Role reversal

We travel pretty frequently.  As someone who has distinct memories of a week-long near panic of overwhelmedness the first time we flew to Florida as a family (and that was just with Benjamin), I can say we’ve gotten this pretty well down to a science.  It is something that gets better (and easier) with practice.  We’ve learned what and how to pack.   We’ve learned how to choose a great hotel and the most functional transportation for our purposes.  We’ve learned that almost anything that seems like a major crisis (head injury at Edinburgh Castle, ER trip in the States, vomiting across England, child who cries all night on the sleeper train, all of our luggage lost on the first day of a 17 day trip) can be overcome, and will even be funny in hindsight.

Honestly, I feel like we’ve got a relatively expert handle on traveling with the kids.  But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t take a TON of work to pull it off.  For a week-long trip (or longer), I start packing and organizing at least 2 weeks before we leave. I strategize which clothes will wear the best (and longest), how to be efficient without being spartan, and how to cover our bases for as many weather situations as possible.  (And, I’ve watched too many episodes of shows like “Survivorman” and “I Shouldn’t Be Alive”, so I secretly harbor an illogical belief that we could, on any trip, conceivably end up stranded on a snowy mountainside for days.)  I prepare.  I plan.  I’ve gotten really good at it.

We’re going away this weekend.  Dan has a day off next week, so we’re taking a long weekend and going to our favorite working farm outside of Salzburg, with plans to spend a day in Hallstatt, which we’ve always wanted to visit.  It’s a short trip, so we don’t need a ton of stuff.  We’ve stayed in this place before, so we know what they already have.  We’re renting a car, so we have lots of flexibility with schedule and space (we only have to carry the luggage downstairs, and it doesn’t matter how many trips it takes).  Also, the area where we’ll be has lots of shops, so nothing that we forget will be a major problem.  This is a much easier endeavor than our usual long trips that involve train or air travel.

So, this time, Dan is in charge of packing.  He’s been wanting to give it a try, and I’m enthusiastic to give him a chance (partly because I think he’d going to be a bit more impressed by how hard it is once he’s done it, and partly because he tends to create shortcuts I don’t think of).  I made the hotel reservation and he rented the car (our usual duties) but he’s packing for himself and the kids, and I’ve made arrangements for Bailey (which is our switcharoo for this time).

There is no question in my mind that I won out on this deal (although that’s only because I typically do the proverbial heavy lifting in this equation).  I started packing for myself yesterday morning and was shocked when I was mostly finished 10 minutes later.  All of my stuff (including the snow pants I’m bringing, just in case) would fit in my medium-sized backpack with a fair bit of room to spare.  I can pack the few things I have left (the things that have to wait until the last minute) in 10 minutes (or maybe less).  I’m ready to go.

We leave tomorrow.  The packing for the rest of the family . . . hasn’t started yet.  I’ve done mountains of laundry, so Dan has all of the supplies he needs, he just hasn’t packed anything yet.  There was a time in my life when I would have been stressed out completely at this point, and probably would have started doing it myself.  But, not today!  I know Dan, and I know that he will, in some way that seems miraculous, make this all work.  I know it’ll work out.  And I suspect we’re both going to learn something from this.  (For instance, I already know that I don’t have to start packing 2 weeks ahead of time.  It remains to be seen whether this turns out to be a superior plan, though!)

Because love is fantastic and life is hard

I have two boys, who I love more than anything in the entire world.  I was made to be their mama, and I am profoundly grateful that I have that honor.  They light up my days with love and joy.  Watching them learn and grow and become more of who they are each day is an amazing blessing.  I am so lucky.

It is my most desperate hope that one day, they grow up to be kind, strong, intelligent, happy, peaceful, loving men.  I hope they have lives that fill them with joy.  I hope they live such wonderful, exuberant, amazing lives bursting with passion that they don’t think to call me every day.  And I hope they are loved.  I hope they find someone who sees the fantastically wonderful people that they are and who feel as lucky to be in their lives as I do.

Because, love is fantastic.  And because life is hard.  Stuff happens.  Things get tough, hearts get broken, people suffer and struggle.  And we are all saved by the people who carry us through that.  We ALL need each other.  Each of us gets to, if we’re lucky enough to find them, choose that one other person we need beside us on those darkest days — and the one we want to share the gorgeous, transcendent, bliss-filled moments with, too.  We ALL get to choose.  And that choice, once made, should be equal, in the eyes of the law, whoever is making it and whoever they choose.

Equal.  The SAME.  Not “equivalent”.

Because, people, life is hard and we need each other.  Nobody should have to do it alone and nobody gets an asterisk for “almost but not quite”.  Whatever the future holds for my boys, my friends, my friends’ children, their friends and millions of others that I’ll never know, I want them to get to share their love, and their life, with the person they choose.

Frankly, I hope my kids grow up to read this and fail to understand the need to talk about marriage equality.  I hope they think that this discussion is ludicrous, because, in the world they inhabit, it will hopefully make no sense to them.  I hope that my children will inherit a world where this argument is antiquated, embarrassing and recognized as being fed only by hate and unfounded fear.

I’m an American, and I believe in freedom of religion.  I believe this also grants us freedom from religion.  The separation of Church and State ought to guarantee that the outdated morality of much of our citizenry cannot dictate the law of our nation.  Marriage, as defined by the Church, is the business of the Church (although hate and exclusion have no place there, either).  But marriage, as defined by the State, belongs to all of us.  Equally.

One mom to another

Dear moms of the world,

I know you’re like me.  We love our children.  You had a change-the-world moment when you looked into the face of your baby for the first time and you become anchored to that tiny soul.  The world suddenly revolved around that little person in your arms, and you would do anything to protect them.  The love you feel for your child is awesome and deep and amazingly strong.  You love that baby fiercely, and you are a force of nature that would do anything for that child . . . and then, at some point, you realized that every other mother has had that moment with her baby, too.  The world is a different place after that.

We love our babies.  We promise them that we will protect them, take care of them, love them, cherish them and move mountains if we have to.  We would die for them.  (And that isn’t hyperbole.  We really would.)  We want them to be happy, to feel good about themselves, and to be adored.  I will love my children completely, forever.  I hope that one day, my boys find someone who cherishes them as much as I do (it won’t happen, but I hope they get close).

Like all moms, I also fear for my children’s future.  I worry that they’ll grow up to be unhappy, insecure, unsatisfied, demoralized, ill, hopeless or lonely.  I worry that somewhere between now and adulthood they’ll stop feeling loved, or safe, or special.  It’s a concern that sometimes keeps me up at night.

If you could show me the future, and it showed that my children will be happy, healthy, fulfilled, loved, enthusiastic, peaceful and safe, I would walk around in a state of constant bliss.  THAT is what I want for my kids.  I know you want that for your children, too — we all do.  It’s a mom thing.

Now imagine, for a minute, that your child grows up to be gay.  (Maybe you think that can’t happen.  Maybe you think it’s one of the worst things that could happen.  But, humor me.  Imagine it.)  Imagine that your child is also happy, confident, healthy and satisfied with their life.  And that they are loved.  They are the center of someone’s world.  There is a person, who they adore, who looks at them almost the way that you do — someone who sees how marvelous, charming, intelligent, sweet, kind and amazing they are.  This person is the light of your child’s life.  And they want to be together, and be a family.

Can you see it?  (Does it make you a little sad?  It’s ok for the idea to be shocking to you.  You can work on that part later.)  But if you can REALLY imagine it, what do you want to happen next?  Do you want your wonderful, joyful, loved child to be able to happily build a life with this person who thinks they’re the greatest thing in the world?  Or do you want them to face ostracism, bigotry and legal invalidation?

You’re a mom.  You want joy for your baby.  Of course you do.  It might be hard to accept, if you’ve always been taught something else, but deep in your heart, you know that you want your child to be happy, loved, cherished and safe.  You don’t ever have to explain it to anyone.  You don’t even have to acknowledge that you know what’s right.  But when you vote, vote for the right thing.  Otherwise, you’re letting your child down.  You’re undermining those quiet, cuddling, baby promises you made.

Getting the joke

Dan’s young (25-ish) office mate had a road trip planned for this weekend with 9 friends.  Destination:  Poland.  Dan has lamented, over the past few days, that this sounds like exactly the kind of thing just-out-of-college-youth should be spent on (and I agree — I think back to the many nights we spent eating pizza in front of the tv, times when we were actually BORED and think of what a waste it was).  His coworker has suggested, recently, that maybe Dan could come along next time.  Dan has said it would be up to me.  Then, yesterday, at the last minute, it turned out that someone was sick and Dan’s friend suggested (jokingly) that Dan call me to ask if he could come along, but that he imagined there would be lots of yelling if he did.  Dan replied that no, in fact, I’d help him back his bags . . . just for a much longer trip.

Har, har.  I get the joke:  “My wife isn’t the yelling and screaming type, but she wouldn’t permit that.  She’d kick me out just for asking.”

But, hang on a second.  Over the past 14 years, I’ve put up with, facilitated and indulged WAY more than an impromptu, last minute, weekend trip to Poland.

I do get the joke.  But it isn’t accurate.  It’s putting me down, even though I wasn’t there, even though there’s no apparent harm done.  I am so much more than that.  I am so much kinder than that.  I am so much more loving than that.

So, why not give me that credit?

Why couldn’t it go like this, instead:  friend jokes that Dan call and ask if he can go.  Dan says, “Actually, if I really wanted to go, I think Emily would help me make that happen.”  “Really?  Let’s do it!”  “No, I’d really rather spend the weekend with my wife and kids.”

(Pause for that to sink in.)

Dan doesn’t say that — not because he doesn’t believe it, but because he wants to be funny — he doesn’t want to look like the guy who can’t take a joke.

But, why not have integrity and be honorable to the woman that I am, the wife that I am, the reality of the marriage that we have?  That would hit this young guy like a ton of bricks — open his mind to the idea that it’s possible, reasonable even, to have a marriage that is more than expected.  More than formulaic and superficial and trite.

These little jokes, these little things that we say, plant seeds in our minds.  They become part of how we see each other, even if unfounded.  If we could have integrity, always, with the things that we say and the way that we act, it would be self-perpetuating.  It could become normal.  We could honor, respect and love each other, in these small acts, and reflect the love, honor and respect we try to carry with us through the years.  We could see these jokes for what they are:  a reflection of a false and sad state that is not reality for us.

I’m not mad at Dan for this — I made exactly this point to him last night when he told me the story, and he got it.  (It took a while to get past the, “You don’t understand, it was a JOKE”, reaction, but we got there.)  I’m just saying:  let us be kind and respectful of each other.  The words we choose feed the way we think and inform our thoughts and actions.  We do ourselves harm and disservice by choosing, instead, to get the joke.