My son turned to me, in a loving voice, and said, “E-Mom, you are my father figure. I mean that in a good way. And, if you were younger, I would call you a tomboy.”
There is so much to parse in those sentences. I, of course, thought, “waaaaait, I am not young?”
If you were to look the historical attributes of “father” — the predominant wage earner, the one who handles “big boy” problems (like girls, budding sexuality and buying Sports Illustrated swim suit editions), the one who works late, and the one who desperately wants to play sports with my son — then I fit.
Except I am not a man. I am a woman. And I don’t want to be Ward Cleaver, whether or not my son thought it was a compliment.
I think maybe he was trying to give me legitimacy as a parent in the paradigm of the traditional family, even though I am not a newcomer to him — I was there at conception (a doctor’s office) and present throughout these ensuing 13 years.
It struck me that, while we have seemingly endless vocabulary and theories about gender identity (there are apparently at least six) and sexual orientation (there are so many more than six), our community has not spent as much time or effort on the vocabulary for our queer marriages and families.
So many default to the terms, “wife” and “husband”. And yet in same-sex families, we know that we don’t one of us called “Mom” and the other called, “Dad”.
I believe that my son was trying to tell me that: (i) I am old, (ii) I have a place, (iii) he struggles sometimes with the non-traditional family structure and may have had to defend his two-mom home, (iv) he is relieved that he can shoe-horn me into something uncomplicated, and (v) he loves me.
Maybe it isn’t vocabulary, but just society lagging behind marriage equality.
But some new vocabulary would help.