I wrote recently about wanting my son to believe in a higher power. To be honest, I struggled with admitting that because I didn’t want to be that mom who maps out her child’s life before he says his first word. I want him to know that he can do anything and be anything he wants without disappointing me. And yet there is this list of wants that pulls at my heart.
I have come to accept that it is OK for me to have hopes for my son as long as he also knows that he is the captain on his ship of life. His mom and I will be his first mates, while he will have us, until such a time that he finds a new first mate and then we will happily let ourselves be demoted to a less laborious task. We will mop the floors and repair the hull (I don’t even really know what a hull is. Perhaps I should quit this ship metaphor before this gets embarrassing). My point is that he is in charge of his own life and we will be there in whatever supporting roles are appropriate. He will be at the helm (OK, that’s my last shipping term. Promise) but hopefully he will allow us to point out some routes on the map.
And with that, welcome to post two in my unplanned series entitled Things I Hope for my Son. On my mind this week is marriage. If you are in Canada you have probably noticed that same-sex marriage has been in the news recently. The short version is that an American couple came to Canada to get married (something they were prohibited from doing in their home country) and when the marriage failed they returned to Canada to get divorced. Once here the Department of Justice argued that since their marriage had no practical validity in their home country it also wasn’t legal here. Outrage filled the twitterverse and facebook newsfeeds everywhere. It turns out that the situation was slightly more complicated (you can look all that up if you are so inclined but this isn’t the point of my post so I am going to move on now).
Whenever same-sex marriage gets brought into the media it makes me narcissistically reflect on my own marriage. The truth is that I LOVE being married. I love that we have promised to be spend our lives together and promised to do the (sometimes hard) work of nourishing and protecting our relationship so that it will last a lifetime. I love that we made those promises in front of our friends and family so that they would know just how deep our commitment to one another truly is. I love that I know, in the deepest part of me, that there could not possibly be another person in this world who could ever know my heart from the inside out the way she does. And, more importantly (so much more importantly) I am immeasurably grateful that she feels the same way. Because, as some of us (painfully) learn, loving someone and being loved by that person are often mutually exclusive. But when they come together, when you love the same person who loves you wholly and completely, that THAT is where the magic is. And I have it.
|Photo thanks to Jeff Green|
|Photo thanks to Jeff Green|
But I didn’t always feel that way. I was in my early twenties when same-sex marriage became a federal right in Canada. I was not in love and I had no interest in marriage. It wasn’t my fight. In fact, I fought (ideologically at least) against it. I wrote a substantial master’s level paper critiquing the fight for same-sex marriage. I argued that queer activists were ignoring more important issues in our community like the bullying of gay youth and fight for trans rights (I am still critical of a singular focus on same-sex marriage as the litmus test for equality but I have come to realize that there is room at the table for all of our fights and that forming a hierarchy of oppressions is not particularly productive). And as someone with a deep commitment to feminism I felt that participating in an institution that had historically oppressed and devalued women would stand against my very understanding of myself. I was also critical of the need to afford certain government sponsored benefits to people participating in monogamous romantic relationships while denying those same benefits to single people, polyamorous folks, and those choosing to form primary relationships not based on romantic love (for the record I’m still critical of this aspect and am supportive of projects that work to overhaul the government’s relationship to marriage both gay and straight). I did not think I was the marrying kind and, besides all that, I was much more concerned with perfecting a haircut that would let other lesbians know I was on their team than I was with lending my hand to any form of queer activism.
But with time, and love, that all changed. I fell in love with someone who made me feel like the world really was made of sunshine and pride parades. I sunk deeply into a never-ending sea of late night giggles, serious conversations that nourish a soul and the kind of love that makes you feel like your heart could literally explode. The kind of love through which you come to understand not just your partner but yourself. And when that woman, the one who had my heart as her very own, asked me if she could share her life (the rest of her whole entire life) with me I said, unequivocally, YES.
And then we got down to the business of planning a wedding. Which was fun, and exciting and frustrating and scary. We poured our hearts (and our bank accounts) into one magical day and made all of the promises we had made a thousand times before. But this time we did it in front of our family and friends and when we were done we signed a piece of paper that probably said a bunch of really important legal things that, summarized, meant that she had no intention of ever not being my partner and that from now on I could call her my wife. And I did. I called her my wife every day, one hundred times a day, for weeks. And, if I’m being completely honest, there is still a small part of me that gets a little thrill when I say things like “let me introduce you to my wife.” Because it means that she chose me and that I get to spend my life with her. And that is amazing.
So, while I can understand the critiques of the institution of marriage I am nonetheless grateful that I can choose to be a part of it in my own way. The world is full of cynicism and hate and criticism. But in my marriage I find magic and love and peace. And if I can make a wish for my child it would be that.