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Having a Child Changes Everything, Even Politics

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As parents, it's likely we can all recall the moment something shifted within us because of our love for our children. Our children give us the opportunity to open up, soften, and change our attitudes about the world over and over again. Our love for our children forces us to reconsider our previous positions when confronted with a child who does something that we have deemed "wrong." Or even more troubling, with a child who is something that we have deemed "wrong."

Recently Republican Senator Portman of Ohio came out in support of gay marriage, saying that his change of heart was a result of learning that his son is gay. In the past, Senator Portman had been strongly opposed to gay marriage, and he was even a sponsor of the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996. He was not alone, as many prominent conservatives have changed their tune on the rights of everyone—regardless of sexual orientation—to be married, and have the rights of married couples in America. And some of those people are parents of a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender child as well.

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The most difficult realization can be in accepting that our children are not truly ours, at least not for long. They are born with their own minds, personalities, likes and dislikes. They spend much of their childhood challenging the choices we make for them in order to become fully formed adults. And yet, we often struggle in trusting that the children we raised, loved, and nurtured into adulthood are just as capable of choosing for themselves as we were of choosing for ourselves. Along the way we must allow them to fall down, make mistakes, and forge new paths.

You probably understand firsthand how your children's happiness is directly connected to your own happiness.

Senator Portman's recent "aha moment" came as a shock to many of us who follow politics. He is a prominent, conservative senator who had been previously adamant in his stance against gay rights. There are those who wonder why he could not see the error of his beliefs before his son's revelation. Well we can only guess, but if you're a parent, you probably understand firsthand how your children's happiness is directly connected to your own happiness. Our children have the ability to change everything. Personally I believe that is one of the reasons that they're here—to shake things up, to challenge us and the world around us, to evolve and move forward.

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I am very happy and grateful that even though he initially opposed gay marriage, Senator Portman was willing to reconsider his position for the sake of his son's happiness. I'm even happier that his son had the courage to stand for himself, particularly in the face of a father who publicly denounced the community in which he will now be a part. Kudos to children who face down their parents in order to be who they truly are. And thank goodness for those parents who have the courage to get out of the way.

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