Saying You're Sorry


Saying You're Sorry

by Dannielle Owens-Reid & Kristin Russo, founders of My Kid Is Gay

My daughter came out to me and I did not take it well. It’s been about two years since that happened, and I am embarrassed by how I acted. I have no idea how to get our relationship back to a good place. How do I fix this?
— Anonymous

Kristin & Dannielle Say:

"When I came out to my mom, I was 17 years old... and it was awful. She had a lot of issues with my sexuality because of her religious beliefs, and we screamed at each other and cried a bunch and just generally disagreed on everything for quite some time. As time passed, though, we started punctuating our yelling sessions with some actual sit-down conversations. My mom began to ask me questions, and started to open herself up to learning more about who I was, what that might mean for my future, and what that might mean for her understanding of me as her daughter. Even if the screaming and yelling and gone on for more than those few years, I would have always, always welcomed seeing her grow to a new place of understanding. She's my mom, and I love her. One of the most important parts of growing up is learning that even your parents mess up sometimes." - Kristin

The most essential thing that you can do in this situation is to be honest and open with your daughter about the things that happened in the past, and your feelings on those actions now, in the present. A lot of times we want to simply pretend that the less-than-great moments didn't happen, and instead put our energy into making the new moments wonderful... but without addressing the things that hurt you and your daughter two years ago, neither one of you will be able to completely heal.

With that in mind, your first step is to forgive yourself for reacting in a way that you now wish you hadn't. Coming out is a process -- and not just for your child! Perhaps you were taken by surprise, or your first impulse was to push the information away because it didn't fit the picture you'd formed of your daughter. However, you love her very much, and the space of time between now and that initial moment has allowed you to grow and gain new perspective. That is an incredible thing, and you should be proud of yourself for moving through your feelings to a place where you can have an even fuller, more complete relationship with your child. You can be apologetic about the past while still being proud of yourself for your work in getting to this present moment.

Your next step, of course, is to talk with your daughter and to apologize. It's easy to skip that apology sometimes, because we just want to focus on the fact that we aren't that person who made that terrible mistake any longer... but it's very important to take responsibility for those moments. Sit down with her and say, "Two years ago I didn't do the right thing. I didn't hold you close and tell you I loved you. I acted selfishly, I was afraid, and I didn't completely understand. For that, I am sorry. I have spent a lot of time since then thinking about how I acted, and thinking about how to fix those actions. I want you to know I love you so much, and that all I want is for you to be happy. I want to fix the things that may be broken, and I am hoping that over time, you will allow me to be back in your life -- this time completely."

The third step is to be patient with her response. There's a good chance that she will be so thankful that you'll both end up in a pile of hugs and happy tears, but there is also a chance that she may need some time to regain her trust and to re-understand her relationship with you. If that is the case, allow her the time she needs to take this next step with you. Allow the space to ask each other questions (even the hard ones). Keep that dialogue open at every turn, and don't give up if things aren't perfect immediately. You will get there, and you will get there together.

No one is perfect. No parent is perfect. You cannot be perfect.

However, you are taking steps toward mending the broken parts of your relationship with your daughter -- and that is the embodiment of love and compassion. That is the embodiment of being a wonderful parent.