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November 11, 2013
Life on Planet Kathy
From Here to Paternity
by Kathryn H. Kidd

Thanks to the coma I received as a holiday present last year, this year hasn’t been much of a travel year for us. But we finally decided I was up for traveling, so we booked a few days in a timeshare at National Harbor last week, and off we went for a few days of fun and frolic.

This was an experiment of sorts, so we could see if I could handle hotel rooms with their higher beds and unfamiliar bathrooms. We took my scooter and wheelchair and my walker, so we had all bases covered (except for not having much room in the car for other luggage). For the most part, the week was a rousing success.

When we watch television at home, we are somewhat discerning, and rarely channel surf or watch anything that our trusty TiVo has not recorded for us. But when we’re traveling, all bets are off and we’ll watch just about anything that moves.

One of Fluffy’s guilty pleasures when traveling is to watch court shows on television, something he never does at home. There are a whole slew of them, some of them worse than others. I have a lower tolerance for them than he does, but I can usually stand to listen to two or three of them per day if I am doing something with my hands while listening to the television as background noise.

As Fluffy was channel-surfing near the end of the week, he stumbled upon one show we hadn’t seen before. There is a bona-fide television show called “Paternity Court.” Yes, you read that correctly, friends and neighbors. These days there are enough women who don’t know the identity of their children’s fathers to justify having a whole television show to uncover the sordid truth.

We were only in the hotel room long enough to watch one case on “Paternity Court,” but it was a doozy. The plaintiff was a woman whose brother had recently died. After his death, three women came forth and said they thought — but weren’t sure — that the dead brother had fathered their little girls.

The girls were all about a year old. Dead Brother had obviously been having a lot of fun in the last few months of his life — in fact, he probably died from exhaustion. And as it turned out, he really had been having fun, because all three of the little girls belonged to him. Apparently Dead Brother was such a stud that just looking at a woman would put her in the family way.

That wasn’t the end of the story, either. The grieving plaintiff told the judge that after she filed the case in “Paternity Court,” four more women had come forth and said they thought their own children had been fathered by Dead Brother as well. “I don’t know when this is going to end,” she said tearfully.

The plaintiff had every reason to be distraught. There could be dozens more children in the bushes, and they could be popping up for decades. Thank goodness the aunt won’t be responsible for child support payments! Family reunions, however, keep getting bigger and bigger.

Fluffy and I did quite a bit of head-shaking over “Paternity Court” as we ate our lunch that day. We weren’t as distressed about the men who go around chasing every woman in a skirt. Men have been doing that for — well, as long as there have been men. There seems to be something in their genes that makes them want to do that.

Women on the other hand, have been traditionally more circumspect. A generation ago, or even a decade ago, there wouldn’t have been enough women who a) didn’t know who had fathered their children or b) were willing to admit they didn’t know who had fathered their children to justify a show like “Paternity Court.” Today, though, there are apparently enough women who have neither morals nor shame, that “Paternity Court” is on not just one day per week, but five.

I grew up in a simpler time when traditional families were — well, traditional. Having children was something you did after you were married, and even couples who were not all that happy tended to stay together for the sake of the children. We all knew a few families that were run by single parents, but those families were the exception and not the rule.

Television shows like “Father Knows Best” were popular, because that was the reality of life for most Americans. Our lives may not have been as carefree as the families we saw on television, but we tried our best.

Now I wonder about the children I see on shows like “Paternity Court.” What kind of values will those children have when they grow up and start having children of their own? These days it is not politically correct to make value judgments about the decisions of others. If a woman chooses to never marry and to have ten different children with ten different fathers, that is her choice. It is not our place to judge her, or to criticize her lifestyle choices.

But I worry about the lives of the children. The studies of children being raised in such situations show that they are much more likely to fall prey to a variety of misfortunes, especially poverty and crime. With all those willing to stand up for the choices of the parents, why is no one allowed to defend the rights of the children produced by these bad choices?

It says in the Bible that the sins of the parents are visited upon the heads of the children for three or four generations. I used to think it was unfair that God would punish children for their parents’ misdeeds. But then I realized that God has nothing to do with it. A natural consequence of children being raised in dysfunctional families is that that they will grow up to repeat the same dysfunctional behavior in their own families.

I guess I’m officially just old-fashioned, but I miss the days when you never heard the question, “Who’s your baby daddy?”

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