Thrawn Rickle 45

Parenting

© 1993 Williscroft

What does it take to be a parent—not an effective parent—just a parent?

In answering this question, do not overlook the obvious. You must have a child to be a parent. Set aside the question of lineage for the moment. One can be a lot of things without a child, but a parent is not one of those. Without the responsibility of a living, breathing child one is not a parent.

But is this necessarily so? What about the girl who has a baby (she is a parent), but gives up the infant for adoption (she no longer has the responsibility). Is this person a parent? What about the barren woman who adopts the infant? She never has and never will bear a child. Is she a parent?

We have established that parenting requires a child, but we have backed off from the question of with whom the child is physically located.

Now let us examine the other side of the equation. The limits of today’s technology still require the presence of a father—somewhere. We still cannot manufacture viable sperm, and we have not perfected the cloning process. The male still is necessary.

Does this make the male a parent? I find the affirmative argument compelling. Having said that, I immediately am faced with the resulting situation that a newborn infant may have up to four parents: the biological father and mother, and the adoptive father and mother.

In today’s world, the traditional family (married man and woman and their biological offspring) is not necessarily de rigueur. The alternatives are intriguing, and any discussion of parenting in the modern world must ultimately address these options.

The single parent comes to mind immediately. The traditional mind set assumes that a single parent results from a divorce or other termination of a marriage. This is, of course, not necessarily so. At least in the case of a woman, she can choose not to have a permanent male companion in her life.

It is only a short step from here to the mother (parent) who chooses a woman as her sexual companion. This complicates things. Are they both mothers, or is the companion some kind of androgynous parent? While it is a bit more contrived to reach the analogous situation for two men, the argument changes little. In fact, if one were to stretch the analogy, one could construct a situation where a child has several parents, all of the same sex, save one.

Once again, let us not overlook the obvious. All these situations require a parenting father (or mother) who may or may not remain in the picture. There is another interesting option that is often overlooked in western society.

Consider the classic ménage á trois. Although most people tend to picture this arrangement as consisting of two women and one man, there is no reason why the counterpart, two men and one woman, cannot fit equally well—or even arrangements with more than just three participants. What makes this parenting arrangement different from those we have previously examined is that multiple parenting options can all exist within a stable, long-term relationship.

We have not yet examined the element of parenting that seems most important after establishing the physical fact of parenting. A child learns how to function in the world by patterning its behavior after that of its parents—role modeling. This is where several of the options break down. It is difficult to imagine how a family (parenting) situation can be ideal when either male or female role models are entirely missing.

I do not have sufficient data to determine the overall effect of this role model vacuum on growing children, but I suspect it is far more significant than current social attitudes may be willing to acknowledge. When the subject is parenting and the well being of a small, helpless human being is at stake, I do not believe that political correctness or any other perspective or ideology that places parent above child is worthy of consideration.

I will accept any option that contains both male and female role models, and that places the child’s welfare above that of the parents’.