By: Shannon Ralph
As gay and lesbian people all over the state prepare to fight the proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage in Minnesota, I find myself thinking quite a bit about the future these days. I find myself imagining the world my children will inhabit when they become adults. What will this world look like? What will it sound like? How will my children live? I am not talking about the advent of electric cars or robots or space travel. Rather, I find myself thinking about the ideals people will live by. The beliefs we will embrace. The ways in which people will interact with one another. The ugliness that evolved in the wake of Prop 8 in California last year—and the ugliness that I anticipate being hurled my way in Minnesota in coming months—would make one think that the future of fair-minded, progressive people in this country is bleak. Partisan politics and hateful rhetoric seem to be getting worse with every batch of newly minted officials we elect. Intolerance seems to be standard operating procedure. It would appear that there is little hope for real, significant change in this country. I don’t believe this, however. I only have to look to my children to have hope for a better future. My children are eight and four-years-old. When I look at them, I see everything that our world can be. In numerous ways, every single day, they give me hope.
Just yesterday, Sophie was having her older brother make a new Mii character for her on the Wii. When it came to skin color, she chose the darkest color option available. When I asked why she chose that color, she quickly responded “because it is the prettiest.” My daughter’s color-blindness gives me hope.
This afternoon, I was sitting in the living room minding my own business when I saw, out of the corner of my eye, flashes of skin running past me. My three children had all taken off their shirts, donned capes, and were running around playing superheroes. My young daughter had no qualms about removing her t-shirt and saving the world right along with the boys. And they had no qualms about letting her. The gender equality of my children gives me hope.
Every night when I tuck Nicholas into bed, he will hug me tightly and say, “I love you more than you can believe.” His ability to express affection without restraint gives me hope.
A few weeks ago, my eight-year-old son and nephew began playing with a little boy they had never met before at the park. The boy was a full head taller than Lucas and Jonah and looked to be about thirteen or fourteen years old. However, he seemed to function on the level of a kindergartner or first grader. He had obvious tics and spoke with a forced cadence that suggested developmental delays of some sort. My son and nephew played with him as they would any other boy at the park. Not once did they make fun of him, make an inappropriate comment about him, or leave him out of their games. Their compassionate acceptance of differences gives me hope.
Watching The Sound of Music for the first time with Lucas recently, he gushed at how “beautiful” the music was. A few days later, I caught him walking through Target absentmindedly singing, “The hills are alive with the sound of music…” My son’s ability to forgo masculine stereotypes and enjoy the beauty in a song gives me hope.
As we were preparing to visit Santa this past Christmas Eve, the boys were getting dressed in their button down shirts and red sweater vests. Sophie looked at her brothers with obvious admiration and declared, “The boys look so handsome.” Sophie’s ability to give compliments unabashedly gives me hope.
My children have never once asked why they do not have a dad, nor expressed a desire for a dad. They understand that all families are different, and that our family just happens to have two moms. Their absolute acceptance of diversity as a natural part of life gives me hope.
The kids were recently watching an old-school Scooby Doo movie. Little Nicholas gets scared when anything even remotely creepy happens in a movie, so Scooby Doo with its fake monsters and ghosts is not a favorite of his. Lucas looked over at Nicholas, obviously getting nervous, and said, “You can come sit by me if you’re scared, Nicky.” He sat and held his brother’s hand through the remainder of the movie. Lucas’ gentleness and protective nature gives me hope.
It is absolutely a cliché, but our children are our future. Right now, we parents are molding our future politicians. Our future presidents. Our future environmentalists. Our future human rights workers. The future leaders of our country and our world. Despite the ugliness often perpetrated by adults, I only have to look to our children to swell with hope and optimism. My kids don’t have to don capes and masks to be superheroes. They are my heroes every single day. I am proud of my children and I can’t help but be excited to live in the world they will one day create.