Friday, February 06, 2009

Kids

I suppose this post is a little more on the personal side (as if all my other ones aren't). It's a touchy subject because I think people tend to get up in arms about it, and it produces a variety of emotions and conflict in folks, myself included. Mainly, it's about the desire for children.

There are very few people I know who don't want kids. In fact, I can count them on one hand. There are four of them; two couples who both made the conscious decision to not have kids. Everyone else I know either has kids or wants them, no matter their age, gender, or sexual persuasion. I think it's safe to say that the desire to raise a child (not necessarily procreate) is a fundamental human desire. It's not present in everyone, but it's present enough.

I'm also not without this desire. I want kids. I want at least one of my own, and the rest of my life's work is to be dedicated to kids. I've been a camp counselor, I'm going to be a teacher, I want to be involved in youth an children ministries in whatever church becomes my home down the line. These things are non-negotiable. I can't imagine my life without young people in it. The only problem, of course, is that I'm a celibate gay man.

Now, that's not a big problem when it comes to the teacher thing. I'll be a teacher no matter what, and nothing except my own failure from college (which, thank God, doesn't seem likely), or my failure to find a job at a school (ha, yeah right), will get in the way of that. When it comes to my potential involvement in church youth groups, my orientation could become a bit of a problem. I want to be open about my sexual struggles with church leaders and my peers, just like I am now, but I don't want those struggles to keep me from serving and assisting with youth. I fear, just based on anecdotal evidence from contacts and friends, that that will happen, and it really scares me. As Peter Ould recently pointed out, there is homophobia in the church, even towards people who are chaste, and it freaks me out when I think something like that could get in the way of doing what I think God has called me to do. I want to be honest and involved, and I don't want to sacrifice one at the hands of the other.

Now, when it comes to adopting on my own, that's when it gets really tricky. Even though I am not and never will be of the idea that having a baby on one's own is somehow a death sentence for a child (as many conservatives like to use in their scare tactics, like this recent Ann Coulter piece), I'm still pretty aware that two parents is probably best. But one parent with a decent paycheck and a lot of devotion is still better than no parents, right? I know a few single dads, and most of them adopted the "unadoptable" (or the older kids who are more likely to get shuffled through foster care, as opposed to the cute international children that are popular nowadays). I'd be willing to do that, and I think I'd be able to do it rather well.

But I'd also want support from my church community if I did that, and the fact that I tend to run in more conservative circles freaks me out a bit (yet again). There is always suspicion around a man wanting to adopt on his own, even among "secular" society. How much worse would it be in a church? I know, that's a horrible thing to ask. Maybe I'm just paranoid, but I do think my fears have merit. It's not that I want everyone to support every decision I make. If I did, I wouldn't have gotten as far in life as I already have. However, I would hope that in any faith community in which I find myself a part, my decisions to have a child on my own would be accepted. Of course, there's still the chance that I'll get married and have kids the good old fashioned way, but right now, this looks like the more likely option.

This brings up a lot of questioning about my desire to have kids in the first place. Some might say that if I'm willing to bring up a child without a mother, then I am harming a child and don't have their best interests at heart. I can understand that point of view, but like I said, when it comes to adoption, I'd be adopting someone without either parent. And also, does any parent really have a child just for the child's sake? I'd think that even among the most Christian parents there's a bit of selfishness in it. Not only do we want to provide a home and bring someone up in the Lord, but we want people to devote our time to, to watch grow just as we have grown, and to hopefully care for us in our older years. And honestly, I don't think those things are wrong. They certainly factor into my reasons, even if they aren't the main one.

I guess it's all just very far away, so I don't really have to worry about it right now. What I do know is that I want to have kids, not only to raise as a father but also as a teacher and mentor. And I don't think such a strong desire can go unfulfilled for me.

34 comments:

Brandon said...

I understand how you feel. I've had some of these same thoughts myself. I'd love to have kids, but I seriously wonder if that will ever happen. At this point, I seriously doubt I'll ever be married, and who knows about adoption. Like you, I'm going into teaching, so I know I'll at least be able to be around kids some of the time. And being a teacher can be an awfully lot like being a parent. I've certainly enjoyed being around my nephews and helping some to raise them. I've actually wondered if they were meant to be a blessing to me as much as they've been to my brother. As if God let my brother have kids for my own sake as well. Anyway, I guess what I'm getting at is I can relate.

I hope God will eventually bless you with kids, Jay. I'd imagine you'd make for a very good dad.

Jeff S. said...

Jay, even if you never get married, I believe you would make an excellent and wonderful father as a single dad. There are plenty of adoption agencies out there what would be willing to work with you to pursue adoption. Our daughter is adopted from Romania, and we traveled there with a single mom also adopting through the same agency. There are SO may children in orphanages that need parents, married or single. Pursue that dream with all our heart. You would be a gem of a father. You have my support 100. And if your church wouldn't support you, then find another church. Our church has supported many single parents through a variety of circumstances.

Jeff

otrolado said...

I think you should definitely pursue parenting if it is on your heart. Any child with a parent who wants them will be better off than a child with two parents who never wanted them. I've witnessed parents who kind of treat their kids as an unwanted accessory and it's sad.

Education and money are the key factors in being a successful parent (besides love). Don't listen to anything Ann Coulter says. She's a bit nuts!

Based on our conversations and reading your blog I think you would be a good dad and you should definitely keep the adoption option open.

Mark said...

Having and raising children is definitely not out of the question. Teaching and being involved in church isn't out of the question ... there's a crying need for people willing to employ their gifts and talents in a church community.

You may have to make some compromises to make that happen -- the church you belong to may not be conservative/evangelical as you'd like but you likely can find a church home that's Christ-centered *enough* for you to be comfortable. Likewise, you'll find support (and people in your life who are willing to act as "aunties" and "uncles") so that your children will have a well-rounded growing up experience. Having two opposite gender parents is no magic bullet -- there are many kids out there from those kinds of homes that are damaged and hurting. The important thing is having a parent who loves and cares for their children unconditionally and does all within their power to help the children grow up secure in themselves and with the knowledge of the God who loves them deeply.

Ophir said...

Otrolado, I gotta disagree with you here:
Education and money are the key factors in being a successful parent (besides love).

There are plenty of educated wealthy people who love their children -- their selfish, rude and ignorant children.

Unless you're planning on having octuplets, you do not need huge sums of money to be a parent. You just need to know how to live within your means and what expenses are truly important. Aside from healthcare and, depending on the circumstances, school, most of the really important things are not costly and many don't cost a penny.

This is not to say that it doesn't help greatly to have money. But having money is no guarantee that one will spend it wisely.

otrolado said...

Okay, maybe I should watch the generalizations. What I was saying is that money and education generally result in more successful parenting. However, it can mean bratty kids too. I suppose a better statement would be that having a single parent does not mean you can't raise a child successfully. Parenting skills, money, and education are factors that trump whether their are one or two parents raising the child.

Is that better? Haha.

Anonymous said...

If children are loved and raised with some good "home trainin'" then they will grow up to be decent and caring people (most of the time.) Yes, two parents are often better than one, but in this world, one good parent is all that's needed.

With as much passion and love as you have, Jay, no one should deny you a child. If you want to adopt, there are always children who need parents and agencies who will work with you.

kurt_t said...

Adoption is great, Jay, but there's one important fact you need to know before you even start thinking about thinking about it, and this is something that adoption agencies and social service agencies will never come clean to you about. There is a vast population of kids out there up for adoption who have some level of pre-natal drug exposure.

OK, that part they'll come clean about. What they won't come clean about, what they try to gloss over, is the level of behavioral and cognitive problems that those kids will have for their whole lives.

A good book to read about the subject is Damaged Angels, which is specifically about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, but drug exposure is drug exposure. All kids with any kind of drug exposure have the same kinds of problems. Difficulty understanding consequences, problems with abstract logic, delays in developmental milestones.

Yeah, so Jay, go into it with your eyes wide open, dude. And it's never too early to start educating yourself.

naturgesetz said...

Just an aside. When I fantasized about having children, it was actually fantasizing about having sons. I don't know how common that is among SSA men.

Maybe it's just as well if that is most common. There are at least some people who think that the parent of the child's sex is the more important role model.

Scott said...

This post sounds a lot like this article by John Piper.

As far as my thoughts: if you adopt, I hope your local church plays a huge role in both your life and the lives of any children you may have. If your church has issues with you raising children, well that's a different conversation.

God bless!

TRiG said...

I'll admit that there is a small part of me that is not entirely comfortable with the concept of people like you being responsible for raising kids.

"ahem*

But seriously, Jay, you'd probably make a better father than most.

TRiG.

Jay said...

Thanks for the comments of encouragement everyone! It means a lot to hear, and also to hear others' stories (also, thanks for the Piper link, Scott!)

Kurt, yes, I know there's a greater risk of behavioral and cognitive problems with adopted kids. I've taken special ed courses as part of my education degree, so I've learned a lot about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (since teachers deal with the consequences of these things as well). Thanks for the link to the book, though. It looks interesting, and it's definitely a challenge that I hope I will be up to when I am old enough and ready to adopt.

TRiG said...

My previous post was, of course, somewhat tongue in cheek. The first sentence was intended to be misunderstood. The link following it will explain.

And I'm sure you'd make a great father, Jay. And I'm sure you'd perpetuate your dangerous soul-destroying Bronze Age mythologies.

Ah well. No one's perfect.

I really am not at all fond of religion.

I too want children, though I feel no particular desire to perpetuate my genes. In this country there's an anomaly, whereby only married couples or single people can adopt. Single people who are in an unmarried romantic relationship, straight or gay, are free to adopt, but a gay couple cannot adopt together. But the Green Party are pushing for same-sex marriage, so the day may come.

TRiG.

A. Friend said...

I have the same feelings you do. There is not more that I can add except to say that I also resent the way chaste people with SSA are treated in the Church.

True story:

Back when I was almost suicidal about my same-sex attractions (a few years ago now). I was seeking prayer and answers. I was angry with God and it was boiling over. I really, really wanted to abandon Him.

I decided to sign up with a Christian forum online which name I have forgotten now.

I started posting immediately, looking for some sort of hope for the future, some sort of encouragement that I didn't have at the time.

It being a large forum, I might have made two different posts in two different sections about issues that were troubling me.

Within a day some of my posts were erased and moved to a "private" forum that only members could read. So I had a hard time finding the replies.

You could tell by the responses that nobody knew what on earth to tell me and had nothing to offer. The male posters were silent and the women replied with a mix of sympathy and bewilderment (but not much else).

Then, I get an e-mail from the forum moderator saying that they had to move my posts to the private forum because "children wander in here from time to time".

I never felt so dirty in my life. It's as if I was a toilet bowl brush or something that they had to pick up gingerly and carry to the back of the house to hose down. A real toxic thing to be quarantined.

I was a danger to children now?
Is that what they thought of me? That children would "get ideas" ("Don't let him spread boys!") simply by reading my posts for help? That's exactly right. That is what they meant. (I dunno what "ideas" because I was not explicit.)

I cannot remember what I told the moderator, but I never went back there again. I think I told her how I felt about being treated that way, and I even think I told her that if an adulterous heterosexual had come in looking for help that they would have never "quarantined" his or her posts.

Lemme wrap up:

Leave your reputation to God like Brandon said a while back on another post comment. That is all I have. I admire your plan to be open. That would be an impossibility here.

I myself want to have 5 kids--maybe more--of my own, but I will leave that to God as well.

I just can't wait, thought, to get to Heaven to ask God why He chose to do whatever He chose to do in my life.

A. Friend said...

naturgesetz said...
Just an aside. When I fantasized about having children, it was actually fantasizing about having sons. I don't know how common that is among SSA men.

Maybe it's just as well if that is most common. There are at least some people who think that the parent of the child's sex is the more important role model.
-----------------------

Wow. You know what? I think you are onto something there.

I want to have as many boys as possible.

My theory anyway is that in some ways you want to be able to live a "normal" life through your sons--or that somehow you can "redeem" your broken "maleness" through having sons.
Put another way, you want to see the life you wanted (just "regular" boyhood and manhood) finally play out like you always wanted.

That is what I came up with about myself anyways.

TRiG said...

My theory anyway is that in some ways you want to be able to live a "normal" life through your sons--or that somehow you can "redeem" your broken "maleness" through having sons.

Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

Please don't have children.

TRiG.

Jay said...

TRiG: I don't think A. Friend was approving of that mindset. He was simply theorizing as to why many men in our position desire sons when we desire children. It's not like straight parents are never guilty of wanting to live vicariously through their children. In fact, I'd say every parent is at one point in time or another. Motivations to be parents aren't always as altruistic as one would hope.

Also, keep the sarcastic tone to yourself. That's crossing the line of #7 of my comment policy, and this is your first warning. Thank you.

TRiG said...

Having read Friend A's comment again, I think you may be right. I probably misinterpreted what he was saying. In that case, I apologise.

However, I wasn't being sarcastic. I meant it.

TRiG.

Jay said...

I understand you meant it, but your comment wouldn't have been helpful to any form of discussion. Instead of saying, "Please don't have children," you could have responded directly to what you thought was wrong about A. Friend's statement without attacking him as a person.

I'm all for people disagreeing and discussing, but I want things to be respectful.

pursuegod said...

Hey Jay,
I hear what you are saying. I have had similar thoughts and feelings. Whether or not I marry, I hope to adopt. I have always wanted to adopt since I was young because I have such a heart for the abandoned kids out there. There are more of them than there ever will be parents. And regardless, as Christians it is our ethical responsibility to look after the "orphan and widow." It disturbs me how many Christians shirk this responsibility all the while pontificating on the wiles of single parenting. There are about 500,000 kids in the U.S. system waiting for adoption. Usually older kids, bi-racial kids, or sibling groups that nobody wants.

And for those who aren't sure they can take on full-time parenting, there is CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). A CASA is assigned to a foster child who is going through the system. And the CASA is usually one of the only consistent people in their lives as they get bounced around from place to place. A CASA will go and sit in court with them during hearings, advocate on their behalf, take them out on outings. Just be a mentor and support. They are always in need of more male CASAs since the majority are female volunteers.

TRiG said...

http://familieslikemine.com/

TRiG said...

Marcus Bridgstoke on religion

Sorry for posting in drips and drabs.

And sorry for being slightly off-topic. But this video is too good to pass over. Hilarious and apt.

TRiG.

Christocentric said...

Jay, it's been a while since I've visited your site. I just dropped by to see how you're doing, how you are progressing in your walk with Christ.

I have so much to say after reading your last two posts I don't know where to start. I guess I'll start with this one as I can relate to it quite a bit being a single parent.

There are many children needing to be adopted but I highly encouraged two parent (male/female) families to do the adopting because of the problems single-parenting bring. The kids are damaged to some extent with not having the needed chemistry between a father and a mother for the children's healthy identity in how they relate to people, that is if the mother and father are practicing true godliness.

People have said that my children are successful, well adjusted spiritual beings but I can see a lot of the problems they have as a result of not having their dad around: negativity toward marriages, lack of examples of how a husband and wife are to treat one another and the list goes on.

But a major concern I have is the fact that you are still dealing with SSA issues and I would never recommend one who is dealing with these issues to ever consider adopting a child single or not! Too unhealthy for a child to have to deal with.

I know that comment alone will not sit very well with you and many of your readers, but sadly it is something to be reckoned with. Same sex attraction and children are not a good mix.

This will be continued in your post above as I change subjects from single parenthood to your attraction or lack of to women.

-- Carlotta

Jay said...

Carlotta, dear, so nice of you to drop by. :)

If you want to make an argument about how one should not enter into single parenthood willingly, that's certainly fine. After all, you certainly have a lot of experience as a single mother and I'm very interested to hear it.

However, if you want to say that SSA folks in particular make bad parents... Well, I will need some good reasons other than "it's unhealthy." After all, even "ex-gay" men and women are still SSA. I've never met a married ex-gay man or woman who said that they were completely heterosexual. In fact, most admit that their only opposite-sex attraction is to their wife or husband (and even that can come and go). And many of these people still struggle with lust and pornography.

Now, I understand that they have their spouses to help them, which is why - as a single person - I would hold myself to a much higher standard.

I wouldn't even consider adopting a child until I was much older, much more spiritually sound, and much much more disciplined in the way I dealt with my SSA. I would expect myself to have gone years without pornography or major instances of lust before adopting (and I feel that Christ is helping me accomplish those pure years, praise be to Him).

Which is not to say that my SSA would be totally eradicated (because, like I said, it really never is for anyone, no matter what your marital status is). But SSA is just another issue. Certainly being a parent doesn't mean that you have to be perfect and have checked all your baggage at the door.

You seem to have it in your head that one can go from being SSA to 100% non-SSA, and that just hasn't happened to any ex-gay I've met (married or single). So you're essentially saying that your issues allow you to have kids, but our issues don't. Little unfair, don't you think?

Christocentric said...

Jay: "So you're essentially saying that your issues allow you to have kids, but our issues don't. Little unfair, don't you think?"

My issues? I started off married and that's when the children were conceived. We are a single-parent family as a result of divorce.

There's a huge difference between voluntarily placing children in a single-parent situation and one where the end result was single-parenthood.

I don't care if you're SSA, non-SSA, rich, poor, young, old male or female, it's boils down to selfishness to want to place a child in a situation where they have only one parent.

I'm not a bad parent, but my situation IS (was) unhealthy for children. It is not the BEST or IDEAL situation for them to be. SSA men or women are not necessarily bad parents automatically, but placing them in a single-parent situation IS unhealthy for those children.

Now, SSA does add a more unhealthy dimension because of the possibility of immorality. Are you the type of person that makes it obvious that you are attracted to the same sex thereby creating the possible confusion with children?

You said in your latest post that you are emotionally attracted to men. How healthy will it be for children to see you in close emotional friendships with men and never with women?

Further confusion for children that being taught that homosexuality is immoral while living with the possibility that their "father" is gay.

I stick to my original statement that single-parenting is not ideal for children and having same sex attraction parenting makes it even unhealthier for children.

Jay said...

There's a huge difference between voluntarily placing children in a single-parent situation and one where the end result was single-parenthood.

I understand and respect that point of view (though I don't necessarily agree). But that's not what I was talking about. In your first post you said that an SSA individual shouldn't be a parent, even if they were married. My response to that is, what makes SSA so much more detrimental than any other temptation that a parent grapples with?

Are you the type of person that makes it obvious that you are attracted to the same sex thereby creating the possible confusion with children?

How in the world does one "make it obvious" that they are attracted to the same sex. Unless they openly say it, no one should assume that kind of thing about another person. Such assumptions are usually based off faulty stereotypes, anyway, and are thus usually wrong.

Now, married or not, I would eventually tell my children that I dealt with SSA, but of course I'd wait until they were adults and it was appropriate to do so. After all, my testimony as a Christian would be something that I would hope to tell my children one day, and I would hope to tell it in full.

You said in your latest post that you are emotionally attracted to men. How healthy will it be for children to see you in close emotional friendships with men and never with women?

Well, I don't think I implied anywhere in that post that my current state of attraction was ideal (or anything close to it). I am working on developing more close friendships with women, and in the next 15 years or so I hope that side of me improves (I wouldn't dream of having a child before 35 anyway, single or not).

I stick to my original statement that single-parenting is not ideal for children and having same sex attraction parenting makes it even unhealthier for children.

Fine. There are lots of SSA people who read my blog. Honest, wonderful Christians who are doing their best to live beyond their temptations and be better Christians. Some are in heterosexual marriages and have kids of their own despite having SSA (Jeff S), and they're excellent parents.

Others are like me and are simply trying to be single while leading full lives in Christ (Brandon, A Friend). Stick by your statements all you want, Carlotta, but I would implore you to visit the blogs of these fine men and really get to know what it's like to go through this. Maybe then you can make your judgment calls.

Also, if you read the article Scott linked to earlier in this thread, even John Piper approves of single parents adopting in some cases. So...

MR said...

Carlotta,

As others have pointed out, there are many unadopted kids bouncing between foster homes. As a Christian man who deals with SSA, I believe those children would be better off in a stable home with a single SSA parent than they would be in temporary foster homes. They would see genuine love and commitment, which is what they really need.

The fact that we turn to God for help while dealing with SSA is actually a good thing, not bad. Childern can learn from this to face life's difficulties by turning to God.

Although I have never adopted, I have certainly mentored troubled teens. I sincerely believe that they are in better spiritual and emotional condition than if I had just left them alone.

Flawed Christian single parents are far better than abandonment!

TRiG said...

Same sex attraction and children are not a good mix.

I find these unsupported assertions thrown out by so many people somewhat frustrating.

TRiG.

Christocentric said...

MR: "Flawed Christian single parents are far better than abandonment!"

MR, I actually agree with you there because I think that my children were better off with me then being shipped away to some temporary foster home.

But for adoption agencies, I truly believe they are acting in the best interest of children by allowing two-parent families to adopt them first.

Why hinder the possibility of that happening by allowing a single parent to adopt? I know most adoption agencies allow singles to adopt, but the children are being robbed of the best scenario which we will never know will happen if they aren't given the opportunity.

Maybe there should be a max age requirement that if a child isn't adopted by then singles would be eligible.

That's just my thought.

TRiG: "I find these unsupported assertions thrown out by so many people somewhat frustrating."
(Your response to my statement that "Same sex attraction and children are not a good mix.")

Trig, are you a Christian? If so, we must know that the best scenario for children are parents, mentors and etc. who are completely grounded in their faith and practicing a lifestyle consistent to biblical principles. If one is struggling with same sex attraction, then they are struggling in their Christian walk!

Scientific evidence isn't needed to know if one is spiritually on the right track or not.

My point here is that it's not a good idea to put onesself voluntarily in the path of a child while dealing with issues.

If you don't agree, then what you are saying is that it's actually ok to be attracted to the same sex.

TRiG said...

... we must know ...

Translation: I have no evidence but this is true anyway because I say it is.

Yes, that would explain why you're religious.

TRiG.

Jay said...

TRiG, Carlotta's showing restraint and respect here. Your points are appreciated, but I would ask that you please lose some of the sarcastic edge. It's not necessarily productive.

TRiG said...

We must know that the best scenario for children are parents, mentors and etc. who are completely grounded in their faith and practicing a lifestyle consistent to biblical principles.

By what standard is this the "best scenario"?

Presumably you say this scenario is best because children brought up this way are somehow "better" adults. By what standard are they better? What outcomes are you measuring? And how are you collecting your data?

And how do you define which families fall into which part of the study? How do you decide whether people are "completely grounded in their faith"?




You have to learn that things aren't true because you say they are. And common sense is a notoriously unreliable guide to reality. Common sense tells us that objects of different weights fall at different speeds. Galileo took the effort to check this belief, and found it to be wrong.

Anyone can pontificate without data, but it doesn't mean anything.

If you want us to take you seriously, you should (a) define what outcomes you find desirable, and explain why they're desirable; and (b) demonstrate that certain family structures are more likely than others to lead to that outcome. So far you are vaguely saying that straight parents are "better", without explaining why you believe that, nor what you mean by "better".

I am aware that I've said the same thing around five times in this post. My excuse is that I'm too tired to revise properly. I haven't the energy to prune.

Sorry.

TRiG.

Christocentric said...

Trig, I addressed you thinking that you're claiming to be a Christian. My apologies for not finding out exactly where you stand first before writing.

Christians know based upon the word of God that what's best for families is God's standard of man/woman as husband/wife, and the God given responsibilities He has given us as men as providers and women as nurturers and keepers of the home. God knows what's best for us and we trust (we're supposed to at least) His word, the bible to guide us.

How to convince someone outside of God's word that the family is best? I will try to convince you using unbiased scientific facts.

I have provide tons of such facts on my blog with a post titled: The Negative Effects of Same-sex Marriages and specifically with stats from Mapping America which are loaded with different family scenarios. An example of such would be, Behavioral Problems and Family Structure.

There are other sources as well that attest to the foundation of the family with biological mother and father as best for children.

I totally agree with you that things aren't true just because one says they are. Only God's word (the bible) can make that claim!

Chris said...

"I want to be open about my sexual struggles with church leaders and my peers, just like I am now, but I don't want those struggles to keep me from serving and assisting with youth."

I totally hear you there. This is actually probably one of the things that makes me feel least able to be open about things with people that I know. There's just such a negative stigma associated with guys working with kids, regardless of orientation, but especially those who experience SSA.

Also, I find the bit on adoption and such to be a pretty cool thought there. A lot of what you've mentioned during this blog has resonated with me a lot. Hope that this can become a reality for you some day!

Chris