Parental gut-check (1)

[Part one of a two-part post.]

Last week I hit a nadir about all this Proposition 8 malarkey. It was a bad one, if something like a nadir can be characterized on a relative scale. It was close to noon (Tuesday, actually), and I was in a crazed wind tunnel in front of my computer, doing something that, at the time, I was certain was critical — critical! — to the unholy war being waged against my family in this state. For want of a horseshoe the horse was lost, etc.

My so-adorable-he-should-be-illegal, so-adorable-he’d-stop-traffic-if-only-he-were-tall-enough-for-traffic-to-see-him son wanted me to pay attention to him. He was tired, needing his midday nap. He wanted to be rocked in my lap, sucking on my pinkie.  It’s our special ritual, his most favored angle of repose, irrevocable proof that he’s Baba’s Little Boy. But there I was feverishly typing, repeatedly turning him away. The more insistent he got, the more frustrated I got. He grabbed my hand from the keyboard, and I snatched it back and barked at him. He looked at me with amazement, and then began to cry.

The accute irony was not lost on me, even in the moment. The poignance, all around. Me feeling for all the world that I was trying to save him — him! — from the macro forces of hatred, and him, feeling with all 25 pounds of his being that all he really needed was a nap, and my tender loving care.

I picked him up and rocked him, sang our special lullaby (“Where are you going, my little one, my little one/ where are you going, my darling, my own/ turn around and you’re three/turn around and you’re four/ turn around and you’re a young man going out of the door”). Any parent knows that we rock our children and sing to them for two very practical reasons: one, it comforts them. Two, it comforts us.

After I laid him asleep in his crib, I called my beloved and asked to be relieved of childcare for a portion of the afternoon so that I could try to collect myself. In over four years of parenting, I have never come to such a point. She lost several hours of income, an amount roughly equivalent to umpity-ump lawn signs, or another few seconds of No on 8 ad time in a big market, whatever.

Scenes like this are repeated all up and down the state. Lesbian and gay parents like me, currently married, feverishly working to retain that very civil right. We do so, more than any other reason, out of a sense of protectiveness of our kids, and we are either (a) working our @sses off, (b) freaking out, or (c) doing both, alternately.

Up and down the state, for the next two weeks, parents like me — as well as our friends, family, and allies — are staying up late, calling and writing everyone we know, begging them to write everyone they know. “Vote down the ballot!” we say. “Don’t forget about us when Obama is called the winner before the California polls close!” we say.  “Please, please consider doing without your Starbucks for just this next two weeks, and donate that money so we can get the truth into the ears of the overwhelmed 9% who still don’t know how they’ll go with this.”

“Please, I’m begging you,” we say. And we mean it.

We’re tired and short tempered the next day. We’re letting the sweetie spend the day with the kids on the weekend, so we can make this meeting or that fundraising event or do this or that thing that needs to be done, anything that might help make a difference. We watch our children say and do the amazing, hilarious, intriguing, wonderful things they always say and do, and we’re moved, like we were before this final, all-consuming stretch of the campaign. And then we cut short the savoring and get back to this unholy war.

Because it feels like a war. When religion is used to turn people from other people, which it has been Sunday after Sunday, from pulpit after pulpit in this state, I call that unholy.

Very specific things led me to that nadir. Reports of the massive $10 million advantage in the Yes on 8 war chest. Reports that the vast percentage of that war chest   now some 46% at last count 77% — having come from one source alone: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (who constitute what part of the CA population? that would be 2%). The recognition that gay people and heterosexual allies alike were lulled to sleep by encouraging poll numbers, earlier in the campaign   before the controversial, widely condemned Yes on 8 ad campaign essentially mobbed California airwaves.

But when I took time to recollect myself last Tuesday afternoon, I knew that the source of my imbalance went deeper than recent bad news from the battle. After much reflection, I realized what made all this so visceral for me: I cannot protect my children from legally sanctioned homophobia, and for four or five months, I actually began to think I might.  Or rather, the California State Supreme Court’s sober  reading of the state’s constitution might.

For a few months there, I thought my children might be able to grow up in a state, at least, in which the legal inadequacy of their family was a thing of the past. My daughter is four; my son one-and-a-half. The things that are happening right now will be lost in the recesses of their unconscious (for which I know I’m lucky: just try to imagine, if you can, the dinnertime conversations that LGBT parents in this state are having with their older children who are subjected to the rainstorm of hate). I sentimentally hope my daughter will remember the moment Obama accepted the nomination for the presidency from the Democratic Party that August evening in Denver. Truthfully, it’s more likely she won’t.

So if Proposition 8 were defeated now  if enough Californians cared deep enough in their cells to work hard enough to say NO to bigotry, here and now, and our friends out of state helped out, everyone even a little   my beloved and I would simply be telling our children, later, when they understood, about how at one point it was a close call. Way back then, when they were too young to remember, fear and loathing were in a battle royale with love and understanding, and love and understanding narrowly, but dramatically, won out.

That’s the story I dearly want to tell them.

[Parental gut-check (2), here.]


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fight [next in this marraige equality series: Parental gut-check (2)]

10 thoughts on “Parental gut-check (1)”

  1. Keep talking — your friends and allies are listening. Every time I meet someone from CA (which happens a lot here) I talk to them about measure 8. I also just donated again. I know you’re in a hard, hard place, and I want to thank you for speaking from that place and keeping the heat on.

  2. LD,
    You just facilitated the culmination of my weeks of freaking out. I sat here, read your post and cried. I have been workign workign working for No on 8, to find a new home, to write my thesis and I just lost it. I feel a wee bit better. A little soggy, but better. I am sitting in my half-moved-out-of house surrounded by boxes and No on 8 lawn signs. I don’t even have a lawn! But when I get one, I will be ready with the signs.

    If ever there was a time to embrace the yiddish it would be now.
    In the words of my grandmother: I’m ready to plots from all this mishegas. Such a tsuris I’ve never had!

  3. When you say,
    “I try now to think of these things, and think that, as so many keep reminding me, the love of my children for me, like mine of them, can never be legislated out of existence.”
    This is the bottom line. Hold tight to that.

    Remember that people before us held that love together when allies were hard to find and attacks came thick and fast. You can do what they did. This has helped me in the past. Remember too that there are parents and children in other parts of the world in those dark places still. And, if you can stand to, maybe remember that it is, in the end, sad for those who fear us the most. All those individuals and groups who hand over money out of terror of the unknown. They must be living in a world foggy with fear. Don’t let them drag you there. Wishing you strength from across the pond.

  4. I want you to know:

    -this is the first political campaign I’ve ever actually worked on
    -my hetero family is only indirectly threatened (because it is a step backward for all of us) but my stomach has been in knots as well
    -there is a lawn sign in our yard and bumper stickers on our cars, and we handed out more to our neighbors
    -my child’s 25 year-old music teacher is voting for the first time, in part because he “can’t believe this is even on the ballot, it’s so stupid.” He is talking more friends into voting.
    – the overwhelming majority of the people I reached while phone banking are very much against prop 8, and vocal about it.
    I’m telling you this because you have had a real influence on my activism. I always would have cared deeply about this issue, but it is your blog that moved me to fight as hard as I can for its defeat. Take heart – you are making a difference.

  5. Hang in there, my friend. Hang in there. You are in the trenches, I know. Please know that even here in the tundra…we’re with ya. I’ve been targeting every straight friend of mine that I know and asking them to talk to everyone they know. Luisa will be making phone calls for No on 8 from Minneapolis this week. You are not alone.

  6. I realize that violence is, um, not the answer, but this morning, while walking to work, I saw a yellow Yes on Prop 8 sign in the window of a store in Oakland’s Chinatown, and for a moment, found myself thinking about smashing the window. I have never been in that store (nor will, based on the absolutely horrid lack-of-fashion displayed next to the sign in the window), and don’t know anything about its management, but my white-hot anger at it all shocked me.

    As I said to a friend yesterday, there’s a little part of me who is sorry I changed my voter registration out of Iowa, where my vote for Obama might have done more good than it will do here. But a huge, huge part of me is so glad I changed my registration, simply because I cannot stand by and not act on this ballot initiative. It breaks my heart that people who call themselves people of God (any God) would broker this kind of inequality, injustice and hate.

  7. Really, it breaks my heart that you even need to be going through this. I did a small post at my blog on No on Prop 8. I will try and get others to do the same.

  8. Oh, LD. You are all on my mind and thoughts as this day draws near. I am excited, anxious, nervous, psyched and completely freaked out all at the same time. How I hope things will change…

    Keep it up. Just a little bit longer.

  9. You captured my feelings about this horrible, vile Proposition and this battle and this desperate hope that we just have to win this one because it’s big, really big. Thanks for your eloquence and your love which both always shine.

  10. Hello, I’ve been reading your blog for months now and have a moment while boy is at school to respond and say a ‘giant’ thank you from the bottom of my heart to your amazing words. You are reaching many people and in my own fundraising efforts I admit to having listed lesbiandad as a link. My partner and I married last weekend after being together for 10 years and having a beautiful 3 1/2 year old boy.

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