Ocean Mandela Milan has been born to my partner TRW and myself.
He enters the western calendar at 9:13 a.m. (PDT, GMT-8) on 8th October, 2002, a Tuesday.
He weighs in at 3170g and has a full head of black hair. His eyes initially appeared blue! But now they are getting browner by the day. We are not getting much sleep, but we are thrilled to have him with us.
We conceived Ocean purposefully, with all loving intent, courage and will, last winter. It is our first child. We have known each other only as adults. I met TRW in San Francisco when she was 22 years old and I have known her for more than seven years. We lived together in New York City for 18 months. We have relocated to Los Angeles. I am 35. She is 28.
In my partner’s work with young children (aged 0-6), and through her studies in college, preschool and in intimate family settings, it has become apparent that loving family structures benefit a child greatly. We have read, studied and personally observed that the most important factors in children’s development and happiness are parents who are attentive and loving and the presence of love, kindness and attentiveness in any extended family; parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles who are supportive, kind and encouraging.
Here in the U.S., we have both witnessed single parents, divorced parents, and unmarried couples who are more involved and loving than many of their married counterparts and who do have happier, more balanced children. We want to provide a safe, stable, loving, educational and enlightened environment for our child in which POSSIBILITY is a fundamental that makes life worth living and fulfilling. We do not want to create an environment that symbolizes RESTRICTION of possibility. We want to be organic in addressing the needs of our child. We do not want to create formalistic rules based on pre-existing social structures, rules that might limit the growth of our child’s mind, soul or body.
Recently, friends, family and others have asked if we are married or worse, if we plan to marry, or worse still, why we aren’t married.
Young children don’t know or care whether their parents are married; it’s simply not an issue before age 6. And while it’s true that as children become older (6 and up, school-age), they are more aware of social structures and may be influenced by peers or others who may imply that their parents are “supposed” to be married, we have witnessed this stigma lessening every year as times change. We are confident, from watching and learning from families and children and society around us, that in 2008, marriage will not be as serious a societal expectation and that our decision will not affect our child’s self-esteem or security.
We are quite proud to provide for our child’s friends, an example of a relationship in which parents are individually whole, total and perfect equals, mother and father, neither reduced or inflated by the socially-weighted titles of “wife” or “husband”, providing a happy and healthy home for their child. We are proud to be strong enough, stable enough in our love for one another and secure enough in our knowledge of self to be unmarried partners in the endeavor of raising a child.
We met in San Francisco and moved thousands of miles, abandoning personal projects and employment, to make our family and settle here in California, a place we love, where we feel secure. We made this decision to have a child because we care deeply about our world, are devoted to making it a better place, and feel that by raising a kind and conscientious child we can change the world. This pregnancy is happening now because we are lucky, and because it is meant to be. The world needs peace-minded, enlightened, non-violent, intelligent, humanist parents, badly.
Neither of us feels the institution of marriage is for us. We recognize marriage as something that many people have grown to expect of those who love one another and who want to have a child – but marriage, as an institution, has no personal meaning for either of us.
Religious marriage ceremonies conducted when any party is NOT a faithful believer in the philosophy under which the ceremony is being held have always struck us both as hypocritical and fundamentally bogus bonding rituals. And licensed marriage under a State that STILL refuses to recognize same-sex marriages and is completely unrepresentative of our political views is ethically reprehensible to us. We think of ourselves as brave in our deep commitment to TRUTH and honesty in politics, life and our love. We do not want to participate in rituals or support institutions in which we do not personally believe.
If we were to ignore the discomfort we feel and marry to satisfy our family’s, state’s or anyone else’s expectations, we would both soon regret it, and we strongly believe that we would be starting out on this venture with a negative feeling. Resentment—toward each other, toward the family or state that pushed us into it—would be sure to develop quickly. We don’t want that.
We have both witnessed tragic and debilitating divorces, and have seen the heavy expectation that marriage places on relationships. I was an unwilling participant in the terrible strain that orthodox concepts of marriage placed on my parents at an age when I should have been free of such concerns. Separation has been good for my parents as individuals and would have been easier to cope with had the heavy expectation of marriage not been such a significant factor. Many people trapped in marriages they do not want suffer needlessly in relationships that no God or good person would wish for any sentient being.
Neither my partner nor I know any couples in wildly successful long-term marriages. We do know couples who have been together for many years without marrying and who have strong relationships. Some of these couples do not have children but wish they could, eventually hope to. Marriage has never been a positive consideration for them in that decision-making process – only a negative: “Well, if we do have a child, we’ll HAVE to get married.” They say it because they are considering HAVING to satisfy someone ELSE. This (sadly common) sentiment in these relationships actually prevents beautiful, stable and wonderful people from committing to bringing new life into this world.
We both feel that if we were married we would lose control of the pure and honest love that we are daily working so hard to build. By deciding to have a child, we feel we are leading by example, providing an alternative for other unmarried couples – those who choose to be together and may have similar feelings but lack the personal security or the courage to have a child.
We are proud to assist in reducing the expectation society places on anyone in love.
There are things we each feel strongly about, and overwhelmingly, remarkably, my partner and I agree with each other about the most important environmental factors that will help determine what kind of person our child will grow up to be. That is in large part why we have decided we’ll be good partners in parenting. We enter into all our decisions together and with great thoughtfulness, foresight, and clarity.
This decision, not to marry, was the first of many decisions we made and will make together. It is a decision that reflects our personal beliefs, our experiences and the ways in which we hope to change this world and our child’s experiences in it.
Just as we respect others’ different opinions—and know that they are what make our society and world a diverse and fascinating place filled with cultural and social variance—we expect respect for our opinions in return.
Now, to his name:
We have considered dozens of names in the past year. I won’t go into the many possibilities, but I will tell you some of the things we like about the name we have given to our new son.
We both decided early on that we didn’t want to take either of our family names – we feel that a third new surname would serve to bond our family better since we chose not to marry. To this end we have given our son his own first, middle and surname. We will eventually decide whether or not we wish to take his name for ourselves, likely we will.
TRW and I have swum in many oceans and seas. We have both always loved the Ocean, having been born by it ourselves – TRW near the Pacific and I by the Bay of Bengal. It was a great day early in this pregnancy that we agreed that the English name for Ocean could be used for either a boy or a girl and that French, Portuguese, Spanish or Sanskrit variants could be used by anyone who chooses to do so (Oceano, is the Spanish, Swedish and Portuguese, and a particular favorite of mine). It’s easily translated.
It was TRW’s idea that a second initial with an ‘M’ would make “OM” and we agreed that would be nice. Had he been a girl, the name we first thought of was Madeleine (a French name that TRW has always liked and I remember enjoying in the children’s book of that title). After she had chosen the girl’s name she asked me to think of a three-syllable, ‘M’ name for a boy. Within seconds, the first thought was of one of my heroes, Mandela.
TRW agreed that the name Ocean Mandela has both a wonderful sound in English and carries international significance for its socio-political importance (a sidenote: Nelson Mandela titled his autobiography “Long Walk To Freedom” after a quote from Nehru)
The hardest part for us was choosing a surname for the baby. We ended with Milan because it means “union” or “coming together” in Sanskrit. We are an inter-racial couple and we feel this name is progressive and beautiful. In addition to creating the sound ‘OMM’ with his initials, the name has the following anecdotal niceties.
As letter number 13, ‘M’ is the center of the western alphabet providing balance.
The numbers of letters in each name corresponds to the number of syllables in the haiku form of poetry from Japan – 5,7,5.
Only afterward did I remember Milan Kundera the GREAT Czech writer – exiled in Paris – whom I have read and enjoyed for decades.
I, for one, call him “Little Man” and approve of Manny or other variants as long as they are tasteful. We look forward to introducing you to our son, Ocean Mandela Milan.
I mean that as the aforementioned Czech-writer Milan Kindera once wrote: “An illusion revealed and a rationalization unmasked have the same pitiful shell. Nothing is easier than to mistake one for the other.”
My life in the USA has been a constant disagreement with the powers that be. I find them deeply bigoted, fascist and corrupt. But until 9/11/01, I allowed myself the thought there was hope for this place. I always worked hard to believe I was helping to educate and create a better USA than the one I was forced to move into. That we would one day come to common ground. What nonsense! This place is run by supremacists and pseudo-Christians who suck oil, water, air and energy from the rest of the world and then justify their bloated, self-serving attitude. 9/11/01 only made what was covert, overt. Unmasked the rationalization of empire.
We were all spending the last decade talking about “post-colonialism” only to find that in the Christian’s 21st century, colonialism is alive and well, and its latest manifestation, the USA under Bush and Cheney, is no different from the ones who locked up my grandfather in a jail in his own country in 1928 and 1931, and who claim to have “civilized” India with railroads. They are only wearing a different mask.
My son, my partner and I vociferously protest the American military intervention planned for Iraq and the covert operations that these pigs continually run around the world – in the Philippines, in Colombia, in Afghanistan, in Africa, with armadas on all high seas, overtly militant, with global positioning technology accurate to the size of a dime.
Because of my protest work for the last fifteen years, (and because of the sensitive work my father did for the American military) I am absolutely certain that my e-mail and phone are monitored by the NSA. Though I have always followed their rules and have struggled mightily to work within their system, there is no real freedom for me here and there never has been.
The American nightmare is what I hope my son can avoid. My partner and I – truly global citizens who believe in world peace and harmony between peoples – intend to raise him to lead us away from war – to disarm the USA and to demand multi-lateral, peaceful disarmament of the entire world for his grandchildren.