Thursday, June 27, 2013

Father’s Day Is Lucky It’s in the Summer

With the demise of marriage in this country as one man and one woman - which basically means the demise in our society of the recognized right of a child to have both a mother and a father - I suspect that Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day will become less celebrated. Particularly among children, it will be impossible for a secular institution, like a school, to celebrate Mothers’ Day while some of its charges lack a mother. Furthermore, while a child may desire a mother, may wish he or she had a mother, society can no longer affirm that desire. We can’t say, “Yes, you should have had a mother. You were gipped,” because we were the ones who gipped him. We’re the ones who said, essentially, “Two fathers are just as good as a mother and a father. There’s no essential difference, and society has no responsibility to do what it can to supply them both.”

As a result, any public celebration of either Mothers’ Day or Fathers’ Day will necessarily exclude those whom we have deliberately deprived of one or the other.

Please note that this same dynamic doesn’t apply to those who have lost a mother or a father to tragic circumstances. We can say to such a child, “Yes, it is a tragedy that you have lost a father or a mother. You deserve our compassion and help.” But we can’t say that to a child who lacks one or the other a the result of our deliberate policy. That child, we think, has suffered no injustice, no tragedy. We cannot admit that he has, for to admit this is to admit we deliberately committed an injustice.

10 comments:

Ryan Robinson said...

Excellent post, Jon.

How might you respond to the claim that a father can fulfill the mother's "role" (and vice versa) and, therefore, that child has, indeed, suffered no injustice?

Unknown said...

What about the children of single parents who adopted, used in vitro or surrogacy to achieve parenthood? It seems to pose a problem for them already...

Jonathan Watson said...

Ryan,

To suggest that a father can fill a "mother's" role and vice versa is to commit the same kind of technological arrogance that leads us to imagine that we don't need to pay any attention to ecosystems now that we have fertilizer.

The idea that a father could fill a mother's role and vice versa is to say that a. we know what that role consists in, and b. we know how to reproduce the effects adequately. But we don't really know either of these. The wonderful thing about mothers fulfilling a mother's role is that she does it largely automatically and easily. We have no idea the complexity of our natures and their interactions with each other. To think we've got a solid handle on what being a father entails and that we can just simulate it technically is hubristic.

Now, regarding children of single parents who adopted or used other technical means to achieve parenthood: absolutely, those children were wronged. If we're talking about adoption: an already conceived child has the right to the best that society can do for him or her. If we have stable, two-parent, mother-and-father families to place these children in, then we ought to do that. Adoption is about doing what's best for the child.

If we're talking about using technical means to introduce a child into a sub-optimal situation, we absolutely have no right to do that, and society has no responsibility to help anyone use technical means to do that. We and their parents wronged those children, so now we just have to do the best we can and give them the help they're going to need.

Anonymous said...

So you're saying leaving a child in foster care or a group home where they are simply part of the system and may not be getting the nurturing environment they need is better than placing them in a home with a single adoptive parent that could give them the loving, nurturing environment all children deserve?

Aaron Greene said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonathan Watson said...

Anonymous,

Not necessarily. But there's a huge, gigantic difference between dealing with a necessity and making a policy of not distinguishing between two very different things.

The problem with gay marriage is the fact that it sweeps away any attempt to make a distinction between a household with a father and a mother and a household with two fathers or two mothers. It says that these are, for all intents and purposes, equivalent. One is just as good as the other. This is what I dispute.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with gay marriage either. I fully believe what the church teaches me. What I was responding to was this paragraph in your blog:

Now, regarding children of single parents who adopted or used other technical means to achieve parenthood: absolutely, those children were wronged. If we're talking about adoption: an already conceived child has the right to the best that society can do for him or her. If we have stable, two-parent, mother-and-father families to place these children in, then we ought to do that. Adoption is about doing what's best for the child.

I understand the church's teachings on technically conceived pregnancies too. I don't agree with those or gay marriage adoptions. Sure two-parent families are ideal but a single parent adopting a child is not depriving the child of anything. They're removing the child from the system and placing them in a home where they may end up with probably a large extended family and many people loving them. And who knows? The other half (mother or father) may come along later. :)

Jonathan Watson said...

Sure two-parent families are ideal but a single parent adopting a child is not depriving the child of anything. They're removing the child from the system and placing them in a home where they may end up with probably a large extended family and many people loving them. And who knows? The other half (mother or father) may come along later. :)

That's a good point, and probably a reason why we would not want to make a hard and fast rule against adoptions by single people. Nevertheless, two-parent families should be given priority (all else being equal).

6f0bf3c2-e816-11e2-b4aa-000bcdca4d7a said...

Your argument is invalid. You assume that the celebration of mother's and father's day is somehow about the offspring, not about the parent. That is, you are assuming that a particular child having a mother or father is a necessary condition of celebrating the day. However, the intent of the celebration is to honor all mothers and fathers, so as long as there are mothers and fathers, the days will continue to be celebrated.

Jonathan Watson said...

The celebration of Mother's Day and Father's Day absolutely is about the offspring. It's about leading children into honoring their father or their mother.

The point is that in a classroom of kids who are being led into honoring their parents, you can't choose to honor mothers, because some kids don't have mothers on purpose. Elementary school classrooms bend over backwards (properly so) to avoid excluding kids. When kids not only don't have mothers but can't have mothers, it's not going to be very nice for the teacher to keep bringing up mothers as a wonderful thing. What if the kid starts wanting a mother? He can't have one.

A child of divorced parents or an orphan can be recognized as the victim of a tragedy, and that makes his or her situation easier to bear, since society can acknowledge the tragedy and help him or her cope. But a child without a mother because he or she has two fathers cannot be recognized as a victim of a tragedy, because in the eyes of the community there's nothing wrong with that.

So elementary school classrooms are going to avoid situations that are going to potentially make kids feel bad. That includes holding up having a mother or a father as an ideal situation.

This is all about what society is allowed to recognize as a tragedy. Not having a mother is no longer a tragedy.