Infinite Variety Or Right Way/Wrong Way?

Once again I’ve hit a patch of travel and I’m sorry to say this means I cannot be quite so attentive here.   My apologies.  I do hope to get to comments later today or tonight.   As I’m about to dash out the door, though, I wanted to put up something that is really just a very early thought-in-progress.

In reading comments recently I’ve been wondering if there is a different way to frame some of the consistent differences that emerge here.   I’m not sure this works–just trying it out for now.   It seems to me that for some people there is a right and natural family–man/woman parents who conceived a genetically related child, ideally with no outside assistance.    Then other potential family forms are measured against that standard, or perhaps try to get as close to that standard as possible.   (Certainly the heterosexual couple using third-party sperm but concealing that fact is trying to get close to that, right?)

But in running this blog I’ve been struck by how wide and varied families are.    People raise children in an amazing array of contexts–friends who aren’t partners/lovers, a couple plus the sperm provider or the sperm provider and his partner, people who include their surrogates and so on.   Many of them don’t look like the standard marital family, but does this mean they don’t work as well?   Of course, results vary specific case to specific case (as it true with marital families) but I don’t think I’d make any presumption that the marital family is the standard against which others should be measured.

Which leads me to my title–I’m thinking there are an infinite variety of ways to raise children and I ‘d focus on what the essential features are that would ensure the well-being of kids.   (I do think there are some.  I’m a fan of stability, for instance.)   I think there’s a different view, though, that there’s a right way and that other ways need to be measured against that.

As I say, just a thought–short and very rough.   I’ll give it further thought and try to flesh it out a bit more as I have time.

18 responses to “Infinite Variety Or Right Way/Wrong Way?

  1. Stability. Known roles of all the adults included (Mom, Dad, Bio Dad; Mom, Lana, Bio Dad, etc.) The freedom for the child to redefine these roles for herself. The child is not expected to be balancing the adults’ feelings (“He’s just your donor, you’ll hurt us if you develop a relationship with him.”) Openness. Knowledge of biological roots and at least some possibility of contact with both biological parents. Knowledge of all relevant information and freedom to express any and all feelings on the situation (like children in married-bio-parents families get to do if their parents are not tyrants, e.g. “I hate it that we have to see boring Aunt Daisy every week” or “I wish we went out together more as a family.”) These are some I’d like to see for every child.

    • I am largely in agreement with you here. I’m not entirely sure what you mean by freedom for the child to redefine those roles. At some ages children probably shouldn’t have the liberety to make changes about where they live, say. But I’m just being cautious. I largely agree with your vision.

      • I’m imagining a situation along the lines of: We’re a lesbian couple who have a child with a known donor. His determined and stable role for little Johnny in the family narrative is “Uncle Jack.” As Johnny grows up, he goes through different stages of understanding the situation, and possibly, at, say, age 17, he announces that he thinks of Jack as his father. He now says to his friends he has two moms and a dad. The moms allow this and don’t make him feel guilty.

        Or the other way around, really. “I know you were married to him, Mom, but he abandoned me and I don’t even remember him. I realize he’s my biological father, but I think of him as nothing more than a sperm donor.” The mother is stable and mature enough to allow her son to express these sentiments.

  2. See I completely agree with you here Julie and what gets me is that you probably assume that I don’t or that I hold some “biological family is superior to all other arrangements” view point. That bums me out because I’ve been commenting here for a long time and I’d figure you’d a little bit know me by now. Not like how I take my coffee but my particular brand of SF liberal thinking.

    I definately would never say that the marital family model is the best because each marital family will be different based on the people and whats going on in their lives. I’ve spent time raising my daughter with another female and it was far more harmoneous than raising my daughter in the same house with my husband and it did not take long before my daughter started referring to her as her parent which was cute but now that she’s not living here they really miss each other and that is challenging. Her grades even slipped a little when she moved out. So I don’t think the marital family is best or the biological family is best for raising children I think that people are responsible for raising their own offspring and if they are not going to do that they should follow a formal recorded procedure for transferring that obligation to another person who is not their parent, but rather an adoptive parent, foster parent what have you. The distinction between parent and adoptive parent or guardian is important for the court to make because how someone comes into possession of a child that is not their own offspring matters; we have to be sure that the child was not kidnapped or paid for or anything else that might be unfair to the child the parent or the people who are going to be raising the child in question. Black market off line private agreements to take on the responsibility of raising someone else’s child are bad for all kinds of reasons and gamete donation does not require a formal record of the relationship between the donor and his or her offspring – that leaves room for other people to step in as if the biological parent does not exist. That is a very bad thing. At minimum it allows for the possibility of people to obtain parental authority over children without agreement from someone who never intended to donate (art mixups and outright graft) and at minimum it results in birth records that are medically inaccurate for the child’s use and for the CDC that uses the info for medical research.
    I think other arrangements are fine but since other arrangements require the absense of a biological parent there needs to be an on the table court documented process for doing that and gamete donation is not cutting it.

  3. theres a lot of ground in between the two extremes of “all equally ok” and “right way/ wrong way”. How about the following adjectives: complex, prone to difficulties, not appropriate for everyone

    • my own opinion is that 2 decent, stable, married people reproducing with each other, is the best way. but that doesn’t mean everyone else is doomed. there are other ways that are ok. but they are certainly not infinite.

  4. So speaking of infinite variety – what do you think of this case Julie? The judge seems to be ruling that 3 people have legal custody rights to this child. I am sure it will be appealed by both the bio mother and adoptive/legal father and I wonder what the result will be.

    • Given the instability of the bio mother, one can only hope the adoptive father will provide some structure and consistency in the child’s life.

      • what makes her less stable than anyone else of any gender or sexual orientation who remarries?

        • She parented with one person and then mid-stream, without showing cause, discontinued that parenting relationship only to start a new parenting relationship with someone else.

          This doesn’t provide a stable life. One can only hope that the new adoptive father understands consistency and stability and will provide that in the child’s life as the mother doesn’t seem inclined to do so.

          • thousands of people do that Kenny. sounds like gay prejudice to me.
            Pretty much everyone in the world who has a step parent- shows that at one time their parents were parenting to other people.

  5. interesting link rebecca. my feeling is that the step-father’s adoption should be voided because the non bio mom met the state’s criteria for a parent, whatever the states criteria happens to be (although I think the criteria are way too loose myself, it appears that the law is already established). I’m not into this multiple parent thing. seems like a recipe for conflict.

    • Well the judge specifically said that the non bio mom could not fit the state’s legal definition of a parent – there’s no presumed parenthood in Ohio in that situation and she also couldn’t legally adopt the child, therefore her consent to the adoption was not required. It seems odd to me someone could legally be entitled to share custody without being legally a parent!

      • ok i must have misunderstood that.

        • There’s a link to the ruling explaining the legal reasoning in the post I linked. The state recognizes agreements to share custody but doesn’t consider the second person a parent. I wonder if adoptive dad can now argue that he never agreed to share custody of his legal child.

        • exact wording: “When a parenting issue is pending in juvenile court, the probate court must refrain from proceeding with an adoption. However, Petitioner is not the minor child’s “parent,” and under existing state law, she cannot legally be made a parent.”

      • There are actually a number of instances where a non parent can be entilted to shared custody. Indeed, there are statutes and there is case law governing non-parental visitation and/or custody. I don’t know Ohio law so don’t know what’s true there. You’ll see it when there’s a person who has an important relationship with the child–important to the child–and the idea is to protect the relationship. The ways to do that are either to make the person into a parent (in which case they have some rights vis-a-vis custody) or to go with non-parental custody/visitation. Variations on the same idea. But non-parental custody/visitation is certainly exceptional, by which I mean you do not find it frequently.

  6. of course, if it was the chld’s biological father I would address it completely differently!

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