it bothers me for her to have lumped homosexual feelings (without "acting" on it, or more importantly, without committing adultery) in the same category as fornication?

And is it really all that bad to love a new grandchild or great grandchild, regardless of the circumstances that brought her into this confused world? What would Jesus do?

Interesting conversation, to say the least. It didn't really bother me--after all, my mom was born in the 1930s, but still. She is apparently struggling with this more than she lets on. How can I help her?


Kengo Biddles said...

I think she's talking more of her cultural expectations. I would imagine that your mother, from her birth year, is as old as my grandmother.

When she was our age, you just didn't TALK about any problem -- Homosexuality didn't exist except in furtive, disapproving whispers, and children out of wedlock was the unravelling of society, and obviously the thing of deviants.

FWIW, my mom, who's 20 years(ish) older than me has a hard time with my acceptance of the "gay" label.

Terri said...

I agree completely with Kengo. It's definitely cultural. I'm 56 but very liberal so I wouldn't put my generation in that group but the generation before me, my mother and grandmother, didn't talk about "such things" openly.

I just found out a few years ago that my grandmother was pregnant with my mother and not married. It is a long and romantic story but the fact that it was kept secret all these years (my grandmother just died two years ago at 94) amazed me. Sure, things happened, unwed pregnancy, gay relationships, but they were hidden. Unmarried pregnant teenagers were often sent away until after the baby was born - to "boarding school" and then brought back after the birth and adoption and it was never talked about again. Same with gay relationships.

My parents were involved in theater and there was a director "Uncle Tom" and Tom's friend who I now know were gay but no one ever spoke of it or even hinted at it. Everyone must have known. It was obvious but people just acted like they were roommates who just happened to be together for 50 years!!!! They also had a female companion, Reggie, who would accompany them to certain affairs I now think as a "cover" of sorts.

I think you can help her by just accepting that her thinking is different. She's trying to understand but her years and years and years of conditioning cannot but "undone" in a day, a month or even a year - not unlike me being born in W. virginia and remembering there was a time when blacks and whites could not swim in the same public pool on the same days. When things changed I know my grandmother knew better than to ever say anything but I think there was always a part of her that felt maybe it wasn't the right thing to do. She knew better intellectually but had to always fight the conditioning she was raised with. Her prejudice was taught.

Be patient with your mom and try not to overthink and over analyze things. Her pace is probably much slower than yours in accepting this. Her comparison I think was more a general statement of how "private" issues are now discussed more openly and freely and it's something that's difficult for her because she was raised differently.

I think it's good btw that this girl's family is loving and open to this new baby. This girl made a mistake, unfortunately a choice that she will live with the rest of her life and she will have so many hurdles in her young life. Family support is so important in giving this baby a chance.

Jenz said...

"Issue" -- that makes me so angry I have heard it so many times. It's "issue" or "problem".

I do not have an "issue" or a "problem". You do!!

You can help her by being an example of tolerance and love. That's really all you can do...and you already do that.

Anonymous said...


Short answer:

What's important here is that she is trying.

As long as she is trying to understand/accept, you can make it easier for her to talk about it if you accept her where she is at.

Give her permission to be uncomfortable about the subject.

Give her permission to make mistakes or sometimes say the wrong things.

Continue to be a role model.

By talking to you on the subject, she will learn the vocabulary; the right words to say what she wants to say without giving offense.

Given enough time, she will get more comfortable.

What is important here is that she knows she can talk to you about it -and- that you understand that she doesn't always have to have the right words to say what she is trying to say.

Also,PFLAG is a wonderful resource you might want to consider.


AmbiguouS One said...

My best friend's mom once confided in me that she was appalled the her white sister would marry a black man. My friend's mom is in her late fifties, so I assume it is a cultural thing. And she is LDS, which is why a statement like that bothered me more than it would normally.

I don't think it's personal, this feeling of your mom's. What I would guess at is that she has had a "they" view of LGBT people for her entire life up until now, when her son-in-law is "one of them." She's just adjusting to decades of being taught different and now she's confronting it. No?

Bravone said...

We don't share the same mom do we? Sounds just like mine. The other night when my wife and I were heading to an activity, my mom said, "Is this part of that anti-gay thing you're doing?" "Yes Mom, it's part of that anti-gay thing!"

She let me know she was disappointed that I let my brother and his partner of 10 years share a room at our house. I felt like saying, "Would you rather that they not come and be part of our family?" But I was too tired - missed opportunity.