Stick Figure Family

stick figure family

As designated by Alberta Lieutenant Governor Helen Hunley in 1990, Canadian holiday “Family Day” is observed annually each third Monday in February, serving as a reminder to mothers, fathers, and children of the value of family time. Its celebration – criticized initially by Albertan business owners who decried the cost to business – became so revered that, in time, it caught governors’ eyes throughout Canada and was noted nationally within twenty years. To date, it usually occurs on the third Monday of every February, and – even if named differently in some states in order to meet individual requirements – hopefully inspires most to plan a day with family rather a day of catching up on email or being with friends.

I never knew of Family Day until last Sunday, when I skimmed the weekly bulletin while sitting in a Catholic church pew. Truly, it made very little of Canadian observance of the day and offered even less insight into how to note it (although a church visit would be nice). Still, while inviting laymen to engage in a celebration of family, it knowingly omitted a part of its constituency, too. Children of gay parents were neglected again, as the sacrosanct equation for Family was (1) Man + (1) Woman, hence, neither (1) Man + (1) Man nor (1) Woman + (1) Woman. The Church’s position on this was clear, too, almost as if it were in boldface.

Merriam-Webster defines family as (1) a group of individuals living under one roof and under one head, (2a) a group of persons of common ancestry,(2b) a people or group of peoples regarded as deriving from a common stock, (3) a group of things related by common characteristics, i.e. elements or chemical compounds, a group of soils with similar chemical and physical properties, a group of related languages descended from a single ancestral language, and for purposes of this opinion, (5) the basic unit in society traditionally consisting of two parents rearing their children; also: any of various social units differing from but regarded as equivalent to the traditional family, i.e a single-parent household. Unlike Genesis 2:24, which reads, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him,’ Merriam-Webster’s meaning of Family implies neither naps nor extraction of ribs. It merely describes the strong bond connecting individuals to each other, in myriad ways, with myriad connectors.

I was disturbed by the Church’s choice to reserve Family Day for opposite-sexed parents. Although not acquainted with many gay parents, I know two men in Boston  who exemplify good parenting. Their young boys are quickly becoming bilingual, enjoy new experiences daily, and are very aware that each is loved by his fathers for the person he is becoming. By contrast, I am also aware of a husband-wife team that struggle to make time with their child, for they are so hassled by work responsibilities that they can neither connect with each other nor check in on their child’s experiences. While I respect each set greatly for accepting the yoke of parenting, I clearly see the latter couple as succumbing to its occasional burden.

What is Family, then? When two sperm whales adopted a deformed bottleneck dolphin in 2013, collective human joy caused a picture of the family to be shared worldwide. In another story, hearts warmed when a grieving mother tiger adopted a litter of weaning piglets after losing her own prematurely born cubs. Although unconventional, these unlikely family units found refuge with each other and the unlikely parents were applauded for the acceptance they exhibited.

The point is this. If children are raised with the love and attention needed to develop into moral, valuable people in society, why can’t the equation for family include (1) Man + (1) Man or (1) Woman + (1) Woman, in addition to (1) Man + (1) Woman?  If a child is loved, then the equation is adequate, and the only difference is that the stick figure families hanging on their refrigerators appear different.




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