No, I won't apologize for a Simon & Garfunkel reference.
"And it's the same old story....everywhere I go..."
Actually, everywhere you go today, it seems, there's somebody inventing self-justifying language for a whole host of practices or, maybe better, non-decisions. I give you the following from a fellow academic:
" I chose not to be a parent and understand my connection to and care for children in other terms that feel more expansive to me than metaphors of biological reproduction."
Did ya catch that?
Just plain ol' fashioned parenthood ain't good 'nuff anymore, apparently. We choose to connect and relate to children in "more expansive" ways other than the fact that, apparently, THEY'RE YOUR KIDS. Adoptive parents--and their friends who know better than to ask "What happened to the real parents?"--would probably acknowledge "biological reproduction" can become a gilded cage. However, that's not the point trying to be made by this person; undermining something even vaguely resembling the nuclear family IS. That's where it's time to draw the line. Kids have needs, needs which parents (biological or adoptive) _must_ provide, often at great cost to themselves.
"But hey Mr. Spiritual Diabetes, I got needs and dreams and sometimes the kids just need to recognize my need to satify, well, my own needs..."
SO <<fill in the blank>> WHAT. Such is life and such is parenthood. There are times when the kids' needs come first, like when....oh, the kids' needs come first every time. That's why you're the parent, ace.
And that above language about expanding beyond "metaphors of biological reproduction" is effectively an open backdoor for allowing other metaphors of self-fulfillment to supplant the parents' responsibility of caring for the children they've created and chosen. (I'd argue biological parents obviously created their children but then they also consciously chose to raise said kids and adoptive parents chose to raise somebody else's biological children--often after losses suffered by both children and parents--and in so doing help create those children's lives.) And parenting requires a team--namely a mother and a father. Each provides distinct and separate guidance, formation, and love (! gee, can't forget that) to the children. (The theologian in me, at this point, demands that I acknowledge the human contigency of all this; we're all fallen and broken, so nobody's perfect as parents. NOBODY. That doesn't mean it's OK to get all lazy, either...) If we're not "parents" but rather connecting to and caring for children "in other terms that feel more expansive," then there's always the chance--and in this day and age it's a pretty good one--that some day, week, month, or year you'll FEEL more expansive yourself by taking care of yourself instead of the kids.
And by this I'm not damning spa trips, poker night with the guys, Mom and Dad's date night, etc. Obviously parents need to take care of themselves--but in the context of parenting, not in spite of or in replacement of it.
"...and I'm so tired, oh so tired..." (see? once on a Simon & Garfunkel trip, it takes a while before I wind down. Just wait til this blog tackles 80s hair metal bands!)
Because already the post-Newtown discussions have localized around 1) gun control, especially renewing the assault weapons ban; and 2) mental health issues. Some critics, focusing on #1, instead question our nation's facile militarism, that our rush to bless any American military endeavor somehow enables the Matt Lansa's of the world to plan and execute their plans. Others, usually evangelical Protestant Christians, insist mass shootings won't happen if we would only bring God back into our lives, families, and schools.
But, going back to the discussion above about "expansive metaphors," what if we focused instead on parenting--moms and dads, and helping them out with either social services, legal advice, spiritual counseling and support, and just plain neighborliness? After all, oh I don't know...maybe the Catholic Church has suggested the same already.
Maybe, along with everything else, we need to look beyond our own self-empowering and aggrandizing "expansive metaphors" and endeavor to learn how we can help all families...because the Newtown shootings at least indicate that it is not always obvious where these sorts of disasters will occur. The last thing we need to do is establish supposedly helpful categories of "families at risk (for mass shootings?)" and "safe families." Such Puritan assurance has led the nation astray more than once. Let's at least guard against that temptation now.