I don’t know if I’ve written about this before–I should have but hey who knows.
When I was in college I saw The Object of my Affection and evolved a theory about children and relationships. It worried me how much divorce tore children up. The idea that their parents didn’t love each other anymore, or want to live with each other anymore is a lot to deal with, and then kids tend to blame themselves or something like that. Even if parents manage to stay together till their kids are older, the kids do pick up on the acrimony and so on. And when that movie ends, it seems to have a fairly idyllic note, especially considering all the heartache that has gone before. And I decided that’s how I’d do it when (if) I had kids.
I’d have a kid and the kid would have a father. But we wouldn’t live together. I’d have boyfriends or maybe even a partner or two, and so would the father. There would be uncles and aunts galore, and two people making decisions about a child’s life without the interference of are-we-angry-because-we’re-not-having-enough-sex or your-mother-is-psycho or whatever. You see, i think that kids are pretty hardy. Of course there is neglect and abuse at high levels or even standard levels that will fuck them up, but really, if paati takes you to the temple or thatha lets you eat extra ice cream, it’s not going to destroy you. I guess the tough part is making it clear that those are deviations and while it might be okay for paati and thatha, it is not okay for you. Which is a whole other post on childrearing and discipline and other things I am far from qualified to say anything about.
Obviously I realised that the likelihood of this being a child born to a couple who then split was very slim–only in the movies as it were. But it would work find with an adopted kid, or a donated kid. But then why involve the second parent at all? (Do straight single men donate sperm to surrogates to have children to raise? I wonder.) I then moved on from this and it got lost in time, until last year when I started reading about polyamory and childrearing in that context (sorry can’t find links) and began to think of it again. Of course my dismal progress at the acquiring a partner thing has only made me think about this more.
I’m lucky in that my parents are both financially and emotionally able and willing to help me raise adopted children. But still, the thought of my father at 75 running around after a toddler and being the father figure in its life is an unsettling one. Which made me think about the whole thing some more. And I thought to myself, I think I’d like to try that someday. I do think of myself as being polyamorous, but I don’t have the space to explore it, so I’ll never know for sure. Still, I really like the idea of having multiple parents in it together, not fighting or hating or silently accepting or even surprisingly cordial after divorce. But can one do stuff like this in India? Acrosticus and I once had a chat about how one day we’d move to New York and adopt kids together, because we agree enough about raising them and we love each other so much. Why New York? Because where else would they accept cousins doing this!
Of course even then it was obvious to us just how much of a castle in the air the entire idea was…but I cannot help but wonder. I know I grew up in a village of people. The family friends we grew up with, Acrosticus’ family, the Poo’s family and so on. I saw mothers who were very different from mine and opened my eyes to the idea that there alternatives–and I’m sure Amma opened the eyes of those kids too. I saw father’s who were different from mine, in the relationships they had with the mothers and with the kids. And I think it changed how I saw and thought of things. Spending a month every summer in the house of someone not a parent, I saw and learnt the different ways things happened.
Okay this is all experiential, what about just the psychic stress of separated/divorced parents. What if one parent has treated the other like SHIT but has to pretend otherwise because, as someone put it to me recently, you can get over a bad husband but it’s really hard to get over a bad father? (She was talking about a particular case, I think it works across gender.) Surely the idea that your happiness or the health of your familial relationships not being dependent on two people being together should help? But then it’s counterbalanced by the psychic damage of social rejection.
I guess it boils down to we do the best we can with what we’re given. So what if what you’re given is supportive parents and no partner?