Recently, my mom read many of the posts on my website. She seemed a little hurt by some of my autobiographical pieces. She didn’t think I had been dishonest, but she didn’t realize how I felt in certain situations like when I came out to them as an Atheist. She was concerned that I thought she was a bad parent.
I felt pretty bad because I never warned her that I had written about my childhood. I had honestly never thought she would read it. Looking back, that was kind of a stupid mistake. Of course, she would read my blog! So I must apologize to my mom for not talking to her about the content of my blog. Sorry mom!
After reflecting and writing about my childhood, having children of my own, and talking to my mom last night, I’d like to share some random thoughts about parenting and talking to your parents about your childhood no matter how fucked up it may have been.
My first thought is we all make mistakes, as humans and as parents. We don’t always react perfectly to every situation. Even now as a parent, I can tell when I didn’t react the way my daughter wanted me to, and I can see the disappointment in her eyes. When I came out as an Atheist to my parents, my dad was shocked and angry, but my mom said nothing. Later she told me that she loved me, but I shouldn’t tell other people about my Atheism. Her mistake was waiting to tell me that she loved me and to try to silence me.
My next thoughts is we interpret our parents actions differently as children than we do as adults. I understand a lot better why she acted or even chose not to act in certain situations. At first, I was upset that my mom wanted me to not talk about my Atheism to anyone else. I thought that meant she was ashamed of me. But I realize now that she was trying to protect me. She didn’t want some religious nut to try to hurt me.
Another thought that came out of this conversation is it isn’t necessary to tell your parents every little thing that they did wrong. Certainly there are situations and times when you have to sit down with your parents and tell them about a mistake they made and work out a problem you’re having. But I couldn’t and shouldn’t sit down with my mom with The Big List of Mistakes and say, “at this point in time you should have said xyz, and in this situation you should have done abc.” I think it would be insulting, hurtful, and unnecessary. I’m sure my mom is well aware of all of the mistakes she made when I was growing up. And again for the big ones, we’ve already talked about them.
Lastly, even though my childhood was rocky, it wasn’t the worst ever. I think my mom (and perhaps all parents) needs to hear that sometimes. If we just look at my parents’ reaction to my Atheism, we can see that I actually had it pretty good. Other kids were tortured by their parents or by a religious leader.
One great thing that came out of our conversation is my mom finally told me that she’s Agnostic. She didn’t use that word exactly, but she described it. I’ve known for a long time that she was very likely Agnostic, but I wasn’t sure if she was ready to except it. Many of you know the internal torment you feel when you realize you’re leaving Christianity (or another faith) behind. For me, leaving behind Christianity was hard because that’s what I was supposed to be. Other people are tormented because they know they’ll lose their faith community or they have been brainwashed into thinking that leaving Christianity makes them immoral. I wasn’t sure how ready she was to accept her Agnosticism, so why start a potential argument? She came out to me yesterday, so I think the whole situation ended well. She isn’t ready to come out to other people, so I might be overstepping my bounds. But it certainly makes me happy and proud to hear that my mom is at least questioning religious teachings and not accepting them just because we’re supposed to.