The following letter was written by the mother of an MAP to her son, after a request from another MAP for supportive advice he could give his mother.
After reading Matthew’s letter, I couldn’t help but remember back to when you were in therapy as a teenager. Your emotional state was really a mess by sophomore year, but the therapist seemed even more concerned about your “attraction to younger girls”. Talking about that subject made my blood run cold. I can’t even describe the brick wall of denial I began to build up around my heart, my head, and always, my projections into your future. I worked very hard to convince myself that your attraction for younger girls would eventually “catch up” and evolve into age appropriate relationships.
Back then, I’m sure my reaction must have seemed obtuse to you, but the alternative just felt too dangerous to accept. Years passed by and I kept having flashbacks of those conversations with your therapist. I worried about you constantly, but even after eight years of knowing the truth about your attractions, I was completely unprepared for the day you were arrested for ordering that videotape.
I can’t speak for all mothers, but I’ve always found that when you hurt, I hurt. Since you’re not a parent, those words probably sound like “blah-blah-blah” to you. I’m sure you can’t imagine how physically devastating it is when the son you love is being arrested for the most serious crime you can imagine, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Or how every other matter in your life comes to a screeching halt for an entire year when that son is placed on house arrest. Or how, during that year, you have to force yourself to think about things like possible jail time and refinancing the house to pay for legal fees. Or how, in spite of all those practical concerns, your worst fear is that you’ll never find a way to reclaim your son because his state of mind tells you he’s probably lost forever.
I must be a very stubborn person, because in spite of everything that happened after your arrest, I still believed you were (and are) struggling with something other than, or rather, less than pedophilia. And no matter what anyone ever says about it, I’ll continue to believe that there’s a clear distinction between someone like you, who has never acted on his feelings, and someone who is compulsively driven to do so. (Personally, I think that distinction is something you should be trying to define through B4U-ACT, but forgive me, I digress.)
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that for me, accepting the reality of your attraction to young girls is the hardest and heaviest challenge of my life. You can’t possibly imagine the endless barrage of questions that bounce around in my brain — Why did this happen? Was it my fault? Was it anyone’s fault? Was there something I missed? Could he have been helped if we’d started earlier? Will it escalate someday? Will he ever find peace? Will he ever be happy? These questions still haunt me today.
I was just thinking about a comment Matthew made about having “come out” to his parents. It made me think, for the millionth time, how so many parents have imploded at the words, “Hi Mom and Dad, I’m gay”, when I would gladly have given a million dollars to hear those words instead of, “I’m attracted to younger girls”. Straight people may always have a hard time understanding how “gay” works, but no one can accuse them of doing something illegal. I think that’s the toughest part for me, knowing you’ll never be able to answer to your attractions without breaking the law. It hurts my heart to know how lonely your life is.
I’ve learned a lot about our friends and family since all this started. I’ve learned that there are some who are completely non-judgmental and always ready to lend support. Then there are some who remain loyal but prefer to keep the subject off limits. In many ways, my life has shrunk down to a tiny circle of trusted friends. They allow me to share my worries and concerns and to rant at the system when you’re faced with another life-altering piece of sex offender legislation or public prejudice.
I’m happy for Matthew and his family that his secret is safe. I hope it stays that way for his and for his parents’ sakes. He wondered whether I was sad about your being a pedophile, the same way his mother is. My answer is that regardless of your arrest and your status on the sex offender list, I would always have been sad about it. I would have been sad about anything that lessened your chances for a life filled with infinite possibilities. You came into this world with brown eyes, brown hair, a powerful creative gift, and a sexual proclivity which happens to be against the law. It’s simply the way things are. I love you no matter what, but I’ll always be sad for the limitations in your life.
The good news is that there’s an offset to the sadness. I’m proud beyond words by the way you’ve stood up to the challenges of these past twenty years. You’ve faced some of the ugliest and most hateful prejudice on the planet, and somehow you turned out to be the better man in the end. For years, I worried that your (justifiable!) anger toward the system might alter, or even destroy your innate integrity, but instead it seems to have made it stronger. I’ll always be sad that you have to live your life with so many restrictions, but I’m so proud of the man you’ve become that somehow, from a mother’s perspective, it all balances out in the end.