A Nontraditional Family: Introducing Us

My partner and I are not just a couple. We’re a collaborative, interdependent social unit with a shared goal and our own special brand of symbiosis – like the clownfish and the sea anemone – if the anemone was a middle-aged, wise-cracking mom and the clownfish regularly threatened to eat her children. We’re more than halfway done raising the spawn now – the oldest is out on his own and his little brothers are teenagers and not that far behind. But as much as I feel like an old hand at this now, I know things will come up that I can’t anticipate or prepare for. An there will be days when I’d rather stick a fork in my eye than to be the one responsible for dealing with what ever happens.

Which is why I know I’m lucky to have this incredible partner, this amazing anemone who is smart and loving and kind and tougher than goat’s teeth. She has the patience of a saint and a wit like a Ginsu knife. (It can slice a tomato paper-thin and dice an idiot in seconds.) And that sense of humor has been crucial because parenthood is nothing if not an endless exercise in dramatic irony. (We went in with such high expectations but everyone knew what was going to happen.)

Kids happened. And they kept happening. We’ve been peed on, vomited on and used as living Kleenex. We’ve watched our boys get measured and weighed, stitched up and fitted for casts. We survived their fevers, nightmares, bike wrecks and hospital stays without having a complete nervous breakdown. We’ve endured rap music, sagging pants and seven years of sharing a bathroom with three boys with poor aim. We’ve weathered a thousand Disney sing-alongs, the sound tracks of a hundred Nintendo games, and toys that talked, sang, whistled, wailed, or squawked incessantly until the batteries finally, mercifully, died.

We taught one son that the cat’s tail was not a handle and another that stuffing his pockets with caterpillars probably wasn’t a good idea. We taught the oldest to drive a car and kept the ranting and cussing to a minimum. (Well, I did. Number one son refused to drive with his mother again after she braced her feet on the dashboard and screamed every time he stepped on the gas.) We encouraged (begged, bribed and cajoled) them to do their homework, to be kind to each other, to aim for the water, to eat vegetables, to use an inside voice, to please just go to bed.

Our house was decorated early on in “my kids are animals” motif, with grubby handprints everywhere and graffiti scrawled in crayon on the walls. Our living room was perpetually carpeted with Legos, matchbox cars, and Star Wars action figures. We bought furniture that was plain and uncomfortable but sturdy and Scotch-guarded. For a long time, we owned nothing made of glass, ceramic or anything easily breakable (except dishes and windows – which they broke). For years, we’ve gone without enough sleep, money, time and attention. Because we are the parents, the ones who give their time and attention, who make the money and go without sleep for the children.

This year, my wife and I would be celebrating our twelfth anniversary if it weren’t for one little detail – she’s not my wife. She’s my partner in life, love and child-rearing, but she’s not my wife because I am also a woman, and we’re not allowed to marry. And because the word “family” is so jealously guarded by right-wing fundamentalists everywhere, there are people, institutions, and governments that refuse even to recognize us as a legitimate social unit.

Even the progressives among us so often feel the need to add a qualifier to families like ours – words like “nontraditional” or “alternative.” But still I prefer just the noun, bare bones, fundamental, true. This is our family – two middle-aged moms/women/not-wives/people with two sons still at home, two goofy dogs, and one mean old cat doing our best to coexist symbiotically ever after.

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  1. Hola…don’t know how you rolled past my blog, but I’m glad you did…I dig your non-traditionalism and non-neurotypicalness, and your non-right-wing-fundamentalism-ness, as well. 🙂 Congrats on your 12 years with your dear one…and your growing boys. I’ll be stopping-by as you post new ones…seems like you’re follow-able as we share at least one thing/something in common…and I’ll browse some more and likely find some more things. Hope to see you around…Scott.

  2. Thanks for liking my challenge from above photos. I am glad I found your blog. I don’t like or trust right wing fundamentalists either. Mom of a gay son here. I want equal rights for all, including right to marry. Consider me a friend and supporter.

  3. I’m one half of another such collaborative, interdependent partnership…though without children. Very pleased to meet you (by way of 35andupcynicismonhold) 🙂


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