Response to an Old Friend

Yes, this blog is neglected. Facebook is essentially consuming any recreational Internet time I have, and I’m professionally busy writing a bunch of stuff that’s appearing all over the Internet, but not under my own name. (Actually, this isn’t my own name, either, but you know what I mean.) Anyway, look for me elsewhere as I start blogging about dogs at the end of the month. I’ll give you the link when it’s live.

But I came back to this blog and found several comments from friends on old posts, one of which is heartfelt, compelling and damning all at the same time. It was a response to my article about Keith Olbermann’s special comment on Prop. 8. It was written thoughtfully, and it deserves a thoughtful response.

Her comments are in blue; my responses are in black.

I should be going home, but am going to stay to say one thing, J:

How does this alleged “required” daddy have to be one that is married to the mother? I, for one, was raised by three daddies and for a good portion of my upbringing by only one mommy. Yet, I turned out relatively well. In fact, many would say they think rather highly of me as an individual.

I think rather highly of you as an individual, too. I think you misunderstand the intent of my original post. It was not to denigrate any individuals raised in any circumstances. My best friend growing up lost his father to cancer at 16, and he and his four brothers were raised by a single mother. He turned out pretty well, too.

The point of my post was to define standards, not judge individuals, especially for circumstances beyond their control.

This may seem like a semantic distinction, but it’s an important one. It’s inconsistent to say, on the one hand, that marriage is irrelevant and superfluous, but, on the other hand, it’s a violation of civil rights not to allow people to define marriage however they want. Either marriage matters, or it doesn’t. And if marriage can be defined as anything anybody wants, then it doesn’t.

To quote Harry Nilsson, “A point in every direction is the same as no point at all.”

You say that research has shown that children need both a mommy and a daddy and that children have said as much, but how does one know unless they’ve experienced it first hand?

That’s a question for the sociologists. All you and I have is anecdotal evidence, which, as far as I can tell, strongly suggests a universal desire for a mommy and a daddy. In my experience, children of divorce or children where one parent passes away are quick to acknowledge that the absence of one parent leaves a gaping hole in their lives, one which is never adequately filled by anyone else.

I’m betting you grew up in a family with a mommy and a daddy and they never divorced. Some would count you lucky. I just count you as a statistic. There are many children who grow up in amazingly loving homes and learn to become valuable members of society without such an upbringing as I’m assuming you’ve had.

Of course there are. There are also real jerks like me who are raised by two-parent households. But again, we’re dealing anecdotally, not empirically. Does the ideal of the mommy and daddy family matter? The sociological data on that point is compelling, indeed. Among other things, the likelihood of a child being raised in poverty increases by 700% when the parents aren’t married.

The fact that you and thousands of others raised in nontraditional circumstances were still able to succeed spectacularly is a testament to your character and fortitude, as well as that of the rest of your family. It does not erase the societal need for marriage.

You’re defining this issue purely on what YOU believe makes a family and limiting your beliefs to only that definition. And that makes me incredibly sad for you.

If it helps, it makes me sad that you’re sad for me. I don’t mean that facetiously. This is such an emotionally charged issue, and it’s almost impossible to discuss without getting personal. I’m amazed at how many people will talk to me about this and, previously thinking I was a decent human being, they suddenly discover I’m secretly demonic and discount all the good they’ve ever seen in me. I would hope you’d be willing to think there’s another explanation for my stand on this rather than the fact that I’m the devil.

For what it’s worth, I think you’re misrepresenting my position. I don’t believe your family isn’t a family, nor do I believe children with gay parents or divorced parents or unmarried, cohabitating parents or widowed parents or polygamous parents aren’t in families. I’m not limiting the definition of the family at all. I’m saying that, all else being equal, the ideal circumstances for raising children is with a married mommy and a daddy.

And it also makes me think that your views somehow devalue my life and upbringing. It makes me think that because you are raising children in a family with a man and woman as husband and wife that anyone else raising a child without that construct is somehow less a valuable human. And that too makes me incredibly sad.

It would make me sad, too, if it were true. I think all human life is precious, and that, no matter what circumstances you are raised in, you are a child of God, who loves everyone infinitely, and no one more or less than anyone else. I really don’t think anything I’ve said on this subject can be logically construed as a rejection of the value of any individual based on their family circumstances.

I have to stop now because just thinking about this is giving me a headache. And my heart hurts (literally) in my chest right now from the quote you shared too:

My mom had me out of wedlock. She had me on her own. And looking back I’m so glad she did.

As am I. The world is a better place with you in it.

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