He is three years old in the picture I speak of, his head is tilted on one side, he has chubby cheeks - baby bum skin - bright hazel green eyes, and a smile that lights up the room. A happy, cheeky, smiley toddler who knows even at this young age that he is loved, cherished and accepted by all who know him.
Now to another picture, one that exists only in my mind but is as clear to me as the one hanging on the wall in front of me today. 'Danny' is five years old and is hopping around excitedly in the living room dressed in his new school uniform while mum (that's me) does her best to do something with the unruly mop of curls on the top his head.
His cheeks are still chubby - his eyes are still smiley, he is a happy confident little boy eagerly anticipating his first day at school.
Here I will fast forward through infant school, where 'Danny' spent two happy years eager to get to school in the mornings and popular amongst his young peers, and on into the later years of junior school where I begin to notice a change in him.
He is no longer eager to go to school each day - is no longer asked to friends houses for tea (nor does he ask if they can come to ours) - he sobs uncontrollably on the morning of sports day begging me to let him stay home (he stays home!) and his smile no longer reaches his hazel green eyes.
Worried, I approach the school who convinced I am an over protective mother patronize me for half an hour before politely showing me the door.
I am still concerned by the change in him that only I seem to notice, and do my best to encourage him to open up, but to all intense and purpose he is fine. The school report no evidence of bullying, 'Danny' won't (or can't) tell me whats wrong, and his grades remain promising.
Fast forward again.. 'Danny' is now somewhere between the age of twelve and thirteen and in secondary school, the lad he is now bears almost no resemblance to the three year old I described at the beginning of this post.
He is introvert, sulky, in trouble at school (nothing major but enough to prompt the school to tell me on a regular basis what a pain in the arse my child is!) and his grades are dropping.
Now what I do know at this point in his life is that he is Gay - he hasn't told me this, and for all I know hasn't yet realised himself - but I know, I am sure of it, don't ask me how I know, I just do.
What I am not aware of, and won't be for another few months is that he is being bullied!
The school tell me there's not a problem, 'Danny' tells me there is not a problem - until one summers day toward the end of August just after his thirteenth birthday.
I am enjoying a well earned cup of tea in the back garden, nursing the mother of all headaches, and the phone rings - It's 'Danny', and he is in a terrible state, I can barely make out what he's saying, he's sobbing and whispering my name over and over, which at this point is all he can manage.
I tell him to come home, right now! - Do not ask permission, do not explain to the teacher why you are leaving the school, do not pass go! Stay on the phone and come home - which is what he does.
When he arrives home he falls sobbing into my arms but can't tell me whats wrong. We hug for a while until he has calmed down a bit, and then I suggest he go up stairs and lay down for a while. This gives me time to think about what I need to say to him, throw some more pain killers down my throat, and work my way through half a packet of cigarettes.
I'm nervous as I climb the stairs - what if I'm wrong, if I throw this thing out there and I'm barking up the wrong tree will he ever forgive me.
I find him curled up in a vulnerable ball when I enter his room, 'Christina Aguilera' fills the room, and behind the music 'Danny's racking sobs. I cross the room, and then sitting on the edge of the bed put one hand on his shoulder to announce my presence while reaching with the other hand to turn 'Christina' down to a more acceptable level!
"What is it son" I ask, and he, still sobbing, still with his back to me, "I cant tell you mum", I turn him around so that (despite the fact that he can't bring himself to look at me) we are at least face to face.
I say, "Danny, there is nothing in this world that you could ever say to me that would stop me loving you", he doesn't answer but he does look up at me, I cannot begin to describe the pain in his eye's, but his expression is one of pleading.
Okay, here I go, sink or swim! "Danny' are you gay?" - no answer, but no horror or anger in his expression either, he looks down, and then after what seems like forever - quietly, whispering "I'm Gay mum" .... my answer, "I know".
Turns out the school bullies had that day put posters of my gorgeous boy up all around the school corridors with a phone number underneath his profile, and the words.. 'I LIKE BOYS, CALL ME'
My son is twenty seven years old now, he still turns his head to the side when he smiles, his skin is still 'baby bum like' and his smile always reaches his hazel green eyes.
Oh! he is also extremely, unashamedly, wonderfully GAY! - I couldn't love him more if I tried.
LORD, I thank you for my children, the disabled one, the scatty one, the bubbly one, the hyperactive one and the GAY one. They are all exactly as you made them and all perfect in your eye's. AND MINE! Amen
That's easy MY KIDS!
Thank you for allowing me to share
GOD bless you and all those you love
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