Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Discussion With My Parents

My parents called me on Sunday at 6:26pm. I didn't answer, of course. Our landlord was here to fix the bathroom fan. My dad left a message: "Hi [Carson], it's Mom and Dad. We'll... try to call you back later." He didn't sound very happy. I was not interested in talking to them over the phone, because I didn't know what kind of attitude they were going to take towards our coming out as unbelievers yet. Anything was liable to happen in a conversation like that. Just hearing his voice in the short message gave me the chills.

The next day while I was at work my mom sent out her weekly family email. At the beginning of it she wrote:
I want to let you know, [Carson] and [my wife], that your email did sadden me, as you knew it would. I look forward to a time when Dad and I can chat with you to understand your decision better. Of course, Dad and I will continue to love you both very much.

She then continued on with all the goings on of the week as usual. After I finally got home, I sent an email to both my parents saying: "Do you have any questions that we can answer via email?" I was hoping to avoid starting the discussion over the phone.

I got no answer from that email, but my parents called again yesterday evening (Tuesday) while I was at the gym, and my mom left a message asking if there was a time we could talk on the phone and that they'd be available the rest of the evening. They had not responded to my email asking if there were any questions we could answer via email, so we concluded that they just were not going to go that route. It had to be on the phone for them. So we called them last night.

After some initial small talk, my dad was like, "Okay let's cut to the chase." Yeesh! He said, "We would like to know what happened." A small awkward interval of silence ensued, and then I made myself start talking. I said that it was a long process. He said, "It usually is." I said that there wasn't one big reason, but a whole lot of reasons. I told them that it started over three years ago when we were living in Virginia, and that both my wife and I had our own doubts and concerns at the time, but didn't necessarily know about each other's concerns. I said that the questioning process started with a lot of prayer and scripture study and then lasted all the way through the time we spent in Indiana as I was going to graduate school. At one point while we were in Indiana, we opened up to each other about our doubts and disbelief, and the process continued until it stabilized while we were still in Indiana. They asked what I meant by "stabilized" and I told them it was when we were no longer wrestling with our doubts or questions and we had reached a fairly solid conclusion about it all. I told them that I didn't want to go into any of the specific reasons because I didn't want them to feel on the defensive or feel like we were attacking them. They seemed to accept that and didn't pry for any details as far as reasons are concerned.

They asked if we had had any contact in the ward here in Seattle, and we told them no. My dad wanted to clarify something he saw in our email about leaving the church, wanting to know if we formally resigned or not. We told him no. He wanted to know if we were going to. We told him that we had no current plans for doing so, but that in the future it could be a possibility. My mom wanted to know what we do believe in, like God, Jesus, etc. I said I believe in a whole lot of things, however I do not have a belief in a deity. My wife tried to explain that she still thinks that humans have a spiritual aspect, basically trying to dodge the god question, hehe. In the middle of this I realized that I should really explain to them that we still have values, morals, etc. so I interrupted and emphasized the living crap out of the fact that we still believe in all the good things we've been taught by them, that I consider them to be exceptional parents, and that this is not a rejection of them or the values they've instilled in me. Throughout all of this they never betrayed a reaction. They kept all of their feelings about our answers to themselves, and were just calmly asking questions, hearing the responses, and then moving on to other questions. I imagine they probably resolved to approach it this way, asking but not reacting. Although it would have been interesting to know what there inner reactions are, I think this suited us just fine.

My dad asked what we would do if two home teachers showed up at our door. It's like they had all their questions written down. I told them that we would probably explain to them that we don't need home teachers. My mom asked if we would be offended if she sent us books from Deseret Book or subscriptions to church magazines. We told them that we would not be offended, but that it would be unnecessary. They asked about my parents-in-law and if we'd talked to them yet. We told them no we haven't but that my mother-in-law had responded to a previous email she had sent about some gardening thing, so we assumed that perhaps they weren't as bothered by it. My dad said he was sure that they were just as distraught about it. He really doesn't know what he's talking about here, as I don't think he understands that my wife's parents don't share his hardline, orthodox perspective. My wife talked about how she felt her mom had seen some signs of it from talking on the phone (my wife has an inner raging feminist) and that she probably wasn't as surprised because of that. My parents then told us that they had also seen signs. We were both tempted to ask what exactly they had seen, but we decided not to because to us it is an amusing question and I don't think they'd join us in laughing about it. Basically, my wife couldn't keep her raging feminist from leaking during the Christmas break when we were with my family. I'm sure that's the biggest sign they had, but I'm awfully curious as to what signs they might have had from me. I kept my mouth shut pretty well.

My mom asked us if we were still committed to each other and to our son as a family. Ha! We assured her that we definitely were, and that we've grown even closer as a result of being honest with each other about our issues.

Towards the end, my dad told us that there had been a lot of tears over the weekend because of this. I was silent, and my wife filled the silence by saying that we knew it would probably make them sad but that we thought it was important to be authentic. I wanted to say: "I'm still waiting to hear what your point is. I'm sorry if the fact that I can't bring myself to believe in this has made you cry, but that is your problem." But I didn't say that, which I'm sure you'd agree was probably a good decision. We all exchanged "we love you", my dad told us that Heavenly Father has a plan for us, my mom said she really wants to visit us, and that was pretty much it. Overall I think it was a good conversation. It sounded like they were very careful to not react to our answers; they just wanted to run down a list of questions and let us do most of the talking. This is definitely better than all those worst-case scenarios that have been dancing around in my head for the past year. It certainly helps that my wife and I are both in this together, and also that we don't have a ward that we need to extricate ourselves from. I consider myself lucky.

2 comments:

  1. It sounds like it went well.. even better than you thought. I'm sure you're very relieved and looking forward to a new phase in your life. To just enjoy life. In time, your family will see that you haven't been taken down the deep dark paths of hell, and you're happier than ever. It IS a process even afterwards too and a whole new world will open up.

    Keep up the posts... it's very interesting to read, and I wish you well.

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