Saturday, May 26, 2012

Same, Same, but Different

It didn't occur to me until after I showered this morning, the extent to which my kids have become my life.  My skin is ridiculously finicky, and, if you haven't heard, the weather in India is phenomenally hot. And so as part of my morning toilette, I usually use some kind of lotion for the dry skin and some kind of powder in a vain attempt to keep some body parts dry. This morning, though, we were out of the regular products (vaseline intensive care and gold bond) and so, without giving it a second thought, I reachers for the nearest thing: Johnson and Johnson's baby powder (the brand name and the irony of what I was using it for is not lost on me) and Aveeno baby lotion. I continued with my morning routine, and it wasn't until about five minutes later that I thought about how things have changed over the last six months. And, how millions of parents--fathers and mothers all over the world--probably do the same thing without batting an eye. In our house, baby things are everywhere, and we wouldn't want it any other way.
Cedric and Ezra a few weeks ago
I teach at an international school in India, and my students come from all over the world. Our families are frequent fliers and one popular trip on long weekends is to go to Bangkok, where they have a famous, or infamous, saying: "Same, same, but different." A jaunt over to the Urban Dictionary will give you a little more context for what situations this saying applies.

Every week I see at least one student, refreshed from recent travels with his or her family, returning to school with this mantra emblazoned on a T-shirt. And it's true. We are all remarkably the same. As a teacher, I find that parents want their children to be treated the same as every other student about two-thirds of the time. There is justice in equality. But, all parents also recognize that their children are individuals unlike any other. And about one-third of the time parents go about the business of advocating for the specialness of their children. My job as an educator is to walk the fine line between the fairness of standardization and the richness of individualization. I hope that I am successful at least most of the time.

My students are not unlike the families I read about on blogs about parenting and surrogacy. Same, same, but different. Every family comes into the world in its unique way, with diverse makeups and heritages. Ever since the outing of President Obama as a supporter of marriage equality, I've noticed an uptick in the conversation about LGBT families on social media sites. I was engaged in such a conversation with  several conservative evangelicals on Facebook a few days ago until I felt the need to start checking my blood pressure after typing each response. The point I was trying to make is that out beyond the debate about whether or not marriage can be "redefined," or whether the government has an interest in favoring heterosexual marriage, there is a bottom line that hits home for me in a way that it never did before my husband and I had children of our own. So, permit me the vanity of quoting myself from that Facebook conversation:

If I were unable to make health decisions for myself, I want my husband to be able to do that. I want the option of having to prepare only one set of tax returns for our family instead of being forced to file separately. If something should happen to me or my spouse, I want our children to be raised by the only other parent they've known. I want my spouse to inherit anything I may own after I die. I'd like to be able to use the FMLA if my spouse becomes sick. If my spouse were not a US citizen, I would want him to be able to become a US citizen. I'd like to be able to purchase auto insurance at the rate afforded other married couples. When we're older, I'd like access to my husband's medicaid or social security benefits. And finally, (although there are technically about 1390 other rights we are not afforded), if my husband is wrongfully killed, I'd like the ability to sue. 
Every family is different. And every family is the same. When we're out of gold bond, I reach for the baby powder, just like you would. When our kids grow up, we want them "to do justice, and love kindness," just like you do. Yes, our family came about in a way that is unique and exciting. So did yours.  Our differences are an illusion as much as our similarities are a starting point for empathy.


  1. I wish this blog post had a 'like' button as I would press it a lot :)

  2. I am a conservative evangelical Christian however over the past year through several factors, including blogs like yours, I have 'evolved' to support marriage equality for same-sex couples. Keep up the good work and hopefully others will discover yours and blogs like this and and 'evolve' their views too. Your boys are so cute!!I love those t-shirts. Did you make them? They look same same but different too.

  3. FANTASTIC post. When are you guys leaving? We'd love to meet up.

  4. Kate, your words are touching. And the boys shirts were homemade gifts from the ladies of Libana, one of our favorite singing groups:

  5. Fantastic post! Sometimes I live in my little Canadian bubble where SSM has been a federal right for nearly a decade. Thanks for the reminder that there is so much work to be done.

  6. Love the title and how you tied it in so nicely!

  7. Thanks so much for participating in Blogging for LGBT Families Day! It's great to have bloggers from around the world!