Thursday, July 17, 2008

Father-free Children are OKAY, Too

So there's more yammering about the "ideal family" going on. Those of us who didn't or don't have the "ideal family" are just plain messed up. Unless there's Mom and Dad and the wee bairns, it's just not right. Of course, my ideal family doesn't have a Dad in it, except as an occasional visitor. Nuclear family enthusiasts can go suck it as far as I'm concerned. MEF-VS is the only real ideal family structure.

What's the big deal about fathers? And if fathers are so great, wouldn't a gay couple with two fathers be twice as good? Wouldn't it go like this in the hierarchy of goodness?

Best: Two gay fathers.
Next Best: A father and a mother.
Better: A single father.
Bad: a single mother.
Worse: Foster care/orphanage/coal mine.
Terrible: Two gay mothers.

When I was a kid, my parents had an ugly divorce, and my father eventually lost contact with us. He started a whole new family and pretended that his kids from his first marriage were just a bad dream. In fairness to Dad, I was not very lovable, and I might have abandoned a kid like me, too, if I had ever taken the risk of having one. For years, I was really pissed off at my father. When we reconciled (I was in my forties) and I got to know my half brother, I discovered that he was just as messed up as me, maybe even more so, and he had been raised by our father! It turns out that I had been not so much fatherless as I had been "father-free".

Looking back on my father-free childhood, I realize that my maternal uncles and grandfather more than compensated for the absence of my father. They were great role models and extremely kind and generous with me. As my father would later remark, it was the "Cherokee way" of having a family. My Dad and I claim to be a Cherokee Indian by virtue of his being 1/64th Cherokee.

At some point my Mom decided that we kids needed a "father figure" so she got us a stepfather. He turned out to be a crazy, abusive bastard whom I have spent decades trying to avoid as much as possible. Having him around was not good for me at all. It was a deficit that just about wiped out the benefits of my being father-free. I still had my uncles and grandfather to show that men need not be crazy or abusive, and I owe them what little character I possess.

What children need are as many people around them who love them as they can. MEF-VS assures children of aunts and uncles and cousins and even a little bit of father thrown in. The nuclear family doesn't hold a candle to it.

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