Thank you to Carol Lynne. I am hosting her post for National Autism Awareness Month until her own blog is up and running.

This years theme was prejudice and the following is an amazingly heartfelt essay on how words can impact us.
oOo
At the age of forty-seven, I can tell you it isn’t easy to raise two pre-teen girls on your own. However, I do my best to instill in both of my daughters what it means to be a good person. This may sound like a simple task, but when you see the way other children and adults behave, it becomes obvious that some didn’t get the same upbringing.

The point of this post is that our actions have consequences, good and bad.

Both of my children were raised going to my ex-husband’s Catholic church. Yes, I had to agree with this before we could marry in the church. Anyway, the girls have attended church every Sunday since their birth. When they started school, they were sent to Catholic school. Although I don’t agree with the Catholic religion, I believed they would be given a good education, learn right from wrong, respect vs disrespect, you know, the lessons that all parents hope their children learn.

I can honestly say, the school’s education has been superb. However, the education my oldest daughter received from one of the parents has my baby questioning everything, including her faith. A year ago, I allowed Delaney to spend the night with a friend. Normal stuff, right? Unfortunately, not this time. When the mother of Delaney’s friend drove her home the next day, she began to question Delaney, or, in my opinion, interrogate her. The mother knew what I did for a living and began to ask Delaney what she thought about my books and how she felt about homosexuals. It was Delaney’s first brush with true bigotry, and according to her, she just sat there, stunned. She told me that she realized it was an adult asking her these questions and she didn’t know how to respond because it made her very, very uncomfortable. Before Delaney got out of the car, the mother told her that she could not be a good Catholic if she believed in homosexuality or abortion (something I’ve never discussed with my girls, btw).

I could tell when Delaney came home that something was bothering her, but it took her several days to tell me. I felt so bad for her and so incredibly angry with the mother that I wasn’t sure what to do. Delaney’s uncle is a gay man living with his long-time partner and the girls have always called both men uncle. I also have a cousin who is more like a brother who is gay. My cousin has been the most caring and supportive man, other than their father, in my girls’ lives. To tell a child that their love for these men makes them an unfit Catholic was cruel and wrong.

That was a year ago, and Delaney is no longer friends with the little girl. I thought it was behind us until about a month ago. Delaney is preparing for her confirmation. She came to me and confided that she no longer wanted to be confirmed in the Catholic faith. When I questioned her decision, she mentioned the conversation the year earlier. She told me that she felt that confirming her faith was the same as agreeing with all aspects of it and she didn’t think she could do that. Bless. I told her that although the church had rules and guidelines they follow, she couldn’t hold the church responsible for what one person said to her.

Now, I’m in a bit of a pickle. While I have my own feeling about the matter, I know that I need to keep my opinions out of it. I have two people to consider in this issue, Delaney and her father. Not only has my ex spent thousands of dollars sending her to Catholic school, but also he would honestly be heartbroken if he knew she had doubts about her faith. There’s no doubt in my mind that he would blame me, and while I can take anything he has to dish, Delaney would be caught in the middle. So, what to tell a child who is under threat of losing their faith because of one nasty bigot. Hmmm, good question. Too bad motherhood doesn’t come with a how-to book.

I told her that her relationship with God was her own, and that parishioners, like the mother of her ex-friend, needed people like Delaney in the church. I tried to explain that people and religions need to learn and adapt to the world around them, and only through knowledge and acceptance will that be possible. Then I told her if her faith continued to conflict with the actions of those around her, she could choose another path for herself.

I keep going back and forth on the issue. On one hand, I want to stand up for my baby and allow her to do what she feels she needs to do. On the other hand, I realize that for the rest of her life she will be faced with bigotry in one form or another. You can’t just opt-out of the human race. I think it’s better to teach our children that prejudice is out there but it is only when we allow it into our hearts that it can truly harm us. As she grows older, Delaney will be forced to deal with individuals who hold different beliefs. The important thing is setting her own personal boundaries while also respecting a difference of opinion.

I’ve never considered myself an exceptional parent. I work too much, I probably don’t clean enough and I’d rather eat out than cook. One thing I’ve always been proud of is the honest love and respect my girls show to the people around them. I like to think that despite my faults, I’ve at least had a hand in opening their hearts and minds to the world around them. My number one rule has always been, when all else fails, give lots of hugs and kisses and hope they figure it out themselves.