Thursday, January 04, 2007

No More Screwed Up Than Anyone Else

If there was one thing I’d think everyone would agree on, it’s that there’s a pretty high percentage of fucked up kids out there today. My niece is 12. She has a lot of friends, not just from school, but also from her extra-curricular activities.
Not one of her friends has two parents living under the same roof.

What are the long-term implications of that for kids? You know what? Sometimes it’s better for the kids to be in a home ripped apart by divorce. I mean, if a parent is abusive, it’s probably better to have them absent than to live with that….Right?

Yesterday I posted this:
And finally, a tremendous victory for same sex couples in Canada.

Today, my morning began with a read through the news and I think the first words I uttered were, “Oh give me a fucking break.”

Here’s why.

It is quite possible that the five-year-old boy who now has three legal parents will grow up to be a happy, well-adjusted member of society.

On the other hand, in 10 or 15 years, the Ontario boy being raised by a lesbian couple with help from his biological dad who lives in the neighbourhood, could be a mess.

He didn't ask to be a poster boy for the redefined family but Canada is rushing headlong into uncharted waters and this anonymous child is one of the star attractions in this surging culture war….there are two troubling aspects to this ruling. First, the court of appeal wielded the inherent common-law power of judges to reinterpret the law.

This may be necessary in exceptional circumstances but in this case, surely our lawmakers are best suited to rewriting the law.

Secondly, the future consequences of such a profound redefinition of parenthood are unknown.
The Institute of Marriage and Family Canada has called for a royal commission on the future of the family. Considering the furious pace of social and reproductive change in recent years, it's a wise idea.
"It's time to hit the pause button - especially as courts redefine basic terms like parenting - to analyze what the long-term outcomes of family-related policies are," says Dave Quist, executive director of the institute.

Now, I think the column isn’t someone trying to spearhead a crusade. But I have to wade in with some things that haven’t been mentioned.

We’re looking at this like it’s fucking revolutionary. You know what? It really isn’t. The boy has three parents. A hell of a lot of kids have three parents. It happens when their parents divorce and one remarries. Some kids have two parents at home. Some kids have two parents at different addresses. Some kids have one parent and the other remains a mystery, maybe to appear some day, maybe not.

And some kids have two parents plus Dad’s live-in girlfriend, or Dad’s new wife (stepmom). Or Mom’s live-in boyfriend or new husband.

Or Dad’s new live-in boyfriend…Or Mom’s new live-in girlfriend.

What is particularly true in this case about this specific court challenge is that from the very beginning, these two women were in a relationship. The father of the child is a friend of theirs. He assisted them in having a family. There was always a clear intent that this child was the child of the two women. I’m not saying that this man shouldn’t have any parental status, but I am saying that this is an ideal case for allowing the law to adapt to changes in society. After all, we don’t make people get licenses to have children, and there are times I think we damn well should. That’s a rant for another day. But if we give people the ultimate right to decide how to produce a child is it really up to us to dictate that the child can’t have two moms and a dad, just because the moms live together?

That’s bullshit. And let me address the idea that “we don’t know how poor little Johnny might be stigmatized by this.”
Look, Johnny might get picked on every day of third grade by a bully named Biff and end up emotionally scared and afraid to go out in public. There was a very public case here in Canada, where a girl committed suicide because she was being bullied at school. Tragic. And what did that have to do with parenting dynamics in her life?

But the real question to consider is this: What’s the damage to these kids who have two moms or two dads and are denied full family status because of antiquated interpretations of the law about what defines a family and how many people can be in it? Because if you’re going to talk about the potential damage we don’t know about and can’t measure, let’s talk about that. That is something we can start to measure, because kids have been living in these dynamics for decades.
Everyone here knows I spent years working with children. And yes, I have worked with children from same-sex families.
Children can be incredibly cruel. Most don’t pull punches. Sometimes, because they haven’t come to appreciate the need for that, sometimes because they’re just mean. I just read Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects, as though I needed a reminder…

So how good is it for children who are taunted because their family isn’t a “real” family? What happens when the non-Mom wants to pick up Johnny from daycare? What happens when Johnny falls and breaks his arm or worse, requires stitches or needs a blood transfusion, and Mom is unreachable at work at the moment? Can non-Mom authorize medical treatment?

We risk letting children’s lives hang in the emotional, and yes, even physical balance because of antiquated laws. I’ve seen this from other angles, when there’s been a custody battle over children. There was one case where the boy did break his arm, a horrid break. And because of an ongoing court battle there was actually a restraining order against one parent. We couldn’t reach the legally responsible parent. Legally responsible parent’s partner had no legal standing. I spent hours in the hospital with the boy, waiting, until his legal parent could be reached.

While I can appreciate that courts shouldn’t make rash decisions, they do need to catch up to certain things. By failing to grant parental rights to extended partners of biological parents, in some cases a child’s life could hang in the balance.

Since I’m on this tirade anyway, here’s another thing to consider. Parenting is more than biology. (An exaggeration I know, though the saying is) any idiot can reproduce. But not just anyone can raise a child. I have worked with a lot of children who would have been better off raised by someone other than their biological parent(s).

The only reason this is an issue is because (gasp!) the boy has two moms, who happen to live together. If this was a case of the second mom being the wife of the father, there wouldn’t be a discussion.

So let’s call this what it is. Homophobia, pure and simple. Because we don’t know what the long-term impact of some hussy screwing 10 men at the bar one night and getting knocked up and sticking Junior with her folks (who clearly did a bang up job raising her to be a responsible adult) while she “gets a handle on her life” will be. Or what the long-term impact of watching parents divorce will be. Or being adopted. Or being adopted but still having some contact with the biological parent. But it happens all the time. We’ve accepted that, and dysfunctional is the new norm for most families.

All that matters is that Johnny is raised in a loving environment, where he is cared for and nurtured.

And the one thing that certainly isn’t going to help Johnny is having people dissect and analyze his family.


Anonymous said...

The critical point to remember is that very few people who wring their hands and fret, "what about the children?" in cases like this actually give a flying fuck about this children. What they care about is controlling who gets to have sex with whom, and ensuring they use legally mandated sexual positions. It's not about the kids at all. They're just weapons in the war.

anne frasier said...

i find this kind of stupidity so depressing that i try not to think about it, which makes silent people like me part of the problem. i no longer read the paper and rarely watch the news because it makes me feel overwhelmed by hopelessness. jeez. this is all about me. sorry!

Sandra Ruttan said...

I completely agree Bill. Children are typically resillient, and especially so if raised in a loving, nurturing environment. And that applies if it's a single mom or a single dad or mom and dad or mom's..and dad's or whatever.

End of story.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Oh, I understand Anne. Sometimes I get so angry I just have to walk away - not good for the blood pressure. And I suspect you're like me that way...

John McFetridge said...

It's that changing a flat tire on a moving car again. It's hard. Every case is different.

Sometimes my wife goes on business trips and it's just me and the boys. I'm the stay at home parent, so I'm used to it, but two days into the trip I have no idea how single parents do it. But lots of them do it really, really well.

Bill's right, it's about control. And fear of change.

A while ago there was a big controversy over an "ethicist" from McGill University, Margaret Somerville, being given an hounorary degree here in Toronto. She was against same sex marriage, but claimed she wasn't homophobic, it was just that her research showed kids raised by one man and one woman had fewer "problems" than other kids. I always wondered what she wanted to do with kids if one parent dies. It seemed to me this was part of the whole "best" idea we seem to be developing where nothing else matters.

Life is messy. Great people emerge from messes. Assholes come from the best of families. there's no pattern.

You're right, Sandra, no good can come from people picking over this kid's life in public. But luckily the media has a very short attention span.

angie said...

Bill is right (damn him!) that this has nothing to do with the welfare of the child. It's purely religio-political smoke and mirrors. Reminds me of the far right's obsession with "activist judges" in this country. Silly business, but dangerous silly business.

I'm less concerned with the media's interest in the child's case - the child is anonymous & the media is notorious for having a short attention span. As soon as some Hollywood slut-let flashes her naughty bits in public again, this story will be forgotten. Until the issues comes up again, with a new poster child for the cause.

Damn, I'm so jaded.

S. W. Vaughn said...

Hell yes.

Oh, hell yes. Every word. I'd add to the rant, but I think you've said everything.

Sandra Ruttan said...

John, I don't know how you do it when your wife's away. Really, I don't.

Angie, yeah, damn Bill. Jerk.

SW, I'm sure there must be something more you could say...

Anonymous said...

I suck.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Ah, but do you suck in the properly approved position, Bill?

Anonymous said...

Only when I'm being observed by the authorities.

M. G. Tarquini said...

Kids need an adult, or adults to care for them who would die for the kid if need be.

Definition of an adult is somebody of majority who would flip burgers 100 hours a week if that's what it took to keep a roof over said child's head and food on said child's plate. Said adult would also put child's needs first and have the maturity to understand the difference between a want and a need.

EVERYTHING after that is gravy.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I...uh, er...I really like the blue!

Sela Carsen said...

This little boy is loved, adored, wanted and cherished by three generous people. The court should unscrew its head from its collective rear and pay attention, because it seems to me that's the most salient point.

I was stunned that everyone seemed to think the whole thing was so revolutionary? What's revolutionary about loving your child?

Seems like things would get done a lot quicker if folks who made decisions showed a little more interest in doing what's good instead of burying their heads in the letter of the law. But they'd have to define "good" to within an inch of its life first.

Trace said...

Well-said, Sandra. And I totally agree with Bill. They don't give a fuck about the kids. It's all about them and their delicate sensibilities.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Bill, I just had no comeback for that!

Mindy, dead on.

Bonnie, LOL!

Sela, well said. Especially about defining 'good' within an inch of its life...

Trace, sometimes I think I should just ask Bill to post here.