Love, Ideology, and Children

It might be weird to talk about sex during Holy Week, but it’s not weird to talk about love. But when we talk about love, sooner or later we end up talking about sex. And when we talk about sex, sooner or later, it ends up Being About The Children. It’s entirely too bad that all of these concepts are so tangled up in our culture – because they limit us to an ideology that can be unnecessarily harmful.

It’s difficult to even write about these, because each aspect – sex, love, jealousy, relationships, child-rearing – are all such amorphous terms, and because our culture insists that they all go together in a specific way.

Even though that way isn’t the norm any more – and really hasn’t been the norm for quite some time.

Child-rearing is perhaps the least emotionally charged of them, so I’ll use that as an example. Our culture teaches – pretty explicitly at times – that child rearing is supposed to be done by the child’s biological male and female parents. I’m not arguing that the functions served by biological parents in prior times are unimportant. That’s not the case at all – those functions are developmentally important. But that doesn’t mean those functions have to be embodied in the persons of the biological parents.

That ignores the times when the biological parents are abusive or neglectful. It’s hard to imagine that, for example, a mother who leaves their child in a car seat while screwing someone else and doing drugs – not that I’d know someone who did that – is arguably worse for their kid than an adoptive parent. Or two men. Or two women. The supposed “norm” of biological parents having some kind of special skill to take care of their children is patently offensive to parents who have adopted children.

It also ignores the reality of many people. I’m talking about daycare. We have relegated the care of our children for years to professionals unrelated to them, and study after study shows that the daycare experience doesn’t produce a negative difference in children. And this is not a new trend to have professionals care for our children. It’s not only in the modern sense of the daycare center, but in boarding schools and under the care of nannies. Mary Poppins, anyone?

The end lesson of Mary Poppins is entirely true – we should spend time with the children under our care. Yet the supposed biological tie is undermined by Poppins herself. The emotional and caring bond she forges with the children is utterly unrelated to biological or the way society supposes that “family” is supposed to be structured. The importance is in the caring, nurturing support – regardless of source.

Yet our ideology insists that biological parents have to be the only and best rearers of children. This ideology leads to a lot of anguish, self-doubt, and tons of counterproductive results. We do have to ensure that the needs of children are met, but the forms that may take can be as varied as our imaginations will allow.

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