The Merry Mad Bachelors
While searching for thought-provoking epigraphs for my novel, I remembered the title of a favorite book from my childhood, The Merry Mad Bachelors. I recalled reading it in fourth grade, many long years ago. In particular, I recalled a quote from that book which had left a strong impression on me. The main character, a sixth or seventh grade boy, goes to one of his teachers because two of his friends are fighting. The teacher says something like, "If the middle of the rope is strong, then no matter how hard the two ends are pulled, the rope will not break." I thought it would be perfect for my book, so after a fruitless search for a cheap used copy on eBay, I sent off for the nearest copy via ILL (interlibrary loan). After long delays it finally arrived, and excitedly I launched into the book. But somehow it wasn't as scintillating as I had remembered it, and nowhere did I see the plotline I thought I remembered from 1968.
What I did find though was a charming if rather outdated portrait of ordinary life in a small English town in the late 1950s. The entire 175 pages (much longer than I remembered) revolves around a group of boys who want to persuade the local judge to allow a visiting boy, Emory, who is an orphan, to move in with his uncle, an unmarried man who lives in their town, so they can win the basketball trophy the following year. (Emory is tall for his age.)
The judge feels something important is missing from the uncle's home, so they move into the bachelor apartment and throw a dinner for the judge so they can show him the uncle's bachelor pad is a perfectly good place for a boy, and that thanks to boxed mixes, iron on patches, and cleaning ladies, a bachelor can survive just fine and even provide a good home for a growing boy.
Ultimately the truth comes out, and the boys learn that what the judge objects to isn't the uncle, his apartment, or his cooking and cleaning skills. What the judge objects to is that the uncle isn't married. A man needs a wife and a boy needs a mother. Or so people thought at the time the book came out in 1962.
Today the requirements for foster parenting are much more practical and materialistic. To be approved as a foster home, each child must have his own bed. The foster home must have a fire extinguisher. Prospective foster parents must attend classes. But there is no requirement that the home contain both a father and a mother. The very idea would be denounced, I suspect, the implication being that the single parent in question was somehow unable to do it all by themselves.
But we can't do it all by ourselves, although we try. Single parents who must, through no fault of their own, raise a child alone require help from daycare and after school programs so they can work. But two-parent families are kidding themselves if they think that having the extra income provided by the mother working outside the home makes up for the loss of security and nurturing that very young children, and even teens, have to have in order to thrive and avoid being mangled by the evils of the day, electronic and otherwise.
IPGK focuses on some of the problems faced by teens when the mother works, whether forced to do so after having a child outside of marriage or whether she chooses to have a professional career outside the home. For many Catholics who are trying to protect their children from the liberal agenda in place in most public schools today (not to mention the media), homeschooling is often the educational option of choice. The fact that so many homeschooled kids do so well in college and careers may be attributable just as much to the positive effects of spending so much time with their mothers, who seem to do the bulk of homeschooling, as it is to being kept out of the school system itself.
Still, rereading a book in which the lack of a wife and mother was considered reason enough to deny an otherwise good kinship foster care placement was a bit of a shock. It wasn't shocking at all when I read it back in 1968.
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If I have erred in any statement, whether directly or by implication, in any matter pertaining to faith or morals, I humbly invite fraternal correction.