Talking to children about marriage equality

I have been gratified to see my facebook news feed full of celebratory responses to today’s Supreme Court decision which finally granted marriage equality throughout all fifty states. With a few specific and expected exceptions, my friends and family are excited and proud of today’s decision. Perhaps I just hide in my little corner of the internet with like-minded people, but the only negative responses I’ve seen (other than my two fundamentalist relatives who I only keep on my newsfeed because their political conspiracy theories greatly amuse me) have cited the bible rather than the Constitution, and have only appeared in my view because I have friends arguing with the original posters.

In those few negative anti-equality postings, the concern that people keep repeating is ‘what about the children?’ and ‘now will schools have to teach about gay marriage?’ and the apparent fear that, if exposed to an openly gay person, the gay virus will spread and contaminate previously heterosexual children.  That last one, obviously, is too stupid to waste time addressing.

However, we do need to think about the children.  As parents right now, in this historic moment, we do have the responsibility to tell our children what is happening and what it means for them.  We are the only generation of parents who will have to do so – our children’s children will grow up in a world where marriage between two people who love each other regardless of their respective genitalia will be normal.  Our children’s children will look back on the marriage equality issue with the same ‘oh how quaint and outdated’ attitude that we look back on the ban on interracial marriage before Loving v. Virginia.

So we have this responsibility, and we need to take it seriously.  I’ve already had the talk with Wildling.  It went like this:

Me: So there was some big exciting news this morning.

Wildling: What? Is it something for me?

Me: No, news from the Supreme Court.  You know what the court is, right? [she’s been to the courthouse with me numerous times so she vaguely understands the concept] Well, there’s a really important court that decides the major issues for everyone in our country.  And they decided to allow marriage equality.  That means in all the states, if a boy wants to marry a boy, he can, and if a girl wants to marry a girl, she can, and if a boy and a girl want to marry each other, they can.

Wildling: That’s good. I’m probably going to marry Helena.

Me: I thought she hadn’t been being nice to you lately.  You can only marry her if she’s nice to you and is a good partner for you.

Wildling: Yeah, ok, I’m probably going to marry a boy instead.  I’m going to marry Cortez.

Me: You can only marry Cortez if he’s nice to you and is a good partner for you.

Wildling: I know! You already said that!

Me: Sorry.  But it’s good that everybody can marry the person they want, if that person is a good partner for them, right? So today is a good day.

Wildling: Everybody is going to be so happy today!

Me: Well, not everyone, but we’re not going to worry about those people.

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Father’s day

It’s Father’s Day, which means my facebook newsfeed is full of people proclaiming their fathers or husbands to be the best dad ever, and other false accolades.  Parenting is not a competition, and there is no such thing as ‘World’s Greatest Dad,’ as greatness in fatherhood is dependent on being the right father for your children (that being said, if there were an actual contest, as long as there weren’t any super-dangerous events in it, I would register Will, and he would win).

Will is not the world’s greatest dad.  He’s not even a super dad.  He’s just Will, being a father to our children. He’s an adult, who loves his family, and who takes care of his children.  He’s good at it, of course. But he’s what all dad’s should be – involved in his children’s lives.

A few weeks ago I was speaking with a colleague who has a six month old baby.  He told me he was tired because he had spent the whole day babysitting.  I said no, not if it’s your kid, then it’s not babysitting, it’s parenting.  And he laughed and said no, he calls it babysitting because his wife is a stay-at-home-mom.  I chose not to punch him in the face, even though I wanted to, and told him how offensive Will thinks it is to be called a babysitter when he is dealing with his own children.  I think the point was lost on my colleague though – I think he honestly believes that because he works outside of the house for 40+ hours per week, he is under no obligation to participate in child-rearing.  Yet I guarantee that his wife is on facebook today posting about how he’s a great dad.

Last night there was an article in our local paper about dad’s who ‘go above and beyond’ for their kids.  Of the nine men profiled, exactly one would qualify for that description, and that would be the one who (with his wife) had adopted several disabled children and was raising them with love and dignity.  Adopting children who were considered un-adoptable really can be considered going above and beyond one’s fatherly responsibilities, because that dad had a choice.

The other fathers in the article? Ha.  I read excerpts to Will and he nearly exploded with rage/annoyance.  “That’s not going above and beyond!” he shouted “That’s baseline! That’s called being a father! What’s wrong with these people?”  He was reacting poorly to the woman who bragged about how her husband even wore their baby in a carrier to the grocery store, and loved playing with the boy.  He was referring to the proud mom who explained that she and her husband both worked full time, and sometimes, if he got home before her, he would even make dinner! Can you imagine? A full grown adult male who can cook a meal instead of lying around on the couch waiting for someone to do it for him?  All the men in the article were like that, receiving accolades for things like ‘enjoying playing with their kids’ or ‘preparing meals while [the wife] was pregnant and sick’ or ‘takes pictures of the baby all the time and shares them on facebook!’

Is that really all it takes to be a good dad? As Will says, no, that’s the baseline. If you are a father, you should be taking care of your children.  That’s the default.  When your kid needs you, you are there for them. If you are in a relationship with the other parent, you should be sharing parental duties (single parents, I know it’s different, when you have the child you are doing everything).  Everything shouldn’t default to the mother.

We honor our nation’s fathers today, and that’s a good thing.  It’s good to take a day and say “Papa, I appreciate all that you do for me. Thank you. I love you.” We don’t say that enough.  But we shouldn’t be acting like a man who spends time with his kids is deserving of special honors for doing what he should be doing anyway.

Fathers are important. I couldn’t do this parenting thing without Will.  I love him.  He is a wonderful father, but, as he says, he’s doing the baseline.  He doesn’t need me to gush over how amazing it is that he put Mellow down for her nap today, or he dealt with Wildling while I slept in this morning.  He doesn’t feel he deserves to be lauded for caring for his own children.  That’s his job.  He’s a father.

(but just so you know, I did buy him some Father’s Day beer and Wildling made him a card that says “Hape fothers Dey” and a beaded necklace that he proudly wore all day)

What happened to me?

I think I’ve become weak and lazy.

I don’t try hard anymore.  I don’t try to accomplish things.  I stick with whatever is easiest.

This blog, for example.  When I started it, my goal was to get my creative juices flowing and write five minutes a day.  Five minutes is nothing.  I did it easily.  I eventually evolved into writing longer pieces less often, but I did maintain the blog.  But I’ve become lazy and have hardly written lately, even though i love writing.

I don’t workout.  For awhile, I was biking a lot  I was using my bike as my primary method of transportation and took a great deal of pride in seeing how long the car could stay parked in the carport, but now that it is approximately one billion degrees outside, I’ve retired my bike for the summer and I drive everywhere.  I want to do yoga.  I’d really like to do it a couple of times a week.  In my ideal world, I wake up with Will each morning, and I do a half hour of yoga while he showers, and then I take a shower (one of us needs to be available to catch Mellow when she gets up, otherwise, Will would not factor into my morning yoga plans at all), and sit down to a cup of tea by myself until the kids get up.  In reality, Will wakes up, showers, leaves for work, and hopefully doesn’t wake the rest of us on his way out.  I’m too lazy and unmotivated to get up sooner.

I don’t eat well.  Last year, when we became vegan-at-home, our meals took time and planning and we learned a lot and experimented with new recipes.  Now I lack motivation to cook.  We re-introduced fish into our diet, and now I find myself pulling fish fillets out of the freezer on a regular basis because it is easy and requires no thought at all (and the kids both eat them, which is rare for a meal).  Today for lunch I had a poached egg because there was nothing else ‘easy’ and I didn’t feel like defrosting beans from the freezer.  That’s just laziness on my part.

I don’t do enough with the kids.  Partly that’s because it’s too damn hot, but I can’t really use that as an excuse because we have a membership to the nicely air-conditioned Children’s Museum and we haven’t gone in a long time. I just get into these ruts because it’s hard to get them moving in the morning, and then Mellow takes a nap and I don’t want to be out too close to naptime, and then after she wakes up there’s usually only about two hours before Will gets home from work, so I feel like that’s not enough time to go anywhere (even though in reality it is).

I’d like to be more social.  I see my best friend almost weekly, but most of my other adult interactions are on facebook, and since I don’t like typing on my phone, I don’t participate in that many discussions in my groups. I’d like to go out more often (and take Will out more often!) but we run into babysitting issues, and I don’t like to spend money.

I know that in order to change my life, I have to change myself.  I know it takes time.  I know I need to force myself to do things. I know I have to reach down inside and find the motivation, but it’s just so hard to do, and it is so much easier to just float along and let life happen to me, happen around me, happen without my input or participation.

A brief update

A transcript of an actual conversation that summarizes our lives lately:

<leaving a store>

Me: Since we bought two items, we now have to donate six things when we get home.

Will: That sounds good.  I’m going to start with your stuff.

Me: And I’m going to start with your combat boots.

Will: Then I won’t have anything to wear to work.

Me: Well, you’ll just have to go barefoot.

Will: No, I’ll just quit my job.

Wildling: <horrified> You can’t do that Papa! You need to work so we can pay for our house!

Will: That’s ok, Mama can get a job.

Wildling: NO SHE CAN’T! Mama likes to sleep in!

Life updates: We’ve been working on decluttering, Wildling doesn’t understand when we’re joking, and I like to sleep in.

Mellow, who was left out of the conversation transcript due to non-participation, is focused on potty training and proudly announcing Poop! and Pee! whenever she needs to go.