By Bev Schellenberg
Now here’s a thought: According to the crown prosecutor in the case of Christopher Pauchay, the father of two children who froze to death while in his care, it’s important that people care for the children they have. Marylynne Beaton says the three-year sentence handed down on Friday, March 6th, sends an important message to parents. “It’s really important for people to realize, especially parents, [that if] you have children you have to take responsibility for them,” she notes, “and you can’t put yourself in a situation where they’re going to be at risk.”
We’ve actually reached the point where somebody needs to say this? Maybe as a society we all need to be sent to parenting classes.
Take the ongoing response to the “Octomom.” Nadya Suleman bore eight children via in vitro fertilization, on top of the six she already had. Outrage followed. In response, legislators in Missouri and Georgia are now seeking to limit the number of embryos that may be implanted by IVF, to no more than two in a woman under 40, and no more than three in a woman over 40 (the latter to account for “increased difficulty” in bringing the birth to term). In response to the response, legal experts say “limiting a woman’s right to procreate raises constitutional concerns.”
Constitutional concerns? What about the children’s rights to grow up in a home where they’re properly cared for? The kids almost seem to be an afterthought in all this; even the politicians say their chief concern is saving taxpayers’ money.
Here’s another well-known example: Chantelle Stedman, of Eastbourne, East Sussex, Britain, became journalistic fodder in February for having a child — not because she’s just 15-years old (that’s not news), but because a baby-faced 13-year old named Alfie Patten claimed to be the father. (For the tabloids, that’s news.) Another eight boys have now come forward, also claiming to be the dad.
Predictably, but pathetically, our focus has been on the teenage mom and boy-father involved, rather than on the most important person of all: their infant, Maisie. How will she respond one day to having been the video du jour on You-Tube? How will she feel about being an involuntary celebrity due to her possibly 13-year old dad? What a lovely contribution all those news clippings will make to her baby album. Maisie will now grow up in a home with her grandma, her out-of-work granddad, her five uncles, and her teenaged mum. Instead of worrying about paternity tests, how about asking if Britain’s social system is up to the task of making sure she’s well cared for?
Thank heavens at least some people act responsibly in this over-populated world, and choose not to have kids (though they tend to need groups like this one, No Kidding, to find support for their decision). Others seek out children who need help, whether through organizations like World Vision or by fostering or adopting a child.
Speaking as a parent of two, I would argue most parents, while not perfect, are doing their best to raise their children responsibly. Granted, awful things happen. Log onto “Parents Behaving Badly” for a collection of the horrific tales. Sometimes we make silly choices that our children manage to survive, as in the case of the mother in Kettering, Ohio, who was spotted chatting on her cell phone and breastfeeding her baby while driving. While I applaud 39-year old Genine Compton’s obvious multi-tasking skills, I wouldn’t recommend her choices. Fortunately, a fellow motorist reported her in time, so that she, baby, and those around them remained safe.
To get her licence, Compton had to pass a driving test. But as has been often remarked, there’s no course of study, no exam to pass, no degree granted, before one can become a parent. Until there is, it’s up to all of us to act responsibly, quit focussing on the lurid news, and start paying attention to the little ones behind it.