Friday, August 30, 2013

A Safe Place: Camp Week Ends

Today is the last day of summer camp. Tomorrow life returns, more or less, to normal. I am surrounded by egg carton dragons (that fly, don't you know) and we've got the famous paper plate mask of Medusa and we've got a cardboard tube switch blade knife and we've got a pebble game, with its complicated rules, all made at camp, all strewn around the apartment. Every day we got the 6 year old version of history, every day we learned a little about how much a mind can be stretched in a week. It's been fun. And exhausting.

One evening, during the week, Ruby called to talk to her mom. When the answering machine kicked in Ruby left a message, "I'm having fun and don't worry, I'm safe." I glanced over at Joe when she said this and saw that those few words, well actually two of those words were powerfully affecting.

I didn't grow up in a safe world. I grew up fearing the violence and anger of on who was responsible for my care. It was a scary world, I was a frightened child. From a young age, while little girls were playing house, and little gay boys weren't allowed to, I knew I didn't want children. I was afraid of the anger I felt deep down inside. I was afraid that I might not be able to control the powerful emotions that it took all my power to suppress. I think now that I worried then that I might hurt another maybe was the formulation for much of my work, much of my career. I knew, at an early age, that care providers had power, I knew at an early age what that power did to people.

Later, after identifying as gay, it was a different kind of experience. The mythology of who gay men were wasn't mythology then, it was presented as fact, children and vulnerable people need to be protected from gay predators ... Even friends, who had children, kept them from meeting us. What harm we might do. I knew that none of this was true, but I feared kids. I feared that my touch was so contaminated that I'd be accused just for smiling at a kid. So, we grew comfortable with the unspoken decision that we wouldn't have a child.

This decision was thrown into chaos, years ago, when a woman approached me to be the biological father of her child. We discussed it endlessly. In the end we all decided that this was not the best circumstance for this to happen. But down inside I worried, worried that I would be a negative influence on any life connected to me.

It's been a joy, therefore, to, unexpectedly, have kids in our life. We're at the grandparent age, a great age for being with kids, and I find that I am delighted by the kids. I am not easily moved to anger. I do not want to misuse my power. I love watching them both assert themselves and find themselves and I am absolutely thrilled when they speak in their true, authentic voices. I like it. Joe likes it.

They aren't related to us.

But they are connected.

And sitting next to Ruby when she called and left a message, one that every parent wants to here, "I'm safe" meant so much to both Joe and I.

So Ruby, and Sadie who spent last night here, go home today. And we get to hunker down in our very quiet apartment knowing that we've got the kid stamp of approval ... this place is a safe place.

Always good to know.


clairesmum said...

My partner and I both grew up in houses where it was very NOT safe to be a child, and worked very very hard as parents to create a safe place for our grown. You write so beautifully of events that have much darkness, and you and Joe have arrived at this wonderful place, where Ruby is safe and knows that she is. Peace.

Anonymous said...

thank you for sharing bits of your week with the lovely and stupendous Ruby with us.
It's such a horrible feeling this awareness of the perception that kids are not safe with us LGBT folk. In fact there are folk of all sorts of identities that kids aren't safe with. It's just wrong and destructive to pin the fear and outrage at this onto LGBT people.