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Friday, August 3

The (not) only one family of today

Another version of the following article was published on "Temas de hombre / temas de mujer" an e-magazine no longer on line, on January 2005.

Mom, dad, two kids (better if boy and girl). Sometimes, granddad on a side, smoking a tobacco pipe, or grandma knitting one of her famous Christmas sweaters we all pretend to like. Typical postcard of the family such as it showed on Elementary School textbooks in Argentina a couple decades ago. Mom cooks, dad works, the children play. The Ingall’s model of family, for some the only true guarantee of a happy life.
Today things have changed. Mom and dad got divorced, later remarried new people and had more children. Today the postcard includes stepbrothers, stepsisters, half brothers, mom, mom’s new husband, dad, dad’s girlfriend, her kids… Either that or else the every day more popular single parent’s homes. Even the “traditional” families are getting smaller, each time people choose to have fewer children for economic causes, among other reasons. The late 2001 economic crisis took aunt and uncle out of the country. Grandparents no longer live at home with us, but many times people in their 30’s still linger at their parents’. Also, the children talk about a classmate of them who has two daddies, or two mommies… living together.

Despite what many people say, it didn’t happen between sunset and sunrise. Changes were introduced gradually in our society, being the most obvious the massive incorporation of women to labor market. From this point, we have our children later in life, and only in case we decide to have them. Other transformations are due to more specific facts, like the approval of laws concerning divorce: in Argentina this happened in 1987, being at that time a major argument between progressive and traditional sectors, such as Catholic Church, which claims for a return to the family model of yore.
But what these sectors are forgetting is, precisely, that such a model was never unique: there have always been broken marriages, separations; there were always some men who kept a double life (meaning that their children had stepbrothers or half brothers, even though they used to be called “love children”, “illegitimate”, “bastards”). There has always been homosexuality, the difference being that it was something to hide and to be ashamed of. Never before had two men or two women been able to even dream about raising their own family. Maybe, many of these changes that shock some actually mean the end of hypocrisies. If mom and dad no longer love each other, there’s no need to pretend. Today is better a mutual agreement of divorce than living unhappily together.

Does divorce affect the children in a negative way? Sure. But I wonder: does the fact that mom and dad hate each other, the fact that they can’t stand looking into each other’s face, and -besides that- are forced on living under the same roof, doesn’t this all affect the children as well? Of course the little ones can live divorce as a major lost, but it can be a more or less traumatic event. It’s up to how their parents explain it to them. If boys and girls understand that they’re still loved, if they keep on seeing both of their parents, and if mom and dad both make decisions together concerning their children’s education, health and life, they can still remain a family.

The proliferation of children born of the second marriage of the third husband of daddy’s fourth wife who are my siblings but aren’t related to my stepbrother’s half sister… Why keeping the score? Children will be children: raised together, they all will be brothers and sisters, no matter how much DNA they happen to share. And if not, we should increase their affection and lessen the competition. They ought to know that they’re all loved: adding love instead of dividing it.
The arduous debate is probably if gay men or women should have children of their own. French anthropologist Anne Cadoret says that today society is heading to a way of plural filiations: this means, that children would not be only their biological parent’s, instead they would be raised surrounded by several maternal and paternal figures. In that way, it wouldn’t be surprising if they lived with two women or two men. The mother/father kind of family -such as we know it- is only a social construction, one possibility among many others. Many noticed that it’s “unnatural” that gay people have children without heterosexual intercourse: well, what’s not natural is the IVF-ET medical procedure; however, it has allowed many heterosexual couples enjoy parenthood, and fewer have complained about that.
And when gay couples decide to adopt, they find all kind of obstacles on the way. It is not allowed in every country. But in the meantime, what about all the children who aren’t given in adoption? They’re doomed, forced to spend their sad childhood in orphanages, or –even worse- their own families that can’t (or won’t) take proper care of them. Meanwhile, two people (no matter what’s their gender) are willing to give these children all the love they need and deserve. Should law stop them from doing so?
It is said that children raised by homosexual couples are always missing a father figure (should there be raised by women) or a mother figure (if raised by men). But, on the other side, the same happens with children that come from a single-parent’s home. What’s important in these cases is that children find a mother or father figure in other relatives (grandparents, uncles, aunts, godparents). Nobody would wonder whether a single mom or dad is able to bring up their children. Then, why wouldn’t two moms, or two dads, that are together and love each other, success?

Family is the first stage for a proper socializing. Our first steps into society are achieved by living with a loving family. Nowadays we are immersed in a plural society, where there is divorce, where homosexuality is no longer taboo, where people remarries and reassembles their families… maybe what’s most important when the time comes for raising our children, is teaching them to live together in this world, no matter the differences they’ll find among people. Let’s turn them into tolerant persons, tolerant even with those who don’t share their tolerance.
And love them. That’s what family is for. Be that as it may.

1 comment:

benjamin1974© said...

Wow, for some odd reason I didn't read this post.

Really good one!

I believe that parenthood is equal to love... Any equation that as a result has love in it, its good math.

Should the equation be: Mon and Dad; Mom & Stepdad-Dad & Stepmom; Dad & Dad; Mom & Mom...
As long as there's pure love...

Why bother to judge... when all we are is result of the love we had when we were children?

Applauses! Awesome topic!

PS: A good salad will always be better with the right salad dressing.