marriageOctober 29, 2008
“When I grow up, I don’t want to marry you,” our friend’s young son told Lee for the third time in two days. No one had ever suggested he might be interested in her (or me, since I’d also gotten reassurances the night before) but he clearly wanted to set the record straight. He is, for the record, considering marrying his mom (and it’s an age-appropriate Oedipal response, not a creepy one) or his best friend’s baby sister. But not till he grows up, he reminds us.
When asked why he wouldn’t consider Lee, he told her it was because she was already married and he could tell because she wears a ring. “Do you know who I’m married to? Thorn!” And he gave her a skeptical look and said, “Actually, I think you’re both girls.” He’s right about that bit, and I immediately got annoyed with Lee when she told me this for lying to a child, but she said she thinks of what we have as being as close to marriage as she’s ever going to get and she didn’t even consider that she wasn’t being truthful. She just wanted to make sure he acknowledges our connection.
We know he does, because he and his sister think of us as a unit and treat us like they do any other childless couple among their parents’ friends. We haven’t quizzed them about what they think of same-sex couples or anything like that, though when we and their mom explained adoption and our plan to the little boy he was relieved to hear there would already be a child available because he very solemnly informed us that he didn’t believe we could have a baby on our own without help.
Our little friend is right, we are both girls and the idea that we could get married raises some eyebrows and not just in puzzled glances like his. In fact, voters around us in their infinite red-state wisdom chose to amend our constitution to make sure we don’t even think of marriage as an option. And honestly, right now, we don’t. Right now I’m up in the middle of the night thanks to the caffeine in my migraine medicine and my beautiful partner is sleeping peacefully now that I’m not trying to read in bed next to her. I had to take the dog out of her crate unexpectedly to let her throw up in the back yard and one cat’s sleeping beside me and one downstairs. Oh, and we’re trying to adopt a child or children from our state’s foster care system.
That’s where things get messy. I know I’ve talked about this before, but we’ve been treated with nothing but respect and kindness from our social workers. We’ll both be certified and both be legally qualified to parent when our paperwork comes through. But we’ve made a difficult decision and decided that when we stand in front of a judge to finalize an adoption, we’ll be giving our child a hyphenated last name but that’s the only legal connection s/he’ll have to me. That’s not because I don’t want to be a mother; in part it’s because I’m more prepared to mother than Lee is and so my mothering will be immediately obvious day-to-day while hers will be both learned and legal. We’ve been doing plenty of research and talking to her family members to make sure it’s clear that in the event of anything happening to her we’ll have the guardianship plan we want in place. We’ve been talking about how we’ll deal with mediation and co-parenting if for some reason our relationship doesn’t survive, though neither of us anticipates that at all. We’ve been planning to move to a place where we could both be legal parents just because we want that safety, want that security for our children.
For us at least, marriage isn’t about us at all. That’s why we’re not particularly concerned about what people call our relationship or how they define it; we understand and know and trust our commitment to each other. But I’m writing here about wanting to become a mother, and our social workers have clearly told us that they think I could be an excellent mother. I’m also writing here about having to become a mother while remaining, technically speaking, just some random adult who happens to live with that child.
Everyone involved in adoption knows about the painful/tacky/common question of who’s a REAL mother. I want to be real, and not in a Velveteen Rabbit sense that a child loves me enough to pretend me into reality. I think Lee and I have the potential to create a great family and I want that family to have recognition. I want my someday children to have two loving parents even if they are two loving girl parents. That’s the reality we’re creating, but we’re trapped in a state where the rules tell us we’re not good enough even though the social workers and children’s advocates disagree.
In California next week, voters have a chance to support families like the one I’m trying to create. I’m not religious and I’d really prefer a system in which everyone who wants them has civil unions registered with the government and then marriages only happen in religious contexts according to whatever guidelines each religion has. Despite what some proponents of Proposition 8 say, voting NO against banning same-sex marriage won’t force churches to marry anyone who wants to set an appointment. Voting NO just says that same-sex couples can get the same wacky gifts they’d never register for from distant relatives that opposite-sex ones can. Voting NO means couples like us who want security for our children can get it, because there are already families — real families — like the one we’re creating that need support.
Lee had a dream about Ezra — the six-year-old our social worker thinks would be a good fit for us — the other night. If Ezra becomes our child, what I wrote in our “dear birthmother” letter will be true: he’ll have lots of REAL mothers — his first mother, a longtime loving foster mother, and two adoptive mothers in Lee and me. Regardless of what the law says, we’ll all be part of his history and reality. We’ll all be real. I support changes in the law that would give him access to his REAL birth certificate rather than the falsified one we’d get saying Lee gave birth to him. I support common-sense ethical parenting that would let him stay in touch with the woman who’s raised him these last three years. I support changes in the law that would protect our family, give us the rights that other committed couples have, make me REAL. If you care enough to read what I have to say hope you do too. In California, vote NO on Proposition 8; in the rest of the country keep pushing for justice reforms. And keep it real.