Perhaps it’s because I just read (and reviewed) Kay Hymowitz’s sobering new book “Marriage and Caste in America, Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age,” that Sunday’s Washington Post seemed to jump out at me with a theme: families without fathers.
The front page of the A-section had a long and distressing article, the latest entry in the newspaper’s “Being a Black Male” series headlined “Dad. Redefined.” The subtitle added: “He’s Not There in the House. Will He Be There for His Son?”
“When 19-year-old Donn McDaniel became pregnant last year,” the story begins, “Tim Wagoner didn’t consider marrying her.”
They are “just friends.” Right now, Tim seems quite involved in the life of his young son, Zyhir (a variation on Zaire), though the financial responsibility rests entirely on Donne and whatever Waggoner, who himself grew up without a father in the house, volunteers.
But will he remain on the scene? Or will it be like the time somebody dissed him on his job at Target and he quit?
Donne’s pregnancy was, like almost everything in her life, unplanned. In the “Outlook” section, there was the story of another pregnancy that was anything but unplanned: “Looking for Donor Dad,” by Katrina Clark.
“I’m 18,” writes Clark, “and for most of my life, I haven’t known half my origins. I didn’t know where my nose or jaw came from, or my interest in foreign cultures. I obviously got my teeth and my penchant for corny jokes from my mother, along with my feminist perspective. But a whole other part of me was a mystery.”
Clark describes the bitterness brought about by the absence of a father – though she does not blame her mother, who at the age of 32, “single, and worried that she might never marry and have a family — allowed a doctor wearing rubber gloves to inject a syringe of sperm from an unknown man into her uterus so that she could have a baby. I am the result: a donor-conceived child.”
If you think of designer babies as being for the well-heeled, this story will change your mind – Katrina and her mother existed on food stamps and have lived in a group home. She did find her donor/father:
“In the beginning, I also talked about it a lot with my biological father. After a bit, though, I noticed that his enthusiasm for our developing relationship seemed to be waning. When I told him of my suspicion, he confirmed that he was tired of “this whole sperm-donor thing.” The irony stings me more each time I think of him saying that. The very thing that brought us together was pushing us in opposite directions.
“Even though I’ve only recently come into contact with him, I wouldn’t be able to just suck it up if he stopped communicating with me. There’s still so much I want to know. I want to know him. I want to know his family. I’m certain he has no idea how big a role he has played in my life despite his absence — or because of his absence. If I can’t be too attached to him as my father, I’ll still always be attached to the feeling I now have of having a father.
“I feel more whole now than I ever have. I love our conversations, even the most trivial ones. I don’t love him, and I don’t know if I ever will, but I care about him a lot.
“Now that he knows I exist, I’m okay if he doesn’t care for me in the same way. But I hope he at least thinks of me sometimes.”
Ms. Clark will do an online discussion today.
Rounding out the theme, “Outlook” offered some pensees on Mary Cheney’s decision to have a child that will be reared by Ms. Cheney and her longtime partner, Heather Poe. This pregnancy has gay “marriage” advocates in ecstasy, not perhaps out of joy at Ms. Cheney’s blessed event but at the supposed gotcha for the Republican Party.
We can be assured that Ms. Cheney’s baby won’t face the situation described in a fourth Sunday story – that of a single mother looking for an “affordable” place to live in the Post magazine.
The theme of fatherless was enlarged to include motherlessness last night when “60 Minutes” told the story of Samara, an emotionally-scared, teenaged girl who had grown up in foster care after being removed from the custody of her 14-year-old mother. They were reunited, but somehow I don-t thing this story is going to have a happy ending.
Today in “Baby in the Balance,” the Post describes an unmarried and drug-addicted couple and their child, who was removed from the mother’s custody after the mother tested positive for cocaine at the birth.
And that is just two days worth casual reading. Read Hymowitz?s book. It?ll give you a way to look at all this.