He awaited my reaction like he did when he confessed he wasn’t sure Santa was real. I was in the same position too, come to think of it. On the end of his bed, cross-legged.

“I have something to talk to you about. And I am afraid because I don’t know what you are going to say back.”

I remember when he was eight, he used almost the exact same words, and I was pretty panicky back then, too. What in the world could an 8-year-old have so built up to tell me? Turns out, the topic was whether the big jolly guy was real or not. And my son, Jackson, was so nervous about my response (who really wants to learn the truth?) that he had worked himself into a tizzy.

My panicky vibe was ratcheted up a few notches on this night when, at age 14 (doesn’t it feel like there’s a direct correlation between age increase and the magnitude of how wrong things can go?), Jackson stumbled through the same words, “I have something to talk to you about. And I am afraid because I don’t know what you are going to say back.”

He was shifting his eyes, picking at the edge of the blue quilt on his bed, and generally looked about as uncomfortable as an ice cube in boiling water.

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Instead of jumping in with comforting, you-can-tell-me-anything messaging, I simply waited him out. Just around the time I was beginning to think he might unravel his entire quilt with nervous fidgeting, he looked up at me and came out with it: “I think I’m gay.”

I don’t remember exactly what I said next, truthfully. But I do remember smiling. I remember looking him square in the eyes and smiling. It was a truly authentic reaction since I hadn’t a clue ahead of time of the content of this mother-son meeting. I was smiling genuinely because I love that son of mine. And I absolutely knew that this moment was about as special as it got. Even now, over a year later, I can say that being the first person Jackson came out to might be one of the greatest privileges of my life.

I also smiled because I was and am so incredibly impressed by Jackson’s conscientiousness on the subject. He has always been a thoughtful, deep, soulful guy. And he approached this announcement with such wise intentionality that I felt I was in the presence of someone well beyond their years. If you took away the nerves, he had the spirit of a monk sitting there professing his truth.

Let me tell you, though, being a gay male at age 14 ain’t no picnic. While Jackson attended a school with a very heterogeneous and inclusive population of students, few males at that time had come out as gay. And, just saying it like it is, straight males have never really been Jackson’s cup of social tea (and vice versa, we are learning, as time has gone on). So, Jackson’s social go-tos have been both straight and gay females. Which works. Sorta. I think the most accurate way to say it is that Jackson, as a gay dude, has had his head lantern on, attempting to illuminate his path forward in the treacherous caves of middle and high school friend-group-making.

But that doesn’t even explain the half of it. After that one evening, Jackson had to have the courage to tell others. While my reaction, I hope, increased his bravery (Mom was cool, so maybe others will be, too?), it’s uber intimidating to confidently share with others that your sexual identity has taken a pivot. Jackson had his dad to tell. His siblings to tell. Friends to tell. Grandparents to tell. Neighbors to tell. And, while at first my husband and I remained silent on the subject, allowing Jackson to unveil his own story, we eventually were given permission by Jackson to tell the news to our own peer group. And I’m here to say that almost everyone has been cool. That makes it easier, but no doubt still on the spectrum of hard.

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I will say this: knowing how and what to say to my boy coming out to me has been at the same time, the most difficult and the most simple thing to do. Sometimes the simplest things we do in life are also the most difficult. Simple, because there’s never been any doubt that my love for, acceptance of, and inclusion over Jackson as my beloved son is condition-free. Difficult, because I’ve never done this before, and I sure as heck don’t want to screw it up.

There will be individuals who cross Jackson’s path who have views about homosexuality very different from those of our immediate family. At this very moment, I have adult friends and extended family who are not LGBTQ+ allies. Jackson will come out to them more delicately and protectively. And, you better believe I’ll be on my knees on the day he decides to do that.

And isn’t that pretty much the posture all of us mamas have the pain and the privilege of being in for most of our parenting days? On our knees. I’ve been there lots over the past year and a half since Jackson told me he was gay. So has he. My little monk.

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Tricia Arthur

Tricia Arthur lives in Denver, Colorado with her family, which includes a husband, four kids, and a guinea pig named Frank the Tank. Her writing has been featured here on Scarymommy, the guest blog for ADDitude Magazine, and her own personal blog, www.triciajoyarthur.com. When she is not running, reading, writing, meditating, or schlepping around her brood, she is working to improve how she manages her ADHD neuroatypicality and that of her unique kids.

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