Stories of Motherhood: LTYM 2014

17 Jan

I had a tremendous experience last year. I submitted a story to Listen to Your Mother. I was invited to audition, and ultimately got cast in the show. I met bloggers, writers, moms, not-moms, creative people. I got to stand in the light. So. Much. Fun.

Why am I telling you this now, today, one year later? Because now it’s your turn! Submissions for 2014 in Chicago are OPEN  until January 29 — but if you don’t live in Chicago, don’t despair — Listen to Your Mother is in 32 cities nationwide.

Everyone has a story to tell, a story of being a mom, having a mom, knowing a mom . . .

Here’s what I shared last year, before this story – my story and the story of so many other families – changed:

The Real Thing

My stepdaughter mentioned in passing one day when she was about 12 that it was “illegal” for two women to get married. She stopped me dead in my tracks as I was crossing the living room. “What do you mean by ‘illegal’?” I asked her. Did she feel my relationship with her mother was something to be ashamed of? After years of my partner’s care to be always “out”, everywhere, casual but proud, seamlessly dropping my name and our relationship into conversations with teachers, other parents and caretakers… I needed to know.

“Well, I just meant… I mean… isn’t it illegal?”

I said, “It isn’t that we are breaking the law – It’s just that the law doesn’t recognize our family. The law doesn’t support us, but it doesn’t make us criminals.”

Her eyes relaxed, her body softened, and the corners of her mouth turned up, almost into a smile. She seemed relieved.

But this is why I believe marriage should be legal for any two women or two men who want it.

There are plenty of practical reasons involving inheritance and hospital visitation, taxes and property rights, but for me the main reason is that without the law, our children – and colleagues and friends – remain confused.

My stepdaughter’s 22 now, but my partner and I were chatting about marriage and civil unions in front of our second grader before bedtime, and she – the little one – interrupted to declare that her Mama and I should wait until the laws are completely fair before we get married, because it’s just not right to have some of the benefits but not all of them and we should hold out for the real thing.

Wow! Times have changed.

But what is the real thing? Does the state define what’s real? Do the feds? The feds hold the power to award more than one thousand benefits, rights and responsibilities with that certificate of marriage. So even though I really, truly, deeply believe that what I have at home is the real thing – no matter what it’s called – I want a piece of that, too. That contract. That security. I do.

Because how do you explain to an 8-year-old why her family is not protected and revered and respected the same way her friends’ families are, when the love and commitment are just as real?

I shouldn’t worry, though. She gets it. The young one. The older one, too. They know what’s real.

I went on a business trip last year and my first morning home, I saw my daughter’s outfit for school – the young one – laid out on the floor of her bedroom – a pair of leggings and a t-shirt I haven’t seen in a long time. “I {heart} my moms,” it said boldly in purple on the front. I think she chose it because she missed me while I was gone. Little cutie. I was touched, but I wasn’t sure she was ready for the comments it might invite.

I debated silently how I might open a conversation that would show me whether or not she was prepared to wear this t-shirt all day, but she opened the conversation on her own. “I wish it didn’t have an ‘s’,” she said. About the word “Moms.”

“Is that embarrassing?” I asked.

“No,” she said, picking up the shirt with her chin thrust forward. Pride or defiance? I couldn’t be sure.

I needed to know if she was ready before she got that shirt over her head. How many years of “lesbian moms totally rock” would be undone if she had to take the shirt off her body before school? I had to talk fast.

“Anybody who sees your shirt will know you have two moms. But most of them know anyway, don’t they?” She shrugged, lifted the shirt to pull it over her head – and stopped.

She noticed the back of her shirt had words on it, too. “Fighting for our rights,” she read. “I can do that!” she threw a couple mock karate kicks. “I can do karate! Or guns.”

“This doesn’t require that kind of fighting.”

“What kind of fighting, then?” She answered herself. “Fighting with words.”

“That’s right!” I said. “We’ve got to fight for what’s right with our words.”

“Is that because people think gay is bad?” she asked.

“Yup. People sometimes think gay is bad when they don’t think they know any gay people. People have a lot of wrong ideas about things they don’t understand.” She nodded decisively and began brushing her teeth.

She knew what she was doing.

I decided she was either tough as nails (sometimes true) or confident she had the support she needed to pull it off. And if she changed her mind partway through the day – well, she was wearing a sweatshirt she could easily zip over those words any time.

In the end, she reported only one negative comment, although I suppose there may have been others. “You can’t have two moms,” an older student apparently said. “Yes you can,” my daughter replied. “No, you can’t,” insisted the girl.

My daughter stopped, looked at the girl and said, “Well, I do.”


One Response to “Stories of Motherhood: LTYM 2014”

  1. Kathy January 18, 2014 at 11:01 am #

    Oh RoiAnn!
    I LOVED your “Stories about Motherhood”‘
    The Real Thing
    You have a beautiful family; we are so proud of you, Kelly, Grace and little Eva B!
    Don’t you write a fabulous story!
    Love you all
    mama Kathy

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