Archives: Fatherhood

Car Shopping

04.26.2013 12:25 AM

Today I drove Stephanie to the local gas station and garage to meet the man who would take her car to the junk yard. (Her car broke down yesterday, in case you missed it.) He got out of the cab of a large white truck and walked towards us, a US Marines ball cap covering wavy gray hair, chin length and tucked behind his ears.

He looked at the forlorn little thing in the corner of the parking lot and muttered, “Engine’s not working so she’s only good for parts. She’s worth about $250.”

“Okay,” Stephanie said.

He pulled a large wad of bills out of his back pocket and handed her two wrinkled hundreds and a fifty.

“That can’t be safe! Must have been at least $3000 in his pocket!” Stephanie commented after he was gone.

And then we were off for the afternoon to car shop. Her car budget is no more than $2000 out the door.

Stephanie has some help in the search. Her old friend, Toby, who is a mechanic, tentatively offered to spend his lunch break tomorrow checking out some cars for Stephanie (as long as his girlfriend doesn’t get too mad about him talking to her, that is).

And Stephanie’s dad texted to say that he’d keep his eyes open for something. “Just don’t go buy the first POS you see,” he cautioned.

“He wants me to buy a new car,” Stephanie told me. When she called him to ask if he knew of anything for sale, he said that she should just buy new and pay car payments.

“But I can’t afford the interest, Dad!” she said, exasperated.

“Try Craigslist,” he suggested.

Though Craigslist is cheaper than a dealer, that’s how Stephanie got ripped off on her last car, and so we thought it might be worth it to check with Jim, a Toyota salesman that my dad used to work with and that my family has used for the past fifteen plus years and trusts very much. (Fun fact: his wife also took my wedding photos.) We explained the situation, and Joe was eager to help, although he was at first unsure if there would be anything for $2000 that he would deem reliable enough to sell to Stephanie. He kept stressing that he doesn’t want her to end up at the same place that she has ended up so many times before—out a couple grand with a car that breaks down after mere months of use. But he understands the limited resources and said he’d do his best to find something.

Turns out, given his years in the business and his personal relationship to my family, he can pull strings to do things like knock a 1999 Toyota Camry sticker price of $3974 down to around $2500 out the door.

This is practically miraculous given our other experiences of the day.

When we had gone to the Honda dealership next door and told them the price range Stephanie was looking for, the guy looked us over and then without even looking it up, said, “No. Our cheapest car is around $4000—probably more like $4500 with fees and tax.”

The salesman at the Kia dealership down the road had us test drive a 1995 Buick Regal whose engine gasped and chugged like a train. Its sticker price was almost $3000, and so he suggested that Stephanie find a co-signer or that she take advantage of some alternate financing. He assured her that despite her bad credit she could probably get approved for a special kind of loan (the acronym of which is escaping me now), although he cautioned that the interest rate on that loan could be as high as 24 percent.

The whole experience amazed me. I didn’t realize how knowing Jim, my family’s long-term car salesman, could make such a big difference when car shopping. (Social capital, anyone?)

Stephanie is still looking for something that will work for her. Jim is keeping his eyes peeled for something good, and in the meantime, he’s offered to look at anything she finds through a private seller and give her his opinion, in case she needs to use that option instead of his dealership.

Wish her luck!


Why One Middle American Guy is Delaying Marriage

03.26.2013 9:35 AM

Why are Middle Americans delaying marriage?

I come at this question as a person who, along with my wife, Amber Lapp, has been interviewing high school-educated and college-educated young adults, ages 19-35, about marriage and forming families in one Ohio town, as part of the Love and Marriage in Middle Americaproject at the Institute for American Values. We talked to over 100 young adults, about two-thirds of whom were Middle Americans. We’re now writing our findings in a book, tentatively titled Love Like Crazy: Looking for Marriage in Middle America.

I’d like to reflect on this question, “Why are Middle Americans delaying marriage?” by reflecting on the story of a 27 year-old young man I met, Ricky.

Read More

When justice, of a sort, is done

03.17.2013 1:15 AM

Narelle Grech, a founder of Tangled Webs and an extraordinarily brave voice in the international debate about the rights of donor conceived persons, has finally found her father. Grech is very ill, and it appears that top levels of the Australian government made a special exception to open a file to provide her with information that is rightfully hers.  (Photograph by Meredith O’Shea for The Age.)

Photograph Meredith O'Shea. 140313.The Sunday Age.Photograph shows. L to R Narelle Grech and her biological father Ray Tonna.

What is Parenthood FamilyScholars Symposium Begins Thursday March 21st

03.15.2013 10:36 AM

Next Thursday and Friday, we will be hosting our next FamilyScholars Symposium focused on the newly released book, What is Parenthood?   I’ve been editing submissions all week and if you think we’ve had fun with amicus curiae briefs so far, just wait!  We’ve only just begun!  I wanted to put an announcement up today so that if you’d like to read the book prior to weighing in you could add it your weekend “to-do” list.  I downloaded the e-book version fairly inexpensively, but you could also check your local library.

Looking forward to a great conversation!

Pew on ‘Modern Parenthood’

03.14.2013 2:47 PM

Kim Parker and Wendy Wang at the Pew Research Center have a new report out on mothers, fathers, and work-family balance.

The way mothers and fathers spend their time has changed dramatically in the past half century. Dads are doing more housework and child care; moms more paid work outside the home. Neither has overtaken the other in their “traditional” realms, but their roles are converging, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of long-term data on time use.

At the same time, roughly equal shares of working mothers and fathers report in a new Pew Research Center survey feeling stressed about juggling work and family life: 56% of working moms and 50% of working dads say they find it very or somewhat difficult to balance these responsibilities.

Still, there are important gender role differences. While a nearly equal share of mothers and fathers say they wish they could be at home raising their children rather than working, dads are much more likely than moms to say they want to work full time. And when it comes to what they value most in a job, working fathers place more importance on having a high-paying job, while working mothers are more concerned with having a flexible schedule. more

The American Independent alleges potential funding-related bias in Regnerus study

03.12.2013 9:30 AM

The University of Texas at Austin has provided email correspondences and funding information related to the Regnerus study to The American Independent, which is now alleging that the more than $700,000 in funds provided either directly or indirectly by the Witherspoon Institute may have biased the study. Their core take away is this:

Witherspoon’s predictions [in the "Ten Principles"] – that children raised by a parent who had a same-sex relationship experienced greater social, psychological, and economic difficulties than those raised by intact heterosexual parents – are reflected in the study it financed.

Some of the leaked emails imply that Regnerus was in fact approached by the Witherspoon Institute with the idea for the study. More specifically problematic, published email correspondences show Regnerus explaining to a prospective co-researcher:

“The funder, being conservative, thinks the ‘no differences’ story is a function of small Ns [sample sizes] and snowball samples [biased samples...] They might be right; I don’t know, It IS however, an empirical question. If done right, we could get some clarity; that would be good for everyone.”

Anyone who’s read the study notices that those arguments were raised as reasons why prior studies were flawed, which draws into question Regenerus’ claim in the published paper that no “funding agency representatives were consulted about research design, survey contents, analysis, or conclusions”. He admitted in private to having absorbed those arguments (seemingly with quite a bit of credulity) from discussions with what should be considered a funding agency.

Likewise, it’s surfaced that Bradford Wilcox was simultaneously a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute, contracted as an assistant to Regnerus at the University of Texas, and a member of the editorial advisory board at Social Science Research, where he suggested Regnerus submit the study for review. They also have published documents suggesting that he was involved in the selection process for at least one potential other co-researcher who was asked to participate in the process (for unclear reasons, she ultimately did not). While it’s by no means explicit, some of these conversations also suggest that Wilcox convinced Regnerus to build the study on the now notorious comparison of stable, long-term, biological male-female parents (the purported “gold standard”) and any family with an LGB parent or parents (without differentiating between the various, overlapping forms those families can take).

I’m by no means a social researcher, but isn’t this what’s typically referred to as a conflict of interest?

Conservatives questioning mass incarceration

03.11.2013 11:00 AM

Take a look the “Right on Crime” project’s “Statement of Principles.”  And here’s an article from The American Conservative arguing against our current policy of mass incarcertion and in favor of “thinking outside the cell.”   I agree with this perspective, and note that this issue is directly relevant to family and family policy issues.

Two Articles Offer Food for Thought on Same-Sex Families

03.05.2013 4:25 PM

Two items caught my attention while I was going through my RSS feeds yesterday. The first (via Feministing) was news of a new study released in the UK that looked at 130 couples raising adoptive — 49 heterosexual couples, 41 gay male couples, and 40 lesbian couples — and found no evidence to support concern over the fitness of same-sex couples to serve as adoptive parents. A story from The Independent discusses the study and its findings:

The findings, from the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Family Research, will be published in a report by the British Association of Adoption and Fostering tomorrow. Researchers found that gay and lesbian parents are at least as good at coping with the demands of parenting. Children do not suffer any disadvantage, and the vast majority are not bullied at school, but the report warns: “Bullying and teasing are much more of a problem in secondary schools than primary schools; thus, only follow-up will reveal how things turn out in the future.”

The experiences of 130 gay, lesbian and heterosexual adoptive families in Britain, with children aged four to eight, were examined – focusing on the quality of family relationships, how parents cope and how children adjust. The study concludes “there was no evidence” to support speculation that children’s masculine or feminine tendencies are affected by having gay or lesbian parents. Family life and the quality of relationships are very similar for children regardless of their parents’ sexual orientation, it says.

Read the whole article here. I tried to find the report at the BAAF and Centre for Family Research websites, but it doesn’t look like the full report has been made freely available yet. While obviously the sample size is small, I’d argue the study benefits from looking not just at gay and lesbian parents, but heterosexual parents alongside them (and all in relatively equal numbers), and from focusing on families formed through adoption. I also appreciate that they discuss the issue of bullying — a socially-imposed disadvantage for children in marginalized families.

The second link is an opinion piece from Nathaniel Frank at the Gender & Sexuality Law Blog (Columbia Law School), in which Frank explore the recent media enthusiasm for same-sex marriage as a “conservative” issue. Read More

Does Playboy Target Working Class Men?

03.04.2013 10:31 AM

At Slate, Amanda Hess comments upon a recent article published in the journal Sex Roles. The journal article, “An Analysis of Hyper-Masculinity in Magazine Advertisements,” addresses the question of to what extent magazine advertisements help construct “hyper-masculine” attitudes — which the authors of the study define as including “toughness as emotional self-control, violence as manly, danger as exciting, and calloused attitudes toward women and sex.”

What do the authors find? Among other things, that depictions of hyper-masculinity were “presented more often in advertisements targeting young, less educated, and less affluent men.” I don’t have access to the full journal article, but according to Amanda Hess, “The magazines pushing this image most aggressively are Playboy and Game Informer, whose ads play on hyper-masculine tropes about 95 percent of the time. (Compare that to magazines like Golf Digest and Fortune, which rely on those images for about 20 percent of ads).”

Hess then notes the following:

These advertising trends speak to the latest development in Hugh Hefner’s sexual revolution. When Playboy launched in 1953, it was billed as a liberating, sophisticated, and intellectual response to conservative sexual norms. It featured icons like Marilyn Monroe and Ray Bradbury. It was not, in fact, inconceivable to read it for the articles. Sixty years later, the magazine’s advertisers are chasing a readership of middle-aged men who are undereducated and underpaid.

In other words, Playboy is targeting its messages of deformed masculinty to young men like Shane, the troubled young man who is the subject of the TIME Magazine photo essay about domestic violence that Barry Deutsch linked to last week.

This wh0le thing reminds me of a conversation I had recently with a group of college students in New York City. We were talking about the role of culture in forming young adults’ attitudes about sex and marriage. One of the students is interning at MTV. When she went into the internship, she wondered if she would be expected to actually like and enjoy the TV shows that MTV produces — specifically, reality TV shows, such as Buckwild. To her surprise, she discovered that her colleagues don’t even pretend to like what they are producing. She said it’s just kind of known that they’re producing bad television.

So who’s watching MTV? I don’t doubt that a lot of well educated folks watch MTV. But I wonder what their demographic surveys show.

Who’s reading Playboy? Apparently the less educated and underpaid.


Honey, you’d never guess what happened today….

03.01.2013 5:20 PM

It started out like all the stories of its kind that we New Yorkers get used to, so sad and cold, it hurts your bones:

August 29, 2000

A newborn boy was found abandoned on a subway platform at 14th Street in Manhattan last night, the police said.

A subway passenger found the baby on the southbound platform of the A, C and E trains, which run along Eighth Avenue, around 8:30 p.m., the police said.

”I glanced down and saw what I thought was just a baby doll,” the passenger, Danny Stewart, told Channel 11 News. ”His upper body and his head were wrapped in a dark sweatshirt. But as I started to go up the stairs, he started to move, so I knew he was alive.”

Mr. Stewart called 911 from a pay phone, then ran back to the platform to baby-sit until the police came and took the boy to St. Vincents Hospital and Medical Center, the police said.

The boy is in good health, said John Re, an administrator at the hospital. Doctors believe he was probably born yesterday, Mr. Re said.

But then……twelve years later.

Responding to the American Sociological Association brief

03.01.2013 5:06 PM

The authors of the amicus brief write (page 36):

“The amici in support of DOMA and Proposition 8 cite studies purporting to show the superiority of biological parents over adoptive parents, see Brief for Social Science Professors at 14 n.6 (citing Brent Miller et al., Comparisons of Adopted and Non-Adopted Adolescents in a Large, Nationally Representative Sample, 71 Child Development 1458 (2000)), and a publication by an advocacy organization purporting to show problems for children conceived by donor sperm, see Brief for Coalition for the Protection of Marriage as Amicus Curiae Supporting Petitioner–Hollingsworth at 23, No. 12-144, and Respondent–BLAG, No. 12-307 (U.S. Jan. 29, 2013) (citing Institute for American Values (Elizabeth Marquardt, Norval D. Glenn, & Karen Clark, co-investigators), My Daddy’s Name is Donor: A New Study of Young Adults Conceived Through Sperm Donation (2010)). As with the rest of their studies, these studies do not examine same-sex parents or their children. It is hard to see the relevance of these citations to the issue of marriage rights for same-sex couples given that both adoption and assisted reproduction are widely used by heterosexual couples, as reflected in the very sources cited in support of DOMA and Proposition 8.” [hyperlink and italics added]

While our study “My Daddy’s Name is Donor” does not have clear implications one way or another regarding same-sex marriage, it is not true that the study does “not examine same-sex parents or their children.” The My Daddy’s Name is Donor study does reveal how persons conceived via sperm donation to lesbian couples are both similar to and different than others conceived via sperm donation. While those conceived via sperm donation to lesbian couples reported faring a little better overall compared to their peers conceived via sperm donation to heterosexual parents or single mothers, they were nevertheless similar to most donor conceived persons in faring worse overall compared to those raised by their biological or adoptive parents. On average, the loss of their father in their daily lives seems to matter to children, no matter whether it happens via sperm donation or another course such as divorce, relinquishment, or abandonment.

To see the executive summary of My Daddy’s Name is Donor, see here. The summary sections on persons conceived via sperm donation to lesbian mothers are on pages 9-11.

American Sociological Association on Same-Sex Parenting and Child Outcomes

03.01.2013 3:20 PM

via Religion Dispatches.

The American Sociological Association has filed an amicus brief in the Proposition 8 case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court strongly supporting marriage equality as a positive step for child well-being. They also offer an extensive critique of the Regnerus study used in other amicus briefs as support for upholding the ban on same-sex marriage.

You can read the entire 32-page brief here (PDF) and Peter Montgomery at Religion Dispatches, above, discusses the critique of the Regnerus study specifically, with lengthy excerpts.

Here, I thought I would share the succinct conclusion from the brief itself:

The social science consensus is both conclusive and clear: children fare just as well when they are raised by same-sex parents as when they are raised by opposite sex parents. This consensus holds true across a wide range of child outcome indicators and is supported by numerous nationally representative studies. Accordingly, assuming that either DOMA or Proposition 8 has any effect on whether children are raised by opposite-sex or same-sex parents, there is no basis to prefer opposite-sex parents over same-sex parents and neither DOMA nor Proposition 8 is justified. The research supports the conclusion that extension of marriage rights to same-sex couples has the potential to improve child wellbeing insofar as the institution of marriage may provide social and legal support to families and enhances family stability, key drivers of positive child outcomes. The Regnerus study and other studies relied on by BLAG, the Proposition 8 Proponents, and their amici provide no basis for their arguments, because they do not directly examine the wellbeing of children raised by same-sex parents These studies therefore do not undermine the consensus from the social science research and do not establish a “common sense” basis for DOMA or Proposition 8.

While I would be the first to agree that just because something is said by a professional organization that doesn’t make it true (exhibit A: the classification of homosexuality as a pathological disorder), it is true that professional consensus backed up by a body of literature that consistently demonstrates a set of outcomes requires an equally strong body of evidence to refute. And the anti-equality spokespeople are not offering up that body of evidence.

I encourage those interested to at least skim through the ASA brief.

New Story from Anonymous Us

02.26.2013 8:18 PM

Below is the most recent story from The Anonymous Us Project- from a donor-conceived woman.

I was conceived because of convenience.

Unlike a lot of women who use sperm donors, my mom didn’t struggle with fertility and she didn’t hear her “biological clock” ticking. She was only 25 when she decided to conceive me by sperm donation. She had given birth to my older sister when she was a teenager and after years of dealing with my sister’s deadbeat dad, custody battles, and child support problems, she decided that she wanted to use sperm donation simply because she didn’t want to deal with the problems that came with her child having a father in the picture. After getting a settlement from a lawsuit, she decided to go ahead with sperm donation.
I wasn’t the only kid in my neighborhood raised by a single parent but I was still different from the kids whose parents were divorced or one of their parents had passed on. I didn’t have any stories about my father. I didn’t even have a name. Around the fourth or fifth grade, I started making up stories about my father, whom I called Henri (after the character from the PBS show Liberty’s Kids). In high school, my story was more detailed. Henri was from Paris, France and the reason he wasn’t in my life was because of citizenship issues and the cost of the travel. I went so far as to write myself fake letters and take French to keep my story up.
This lie kept me going for a while. After I turned 18, I began searching for my father but I had no luck. The most they would do was send a letter to his last known address, which hadn’t been updated in over a decade. Depressed at my lack of success, I sought relationships, some sexual and some nonsexual, with older men in an attempt to create a father figure in my life. I eventually sought therapy, which helped a lot, but there’s not any support group that I’ve ever seen for children born of egg/sperm donation. Mostly, I was told how “thankful” I should be that my mother “chose to give me life” and that “G-d had a plan for me.”
I feel the void of my father more so than ever as an adult. I had no father to walk me down the aisle at my wedding. My son had no grandfather present at his birth or his brit shalom (and he most likely won’t have one at his bar mitzvah). Father’s Day hits me hard. I’ve lost more than one job in my life simply because I couldn’t drag myself out of bed on that day. I don’t celebrate my birthday at all. I resent my mother a lot and we don’t speak to each other. My mom did a great job of raising me — I ate homemade dinners every night, I went to Disneyland every summer, and most importantly, I knew I was loved — but I can’t help but resent her. I feel her actions were selfish. Emotionally, it’s very hard for me to accept that I was conceived out of convenience and not love. That the only reason I’m on this earth is because some random guy jacked off into a cup while looking at a Playboy.

David Brooks’ ‘Dream Obama’

02.26.2013 12:00 PM

Today’s column:

…My dream Obama would nurture investment in three ways…

Third, Obama could talk obsessively about family structure and social repair. Every week we get another statistic showing how social and income inequality is dividing the nation…

Because of his upbringing, President Obama is uniquely qualified to talk about family structures. Traditional values are an investment in the young, and he could do what he can to restitch the social fabric. If we don’t address this problem, inequality will be worse 30 years from now no matter what else we do.

“I wish I had a father who was around and involved.”

02.26.2013 11:18 AM

At the Weekly Standard, Heather Mac Donald quotes President Obama, in Chicago recently, speaking on the topic of gun violence as saying:

 “There’s no more important ingredient for success, nothing that would be more important for us reducing violence than strong, stable families, which means we should do more to promote marriage and encourage fatherhood,” he [Pres. Obama] said. Reiterating a line from his State of the Union speech, he observed: “What makes you a man is not the ability to make a child; it’s the courage to raise one.” And though he paid the obligatory tribute to single mothers, he added with remarkable candor: “I wish I had had a father who was around and involved.” 


Mass incarceration (cont.)

02.21.2013 6:36 PM

For an earlier post on mass incarceration and family issues, a number of commenters brought up and debated specific reform ideas.  To me it was an unusually strong thread.  Today George Will’s WaPo column adds something that I don’t think we discussed earlier: the use and over-use of solitary confinement.  Final sentences in Will’s op-ed:

Mass incarceration is expensive (California spends almost twice as much on prisons as on universities) and solitary confinement costs, on average, three times as much per inmate as in normal prisons. And remember: Most persons now in solitary confinement will someday be back on America’s streets, some of them rendered psychotic by what are called correctional institutions.

Mass incarcertation as a widely recognized national failure is an issue that is coming.  I’m not sure when it will break into the mainstream debate in a sustained way, but I’m pretty sure that it will happen.

Of Human Bonding

02.20.2013 11:36 PM

Regarding Barry’s post below, readers may find of interest the new book, Gender and Parenthood: Biological and Social Scientific Perspectives, co-edited by W. Bradford Wilcox and Kathleen Kovner Kline and published this month by Columbia University Press, and our report forthcoming later this spring which summarizes major findings from the papers published in this volume, which will be titled “Mother Bodies, Father Bodies: How Parenthood Changes Us From the Inside Out.”

Does mass incarceration contribute to poverty and family fragmentation?

02.19.2013 10:27 AM

More and more evidence seems to suggest that the answer is “yes.”  The NYTs is doing  a series on the topic; the latest  appears today.  Some of the numbers boggle the mind.  For example:

Among African-Americans who have grown up during the era of mass incarceration, one in four has had a parent locked up at some point during childhood. For black men in their 20s and early 30s without a high school diploma, the incarceration rate is so high — nearly 40 percent nationwide — that they’re more likely to be behind bars than to have a job.


The number of Americans in state and federal prisons has quintupled since 1980, and a major reason is that prisoners serve longer terms than before. They remain inmates into middle age and old age, well beyond the peak age for crime, which is in the late teenage years — just when Mr. Harris first got into trouble.

A trend this large has a profound impact on families and civil society in these communities:

Eleven years after her husband went to prison, Ms. Hamilton followed his advice to divorce, but she didn’t remarry. Like other women in communities with high rates of incarceration, she faced a shortage of potential mates. Because more than 90 percent of prisoners are men, their absence skews the gender ratio. In some neighborhoods in Washington, there are 6 men for every 10 women.

“With so many men locked up, the ones left think they can do whatever they want,” Ms. Hamilton said. “A man will have three mistresses, and they’ll each put up with it because there are no other men around.”

Epidemiologists have found that when the incarceration rate rises in a county, there tends to be a subsequent increase in the rates of sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancy, possibly because women have less power to require their partners to practice protected sex or remain monogamous.

Here is a recent discussion with Glenn Loury and others on this topic from our Center for Public Conversation.

Yes, we need to fight crime, and yes, we need to catch and put away the bad guys.  But what looks like justice at the micro level –  a man does a crime, and society arrests and imprisons him for his crime — can become gross injustice at the macro level, when we are locking up this many of our young black men without seeming to give much of a damn about why this is happening and what this trend reveals about us — what kind of society we have created and how we are treating one another.   Locking up this many people, in this way, is fundamentally a sign of failure, a badge of shame.

“I was afraid to die alone…….I wanted someone to lean on in my old age. I wanted a child of my own.”

02.15.2013 2:51 PM

This article, from the New York Times this morning, tells the story of a group of women who have lived for 30 years as a community in a village in northern Vietnam. “The American War,” as it is called in Vietnam, killed a large percentage of the available men in their generation. They found themselves remaining single and childless beyond the standard age range of marriage.

Unlike previous generations of unwanted Vietnamese women who dutifully accepted the “so,” or “destiny,” of living a solitary life, a group of women in Loi decided to take motherhood into their own hands.

In defiance of Vietnamese cultural norms, they chose to have children without husbands.

One by one they asked men — whom they would never interact with afterward — to help them conceive a child. The practice became known as “xin con,” or “asking for a child,” and it meant breaking with tradition, facing discrimination and enduring the hardships of raising a child alone.

Their reasoning was simple:

“I was 26 when the war ended,” Ms. Luu said. “That was considered too old for marriage, in those times. I did not want to marry a bad, older man, and no single men came to me.”

But Ms. Luu wanted to become a mother, not least so she would have support in her old age. In Vietnam, nursing homes are scarce, and care for the elderly is considered a filial duty.

“I was afraid to die alone,” Ms. Luu said. “I wanted someone to lean on in my old age. I wanted a child of my own.”

The article made me think about all of us who choose to have children outside of traditional heterosexual marriage. These Vietnamese women *needed* children. They were not willing to allow others to dictate the calculus of their and their children’s welfare. They were not willing to passively wait for an old age that held the very real threat of inadequate care for themselves.

Posters and commenters here spend a great deal of time, as they should, discussing the welfare of children born out of standard wedlock and/or born through donation and surrogacy. This article reminds me how natural it is, though, that most potential parents base their eventual choice on a more holistic metric than the statistical average of how those children might fare, or the voting total of happy and sad outcomes from similar, though fundamentally different families.

Everyone considering parenthood, whether couple or individual, gay or straight, has at least slightly different reasons for doing so, even as they yearn for the welfare of their child-to-be. But, in deciding whether to go forward, parents can, do, and should, like the women in the article, consider the ways that potential children will enrich their own lives, as well as those of their extended family members and their larger community.

Boy Scouts, gays, and fatherless boys

02.09.2013 11:18 AM

At Public Discourse this week, Anthony Esolen, in the name of fatherless boys, takes bitter aim at the Philadelphia City Council, taxes, the War on Poverty, the modern YMCA, trade union bosses, crummy public schools, feminism, contemporary music, vice, parasitism, anti-religious bigotry, sexual innovations, and, in general and most vehemently, the “Left.”  Let’s just say, the man has a world view.  Some parts of it I find convincing; the world view itself I find brittle, angry, and deeply unattractive.   

Esolen’s point of departure is the Boy Scouts — an organization that I’ve known, studied, and admired for years. Esolen strongly endorses the Boy Scouts policy — now being re-examined by the organization — of excluding gays.  He gives his reason:

The Boy Scouts retain the commonsense notion that it is not wise to bring boys into close quarters with men who are sexually attracted to boys, regardless of whether they act on those attractions. 

That proposition caught my eye:  It is unwise for society to allow men with same-sex attractions to be in close proximity to boys, regardless of how the men act.  That is certainly food for thought.  Leaving the Scouts aside for a moment,  let us begin to reckon some of the ways that our world would be different, if that policy were a general policy. 

For starters, a good number of male teachers would have to quit their profession, or never consider entering it in the first place – including, as I look back, several quite good teachers that I had as a young person in the South in the 1960s and early 1970s.   A small price to pay, Esolen might say, when the issue at stake is fatherless boys. 

To take another example, I suspect that the impact on the Christian clergy would be significant — including, as I look back, on some of the wonderful Catholic priests that I knew and admired as a teenager and young adult (including in Esolen’s town of Philadelphia).  I don’t know how many Catholic priests there are in the world, and of that total, how many have same-sex attractions but do not act on them, but I would guess that the number is non-trivial, and that therefore the impact of Esolen’s proposed policy on his own Church would, if implemented, end up as somewhere between important and cataclysmic.  

One more example, this one less potentially world-historical, but meaningful to me.  I have a close friend who for many years was a famous dancer at a famous ballet company.  Now he teaches young dancers. He’s very good at it.  I guess he too would have to find another way to make a living, were Esolen’s proposed policy to be, or become, a general policy. 

Now, for Esolen, this policy is self-evidently wise – why?   Because he cares about fatherless boys in inner city Philadelphia whose lives are being wiped out by trade union bosses, taxes, the modern YMCA, working mothers, and the entire “Left,” up to and including gay people doing things that put them into contact with children.   As I say, the man has a world view.