The Corner

Motherless Children

As we wait for the Supreme Court to rule, the New York Times has a remarkably sensitive column by a gay father on what his well-loved child misses:

Sometimes when my daughter, who is 7, is nicely cuddled up in her bed and I snuggle her, she calls me Mommy. I am a stay-at-home dad. My male partner and I adopted both of our children at birth in open domestic adoptions. We could fill our home with nannies, sisters, grandmothers, female friends, but no mothers.

My daughter says “Mommy” in a funny way, in a high-pitched voice. Although I refer the honors immediately to her birth mom, I am flattered. But saddened as well, because she expresses herself in a voice that is not her own. It is her stuffed-animal voice. She expresses not only love; she also expresses alienation. She can role-play the mother-daughter relationship, but she cannot use her real voice, nor have the real thing.

I have seen two types of arguments in the discussion on gay adoption. The first is the civil-rights argument. . . . More child-focused, but still reflecting the values of the grown-ups, is the second argument: the good-enough-parent idea, as developed in the series of research papers on gay and lesbian adoption of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. The executive summary of the 2006 report states: “Social science research concludes that children reared by gay and lesbian parents fare comparably to those of children raised by heterosexuals on a range of measures of social and psychological adjustment.” Kids of gay dads (and lesbians) do just as well as kids of moms and dads, the research shows. Being a good-enough parent counts for gay people, just as it does for straight people.

What is not expressed in both arguments, which I consider valid, is the voice of the adoptee — my daughter’s voice, that is. Her awareness of being a motherless child is not addressed. I don’t want to appropriate our child’s voice, but I want to speak up for her, and her older brother, and I want to acknowledge their feelings.



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