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Human parents and human nature

A child needs both a mother and a father


Human parents and human nature
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I have a special connection to my daughter. We joke that we are clones and have a whole catalog of inside jokes. I have enough love for her for two parents. But it is more than clear to me that she still needs her mother. My wife brings things to the table that I absolutely can’t. There's a reason every child has a biological mother and father. You need the male and the female contribution. In the teen years, it is so clear to me that my daughter benefits from having a safe, protective, and supportive man in her life while also being able to turn to her mother for guidance in becoming a woman. There are so many things my wife knows and intuits that I do not. As mother and father, we fulfill different roles.

Early on with our kids, I could see the difference between myself and my wife as parents. Some of it came down to instinct. When our kids were small, we alternated in being home in an attempt to avoid daycare. Some years I was home working freelance or doing a dissertation. Other years, I worked on campus while my wife stayed home. Though we were both modern people very much attached to the economy and our roles in it, it was obvious that my parenting as a man and my wife’s parenting were different.

At the most fundamental level, I could tell that she had an orientation toward the children’s care in their youngest years that was simply different (and dare I say, superior) to my own. Her superiority had nothing to do with desire. I have always wanted to be a parent and to be a great father. There was something primal that she possessed. A mother intuitively understands the needs of a very young child in a way a man does not. We are both far more interchangeable in the economic machine than we are in the roles of mother and father.

Perhaps it is good to stop here an acknowledge that what I’ve said so far has become radical in our age. One can easily anticipate the great groans of protest and the hard edge of outrage that would emerge from the pages of our wealthiest publications and media outlets at the idea, once uncontroversial, that mothers and fathers are both important to a child’s growth and development. Our culture went through the first great round of protest when Dan Quayle suggested that the fictitious TV character Murphy Brown should not model purposeful single motherhood.

One of the odd things about our age is that we have a selective obsession with all things natural.

Today’s version would focus on the idea that two fathers or two mothers or trans-parents represent zero compromise from the model inherent in human nature. But is it really so? Does wishing make it true? Whether wage-earning or organizational leadership or even military combat is a male or female function we can argue, but the fact is that the elemental process of conceiving a human being is a male-female affair. It is only logical, reasonable, and, yes, natural that the rearing of the child would be as well.

One of the odd things about our age is that we have a selective obsession with all things natural. We want our food to be organic. Leave out the genetic modifications. Avoid the use of various pesticides. If at all possible, let the food be grown and grazed on land near the place that we live. We have a great desire to live in harmony with nature. In addition, it is our wish (a wise one) that we run our industries in such a way as to minimize the impact on the natural environment. We hope to preserve nature against the manipulations of techno-humanity. There is something in us that recognizes the importance of “living with the grain” of things, so to speak.

And yet, with our growing wealth and increasing power of individual human wills, we are beginning to believe that anything is possible. When nature runs up against desire, we choose desire. Men who feel as though they should be women believe they can actually become women. Women who feel they are actually masculine in their heart and mind believe they can become a man just as surely as a frog can become a prince in a fairytale.

But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. The sexual revolution led directly to the successful commercialization of the most unnatural act of all, which is the intentional killing of offspring by parents in the tens of millions. We should find it in ourselves to return. Return to men being men and women being women. Return to parents sacrificing themselves for children rather than the other way around. Return to fathers and mothers working together to sustain their families and the human family.

Hunter Baker

Hunter Baker, J.D., Ph.D., is the provost and dean of faculty at North Greenville University in South Carolina. He is the author of The End of Secularism, Political Thought: A Student's Guide, and The System Has a Soul. His work has appeared in a wide variety of other books and journals. He is formally affiliated with Touchstone, the Journal of Markets and Morality, the Center for Religion, Culture, and Democracy, and the Land Center at Southwestern Seminary.

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