the kids aren’t all right

This weekend a new movie opens which would have been unimagineable (both scientifically and morally) just a few years ago.  In The Kids Are All Right, the children of two lesbians search for their biological, sperm-donor dad.  I obviously haven’t seen the movie, but I suspect that it will push the typical cultural message that non-traditional families are as good if not better than husband-wife families because the children are even more loved.  Unlike traditional families, where the baby might have been an “accident,” a lesbian mother chose to become pregnant.  So you see honey, she really wanted you.

As Julianne Moore explained on CBS’ The Early Show, “The great thing about this family is it’s a typical American family.  I mean, they’re incredibly lucky; they have one working parent, a stay-at-home parent, which is extraordinarily rare these days. Children are well cared for and loved and cherished. The partnership is — you know, it’s definitely a portrait of a middle-aged marriage.”

Sadly, our culture’s insistence on the individual right of the single mother to have a child by sperm donation does not typically consider the consequences for the child.  Many of these children are now grown up and they are speaking up, and they confess that they have a huge hole in their hearts.  Imagine the identity issues of learning that your father is an anonymous sperm donor.  That you may have met him and didn’t realize it.  That you could date and marry a blood relative without knowing it.  That if you’re lucky enough to locate your dad, that he probably doesn’t want a relationship with you.  He donated his sperm for money, not because he cared about you.

As this sperm donor teenager in The Washington Post explains, she was jealous of other children whose parents divorced, because at least they had a dad.  These kids were often coddled and comforted for what they were losing, but no one ever noticed that she didn’t even have a dad to lose.

Now imagine ten years out, when these poor children marry and attempt to have healthy families.  What have we wrought?  Anyway, enjoy your movie.

15 Comments

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  1. Dr. Wittmer, I think your following thoughts could apply to children with heterosexual guardians who, for reasons of male infertility, seek a sperm donor:

    “Imagine the identity issues of learning that your father is an anonymous sperm donor. That you may have met him and didn’t realize it. That you could date and marry a blood relative without knowing it. That if you’re lucky enough to locate your dad, that he probably doesn’t want a relationship with you. He donated his sperm for money, not because he cared about you.”

    I think these are valid concerns, I just wanted to point out they’re not exclusive to single mothers or lesbian couples.

  2. Adam:

    You are right. I think that gay marriage has heightened the issue–see the content of the movie–but it’s certainly true that an increasing number of single women are also choosing to become mothers by sperm donation.

    I think that the connection with lesbian couples is that a subplot of this entire issue is that men are no longer necessary. You can have a complete family with two mothers or a single mother–you don’t need a father. We will reap the consequences.

  3. Distributed by Focus Features, I believe they did Brokeback Mountain and Milk also. Think they have an agenda? St. Anne’s Pub did an interesting piece on Brokeback and Focus Features in 2006 but the audio has disappeared from their site. Too bad, it was an interesting reflection on how they floated Brokeback through bad income by releasing the polar opposite and more popular Pride and Prejudice.

  4. Julianne Moore’s comments are quite interesting. First, it is convenient how Ms. Moore is able to define the “typical American family.” This “portrait of a middle-aged marriage” is everything any Christian might want to see. Children that are loved and cared for by a stay at home parent…who can argue with that? But as with so many problems in the church these days, it isn’t what is affirmed but what is not affirmed that is the challenge. Second, while she doesn’t define this as the ‘ideal’ family, it seems to be the natural assumption behind her remark. So by simply affirming particular truths that mot people can agree upon, a homosexual household is smuggled through the door to become the “typical American family” and implied within this, the “ideal American family” alongside heterosexual families. Soon all we will need is a parent who raises well adjusted, well behaved and informed children to be considered the ideal family.

  5. Justin:

    And who gets to decide what is “well adjusted and normal”? How long before traditional families are considered “abnormal,” in that they handicap the children in these families from appreciating the “normal” otherness of nontraditional homes? My head hurts.

  6. I recently read/heard a story on NPR describing President Obama’s push for universal preschool. In the story, a mother makes the comment, “So she’s [her preschool-aged daught in a French government program] having a good time, she’s learning and she’s with other kids, so she’s playing. And I can’t really compete with that, even though I’m the mom.” If the state eventually can provide full-time childcare, isn’t the family obsolete anyway?

    You can read the rest of the story here, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128328858

  7. Doesn’t all of this seem eerily like Brave New World? I don’t say that as a cliche, I say it as a matter of fact. Sperm donations, the traditional family is mocked, the state raises the children…it’s tyranny by happiness. If you live in a society where materialism and individualism reign supreme, I think a Brave New World-like scenario is all you can end up with.

  8. Seth and Joel:

    Your comments are scarier than LeBron leaving Cleveland. Either way we’re headed for the apocalypse.

    I guess if you think about it, the state would have to be attractive enough to make people want to yield control to them, but it’s difficult to believe that it can be this easy!

  9. Mike

    In my previous life as a legislator serving as chairman of a legislative committee with oversight of the Human Services Department, I often have shared with others how there appeared to be an evident bias within the MSW/Social worker types against the two parent family. While I will admit that I may be painting with a very broad brush, in so many occasions in legislative committees, and working with department staffers, one could not escape the impression that the overarching attitude of those with a social work education was one of subtle hostility toward two parent families as if they were a very real danger to the healthy development of children. The mindset of womb to the tomb government supervision of child development, (it takes a village), was predominant. It was always a challenge for me to balance the legitimate and proper role of the state and the power of the sword to protect the vulnerable, with the impression that many of those who were entrusted with that responsibility had a bias against the tradtional two parent family.

  10. Jack H, that sounds very interesting. If you know of articles or books on this phenomenon I would be interested in reading them.

  11. Adam F.

    Unfortunately, I know of no books or articles to point you towards. I was recalling my own personal experiences which are difficult to document or quantify for articles or books. I even remember a conversation with a veteran lawmaker, when he contacted me after winning my first primary election. He actually requested I ask to serve on the Human Services legislative committee due to the reputation the committee and the department had for it’s anti-family bias. As a result of his recommendation I was appointed to the committee,once elected in the general election, and after serving one term in the minority I was appointed co-chair for the next term (the house was divided 50-50 that term) and chariman during my third term. During that third term I actually recruited specific members of my party to serve on the committee with me based on their own pro-family reputation. Due to the composition of that committee, when legislative leaders finally decided to move legislation to prohibit same-sex marriage and partial birth abortion, both of these measures were referred to my committee even though they more properly belonged with the Judiciary Committee and the Health Committee.

  12. engagingchurch July 8, 2010 — 4:46 pm

    Jack H, thanks for sharing. For me, reading your thoughts is a little like watching the documentary Fog of War with Robert S. McNamara. (I learn things about government that I never thought I’d learn.)

  13. engagingchurch

    There is an old saying, most likely adapted for legislative use, that says there are two things you should never watch being made. The first is sausage, and the second is legislation.

  14. Read the book, “The War on Boys” by Christina Hoff Summers. I hate to sound tinfoil hat wearing but there is an agenda that men suck.

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