Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Will My Children Get Married?

Little Talks - Of Monsters and Men (mp3)
Suspicious Minds - Dwight Yoakam (mp3)

My children might never get married.

This thought stirs a fear that flits around in my head like a dirty moth.

My instinctive recoil risks making me the stodgy grandpa, so stuck in his own history that he can’t adapt. Statistically, I need to accept that at least one child likely won’t marry, and at least one child will likely get divorced. Only one-fourth of 20-somethings are married today.

My skittishness for their not marrying is actually a fear twice removed: that their children, my grandchildren, might be born and raised in a single-parent household. (The odds of a cohabitating couple living together the entirety of a child’s growth to adulthood is less than a married couple.)

There has to be a reason, Darwinistically speaking, that babies are formed from two people. I’m not trying to sneak in The God + Adam + Eve Argument here. To me, we have reached a time where gender roles are more malleable; two women or two men can raise a child (at least debatably) on par with a heterosexual couple.*

This isn’t a religious thing to me, though. It’s about numbers.

The only acceptable reason to be a single parent in this country is because you have no choice in the matter. Divorce, or death, or a crippling illness or incurable mental infirmity, and any number of life events can render a home with one parent, or with parents divided. Shit happens. People adapt.

But... to choose singularity? To consciously choose to have a child without the clear and present support of a second loving adult?

The one thing I wanted in life -- more than anything else, so much that it wasn’t even a stated objective so much as an assumption -- was to have a family. I wanted to be a husband and a father. I wanted a wife and children. Growing up, no matter what the future held for me, I could not envision scenarios where I would be unattached from family yet also happy, satisfied.

If this seems like a soap box about the Priceless Institute of Marriage, puhhleeeze. To naively dream of heaven via domestication is fodder for endless sitcoms and tragic modern lit, and no one knows this more than those who dared such dreams. Some would mock me and my domestic dreams, and rightly so. I often mock myself.

Studies are now clarifying the value of married couples raising kids. To no one’s real surprise, a marriage only helps if the marriage is healthy, if the couple with the tied knot are mostly sane, mostly together, mostly capable. Rings alone don’t make great parents.

So we come full circle to the “slow death of marriage” statistics. My gut reaction: Maybe people are finally starting to figure out just what marriage means.

Fewer are getting hitched? Is that, like, a problem? Isn’t that exactly what someone with a respect for marriage should want? Let’s be honest. It ain’t all wine and roses, a walk in the park, a fairy tale with Happily Ever After. It ain’t Ozzie and Harriet. Hell, it ain’t even Ralph and Alice or Edith and Archie.

Many of us WASP-types grow up longing for marriage and parenthood, and we’re sold Disney-polished myths when maybe a few Grimm Fairy tales might have better-prepared us. Marriage is not the evolutionary necessity that childbirth is. Acceptable alternatives to marriage can and will thrive in the future.

What I cannot believe, however, is that our culture can evolve to the point where a single parent is consistently better than or consistently as effective as two. The value of two parents, two loving and capable adults over the value of just one is not judgmental poppycock; it’s basic math.

* -- You wanna put fundies in a tizzy? Ask them which is a better environment for children to grow up: unwed and unattached single mothers or a gay couple. They feel absoultely obligated to first say that both are very very bad. Very bad indeed. Bad bad bad. But if you keep pushing them, you find that the ones who think first of the child tend to choose the gay couple, and the ones who think first of immovable doctrine tend to choose the single mom.


Anonymous said...

It also possible that you may not have grandchildren.

troutking said...

As usual, Seinfeld has the answer. From Kramer this time:


african girl said...

Yes of course! there's a big chance that your children will get married.
Anyways, I understand that as a parent you are so concern for your children's future.