Express Yourself

About anything and everything on the planet

March 20, 2009

Right to be a parent – Josef Fritzl and Nadya Suleman case!

The recent coverage of Josef Fritzl and, unrelated, Nadya Suleman, has got me thinking lately about rights (?) and privileges (?) that go along with parenthood. Before I jump in though, I want to preface this article by clearly acknowledging that NO, I am not a parent! I do not have any children, and I do not have any plans to have any in the super-near future. I want to be very clear about this before I begin, because “You don’t have any children!” tends to be the first thing people (particularly parents) say to me when having this type of conversation with me.

I believe that simply because you can, physically, have children, does not mean that should. I believe, in the case of Nadya Suleman, that simply because you have a uterus and a vagina does not mean you should use them to the point of excess. One’s reproductive organs are not a clown car, and I do not believe they should be treated as such – unless, of course, said parent is capable of providing for them, financially and otherwise, without the assistance of the government and/or generous donations. I believe if you cannot provide appropriately for the children you already have (as in the case with Nadya’s children) then you should not have more. Yes, you love children … most people love children; I adore them. But right now I’m in no position to care for them in any sort of way, therefore I do not have any. It does not take a genius to figure out how this ought to work, just a little common sense and maturity.

Some may argue that Nadya has an inherent right to decide for herself if she has any children, and if she does, how many she has. As I said, I agree, as long as she’s able to care for them. Some may argue that interfering with Nadya’s procreation is stomping on her rights; I worry about the children rights – the rights to be cared for, the right to not go home hungry, the right to have enough space, the right to have clean clothes.

Moving on to Josef Fritzl: He had a daughter, whom he locked underground and raped, 3000 times, procreating with her 7 times over. Obviously, his case is an extreme one, but it got me thinking about the way people treat their children; I hate to think about how many children are, in this moment, being mistreated by their parents. How many times have I heard someone say, “The way I raise my kids is my business” or “It’s my right as a parent to discipline my kids”? Do you, as a parent, have the right to treat your children any way you choose? Of course not. Parents slap their children, strap them, scream in their faces, grab them, yank them, and worse. Like other forms of violence, it tends to get worse, not better.

I would be willing to bet that Josef Friztl didn’t just wake up one morning and lock his daughter in the basement-dungeon and starting raping her and procreating with her. In fact, I would be willing to bet that if the authorities checked back far enough, there would be a history of suspicions and/or allegations: strange bruises, behaving inappropriately toward neighborhood children; there has to be something. Because we tend to give parents the benefit of the doubt, there may have been something overlooked in Fritzl’s behavior, that should have been noticed. Our hands-off policy for other people’s parenting methods needs to stop; creating a child does not give you the right to do whatever you want with them; we need to step up our vigilance, and make sure that what is happening in our community is what is best for the CHILDREN, not the parents. Being a parent should be a privilege, not a right; we are all responsible.

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