In a previous post I introduced my Swedish immigrant ancestors the Andersons, who came here in search of the American dream. The Andersons had two children, Wallace and Pearl.
Pearl was my great grandmother and Wallace grew up to have a family of his own, with a wife and three children. But Wallace and his wife Jenny had a problem. You see they were both deaf, and although Wallace had a job and could support his family, deaf people were not allowed to raise children.
Rather than subject their children to the hazards of being raised by deaf parents who loved them, the authorities told Wallace and his wife that they must send their children to live with relatives or the children would live in an institution.
In today’s world this seems tragic and brutal. We feel the heartbreak those families must have endured. We can feel sorrow for the damage caused to those three children who were led to believe their parents were less than good enough to care for them. We also know that damage caused by introducing that kind of instability in a family can last for generations.
I wish that I could say that over the last 100 years we have learned not to make children the victims of our fear and ignorance, but of course that is not the case. During this heated political season there have been a flurry of letters to the editor stating that same sex marriage should be banned because children of parents in same sex relationships can be harmed. Some of those letters go so far as to say that children would be better off in an institution than raised in a loving home with same sex parents. They have produced shoddy research to support their claims, and of course, who doesn’t want to protect children? I agree with Minnesota Vikings Punter and outspoken marriage amendment opponent Chris Kluwe’s response to the opinion piece attached above:
“Frankly, sir, your blatant attempt to sway people by using the “OH MAH GAWD THINK OF THE CHILDREN” argument is tiresome, bothersome, and insulting to anyone who cares to take the slightest interest in pulling aside your curtain of self satisfied drivel to expose the ugliness underneath.”
But what do the children think?
It is interesting to me to see the response of my children to the marriage amendment, because I have learned that they are paying attention!
First of all, my children have friends with many different family types, including friends with two moms or two dads, friends who are adopted, friends who live with their grandparents or who live part time with one parent. They are completely unfazed by these arrangements, which is great!
Unfortunately they have also been exposed to children in risky situations, without enough to eat, a safe place to live or a responsible adult to teach them to make good choices. My 4th grade son is particularly bothered by those situations. You see, he can tell the difference between a child who is at risk and a child in a safe home. He knows that we are not doing enough to help those kids in risky environments and he sees the real impact of kids at risk in his own life. Maybe they act out in school, bully other kids, or in one particularly sad circumstance, they come by the house every day at lunchtime during summer vacation because there isn’t any food at their own house. His question to me is “why doesn’t somebody help?”
My son’s question to me about the same sex marriage amendment supporters is “It isn’t their life or their body, why do they care?” A difficult question to answer without also demonizing others, and particularly difficult since I don’t really know why they care either. I haven’t introduced the idea that some people want to take children away from their parents because they disagree with them. That would cause weeks of nightmares.
And it should. We have learned too much to use children as a bogus argument to support our political views. I also think we should listen to children, especially since we say we are building the future for them! Simple solutions from my 4th grader: Help people who need a hand, leave people alone who aren’t doing anything to hurt you. I think he is pretty smart!