Complicating the narrative

Sunday’s New York Times brought one of the more interesting pieces on same-sex marriage. In the Misnomer of Motherless Parenting, stay at home dad Frank Ligtvoet begins

SOMETIMES when my daughter, who is 7, is nicely cuddled up in her bed and I snuggle her, she calls me Mommy. I am a stay-at-home dad. My male partner and I adopted both of our children at birth in open domestic adoptions. We could fill our home with nannies, sisters, grandmothers, female friends, but no mothers.
My daughter says “Mommy” in a funny way, in a high-pitched voice. Although I refer the honors immediately to her birth mom, I am flattered. But saddened as well, because she expresses herself in a voice that is not her own. It is her stuffed-animal voice. She expresses not only love; she also expresses alienation. She can role-play the mother-daughter relationship, but she cannot use her real voice, nor have the real thing.

This complicates the conventional narratives, and well it should. Ligtvoet brings an  honesty and humanity. That is not only refreshing but instructive, for  it is always useful to see our relationships as full and as rich as possible. Such complications are not to be rejected but embraced. When we see relationships fully we move away from theevery  easy political or cultural narratives. All marriages are more complicated than the easy narratives would have them.

On a political note, it is easy to see how opponents of marriage may and likely will seize on this (as they already have). Their’s has been a struggle to find some harm in the same-sex marriage sufficient to warrant its prohibition, and this would seem to fit that talking point. Still the question is not finally the politics but the humanity.

And complications are here to stay. As our families and relationships (and technology) grow more complicated,  discussions of this sort can only increase.


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