Since having, my second child, a son, I’ve noticed the strange sensation of holding this new beloved little breathing bundle of snuggly grunts and whimpers and contented sighs – and being so contented myself – while watching my 2 year and 9 month old daughter playing and then suddenly feeling an intense longing to hold her, snuggle her, remind her how beloved she also is to me.
I long to hold my son when I’m not holding him, it’s hard to describe the pull of that sort of longing, it is both emotional and biological – your brain, your hormones and your heart change. I long to hold my daughter when not holding her – I long to hold them both at the same time, because the truth is this longing is a sure sign that my heart is growing bigger, able to hold more, even if my lap and arms and mind aren’t quite big enough to encompass all of their wiggly, earthy wildness.
It’s a mother’s lifelong problem, longing to hold your children close, while giving them the space they need to be free. Even now, they both jockey for more room on my lap when I hold them at the same time – or in the case of the toddler the goal is often escape from mom’s hug in the playroom rocking chair into the adventures waiting in the living room a.k.a. “the wilderness”.
Before being a mom, the only other intense sort of longing I had felt as an adult was around romantic relationships – longing for “the one” to be in relationship with, longing over the loss of broken relationships, longing to be reunited with a lover. Then when I found my partner and spouse and we realized that we longed to be with each other above anyone else, I felt longing during the short times we had to be a part from one another. After we decided that the way we wanted to commit our lives together was through the ritual of marriage, and we got on with living that life together, we found out how complex a marriage can be – we both have felt times of longing for each other within our marriage – for intimacy, reconciliation, understanding – during those inevitable and not so inevitable moments of marital conflict. We have both longed to be really known and seen and heard by each other. Luckily, we are tenacious obstinate sorts, who don’t give up very easily on each other.
But it really took becoming a mother for me to know that longing is a sign of love, it does mean your heart is growing, and it means something has to change so your heart can continue to grow. Longing can’t be ignored or repressed or shut up in a box somewhere – it’s not the sort of thing that just goes away without finding a resolution.
On the eve before this momentous vote tomorrow in the Minnesota legislature to legally affirm the love of all marriages in Minnesota, I think of how far we’ve come in a year. I think of the longing of many years of my LGBTQIA sisters and brothers to affirm the love of their relationships through the ritual of marriage. I think of how that longing signals a demand for action, change, resolution and justice. I don’t think two people have to be married to be committed to each other, but I do think there is a sort of power in this ritual-becoming-a-lifetime that binds two people together. It really can be a beautiful thing in all its complexity and heartache and joy. And I want people in love to have the option to choose that kind of binding-together. I want the assurance that no matter who my children grow up to fall in love with they will be able to embrace and be embraced in marriage by the one they most long for.
May it be so! And so may it be!