Having a child does not make you a parent or your child obligated to involve you in her life.

*This is a draft I wrote a while ago so the comments about the state of the family are likely dated.

I’ll be honest, I have about as much interest in Meghan Markle as I do in scotch tape. I have no ill-will against her and, as a fellow human being, appreciate that she has value and hope she has a good life. Her wedding–which I was forced to wake up at 5am to watch (but that’s another issue for another day; it’s actually kind of sweet)–was beautiful and she seems like a good person who deserves happiness. But she’s just a person baking under an immensely overheated spotlight trying to work through life issues most of us face (imagine trying to deal with some of the most complicated issues in your life with your pants on fire). Those issues, provided no group is being physically hurt or oppressed, are about at much my business as yours. Granted, I am an American and can also appreciate that I don’t entirely understand the sociocultural connection between citizens and their respective royal families. On the other hand, this isn’t an exclusively English issue.

What does really bother me, hence the need to write about it, is this business about her family and both society and the media weighing in on her not involving them in her life. I have all kinds of thoughts about that, not so much her decision, but our confident and intrusive judgment of family issues which, we should know from experience, are more complex than they can be described in words, let alone the words of outside observers.

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Vanity Fair posted these photos of Meghan and her older half-sister (left, from Splash News) and Meghan and Thomas Markle (right, from Coleman-Rayner).

If you don’t know, here’s the situation: Meghan Markle’s parents are unmarried. Her mom was present at her wedding and is clearly involved in her life. Thomas Markle, her father, has proactively drawn attention to their strained relationship by either contacting the press or, when contacted, delving into the family dynamics between Meghan and his side of the family. He was invited to the wedding and then, following some publicity stunts he staged, he was not in attendance. Regardless of his motive, it’s fairly clear he thought it was more important to speak to the press about his frustration’s with his daughter leading up to her wedding than to preserve that sacred time for her, respect her wishes, and resolve to sort it out at a later date.

Children aren’t prisoners to their parents and chained to them even when it is damaging.

I’m not a father so maybe I don’t understand but if somebody doesn’t invite you to their wedding and doesn’t speak with you, what do you think going to the press will do? Get you invited to the wedding? If you get invited you will know you forced your way in, regardless of whether or not you thought you deserved to be there. Get the person to talk to you? Forced conversation is not conversation. Whether intentional or unintentional, involving un-involved and uninformed parties is only going to drag you and your child through the mud, which definitely isn’t going to restore trust or communication.

In spite of the fact that this did not work the first time, he and his other daughter are back to playing the victim and again, trying to either control a situation or get back at somebody during her new marriage and early pregnancy. It’s one thing to be shut out by somebody you love and want to find a way to resolve it. It’s another to do it in a way you know will hurt the person. That shows where your priorities lie and it will be in vain. I’ve been on both sides of this issue, the person shut out and the child who just cannot handle a parent who is dysfunctional or an emotional vampire, and both suck. Meghan Markle has little to gain by not talking to her father. We only get two biological parents. That role can’t be replicated. If somebody doesn’t talk to her parents, it probably is for a good reason for at least that person.

It is incredibly self-centered to think we can judge others’ behavior toward their parents based on our understanding and personal experiences of childhood and parenthood.

Chances are, this is more about self-preservation and parenting a child you chose to have does not make the child beholden to you for life, especially when it is damaging to them. In society we try to mythologize this idea of parenthood and parents as a sacred role. It’s a middle class thing in my opinion. Because anybody who grew up in a dysfunctional and/or lower class family can tell you that family and parents are as gritty and enigmatic as other areas of life. Upon conception, we have no choice who parents us and some parents are really shitty biological donors and/or emotional vampires. An underlying assumption based on this ideal and pedestal some people project–primarily mothers who want to cast this Juno-esque identity of the selfless and gracious mother (in my experience from five minutes on social media)–is not one size fits all. There are parents who are negligent, absent, abusive, the list goes on, and you never know what goes on behind closed doors (unless you’re Madeye Moodie in which case, we need to talk). It’s bad enough to be denied decent parents and that sense of wholeness one might get from it. It’s a double offense to apply this general belief about parent-child relationships to all parents and children and, when a child does not involve the parent accordingly, judge that person’s character. Maybe it is that social media allows us to see more of people’s mindsets but we are so obtuse and egotistical to think we can comment as experts on the family dynamics we don’t see on a firsthand basis. It is incredibly self-centered to think we can judge others’ behavior toward their parents based on our understanding and personal experiences of childhood and parenthood.

 

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This photo by Alastair Grant was posted in a local news article from Amarillo, Texas.

 

It is a parent’s job to help his or her child. That does not mean the child is entitled to everything (I am a strong believer in teaching children responsibility and the need to play a proactive role in their own care) but having people criticize how she accepted her father’s help in her career and is therefore wrong not to speak to him is incredibly shortsighted. If you create something, you are accountable for managing it. If I go get a dog and bring him into my house, choosing him when he has no agency in the matter of who takes him home, it is my job to feed him, let him outside, and teach him how to live in his environment. The same stands for a child. Just because your parent helps you with something, you are not obligated to speak to that parent permanently when, if you choose not to speak to a parent and must have a good reason, it feels wrong. Children aren’t prisoners to their parents and chained to them even when it is damaging.

There are some interesting things Thomas Markle has said that, in my opinion, are questionable and at least shed light on some of the possible reasons for Meghan’s actions . Granted, if you put anybody under a spotlight long enough, that person will say something that can be misconstrued but he is actively seeking the microphone and while these things do not definitely place the blame on him, they at least should make people pause before trying to play “Monday Morning Quarterback” from their couches and weighing in on the flaws of her decisions. Maybe those with simple suggestions on how she should behave in what is clearly a complex issue should take all of the time they have to act as expert judges on this particular parent-child relationships and, at the least, become more informed on the issue and estranged parent-child relationships. If not, their time would be better spent writing Chicken Soup for the Father’s and Daughter’s Souls so at least their willful ignorance is contained in a book that gets forgotten on their nightstands.

*The featured photo came from Paley Suits-26 on Flickr.

Comments

One comment on “Having a child does not make you a parent or your child obligated to involve you in her life.”
  1. Tim Connolly says:

    Parents really need to focus on the children’s happiness not their own .. let them achieve their own success in this life for their own choices.

    Like

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