Monday, 13 August 2012

The End of Parents?

Last week I went to a play called "Angels" by Ronan O'Donnell. It was a spellbinding, hour-long monologue by an actor playing a young, working-class Edinburgh security guard hauled into the local police station for questioning.

The security guard has a number of flashbacks, and one of them is of the one and only time his grandfather ever hit him.

It was clear from the monologue that the security guard was raised by his mother, grandmother and grandfather. This was not an unusual arrangement for working-class Scotsmen of my husband's generation. It is not all that unusual for a Canadian boy of my nephew's generation. God knows a boy needs a father figure in his life, and if he doesn't have a responsible father or even a grandfather, he's very likely to go looking for a father in all the wrong places, e.g. the local gang.

The grandparents in the play were married. I think this is significant. I think it is significant that single mothers (and presumably single fathers) lean on their married parents to help house and raise their kids. But I have suddenly been struck with the thought that we can no longer rely on older marry couples as parental stand-ins. I had this thought when reading this.

Okay, so the grandfather has only been charged. Innocent until proven guilty. But we in the UK have read dozens and dozens of stories about mothers' "partners" being charged in connection with the murder of children. This is the first time I have come across a story about a grandmother's "partner" being charged. Oh, and he's 37.

A partner, incidentally, is a politically correct term in Britain for a person another person acknowledges as their primary object of sexual expression. It is a way of eroding the differences between boyfriend, fiance and husband. It can be even be used of someone else's husband by the woman who is now sleeping with him. Presumably if you leave your husband for his father, and everyone knows it, your father-in-law becomes your "partner." Incidentally, you don't have to live with your "partner" for him to be your partner.


Shannon said...

I have been following this story since it broke last week. The grandmother's partner used to date the victim's mother. I would argue that the tell-tale signs were present all along and that women need to be more vigilant. We are so vulnerable and the fact that he went from mother to grandmother to daughter (TBD, my conjecture at this point) is really disturbing.

Jam said...

"Partner" in UK English is a really fascinating word. In the US (in my experience) the word excludes a spouse. If I refer to my "partner" in a social sense (i.e. not a business partner) the first assumption would be that I am talking about a lesbian lover, or a man whom I am living with but not married to. "Partner" and "spouse/husband/wife" are mutually exclusive, at least if you're at a party and saying "This is Alex my ______".

In the UK it is very much not so, and I think I have seen examples of "partner" for "spouse" quite a long time before you would expect an influence from the gay rights crowd. I think it's interesting that the OED gives the definition for this sense as "A person who is linked by marriage to another, a spouse; a member of a couple who live together or are habitual companions; a lover."

I, too, have been following the tragic Tia Sharp story and had a bad feeling as soon as I saw that the granny's partner was the last to see her alive. Oh no, oh no.

Anonymous said...

May I be both really traditional and forward-thinking?

It is great when the children of divorced/never-married/widowed parents can spend time with their married-to-each-other grandparents. This does a lot to dampen the negative social effects associated with not being raised by both of your parents (although, for the record, not all single parent homes are the same, and never-married homes are the worst).

Pray tell, to whom will the little kids of the next generation turn to for stability, an example of lifelong matrimonial love, and a welcoming home? Susie may be able to take Johnny to her mum and dad for raising, but when Johnny fathers a baby out of wedlock, who does that kid look to? Not Susie - she never married Johnny's father.

We have yet to see the long-term effects from successive generations of never-married parenting. My own prediction is that the second generation will have it worse than the previous, and we already know what a train wreck non-marital childbearing is.


(P.S. I hate the term "partner," precisely because it diminishes the husband-wife bond by equating it with a non-marital bond. And from the "Don't ask me how I know this" file, but be really leery if your spouse's friends introduce you as your spouse's "partner.")

okiegrl said...

Sounds like none of the women involved had reliable men in their lives. The grandmother is 46, the mother 30, so the grandmother was a teen mom herself. The mother had the poor murdered daughter at 18. Sad situation, but it's common.:-(

Seraphic Spouse said...

Yes, Theobromophile, that's what I was thinking, although I don't seem to have actually come out with that sentence.

The permanent (or long-term) social, financial and sexual bond between one man and one woman we call marriage is IMPORTANT.

And the "wicked stepmother" of our age has got to be "Mum's new boyfriend."

Anna said...

Relevant article.