Saturday, August 8, 2009

Surrounded by Babies

This afternoon, Mark and I sat outside a Reykjavik café, drinking hot chocolate and eating waffles with jam and cream. A gay pride festival is taking place and the streets were crowded with Icelandic families coming to see the parade and the concert. Parents pushed babies in prams that are like portable wombs. They carried them on their shoulders. Some toddlers rode bicycles, or sat in bike trailers. They carried rainbow flags and sucked on rainbow lollipops. Their older siblings wore rainbow colored luaus. I hardly saw any signs of homosexual couples or families. I saw only a unified acceptance and a normalcy involved in taking the children to the gay pride festivities, even with a pole dancer in the parade.

This made me want to live in a more European progressive country. It made me want to bring River to such a parade and for him to take in events promoting the homosexual lifestyle as nothing out of the ordinary. I want him, like the Icelanders there, to accept homosexuals as nothing better or worse than himself, as people with an equal right to pursue their life dreams.

As stroller after wide stroller pumped into my chair on the sidewalk, even Mark was struck by the number of little children on the street and the elaborate means of conveying them. It seems to be often the father who pushes the stroller or who wears the baby backpack. We heard baby babble and children’s voices on all sides of us.

“It’s hard to believe there are so many little babies here,” Mark said.

I didn’t think there were necessarily more children per capita. However, it seems that the people are much more willing to take their small children into public and that the public welcomes them. In the National Museum, an interactive section had all kinds of interesting hands-on activities for kids and adults, who might otherwise be bored in a historical museum. Restaurants have play corners. There are changing areas almost everywhere. Airports and museums have strollers on hand for visitors to use, for free.

Looking at all these babies of course makes us think of our little River. I spoke to him by phone last night and he said “mama,” a single word that filled my heart with joy. But he didn’t say it with longing, but rather curious interest. As I continued to speak to my father, I could hear him happily babbling in the background. He seems to be doing just fine without us.

Seeing all the little babies is also awakening a nascent desire for another. Not now, not yet. But someday I’d like to have that experience again. Our travel companion on this trip said that in Sweden, more educated families tend to have less children, because they want to do other things in life. I don’t know if it’s possible, but I want to have it all. I want to have children and a loving family and have a life full of rich experiences. We’ll see whether or not it can be done.

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