Wies Schuiringa, New South Wales Regional Meeting

Although many families in Australia today are not “normal” (that’s a hetero-sexual married couple with two or three children) the personal characteristics of children from “not-normal” families are often interpreted as being the result of growing up in “not-normal” family circumstances.  “Not-normal” families are one-parent families where the one parent may not have married, partnered or has separated, same-sex parent families, families with step fathers or step-mothers, families with one child only, foster families, families with adopted children, grandparent families and variations of all of these families. Adults in parenting roles in such “not-normal” families often have a sense of having to show evidence that their children are “normal”. However, children behave in all sorts of different ways. Is a shy and quiet child who has no siblings and is growing up in a single parent household, shy and quiet because of its family constellation? Is the child supposedly used to having little opportunity for conversation thus being lonely? This question would not be raised when a shy and quiet child is with its biological hetero-sexual parents and has siblings. The most likely answer is that another blood-related family member is or was also shy and quiet and the child has inherited this shy and quiet gene. But then, is it “normal” to be a shy and quiet child? The same could be said for a highly sociable child who always likes to have other children around. Obviously, the single child in a single parent household is missing siblings. What about the child in a “normal” family: it has siblings around and two parents but they are obviously not enough company and fun. So the list can go on for children who are studious and the first to hand in a school assignment and also for children who regularly forget their school assignments. Is it because they want to avoid their same-sex parents and they hide in their school work or because they are distracted by living with same-sex parents and can’t concentrate? Such behaviours by children in “normal” families are not explained by pointing out that the child is living with its biological hetero-sexual parents. Must be a genetic throw-back.

Now, what if the child turns out homosexual? Decades of research and of weird and scary treatment interventions have not provided any answers to what causes homosexuality. If the child grew up in a “not-normal” family the answer is obvious why the now-adult is homosexual. But what when the child grew up in a “normal” family? Must be a genetic throw-back, bad peer pressure or maybe homosexuality is OK.

How to determine what is “normal” child behaviour? Children who have major problems with being a child or teenager need special assistance and such problems may or may not be related to living in a “normal” or “not-normal” family. Everyday behavioural characteristics in children and teenagers mean that they are children with personal characteristics and quirks of their own: always needing to kick, hit or throw a ball, avid readers, obsessed with video games, the colour pink, ribbons and hair clips or dinosaur names, practising being a pop star, an IT entrepreneur or celebrity cook and doing this quietly or noisily. Which child fits into a box of being “normal”? Some of these personalities and quirks could be related to (or not related to) anything in their family: having a bossy older sister or sickly younger brother, having a parent or grandparent as carer who has a strong temper or who is away for work a lot and rather invisible to the child, being an only child or having a step-parent, living in poverty, having a “tiger” mother or having been at many different schools because of a parent who is in the defence force.

The Quaker testimony of equality sees every person in their own right, created equally and valued as a unique individual. Of course, none of us are an isolated island and the family and social history and context are part of forming a child and who they may become. However, the family’s social status, ethnic, religious or racial background do not add or detract from the child’s worth. Growing up with violence, abuse or in a war zone are more extreme influences that will affect the child’s personality traits. Problems arise when the emphasis is on being part of a “not-normal’ family and when this becomes dominant in appreciating the personal characteristics and quirks in each child or teenager.

Wies Schuiringa, who was a single parent and whose adult child is homosexual.

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