I have an excellent relationship with my daughter. Which doesn't mean perfect -- it's sometimes messy the way the closest relationships can be.
I believe our relationship -- or more specifically, my relationship to our relationship -- took a huge turn for the better when my daughter came out to me when she was a sophomore in college. I have vivid memories of this conversation, which took place over the phone (sort of like having a serious conversation when in the car -- no eye contact required). Her dad and I had recently met a good friend of hers at a field hockey game, and I had noted our daughter was talking about this friend quite a bit.
We were on the phone, and I was driving at the time, and I said, "It seems you are spending a lot of time with X," and she said "Yeah, I am. Actually a lot of time. Actually I am staying at her place." I'm not slow on the uptake, but I can't remember now exactly what she said next, but it was something like "we're dating." Or maybe it was just complete silence, I don't remember. The reason I can't remember isn't because I was freaking out, it is because I started thinking "Be VERY careful what you say here, because this is a one-time thing."
"Are you happy?"
"Then I'm happy."
I meant it. I think there was an awkward silence then, and perhaps we carried on our conversation a bit, but there was no question in my mind what had been said, even if indirectly. I of course called her dad right after I got off the phone.
I can't say I was completely caught off guard. But like most parents, I had just assumed my daughter was heterosexual. I had never considered the possibility of anything else. Even though I had been a sex ed teacher and had talked to lots of parents about being mindful that maybe their eighth grader was gay. So one might say I was wearing blinders.
My first reaction was life was going to be harder for my child. That upset me. While I suppose that's true, what's harder, really? Isn't living a lie much harder than being true to oneself?
Once the "life is harder when you're gay" argument was vanquished, I was left with all the dreaming I had done about my daughter's future life, and within a short period of time (weeks, not months), I came to the [obvious] conclusion that my ideas about her life were just that -- my ideas. Her life was hers to live as she saw best. This was a liberating thought, and it's why I say our relationship took a turn for the better. I became a better parent when I fully accepted my daughter's life as her own.
Just the same way I'm going to be a better mother-of-the-bride because I have fully accepted my daughter's wedding as her own.