Yo’ Mama.

Last year, we were at a friend’s house and The Who was standing on a big rock in their backyard next to his pal, B. I was standing on the ground next to him. The Who said, “I need help getting down,” and B replied, “Your mom can help you.” He looked at B blankly and said, “My mom is at work,” and there was a long period of silence as B looked over at me, standing inches away, and then back at The Who. And then back at me.

Not an uncommon exchange for a kid with two moms, I’d assume. And although B was completely befuddled, it of course made perfect sense to me. His ‘Mom’ is obviously “Mommy.” The parent standing next to him (me) was ‘Mama.’ Totally different person. B might as well have said, “that fork will get you down,” because a fork would be about as helpful as a parent over an hour’s drive away.

What’s funny is that it has taken all of The Who’s 4+ years for m* and I to get the “Mama/Mommy” thing down. And we’re still not 100%. We both still sometimes answer to the other one’s name and we both still sometimes refer to ourselves by the wrong name. Just like B — and most people — we were socialized to understand that the various names for mother all apply to the same person: the mother. But not so for The Who (and presumably other children of two mothers.) He learned our different names as though they really were completely different. He didn’t know anything else. To him, “Mama” and “Mommy” were as different as “Mommy” and “Daddy.” And I have actually always found this charming. I have been charmed by the innocence of small children and their willingness to accept what is taught to them as the sole truth.

But this is changing. He is beginning to understand it in a new way and this afternoon, he schooled me on it. He was recalling a story from his classroom earlier in which one of his teachers told him that his “mom wants him to wear sunscreen when he goes outside.” To which I replied, “Yeah, I do. Well, Mommy does, sure, but that is what I told her.”

“No, Mama,” he told me, in a slightly condescending but compassionate tone. “She didn’t mean ‘Mommy’ even though she said ‘Mom’. She meant you. Because Mama isn’t what she calls you. It’s what your kid calls you. It’s only your name to your kid. When someone says “your mom” they mean any of your parents, not just the one you call Mommy.”

Touché, kid. Touché

Welcome.

This afternoon, as we drove past our local UU church, The Who noticed the rainbow flag that it flies out on its lawn to indicate that it is a “Welcoming Congregation” (i.e. a congregation that “want[s] to take intentional steps to become more welcoming and inclusive of people with marginalized sexual orientations and gender identities.”) He asked me why the flag was there.

“It’s a rainbow flag that shows that they are a place that welcomes gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer people.” I started with this and waited to see what he would do with it. As far as I know, he doesn’t really have much of a context for any of those terms, although he does know that families are made up of all different gender configurations.

He was quiet for a few seconds and then he asked, “But why would they even need to do that?”

I nearly cried. He doesn’t understand why anyone would have to go out of his or her way to make sure that people knew that a place specifically welcomed a group of people. He doesn’t even know that his parents are part of this group of people. He doesn’t know that there are politicians and neighbors and teachers and friends’ parents who think that his parents are deviants, unworthy of equal treatment and access to spaces.

“Well,” I began, not sure of how the rest of the sentence was going to form. “Some people don’t want to share their space with gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, or queer people.”

Immediately and confoundedly: “Why?”

“I’m honestly not sure, babe. People can make guesses about why, but I don’t really actually know. Mommy and I are lesbians and queer and we are happy to share our space with any kind of people. And we’re not completely sure why some people don’t want to.” (I didn’t want to start with my interpretations of how these seeds are planted and I don’t think he could digest it all anyway.)

More silence. Then: “Yeah! Me too! I will share my space with anyone! You and Mommy and Bella (his stuffed dog)! I like every kind of people.”

He is in for a rude awakening and it hurts my heart.

This is Political. And Personal.

The Who was born 23 days after we elected Barack Obama into office and I remember how excited and delighted I was to bring a baby into a society I was proud of. I felt proud. I did. I felt this enormous spirit of togetherness and trust and a common desire for something good. That’s the kind of place where I wanted to raise my kid.

The Who and I had our own little inauguration party. Deep in the throes of post-partum depression, it was the happiest I had felt since he was born.

The novelty of having a president that I could actually support and get behind didn’t wear off. I loved that my kid was going to be able to say, for the rest of his life, that he was an “Obama Baby.” I didn’t even know what this president would do. I didn’t know then that he would pass universal health care reform, pass the stimulus, pass Wall Street reform, end the war in Iraq, repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, pass “The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act,” pass the Hate Crime bill, come out in support of gay marriage, or any of the other praise-worthy things he has done in the past four years. All I knew was that my people were going to have an ally in office. (And by “my people” I guess I mean gays and women, but I also mean anyone who is an ally to gays and women, too. Because, frankly — and I know this is not a friend-making statement — supporters of Bush (and now Romney and Ryan) are not allies to gays and women.)

I was sad when we had to retire this “Obama Baby” onesie that was given to him when he was born.

And then, y’know, I got complacent. Because Obama was in office for years and I was occupied with bringing up my kid. Working hard on doing my job and trusting that the president was doing his. But, now it’s election season again and I’m scared. I’m scared that now instead of raising my baby in a peaceful, hopeful place, I’ll be raising my preschooler in a hateful, despicable place. A place where women don’t have the right to choose and his moms don’t have the right to marry. A place where richness and whiteness and smugness rule — just the opposite of the place I was hoping for.

Politics has always meant a lot to me. As Representative Ed Markey said last night, “In Massachusetts (where I spent my first 30 years), you are born a voter and a Red Sox fan.” I proudly voted for Bill Clinton in my first election, just after I turned 18 in 1992 and I have never missed an election since, no matter how small. But there’s something about having a kid that really ups the ante. There’s so much more at stake now. It’s no longer just about me and my family and friends and neighbors and our rights, but it’s about the kind of worldview that my child is going to grow up with.

I hope we get at least four more years.

Day Two.

When The Who climbed into my bed with me this morning at 6am and I caught a glimpse of the clear day just beginning outside the bedroom skylight, I suggested we fast forward through our usual morning routine (chocolate milk, toast with butter, and a show) and instead get dressed right away and take a walk into town. This kind of a plan is never a hard sell on The Who; he loves walking into town, both home and on vacation (and as someone who generally opts to drive as opposed to walk, I consider this a personal coup. We walk a lot together.) So, as quietly as we could (so m* could get some much-needed rest) we slipped out the door with chocolate milk to go.

It’s the rare visitor here who gets to see this street so empty.

There’s nothing quite like a beach town early in the morning. Restaurants are washing their outside decks, people are walking their dogs, and the smell of coffee wafts out of open cafe doors. For what is normally such a crowded, energetic street, the main drag in the early morning is peaceful and serene. As we meandered toward the bay, The Who looked up at me and said, “I love walking into town when it’s so quiet.”

After playing by the water, collecting rocks, and bounce-housing, we inhaled the best egg-and-cheese sandwich I have ever had before I left The Who at the organized babysitting while I attended a “What’s so Gay about Money?” workshop. I got some great tips and took lots of notes while I could hear the sound of The Who and his comrades singing “Ring Around the Rosy” down the hall.

Arriving early for the “Littles Gathering” afforded The Who unlimited and untimed bounce turns. Delighted, he.

Target, trying to win back the gays (and doing a good job at it, I’d say) sponsored this whole week here, so there was some pretty awesome swag, including this kids’ backpack, which The Who insisted on wearing, telling me, “This is just for me, Mama. Not for grown-ups.” The shoulder strap was a little big and kept slipping off, so he held it around his waist valiantly, so proud to have his own little pack.

M* walked into town and met us for lunch (pizza and ice cream, per The Who’s request, but as it turned out, he wasn’t really hungry and barely had any pizza and skipped the ice cream entirely) and then we all walked home for the Nap What Wasn’t. I know we stopped the nap for a reason; he doesn’t really sleep. Still, we felt optimistic since he had been so tired in town. Alas.

M* carried a wilted Who for the last several blocks of our walk home. He wore a perma-grin the whole time, loving the view from up there.

Finally, to end our epic day, we packed up our gear and headed to the beach for a campfire, which was held — unfortunately — in the rain. We had an awesome umbrella/cabana, so we mostly stayed dry and The Who was largely unfazed by the weather as he enjoyed his first s’mores, bedecked in rain gear.

Baby’s First S’mores

The whole house is asleep soundly now as I watch the Olympics and get us ready for tomorrow, which will start rainy, but hopefully brighten up (if my weather app is to be trusted.) Hoping to get to the beach in the afternoon tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

How it went.

I was waiting for it to happen, and frankly, I thought he’d ask about a daddy first, but this morning as we were putting on our shoes and zipping up our jackets, The Who looked up at me and said, “Mama? Why do I have TWO mommies?”

Despite my rush to get out the door (him to school and me to work) and the chaos of the early weekday morning, I registered the importance of the question. One of those questions that, as a parent of a young child (and especially a queer parent of a young child), you wait for and think about and plan for, but are never fully prepared for. Where do babies come from?  Where do you go when you die? What is God? Why do I have two mommies?

I told him that his Mommy and I love each other and got married (hoping that when he is really old enough to know, our marriage will actually be legal and recognized in our home state) and we decided to have a child, so we are both his mommies together. That seemed to sate him. He flipped the last velcro on his sneaker over, pulled the hood of his sweater onto his head, and said, “Oh. Ok.”

So, that’s how that went.

Mommy.

Saturday morning. I hear The Who whimpering himself awake, muffled through his bedroom door. I roll over and moan; it’s so early. I wait a minute, rub my eyes. Check the time and confirm that it is indeed So. Early. And just as I start fumbling around for my glasses and thinking about whether or not I have time to pee before his whimpers ramp up to an unbearable whine, I hear m* roll out of bed and make her way down the hall to him.

I listen:

She greets him with this sweet, completely authentic joy and he responds; I can almost hear the grin spreading across his face. No matter how tired she is — no matter how unrestorative her night’s sleep has been (the curse of a pervasive sleep disorder) she is always present for him. Always delighted to see him. He asks for cocoa and I half-expect her to shuttle him down the hall to me to bring him down and make it, but she doesn’t. “Sure,” she says brightly and they continue their chatty banter down the steps and into the kitchen.

Downstairs, she is more patient that I ever am as he insists on “helping” with the milk, the chocolate, the microwave, and the cup’s cover. I hear her brew her coffee once he’s sated. The spoon clinks against the inside of the blue pottery mug as she stirs in her creamer and he asks, “You havin’ your coffee, Mommy?” I doze back to sleep, listening to the two of them begin to discuss fire trucks.

When I open my eyes again, she is making train whistle noises and he is giggling. I close my eyes. When I open them again, she is reading to him from one of his library books. I sleep some more and when I wake, she has dragged in the trampoline from the porch and has pulled her chair up next to it. As he jumps, she holds his hands and laughs and laughs and it’s hard to tell from up here who is having more fun.

During the rest of the day, she will pull him into her lap and show him a seemingly endless stream of YouTube fire truck and construction vehicle videos on her little netbook. She will take him for a long, sweaty walk up to the playground. She will make him a grilled cheese just how he likes it and stand patiently by as he cuts the crusts off himself with his bright, plastic IKEA knife. She will not sigh when he wakes up cranky and early from his nap and will instead give him an empathetic hug and get him to stop crying more efficiently than I ever can. She will carry him downstairs, his head on her shoulder, and she will hold him on her lap until he’s fully awake.

After his bath, she will — as she does nearly every night — walk him down to his room and sing “Jingle Bells” and “Wheels on the Bus” and “Twinkle Twinkle” until he is ready to lay himself down and go to sleep. And he will — as he does every night — go to bed the luckiest kid in the world.

 

 

 

 

Happy Mommy’s Day, babe. Your boy and his Mama couldn’t ask for more.