Earlier this week, I viewed a video ad presented by MSNBC commentator, Melissa Harris-Perry, stating that children do not belong to their parents – they belong to the community instead. When pressed further, she stated that parents cannot clothe, feed, house or educate their children alone. That comment struck the same cord within me as Obama’s “you didn’t build that” and I would beg to differ. My children belong with me, but not to me. Nor do they belong to my community, of which they are also a part. It is our family that is essential to their existence, but not our community. We shelter, protect, clothe and feed them. I allow them to attend public school because I feel the social interaction is important, and educate them privately where I feel there is a lack or misinformation being presented. If we packed our bags tomorrow and moved across the country, the one constant would be my husband and I. Whatever path they take in life, two things will never change – the mother who carried them and has cared for them every day of their lives, and the father who loved, protected and provided for them. No amount of government interference or rhetoric will ever change that. Our female bodies are not merely a means to an end for community or government to acquire children or soldiers.
I have read commentary from both sides. The first case cited for private control of the family is Nazi Germany and the horrifically cruel policies implemented by indoctrinated Hitler youth. If one feels that Germany is a poor and outdated example of what happens when government reaches into the family and claims its children for itself, then we need to look at modern day China. The ultimate form of familial control rests in their relentless enforcement of a one-child policy among certain populations and in defined geographical areas. These policies have, in numerous instances, resulted in forcing women pregnant with second children to abort their child or face severe fines. Government has, effectively, claimed “ownership” of the child, deeming it too costly and enforcing its extermination. In such cases, women do not have the right to their bodies, nor their unborn child. The government reaches into what should be sacred space and cajoles, intimidates and, in some cases by force, rips the child from its mother before it is even born. While I intellectually understand the reason for strict controls, an exhausting increase in population without an exponential rise in resources, the methodology of exercising such control has proved brutally inhumane.
Taking the tack that it is community, and not family, responsible for our children, one is called upon to examine the stark conditions of the Soviet orphanages. Historically, undermanned and under-funded, in the best of circumstances, these are not happy conditions for the children who live within those walls. They wait for parents who never return for them – they hope for new parents who never materialize, and bear the stigma of “orphan” when old enough to be released. While American orphanages and foster care may seem much more idyllic in comparison, statistics show that they simply cannot do the job as well as dedicated parents.
From a purely intellectual standpoint, it stands to reason that the children who have been carried, nurtured and protected for nine months before they ever drew their first breath do, indeed, belong to and with their mothers. They share our DNA, sometimes down to our worst quirks or bad habits. Yet, we are to believe that our children are not our own? That they instead “belong” to the community? That the community can do a better job than parents, that they have a better understanding of the individual needs of each child than those who live with that child each day? Perhaps community has more resources than we do privately, but I can tell you no one wants more, dreams bigger or sacrifices as willingly as loving and responsible parents. As for myself, I will tell you that community has not offered once to sit with a feverish, vomiting baby; searched relentlessly for a pair of lost shoes; or held my hand while I tried to talk down an over-stimulated, challenging second grader. So, Melissa Harris-Perry you can tell your friends that even in the worst possible moments, the child is mine. You may now lean back and step away from my child.