Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Qualified to Parent?

I've decided to take my mind off myself a bit (due, in large part, to the slippery unpredictability and insanity of our lives right now). I've decided to address a topic I've been thinking about for a long time.

A couple of weeks ago, Dave and I met up with our dear friends, Coleen and Beth, to celebrate with some beers. Coleen, Beth's wife (if not by law then at least by devotion), had successfully adopted the daughter that Beth carried and gave birth to - Hazel. This was no small feat. They had been evaluated with a microscope, asked intensely personal (and, in my mind, irrelevant) questions, filled out mountains of paperwork and paid a boatload of money.

Although I was happy for Coleen, I couldn't help feeling slightly embittered at this celebration. Why should Beth's partner for life be required to adopt what is already her daughter?

In fact, it is such a difficult process that many folks, people not required to go through the same hurdles, ask why even bother?

Sadly, you have to bother, or else your child might go into someone else's custody should the birth parent pass away. Because, as we all know, same-sex partners have no freaking rights in our country.

Coleen has been Hazel's mom since birth. She changes her diapers, snuggles her, feeds her bottles of Beth's breast milk, wakes up with her, worries her head off about her, cries with delight upon looking at her. It is disgusting that the government feels the need to intervene and "qualify" her.

What would happen if dads in heterosexual relationships had to go through the same process? How many fathers would make the cut? How many wouldn't? Is it fair that they get the same parental rights without the weight gain, the sore nipples, the stretch marks, the gray hairs that come from pushing a watermelon out of an opening the size of a lemon?

Dave has been Stella's father since birth. His love for and devotion to her has matched mine every step of the way. No doubt he deserves to be her parent. I'm just glad he didn't have to "apply."

And I get that Dave's sperm led to Stella. I get that. But what about men who become fathers without the sperm donation? Men who have fertility problems or men who are with women when they give birth to another man's child. They are FATHERS, without any sort of qualification. And I have no problem with that.

Coleen and Beth aren't the only couple I know who've gone through this BS, either. My friends Shanie and Mary are amazing moms to Avner, one of Stella's buddies. I've taught many students with two moms or two dads at my school, and have never questioned any of the parents' devotion to their kids.

In fact, today, I read a student's writing piece about his family. He has two dads. His dad's adoptive sister was the surrogate parent, and he sees her regularly. His dads also foster children in dire need, and have adopted one of those boys, giving this child a younger brother. They are one of the most loving families I've ever known, so giving and so sweet. And their son, this student, is simply a marvel.

I don't know what time of bureaucratic BS they've had to go through, but it can't be pretty. So while we make some people apply and reapply and pay and strive to be parents, others get to parent without any qualifications at all. Others abuse or ignore or abandon their kids, while we make same-sex partners prove themselves to us a thousand ways.

It's just my opinion, but this type of treatment seems to be the opposite of "Family Values."


Amanda said...

One of my good friends has two dads. She's had two dads since she was very young, but also has a mom (her mom and dad divorced and her dad has been "dating" this guy for like 20 years or something). What's awesome is that she really looks like the product of these two guys. If I didn't know better, I wouldn't be able to tell which was her biological dad, and which wasn't.

You bring up some VERY good points though. How many dads, even biological ones, are crap? They don't have to apply, they just get the job automatically. I have known a few sets of gay parents in my lifetime and they certainly beat a few sets of straight ones that I've known. I guess the argument is that it "messes the kid up", but really? I mean...I grew up with an alcoholic father, I'm pretty sure that jacked me up quite a bit, and not only did he not have to "apply" to be my dad, he didn't get "fired" either when he starting sucking at it.

The other argument I suppose people bring up is religion. I'm a fairly religious person, but I only hold myself to my religious beliefs and don't expect anyone else to follow them. That would be absurd. My aunt is gay - and married - so I'm totally open-minded about this type of thing, even if it's not something I understand. I respect the freedom of decision and the rights of people to build and make their own families without so much red tape. Great post, Randi, as always :)

Martin said...

Love this. Love that you care enough to post about this. Thank you.