On Love and Bad Parents

I write a lot of dysfunctional families. It’s something I like to explore, because it’s something close to me, and because I find the ways in which parents spectacularly fail to understand and empathize with their children fascinating.

Here’s the thing. The overwhelming parental l love that most people feel upon having a child is one of the most powerful things in the word, but it’s also, unfortunately, quite shallow.  This might seem cynical (and I won’t be surprised if I get some comments to the effect of “you don’t understand because you’re not a parent!!”), but compared to the love between romantic partners and friends, which is based on mutual respect, understanding, and shared values, parental love doesn’t require anything except, well, having a child.

There’s a quote from a video by Joji Grey that’s always stuck with me:

If someone says that they love you, but they refuse to accept you for who you are, then they don’t really love you. They love the idea of you.

And I think this is all too common, especially in cases of queer children. Parents will refuse to believe that their child is actually gay, or grieve the loss of their transgender child, even when said child is right there in front of them. And it’s not a nice feeling, being the queer child of a grieving parent and realizing that they are rejecting you in favour of a person who doesn’t even exist.

I also don’t imagine it’s a nice thing to think, as a parent, that you don’t love your child for who they are so much as just because they are your child. And I’m not saying that this love can’t be used as the base from which to grow a strong, respectful, healthy relationship, just that a lot of the time it isn’t. Parents assume that the unconditional love they feel for their child is a solid alternative to an actual relationship. Or worse, they assume that their child must be a certain way, or they wouldn’t love them so much. 

Anyway, I wanted to challenge the idea that parental love (especially a mother’s love for her child) is intrinsically a a pure, good thing. It’s portrayed that way a lot, but it doesn’t really fit with what I’ve been talking about. As I said before, love is powerful yes, but it isn’t necessarily good. In To Summon Nightmares, one of the villains, Kathleen, is compelled to carry out increasingly horrible tasks so that her sick daughter will continue to receive treatment. She knows that what she’s doing is wrong, and she hates doing it, but she feels that she can’t help herself. That she loves her daughter too much to let her die. 

Obviously that’s a bit more extreme than a parent refusing to accept their child’s homosexuality, but the point I’m getting at here is that just because someone does something “out of love” or for what they believe will be the benefit of their child, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a morally good action. It’s no good to make sacrifices, or to do anything really, on another person’s behalf before first acquiring that person’s consent. And loving someone doesn’t automatically equal knowing what’s best for them.

I think these things are really important thing to remember, both for parents, and for children, many of who feel like they are obligated to accept their parents love, no matter how toxic that love might be.


Rusted Antique Door Knob

Three years ago, Cohen Brandwein was “Ireland’s Favorite Daughter”, a popular teenage author and internet celebrity. But ever since he came out publicly as trans, the media’s treatment of him has been less than golden, and these days, Cohen is desperate for escape.

When he inherits an old house in the country, Cohen sees it as a perfect opportunity to escape the press and work on his new book. What he doesn’t count on is becoming embroiled in a small town murder mystery and falling for the primary suspect, a man whose reality makes Cohen’s fantasy books seem like child’s play…

Available November 5th from Less Than Three Press
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