Should we be happy that 'nobody's dead'

Posted: Nov 15, 2011 1:39 PM

A recent news article praised a children’s book for promoting the biological fiction that a child can have “two moms” or “two dads.” The article contained one of the saddest passages I’ve seen in a news story:

[A seven-year-old boy] has been teased for having two mothers. The Mountain View third-grader, who attended Wednesday's reading with mother Shannon, said that some kids have asked whether his father is dead. "I don't even really have a dad," he'll reply. "Nobody's dead."

The loss of a parent—regardless of age or circumstance—is an awful, tragic thing. Even if it were biologically possible, is anyone better off to never have a father? Yes, there are some misguided dads who inflict more harm than good in their children’s lives. But our society suffers if we simply delete fatherhood from life’s equation. More poignantly, the little boy in the article will suffer. He has already suffered.

Despite the pain of absence or loss, the void left by a missing parent serves a valuable purpose: it drives us to seek something we know is missing.

In other words, the fatherless know they are missing something, and that can motivate them to seek strong and healthy father and husband roles and replacements. The void gives them a model to work toward. Pretending there is no void only perpetuates the harm.

Think about it this way—What if this young man had been told by his “two moms” that nutritional guidelines are silly, so he didn’t need protein? If he never ate foods containing protein he would not develop a taste for protein rich foods and would therefore not miss it, right? Wrong. A protein-free diet is not consequence-free – the biological reality is that the body needs protein. No matter what his “moms” might tell him, someday he would discover that he’s missing protein. At that point, how does the false teaching and belief that he never needed it correct the problems caused by the lack of protein in his diet? The worst part of this scenario would not be his protein deficiency, but the unnecessary and untrue story that he didn’t need it to begin with.

The analogy is not meant to make light of the importance of fathers. Dads are not hamburgers or chicken nuggets. Fathers are necessary at nearly every level of our existence, for both sons and for daughters, and throughout our entire lifetimes. Those of us who are missing a dad know this. But I know that I am far better off knowing what I am missing. One thing is fairly certain – nothing good can come out of telling this seven-year-old boy that he never really had a dad.