Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Are there limits?

I found the following letter in this month's Melbourne's Child magazine. In it, a mother eloquently describes the effect of fatherlessness on her three-year-old daughter. She writes,

Last night as she sobbed due to fatigue and other issues I can only guess at, she cried for her father. She told me she missed him and accused me of forgetting to ring him ... Just before throwing herself into my arms, she tearfully declared that she just wanted a daddy.

As you can imagine, the burden of your child's confusion and pain is intolerable. Although I try to dilute it through honest communication, plenty of physical and emotional love, tough love where it is required, and contact with as many other loving role models as possible, it does not compensate for the loss of a bond that was criticial to her.

Everyone says she will survive due to my efforts and her character. Why should she have to survive? Her God-given right to a father who chose to have her was something she should have taken for granted.

My ex-husband lives interstate, which means she sees him at most every eight weeks. He left his first wife when his son was three years old. He left me when our daughter was two and I was five weeks pregnant ... his new partner [is] about to give birth to his son.

My feelings in all this are mostly irrelevant. I am an adult and I will move on. What concerns me is the lack of any mechanism in our community to control this sort of behaviour. Surely we must be accountable for the children who are brought into the world and then abandoned due to a self-serving quest for greater happiness and satisfaction.

No-one expects families to stay together in abusive situations, but in all other cases, surely it is incumbent on those who stood in front of witnesses and swore to love each other in sickness and health ... to exhaust every avenue to protect the family unit ...

I hear the outraged cries from the civil libertarians and the exponents of freedom to make choices and follow our hearts, but what about the hearts of our children? I am tired of watching my child's heart breaking due to a narcissist who continues with impunity to disrupt the lives of children and is unlikely to stop.

What is especially impressive about the letter is that it clearly identifies one of the main reasons for high rates of divorce in the West: the (liberal) idea that the highest value in life is an individual freedom to choose.

If unimpeded individual choice overrides all other values, then the decision to choose divorce can be seen as an act of freedom or liberation.

But, as the mother points out in her letter, perhaps it's not enough to focus only on individual choice. Isn't keeping our promises an important value in its own right? Isn't our parental responsibility to our own children an important value?

It seems to me that the idea of individual freedom of choice as an overriding moral value is hopelessly misconceived and that, if anything, morality means setting limits to what we can and cannot rightly choose.

No comments:

Post a Comment