The other day I accompanied my five youngest children and three of the the neighborhood children along with their mother to the park. During a break in the shade, the 11-year-old boy looked at my left hand and asked “you’re married?!?” I stared at him blankly for a second because I never had a child ask me this with such interest. Ever. He was genuinely intrigued by my answer. (Of course my immediate second thought was to answer “yeeeaaah…I guess you can say that…by the grace of God…” But that’s another story altogether. Or is it?)
Cisco chimed in “you ask me that everyday! I keep telling you my Dad’s not my step-dad, my mom’s not my step-mom!”
“I know, I just wasn’t sure. Everybody-most people-have a stepdad or a stepmom.”
Then Matthew went on to ask what a stepparent was and how he would be afraid of having a stepparent.
Interestingly enough, I thought his mother was married because she referred to her live-in boyfriend as her “husband”. I have been seeing this more and more-“this is my husband. This is my wife,”. No, you’re not. No ring, no license, no same last names, kids perhaps, but nothing holding you down whether you want to leave or go.
Facebook is an interesting place because you really see how people’s lives are unfolding through their status’. I know I’m no exception. I currently can see an old friend who has children with their live-in significant other and the relationship is not doing well. Come the end of the school year, that person is leaving. Lots of people are replying that it’s not good to stay for the sake of the children. I believe there is truth to this. A relationship that can’t be saved won’t get better because there are children. But while I think children are not necessarily an incentive to stay in a lousy relationship, they are a good enough reason to assess what the problem is and turn a lousy relationship into a good one, if it’s at all possible. Marriage is a good reason to do this, period. Do the same rules hold true when there is no marriage? I want to say “no.” If the original idea when a couple first got together, when love was easy before life made it a bit more challenging, was never to commit, why would that change for the better when the rose colored glasses are removed?
Of course this brings me back to the very logical reason why abstaining until marriage just makes plain old sense. Why have children, be tied to people that it may turn out you don’t even like? Marriage certainly is not a sudden sure all; it’s hard. I know there are little things each day that when you are so wrapped up in this other person’s life, it’s so easy to feel slighted by common, everyday mistakes. What happens when you take commitment out of that equation? If I were cooking dinner, doing laundry, taking care of children each day for someone who won’t commit, I’m sure by month six, I’d be throwing the spaghetti at his head instead of placing it lovingly in front of him each night. By month six and 2 days, each and every moment would be a chorus of “why won’t you marry me? Why won’t you marry me? Why won’t you marry me?” “Oh, you like those white socks? Imagine if you married me you’ll have that everyday for the rest of your life!” By month 7, all respect I may have had for this man will be lost, and the disdain I have will clearly show. By month 8, I’ll be so resentful that I’m being used, I’ll be off doing “my own thing”.
I know, I tend to lean towards being a shrew, so maybe I’m not the best example. However, I’m not that extraordinary in many ways, and I’m sure many relationships have followed this same path.
When I was trying to decide this morning between going back to bed after I got the teenager up for her Regents and seeing the husband off to work, I procrastinated by reading article on the lovely Helen Mirren.
In it she talks about feminism and sexuality (as if there’s another subject talented actresses talk about these days).
I was almost pleasantly surprised when I read this:

On women’s sexuality in the seventies and eighties:
“The Playboy Mansion, coke, and the rise of all tha–[Robert] Guccione and [Hugh] Hefner always pushed it as liberation, but it didn’t seem like that to me. That was women obeying the sexualized form created by men–though maybe we always do that, because we want to be attractive. But I was kind of a trailblazer because I demanded to do it my own way. I’d say, ‘I’m not having it put on me by someone else.’

Yes, exactly. She gets it, at least some of it. Hugh Hefner isn’t what God intended for women, but just what Hugh Hefner intended for women. And it’s distorted. But then she added:

I didn’t want to be the sort of puritanical good girl with a little white collar who says, ‘Don’t shag until you get married.’ ”

Oh well. Missed the point. People are so worried about seeming “religious”, “puritanical”, “judgmental” that everyone is losing sight of “practical”. Being stuck with for life, trying to raise healthy children with someone you don’t like because you didn’t care enough to get to know them before you started reproducing just makes no darn sense. Maybe for the Helen Mirren’s of the world who have access to more material goods that can help, but not for the average working person who needs the teamwork and extra hands of two parents.