“Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this Congregation, to join together this man and this woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church” etc. etc. etc.
That’s a word we’ve lost – innocency. Maybe we’ve lost innocency, too.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately, delighting in my daughter’s growing up by the minute while shielding her from headlines and Facebook posts about rape and violence and inequity. I struggle with allowing her the innocency, knowing at some point I have to lower the shield, teach her about hard and scary things, watch her lose some of that innocence and gain knowledge, and maybe be disappointed in all of it.
I do love this time of innocence. I love that for a long time she referred to a part of the female anatomy as a “pagina.” I love that she confused the words peanuts and penis, and where her mind went as she tried to put together her peanut allergy with the knowledge that only boys have penises. She knows to avoid peanuts, so I was pretty sure that she would avoid boys and that particular body part for a long time. I love that she thinks that if you kiss someone, that means you’re going to marry them.
We are just starting to use the correct words for parts of the anatomy – now that she has a better filter between thinking something and saying it, I’m pretty sure she won’t be shouting out “pagina” in the middle of the children’s sermon. (Not that she would be the first pastor’s kid to do that.) I am totally okay with her believing me when I told her that when the baby in the mom’s belly is ready to come out, a special door opens in the mom’s body. Close enough for now. I’ve told her that babies grow in moms’ bellies when a mom and a dad love each other a lot and decide they want to have a baby.
But my daughter is smart. We have friends who are single and gay and lesbian parents and she has figured out that the math of my original equation – man + woman + love = baby – doesn’t add up. So now we talk about the biology part as separate from the love part. Chalk that up to the New Math.
Other conversations await us. The fact that some babies are conceived in a lab. The fact that not all babies are conceived in love. Just this week, in Chicago and Georgia, two babies were shot and killed. What the hell? Really, that must be hell, that we live in a culture in which a freaking baby is shot and killed. For the love of God, how do I have that conversation with my daughter?
Or the conversation about what it means to be female these days? That there are still too many archaic thinkers out there who believe that a woman’s only place is ten steps behind a man, or barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, or at a secretary’s desk but never in the corner office. That if she chooses to dress in a certain way, she is inviting trouble and if she gets trouble, she deserves it. That her own kind will criticize her if she doesn’t have children, or if she stays home to raise those children, or if she works while raising children.
There will be unpleasant consequences to some of her choices; there already are, but they are not of the magnitude of an unwanted pregnancy or getting fired from a job. I know that at some point I will lower the shield and start equipping her to deal with disappointment and failure and rejection. But I’m not ready yet. This time of innocency is fleeting and dear.
As I wrote this, she was eating an oreo and I taught her the old jingle, “Oh, the kid’ll eat the middle of an oreo first, and save the chocolate cookies outside for last.” She’s thinks Perry the Platypus is cool, and she will have nothing to do with princesses. This morning she spent a goodly amount of time constructing a stable out of DVD cases for her My Little Ponies.
But as she grows up, so do I. It’s the end of innocence, all over again. Sigh.