Who ‘owns’ your children?
By temperament and educational training, I’ve learned not to over-react when I hear something second-hand. There are always two sides of every story. Until you go to the primary source, you truly don’t know what really happened (my children have taught me this first hand).
Such was the case, when I heard about a commercial by cable channel MSNBC host, Melissa Harris-Perry which advocates that “your children don’t belong to you.”
As a mother of five, the sound bite alone drew my attention and raised red flags, but I decided I would reserve judgment until I saw the ad for myself. And then I did. Here’s an excerpt:
“We have never invested as much in public education as we should have because we’ve always had kind of a private notion of children. Your kid is yours and totally your responsibility. We haven’t had a very collective notion of these are our children. So part of it is we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.”
On the one hand, it can be argued that this ad is attempting to engage the audience in a proposition that if our government “invests” so heavily in the education (and other services) of children, and as a society we agree that children are our most precious resource, shouldn’t we consider the idea that we, as a society, bear a collective responsibility and as such a sense of shared ownership for our nation’s children?
When we entertain the notion that a child does not “belong” to a parent, but to the collective, we acknowledge our connectedness — not just economically but socially as well.
This kind of reasoning may seem novel and intriguing, but it is hardly new. Speculations as to the state’s/government’s role in educating and raising children have been around since the days of ancient philosophers like Aristotle and Socrates. However, they have reemerged and gained traction in the 19th and 20th century under Marxist philosophy and are evident today.
On the other hand, and from a pragmatic standpoint, any manager will tell you that a single person has to take ownership of a team or a project so that someone can be held accountable for decisions, especially if something goes wrong.
A true leader will tell you that the buck stops with him/her, but if there is success, they are more than happy to share it. The same can be applied to children.
For myself, I am ready to admit that as a girl, there were many factors that influenced the way I thought and believed. However, it is my mother, the woman who raised me, who had ownership of me, who believed in me, and in the most significant of ways, helped to define who I am today — not “the collective.”
“The collective” will not spend its lunch hour finishing up the wings of your costume, then drive to your school, and pin them on you right before the school assembly so you can win first prize in the costume contest.
“The collective” will not stay up with you until 1 a.m. finishing up the science project you worked on all semester and have it earn the honor of representing your school for the county fair. And “the collective” will not come and hug you close, wipe the tears from your eyes, and stare at you with such conviction that it almost becomes your own, and say, “Don’t worry about what those popular girls say. God made you a beautiful and brilliant little girl.”
So, “ownership” of children is a privilege and responsibility of parents, not the collective. Unfortunately, the media does not highlight the countless stories of heroic and selfless parents, like my mother, and you, who in taking full ownership of their children, shoulders both the burdens and the joys that only come from parenting.
Rather than honor such parents, the media continuously churns out stories of parental abuse and recklessness and thereby undermine this foundational unit of our society and provide anecdotal evidence that the ownership of children should be removed from parents to “the collective.”
So, let me be explicit here — I encourage you to go online and view this ad for yourself and then call and email MSNBC and let them know how you feel about “the collective” taking ownership of your children.
[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville along with her husband and their five children.]