C.J.’s Brother was invited to a laser tag birthday party at the local open-air mall. It was a Friday night and I left C.J. at home with his dad to take C.J.’s Brother to the party and hang out — just the two of us.
We arrived early and walked around the center. It was dark and there were strands of white lights strung high above our heads as a live band played in the crisp air. CJ’s Brother walked with his hands in his pockets because he thinks it makes him look like a teenager. Every once in a while he would hold my hand…forgetting that he was trying to look cool.
We were window shopping when he stopped in front of a jewelry store to look at the displays.
“Are you looking for some diamonds to buy for your mom?” I said teasingly, putting my hand on his shoulder.
“No, I’m looking for an engagement ring,” he said.
“You are way too young to get engaged, sir.”
“I know. I’m looking for later, to see what I might want to buy when I want to get engaged, so I can start saving. How much do I have to save anyway? Like a couple hundred dollars?”
“A couple thousand dollars,” I said. His jaw dropped.
“I really better start saving I guess,” he said.
“I don’t want you to get married. I want you to stay my baby forever,” I said hugging him from behind.
“Don’t you want grandchildren?” he asked.
“No,” I said.
He pulled out of my embrace and spun to look at me.
“That is so mean. How can you not want grandchildren?”
His feelings were hurt. Crap. I struggled to explain.
“Here’s the deal, baby. I don’t expect grandchildren. I don’t need grandchildren to make me happy. I want you to be happy. If having kids makes you happy then I’m happy. But, I really try not to project my expectations on you.”
It was going over his head a little. After all, he is only nine years old.
My history was interfering with my present, as it tends to do. My mom wanted grandchildren her entire life. If she could have had grandchildren without having children she probably would have. I knew it. My brother knew. It was one of the hardest things for her to deal with when he came out. She had to mourn the loss of the grandchildren he’d never give her.
I’ve watched it happen over and over at PFLAG. People look forward to grandchildren and when their child comes out of the closet they assume that they won’t have grandchildren and it hurts. I can understand that.
So I decided long ago that I wasn’t going to look forward to grandchildren until they were nine months away from appearing. I wasn’t going to count on a future generation for even a fraction of happiness. I was going to spend my energy making the generation that I was responsible for happy. I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought that I was doing us all a favor — until it hurt my son’s feelings.
“If you have a child I will love it with all of my heart because it will be half you and you are one of my top three favorite people in the world,” I told C.J.’s Brother. “I think that you are amazing. I just want you to know that you don’t have to give me grandkids to make me happy. You make me happy all on your own.”
“Okay,” he said skeptically. I felt like a turd.
My brother and C.J. have taught me that you don’t always get what you expect when you are expecting. And that can mess with your head and heart. So I try to let go of expectations and not to expect things or people to conform. But, every once in a while my oldest, gender conforming boy wants me to expect the norm.
I walked him into the laser tag building and watched him play with his friends and, for a moment, thought about my grandkids.