As a licensed attorney I must attend continuing education classes every year. While these classes are intended to keep me informed about the latest developments in my own area of practice, they can also be occasions to visit areas of the law where I do not regularly practice. The sessions are opportunities to refresh my recollection of concepts I have not thought about recently; and to be enlightened about things happening in other areas. Like cross training, these sessions challenge me personally.
Seek First to Understand
Recently, I attended a virtual session on the subject of LBGTQ Law. While I have dealt regularly with questions of employment discrimination and accommodation over many years, I have rarely handled matters specifically relating to issues impacting the LBGTQ community. It was my chance to broaden my knowledge and exercise my perspective on a critical social issue of today.
An hour of the session was devoted to a panel discussion made up of attorneys who not only dealt with the law but had personal connections to the LBGTQ community. I heard stories about parenting LBGTQ children that were both heart wrenching and heartwarming. I listened carefully to two parents who had transsexual children; and to stories of parents who were raising gay and lesbian children. Enlightenment came as I heard the speakers describe the challenges these children confronted in our society.
I thought about the Be There Dad quote I use regularly. “Children are not things to be molded, they are people to be unfolded.” One of the parent speakers said, “there is nothing I wouldn’t do for my child.” All parents would readily agree. As parents, we love them for who they are.
While the focus of this panel was LBGTQ children, it was but one example of how all children are unique. Some are short, some are tall. Some can do math, some can run fast. Others can do neither. Some can sing and some can dance. Some will struggle and some will fall. Some are round and some are thin. Others are honor students. Their personal traits are endless, and most children will either question themselves or be ostracized by others for one of their characteristics.
Don’t Go Changing to Try to Please Me
Fortunately, as Be There Dads we just see children. We accept that each one comes as they were intended, bringing their own beauty, taking their own place, and completing the superb tapestry we call humanity.
At my wedding years ago, my life changed forever, when my bride and I committed to the words of Billy Joel:
Don’t go changing to try and please me…
You never let me down before…
I said I love you, that’s forever
And this I promise from the heart
I couldn’t love you any better I love you just the way you are….
More folks who look like me.
Can we make that promise to all the children? One of the attorney panelists was a white male heterosexual dad like me. His wish was that more folks “who look like me” will support, encourage and stand up for the children. I like to think the definition of the people who “look like him” are other dads.
Among our Be There Dads – although we are short and tall, younger and older, black and white – we have come to accept each other simply as “dads”. Can’t we accept our children in the same way – just as “kids”?
As Be There Dads we support them all. They are all our children, seeking to grow and to fulfill their potentials. Seeking guidance. Looking for someone to hold their hands when they need it. Hoping that someone will stand up for them when they cannot. Praying that someone will love them “just the way they are.” And, all the while, our kids are showing us the path to inclusion.
All children will confront their own set of obstacles, lack of support, lack of guidance, and even lack of love. Be There Dads are here to help children overcome obstacles by our acceptance, support, encouragement, and, as always, our presence.
In his new book, Think Again, Adam Grant encourages us to act like scientists and continually
re-examine our lives and views as we obtain new information and circumstances change. Life presents a
never-ending chance to discover and explore. Perhaps through our willingness to understand and accept our children, we can learn to understand and accept the adults in our lives, too. Something to wonder about.
By His grace God has given us children. By their presence they appeal for us to listen, understand and accept everyone … just the way they are.