My son is obsessed with the mailbox. Everything about it from the dandy red flag that moves up and down, to the satisfying thump of the door as it opens and closes… and opens and closes and opens and closes (he's a toddler) pleases him. Each afternoon we make our daily pilgrimage, amidst much clapping excitement on his part, to find nothing more interesting than a collection of coupons for stores where we do not shop.
Although this seems to matter not at all to him, I could use something a little more exciting for my trouble. It is, after all, not a short walk.
During our trip last week I got a bit more than I bargained for. Inside the box was an envelope everyone in my family had been waiting for. The words Clerk of Court were emblazoned on the back flap and I knew before opening it that it held my son's amended birth certificate.
After more than a year of hoop jumping and check writing on our part, and supportive letter writing on the part of our friends and family, my great state allowed me the privilege of adopting my own son. The son that my wife and I conceived together (I did get the final cut on sperm donor after all) and she carried and delivered.
But they didn't stop there. Not only was I now recognized as one of his two legal parents, my quite female name was typed neatly in the box marked “Father.”. We are certainly living in interesting times.
Although I never dreamed I would be anyone's Daddy, I imagine the state has put me in this box because it is either unable or unwilling to recognize families like mine. I neither carried nor birthed my son, but I am raising him with the woman who did those things so I must be the father. Right? Not exactly. While much of the country understands that the word “family” is not synonymous with Mother and Father and Children, the government seems to have missed the memo.
Some people have a mommy and some people have a daddy and other people have a mommy and a daddy and still others have two mommies or two daddies while still others are raised by grandparents or aunts and uncles.
The form a family takes matters less than how well it fulfills its' function. The function of a family is to care for its' members, to nurture and love and support. These are the things that lie at the heart of what it is to be a family and they have nothing to do with the gender constellation of its members. I may not be a father in any traditional sense of that word, but I am a parent. My wife and I head this little family and together we provide the best care that we know how to give.
In spite of the six years I have spent with my wife and the church (Unitarian-Universalist) wedding we shared before getting down to the business of baby-making, at tax time we are nothing more than two women sharing a mortgage. Although we are lucky to live in a county in which a small handful of attorneys have worked to establish legal arguments to support adoptions for same-sex couples, those adoptions are dependent on the approval of judges and far from secure.
I was able to adopt my son making me his legal parent, but there are many parents like me who live in places where they can't gain this kind of legal connection. Walking back to the house in the wake of my son's frenetic steps, I am grateful for what I have but still longing for what I don't.
My wife and I will raise our children with or without being acknowledged as a family by the state. Should our marriage ever be legally recognized we will be no more married than we have been since the beautiful fall afternoon of our wedding when our family began.
What we will be however, is seen. Not as a special case or a unique circumstance, but as we are. A family.