Dear Amy: I came out as gay to my parents when I was 28. I’m living on my own, after serving in the military.
My parents (who have always been deeply conservative) did not accept my sexuality well, calling me “disgusting” and “sinful.” In fact, they froze me out for two years while I was stationed overseas, unwilling to talk or discuss or to even agree to disagree with me, despite my efforts to reach out to them.
I’ve recently finished my time in the military and am back in the U.S. My parents have contacted me. I’ve spoken with them and we’ve reached a sort of middle ground, but they still don’t seem comfortable talking to me, due to the fact that I am gay.
It took a long time, but I have tried to forgive them for the way they have treated me, and now that there is contact, I admit I don’t feel the desire to keep a close relationship with them in my life.
I’m looking at marriage in the next year, and I haven’t told them about it because I’m afraid how they’ll react.
Is it OK to keep my distance, forgive, and walk away, or do I owe it to the familial bonds to try and keep the relationship going?
— Trying to do Right
Dear Trying: Familial bonds stretch in two directions. Until your folks figure out how to accept, relate, and apologize to you — and learn to love you exactly as you are — a natural consequence of their behavior would be for you to keep your distance.
Keeping your distance and walking away from a relationship are radically different propositions, however.
The fact that you say you are afraid of their reaction to your choice to marry is evidence that you are still somewhat tied to them. During this time of distancing, I hope you are able to conquer this fear. It is a vestige of their control over you.
When you feel free to live your own life — openly, joyfully, and authentically — you will be truly liberated. Forgiveness and acceptance (of them and their limitations) will flow from that. Any ongoing relationship with your folks will be contingent on their own growth.
Dear Amy: I recently introduced my kids (ages 5, 7, 9, and 12) to backyard kickball.
One afternoon, my 7-year-old accidentally kicked the ball over our neighbor’s fence. My kids went over to get the ball and our middle-age neighbor stood there in his ratty bathrobe and sprayed my children with his hose!
My 5-year-old came into the house crying — and soaked. When I asked the kids what had happened, they explained how he would not give them their ball back, so I went over to his house and politely asked for it.
He sprayed me in the face with the hose and said my kids are NOT allowed to play kickball anywhere near his yard and then ever so rudely gave me the ball back.
In order not to anger him again, I told my kids to kick the ball the other way, but the neighbor does not appreciate that either. Now, he will stand by the fence and spray my kids!
I am worried because we have a rather nice relationship with my other neighbors, but I do not want to tell my kids they can’t play kickball because our crabby neighbor does not want the kickball in his grass.
Dear Soaked: You describe your neighbor as “crabby,” which seems like an extremely generous description. To me, he sounds volatile and potentially violent. Your kids should do everything possible to steer clear.
I suggest you consider installing a much higher and solid fence between your two yards.
Any continued harassment might be a matter for the police to handle. Spraying your children with a hose while they are playing outside in their own yard would expose him to an assault charge.
Dear Amy: Responding to others who are talking about taking up new hobbies during our times of sheltering-in-place, I have revived my interest in music. It all started when I found my old clarinet in the closet. I haven’t played since high school!
— Second Chair
Dear Second Chair: I can hear it now: A Zoom orchestra!
When I was in high school, our big number was “The Theme from Hawaii Five-O.” I know I’ve got some sheet music and my old bassoon around here, somewhere.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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