The Many Shades of Parenthood

Two events where the source of inspiration for today’s impromptu commentary:

The first was a conversation I had with someone last night about the arc of parenting. Neither one of us are parents – she had wanted to be one at some point and it didn’t work out for her, and myself am still delaying such responsibility for a myriad of reasons. But, there was still much parenting related experiences to draw on which highlighted much of the complexities of parenthood. Now, you may think, how can two people who don’t have kids talk about being parents? Well, everyone was a child at some point – at least some of us choose to acknowledge that fact – and not everyone was raised in the confines of the stereotypical nuclear family. What made the conversation stand out was the lessons we learned from our caregivers as children and their impact on our perceptions of parenthood.

The second was a piece in today’s New York Times about the evolution of the concept of the “father-daughter dance”. Essentially the article tried to highlight the different variances in family dynamics and how said variances impacted the preservation of this tradition. Now, for some of us this tradition doesn’t matter; for others, it is very important to either preserve it as is or make accommodations to reflect family variance. I know of men and women who are single parents. I also know of LGBT individuals who are parents (single or co-parenting). Is it appropriate for a household with two moms and two dads to be wished Happy Mother’s Day and Father’s Day? I may be more inclined to ask them how they want to answer this one; some may say yes, others may say no.

What’s always struck me is hearing women who are single parents use the phrase “my child’s father”. You can often hear the heaviness in those words, many times it feels loaded with the more of the context of the relationship between both parents than it is about the relationship between the male and the children. I can recall many a conversation with single female parents in person and in the media and you would have thought the children were immaculately conceived (although that does happen). While you commend those women for their strength in parenting, you often wonder how the have chosen to handle conversations their children may have with them about the other half of their identity. I can also recall conversations with single men who are parents and how similar yet different their points of focus are.

Many people will handle co-parenting different ways. One of my friends who is a single parent, while her relationship with her daughter’s father isn’t the best has made efforts to ensure he can build a relationship with his daughter as she has placed a premium on the importance of that.  She has chosen to reflect and actively acknowledge the lessons her daughter is learning from her through observation how she interacts with men. Some parents may not see the need to be aware of those things. Some people need to have the courts involved with their parenting because of the continuous nature of the relationship between the parents.

Contemporary society has a strong patriarchal element that may not be going away anytime soon. I suppose my take has always been that if you’re receiving good parenting from one or two sources it’s all that matters. Ideally one may yearn for both to present and in a relationship together as that’s the narrative that has been sold to us for eons, but respect for each other can happen even in the absence of an intimate relationship between parents. For a society that values youth and the potential children possess, there is always conflicting messages surrounding what parents are and how people should parent.

Each human being has the capability to create life, but not every human being has the capacity to parent.



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