I sit down to a candlelit table; joyous memories decorate the room. The cutlery glistens under the candlelight; sweet smells from the kitchen drift throughout the house while Bjork’s ballads make a statement in the foreground. The TV mutely flashes idealistic images like an emergency beacon – as if we care. My best friend and his mother Claire elegantly step around each other in a slow dance; it seems overly rehearsed I mentally note. The room secretly screams compassion and love, sentiments of bliss seem innocently reflected in the lavish furniture. Aroha is not just an aura; it’s adorned in the room. Ash notices my insecure observations and tells me
“My life is awesome huh. This is how mum and I live”.
I nod in astonishment, oh how content Ash and his mother appear to be. Does he sense my jealousy? I can see the fond bond of affection that they both share; a single mother and her only son. Love and compassion equals’ happiness – some sort of mathematical cliché. What a child needs. Something like that sounds about right. We sit down to dinner as a news bulletin alerts my attention to the screen.
“New research shows children with gay parents are happier”
At that moment; as the statement is read, Ash and I both freeze, slowly turning towards each other in embarrassment, our bro-mantic eye contact exchanging a thousand words. His mother grins;
“that will be you two boys one day…”
It’s in this moment of awkwardness I begin to think about the modern day issue of parenting and the ways that children are raised in a variety of modern ‘parenting situations’. Does someone’s relationship status really have any relation to how well they can parent children I wonder? A parenting configuration should not even make a difference to a child’s happiness - provided they have the essential nourishments of course. A variety of my mates parental relationships come to mind; split relationship parenting, solo parenting, same-sex parenting and of course ‘normal’ heterosexual parenting. Different family make-ups; yet we all share one thing in common – a prosperous childhood. Our parent’s personal relationship status has not had any evident negative implications on our adolescence.
University of Melbourne research shows that a child from a same-sex parenting relationship does not have any significant differences from a child of a single or heterosexual parental relationship. The six-o’clock publicity stunt headline is excessively exaggerating the fact that children from same sex couples have slightly higher national measures of general health and family unity which was discovered in the Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families. I zone out and take a bite of my meal; it doesn’t matter. Children should ideally be the priority of any family, not the caregiver’s personal relationship status. Sifting smoke soaks my senses; smells divine, I must eat some more…
Children today are being raised in a variety of family situations and with the recent legalisation of same-sex parenting here in Aotearoa; I wonder if they really are the better parents as the latest captions claim? Do children even matter? Or are we just fighting for more same-sex parenting publicity. Everyone is seemingly doing it; Ricky Martin, Elton John to Urzila Carlson and many more.
‘Gay parenting’ appears to be the new Calvin Klein for our pink dollar. It would seem that many same-sex couples are chasing the latest fashion trend to have children. Unless there is a genuine desire to have a family. I’m starting to see myself criticise this news headline the more I begin to contemplate what it is actually telling me. “Gay parents equals happier children;’ yeah right! It’s missing the key point of parenting entirely. The values a child learns and the joy they experience overrides their parents relationship ‘status’ completely.
I’m sub-consciously swirling in my dinner - or is it my mind digesting the ‘regularity’ of my own family; mother, father and I, the middle child of three. A wholesome balance of male and female influences, some would commend this as the ‘supreme upbringing’. Should I dispute this proclaimed healthiness – probably not, I had childhood opportunities like any other kid - having spent hours upon hours with mum; baking a bond; equalised with a fathers farming lessons. My well-being, happiness and foundational ethics have been influenced by the secure and loving relationship that I have with both my mother and father. Not their personal heterosexual relationship.
It would be assumed that I were at advantage; having had ‘normal parents’ – an equal female and male influence in my immediate childhood. A historic stereotype - children need both a male and female in their life… - makes me question if the relationship status of parents really even matters to a child and their upbringing. It doesn’t. All parents regardless of their relationship have the ‘potential ability’ to love and raise their children successfully.
Child abuse headlines involving parents scatter the internet; the case of Nia Glassie, a Gay Couple that abused an adopted Russian ‘son’, and a Mother that denies murdering a toddler… The list could go on; but I best stop there before I immerse the dinner table in blue emotions. These unfortunate ‘parenting’ incidents have all occurred in various parenting structures and reinforce the fact that parental configurations are not important when raising children as any kid can potentially be ‘harmed’ physically or psychologically under the care of any child minder. Parents of any gender or relationship rank should be considered equal when raising kids as children are the result of the encouraging or undesirable atmosphere that is provided.
The question still prods at me like my fork in my fettuccine; is a parents ‘spouse status’ more important than their children and can their status affect the kids? In my quest for answers I come across the Family and Marriage Journal. Backing up my assumptions it says that genderism roles have little relation to a child’s psychological or social success. There goes a lost dream – we would ‘technically’ be the same person; even if we rewound time to be raised with different parental figures. In fact my readings informed me that there are more similarities than differences among kids from lesbian, single and heterosexual parents. Lesbian parents tend to ‘spend more time playing’ with their children and single parents had ‘stronger bonds’ with their children whom were likely to have ‘better responsibility roles’. Heterosexual couples were more likely to influence children within the ‘normal gender roles’ and same-sex couples were ‘less likely to raise children with chauvinistic (homophobic) attitudes’. This is proof that our parents’ gender or relationship cannot affect our mental or physical wellbeing which is outweighed by the quality characteristics of parenting instead.
The achievements of a child’s initial life are the results of how our parents support us from the beginning. Often being determined and influenced by our parent’s religion, culture or own adolescent experiences. And no parenting configuration is necessarily better than the other as there is a multitude of methods and techniques to nurture a child’s entire welfare. Claire is a great example of a mother who has embraced every moment with her son to educate and foster him to the likeable guy that that I see sat beside me. I’m so lucky to have a friend like him. Dependable, funny, admirable and optimistic – we share an unbreakable bond. I can clearly see Claire’s ethical beliefs and values installed in Ash like genius computer software. Her single relationship status has not deprived her ability to love and comfort Ash unconditionally; educating him with values and life skills to become his own greatest asset. A minor being raised in an environment of respectable ethics and morals is much more important that the status of her parental relationship.
All this transcendent thinking hinders within my physical presence at the dinner table, “To much chilli for you?” Claire Jokes ‘Snap;’ back to reality. Had they noticed my psychic absence? Ash shrugs his shoulders; looking at me in awe. "Sorry" I sheepishly say. “Its’ just - Do you really think ‘gay’ parents actually have ‘happier’ children?” I’m treading water now; I can feel it in Ash’s burning gaze, but he still maintains that trusted grin. I love him. My best mate. It doesn't seem right, but I know it is; one of the happiest guys I know and contradictory to the ‘breaking news’ he was brought up by a single mother.
Yep. Rounding of my mealtime deliberation I am left to critique the importance of parental relationships over that of a child’s upbringing. Two for one or one of each – the double up or mix ‘n match of genders in a parenting structure does not impede kids overall happiness or fulfilment! Children never came with an instruction guide so there is no reason for parents to be restricted to certain parental configurations.
There is no supreme parental relationship but all parents have the obligation to invest love and care to raise a happy healthy confident child. Face it, infants really don’t care what your relationship is, all they care about if being, fed clothed and nourished with provisions – mostly of physical nature. The status of the child minder does not affect the child, but the quality of life and secure family bonding environment that you enable them to have does!
I take another look around the room, candlelit, sweet smells, love is not just an aura; it’s adorned everywhere… I think someone’s talking to me “my mum’s status is single; this is how we live - happily”…
- Ash clicks his fingers in my direction and repeats himself. “Now who’s for a margarita?”