The other night after dinner, The Kid asked me if The Man and I were going to get married now.
"Now that what?" I asked.
"...now that you're having a baby," he replied.
Ah, yes. And there it is. I've been waiting for someone to ask that question. The fact is, we're not getting married, and I'm totally okay with that. Maybe we will someday, maybe we won't. We are most definitely committed for the long haul, and have every expectation we'll spend our lives together. But marriage? I don't know how I feel about that one. Of course, this isn't so easily explained to The Kid.
Or is it?
I've noticed that there's a question that gets asked often of single parents, whether it be sparked by a conversation (debate) about dating, grown up "sleep overs", sex, remarriage, pregnancy, etc. It goes something like this: "That would be a fine choice if you didn't have children. But how will you explain that behavior to your kids?"
I've always found this a rather odd question. How will I explain it to my child? I'll open my mouth and use my words, probably throw in a few bad analogies, and maybe sketch out a quick diagram if I think that will help. In other words, the same way I explain anything to my child. The fact that some of those explanations butt up against readily accepted social norms doesn't make them any different.
And so I answered this question - like all the others - as openly and honestly as I could. We talked about why people are usually married when they have a baby. We talked about the fact that having a baby is a really big deal, and that having a baby alone is really hard. We talked about the ways that people can find themselves in situations where they're forced to have a baby on their own. We talked about situations where people choose to have a baby on their own. We talked about the middle ground where The Man and I are: not married, but also not alone. We talked about where The Man and I are in our relationship - all the ways it's similar to and different from being married - and how that affects our readiness to have a baby together. We talked about sperm and eggs and sex (because The Kid was confused about how The Man could be the baby's dad if we weren't married). One tangential question even had us talking about birth control. But most importantly, we talked about how there are many, many circumstances under which people have babies: some more ideal than others and some - but not all - involving marriage.
I certainly did not plan to become pregnant outside of marriage for the sole purpose of having this conversation with my son. But I would be lying if I said I didn't leave our little talk appreciating the opportunity it afforded. I can't think of many things more important than teaching my son to ponder and evaluate popular ideas; to understand that there are at least two sides to every story; to recognize the shades of gray in every black or white extreme; to know, unequivocally, that there is more than one "right" way to do every single thing.
More than one "right" way, even, to have a baby.