broken family, but successful anyway

I’ve been paying a bit of attention to the Archdiocese of New Orleans since my trip there last month. And I just read an article written by Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes titled “Children need married parents“; his conclusions are just plain wrong.

First, here’s a quote from the article:

“It is now clear from social studies that children raised in intact married families are emotionally healthier, more likely to attend college, less likely to be physically or sexually abused, less likely to use drugs or alcohol or commit delinquent behavior. They also have a decreased risk of divorcing when they get married, are less likely to become pregnant or impregnate someone as a teenager and are less likely to be raised in poverty. These facts, validated independently by social studies, reinforce the significance of Church teaching.

This is a classic example of incorrectly identifying cause and effect. To illustrate this further, I just did a quick search and found that in 2001, 24 percent of all male drivers involved in fatal crashes in Illinois were intoxicated, as opposed to 13 percent of all female drivers involved in fatal crashes (Illinois Criminal Justice Authority, Apr 2004 Research Bulletin). If we accept that as accurate, and we then apply the logic used by Archbishop Hughes, then the state of Illinois should call for a committment to have most drivers be female. This just doesn’t make sense. And though I’m singling out Archbishop Hughes in this article, this is a common teaching of the Catholic faith.

Listen, I’m a family man. And I firmly believe that a solid, stable family gives a kid the best chance at success in all areas of life. But I’m also a child of divorce. And I absolutely do not believe that living with your biological parents gives you any advantage at all.

I lived with a single Mom from the age of 10 and throughout my teenage years. I lived with a stepfather and stepsiblings. And those who know me well know that the absolute best period of time in my childhood was from the age of 10 to 15. These are the years when I lived with just my Mom and two sisters. These three extraordinary women taught me so much about being a man and about how to respect others, especially women.

Being a single mom turned my mom into a hero. She taught me that how I react to life’s happenings means more than the happenings themselves. You think I had it bad because we had turkey TV dinners for Thanksgiving 1973? What mattered to me was that I had dinner with my little sister, my big sister and my Mom. I learned so much from my mom, more than she probably knows. And she didn’t have to sit down and teach me either. All I had to do was watch her live her daily life.

No one can tell me that had my parents remained married, even if they were happy, that my sisters and I would have turned out better. It’s just not necessary to live with your biological parents. I don’t know what “social studies” the archibishop is referring to, but the organization that conducted them has no credibility with this blogger.

Biological, adopted, one, two, straight, gay, black, white, it just doesn’t matter. We should focus our efforts, resources and faith teachings toward providing support for families in whatever configuration they find themselves. We should teach our children to make the best of whatever life they are given, play the hand you’re dealt. And if you’re lucky, you’ll have a life like mine.