The Impact of Words to a Child - by Carol Lynne

Thank you to Carol Lynne. I am hosting her post for National Autism Awareness Month until her own blog is up and running.

This years theme was prejudice and the following is an amazingly heartfelt essay on how words can impact us.


At the age of forty-seven, I can tell you it isn’t easy to raise two pre-teen girls on your own. However, I do my best to instill in both of my daughters what it means to be a good person. This may sound like a simple task, but when you see the way other children and adults behave, it becomes obvious that some didn’t get the same upbringing.

The point of this post is that our actions have consequences, good and bad.

Both of my children were raised going to my ex-husband’s Catholic church. Yes, I had to agree with this before we could marry in the church. Anyway, the girls have attended church every Sunday since their birth. When they started school, they were sent to Catholic school. Although I don’t agree with the Catholic religion, I believed they would be given a good education, learn right from wrong, respect vs disrespect, you know, the lessons that all parents hope their children learn.

I can honestly say, the school’s education has been superb. However, the education my oldest daughter received from one of the parents has my baby questioning everything, including her faith. A year ago, I allowed Delaney to spend the night with a friend. Normal stuff, right? Unfortunately, not this time. When the mother of Delaney’s friend drove her home the next day, she began to question Delaney, or, in my opinion, interrogate her. The mother knew what I did for a living and began to ask Delaney what she thought about my books and how she felt about homosexuals. It was Delaney’s first brush with true bigotry, and according to her, she just sat there, stunned. She told me that she realized it was an adult asking her these questions and she didn’t know how to respond because it made her very, very uncomfortable. Before Delaney got out of the car, the mother told her that she could not be a good Catholic if she believed in homosexuality or abortion (something I’ve never discussed with my girls, btw).

I could tell when Delaney came home that something was bothering her, but it took her several days to tell me. I felt so bad for her and so incredibly angry with the mother that I wasn’t sure what to do. Delaney’s uncle is a gay man living with his long-time partner and the girls have always called both men uncle. I also have a cousin who is more like a brother who is gay. My cousin has been the most caring and supportive man, other than their father, in my girls’ lives. To tell a child that their love for these men makes them an unfit Catholic was cruel and wrong.

That was a year ago, and Delaney is no longer friends with the little girl. I thought it was behind us until about a month ago. Delaney is preparing for her confirmation. She came to me and confided that she no longer wanted to be confirmed in the Catholic faith. When I questioned her decision, she mentioned the conversation the year earlier. She told me that she felt that confirming her faith was the same as agreeing with all aspects of it and she didn’t think she could do that. Bless. I told her that although the church had rules and guidelines they follow, she couldn’t hold the church responsible for what one person said to her.

Now, I’m in a bit of a pickle. While I have my own feeling about the matter, I know that I need to keep my opinions out of it. I have two people to consider in this issue, Delaney and her father. Not only has my ex spent thousands of dollars sending her to Catholic school, but also he would honestly be heartbroken if he knew she had doubts about her faith. There’s no doubt in my mind that he would blame me, and while I can take anything he has to dish, Delaney would be caught in the middle. So, what to tell a child who is under threat of losing their faith because of one nasty bigot. Hmmm, good question. Too bad motherhood doesn’t come with a how-to book.

I told her that her relationship with God was her own, and that parishioners, like the mother of her ex-friend, needed people like Delaney in the church. I tried to explain that people and religions need to learn and adapt to the world around them, and only through knowledge and acceptance will that be possible. Then I told her if her faith continued to conflict with the actions of those around her, she could choose another path for herself.

I keep going back and forth on the issue. On one hand, I want to stand up for my baby and allow her to do what she feels she needs to do. On the other hand, I realize that for the rest of her life she will be faced with bigotry in one form or another. You can’t just opt-out of the human race. I think it’s better to teach our children that prejudice is out there but it is only when we allow it into our hearts that it can truly harm us. As she grows older, Delaney will be forced to deal with individuals who hold different beliefs. The important thing is setting her own personal boundaries while also respecting a difference of opinion.

I’ve never considered myself an exceptional parent. I work too much, I probably don’t clean enough and I’d rather eat out than cook. One thing I’ve always been proud of is the honest love and respect my girls show to the people around them. I like to think that despite my faults, I’ve at least had a hand in opening their hearts and minds to the world around them. My number one rule has always been, when all else fails, give lots of hugs and kisses and hope they figure it out themselves.


  1. A very good install of the blog. With a Mum like you Carol Delaney will figure it out cause she has you as a sounding board. Thanks for sharing.


  2. Carol, I think what you told her was excellent. Me of course being black my mom used to ask my brother and I do we think prejudice will ever go away, of course even being young I knew it wouldn't so my mom said if you think that, life still goes on and you can't opt out just because their will be prejudice and racist people. I don't usually talk about religion on any social network because I think it's very private thing and should be between you and whomever you talk to so maybe your daughter can just look at it that way. No matter what there will always be people who are like her ex friends mom so she needs to do her thing and not let someones hate change her. I have to tell you, you sound like a great mom putting your daughter's feelings even before your own. Good luck to you guys ;-)

  3. Coming from a mom of 5 ranging from almost 30 to 11 here's my advice for what it's worth. Delaney seems like pretty special and smart young lady. I think I would suggest that you respect her thoughts but I would encourage to go through the confirmation process if for no other reason than it means so much to her dad. That sometimes we need to make compromises for those we love. That she will have plenty of time as an adult to make other choices. Confirmation is does not lock her forever to the pew. And that maybe someday she can be part of the movement that brings change.

  4. As the mother of a transgendered child the one thing I've learned is and always will be the most important part of parenting is the unconditional love that our children need. To know that no matter what the world throws at them they will always have that one place where they can seek shelter from the storm and be loved and accepted for who and what they are without judgement. I've watched with great pride over the years as my child has turned into the most amazing person, I only hope that some of that is due to the love and support his father and I have tried to give him. So I really don't know what the answer to the religion issue is, but it sounds like you've got the unconditional love part well in hand and to me that's what makes for an awesome parent not the amount of cooking and cleaning you do, trust me, I know my own mother excelled in those areas and had no clue how to give her kids the love and acceptence they needed and to honest she and I barely speak, I try to do right by her as do her other 6 children, but it's out of a sense of obligation and duty, not love as sad as saying that makes me. I hope I've done better for my kids, the one I gave birth to and the ones that have wondered into our home and our hearts.

  5. Yep, both of my girls have the unconditional love thing in spades. I can't imagine traveling through the rest of my life without them. One thing I've learned over the last five or six years is that I'm not the only one giving out unconditional love. My girls are damn good about loving and supporting me no matter what others tell them or how messy my house gets when I'm trying to finish a book.

  6. Yeah, that's the amazing thing about it, the more you give the more it just bounces right back at you.

  7. Carol dear,

    I applaud your thoughtful and sensitive approach to such a difficult issue. Furthermore, I suspect you must be very proud of Delaney's mature attitude in this situation. Certainly I would be, in your shoes.

    She has to make her own decisions, but I guess I would counsel her in line with what Katy has offered - that the confirmation does not in fact mean that she agrees with everything the Church dictates. You might also want to point out that "the Church" is really just a set of people, not monolithic - that not everyone who identifies as Catholic is anti-gay - and that her faith is ultimately about her personal relationship with God, not with the formal Church hierarchy.

    And as for what kind of a mother you are - you've supported your two darlings with the sweat of your pen ever since I met you, and given them oodles of love besides. The cleanliness of your house and the frequency with which you cook are completely irrelevant!