272. Irene and Renee

Many children, after a full day at school, come home to one parent. For some, there’s another parent who lives there, too, but maybe that parent won’t be home until much later. For others, the other parent lives somewhere else, but is still involved. And for still others, there is no other parent. Of course, for many, no parent is home. Maybe an au pair or other responsible adult is there. Or maybe the child is home alone. Probably the least common situation of all in our culture is one in which the child comes home to be greeted by two parents.
In all of these situations, the children have homes and parents. Not all children do. People who are used to one of the situations described above may envy or pity people in other situations. They may also condemn. But envy, pity, and condemnation are not very useful. It helps to look at situations and learn. So I’ll describe one of the situations, and hope that you can look at it simply for what it is.
Seven-year-old Renee comes home from school. Her mother, Irene, who has spent the morning at her job and the afternoon at home doing housework, is waiting for her. Renee hugs Irene somewhat quickly, and then proceeds to tell her about something that happened at school. Irene doesn’t have to feign interest; she loves Renee, and wants to know how her day has gone. There’s no doubt in Renee’s mind that she is loved. She has heard about children who don’t get much love (including some who have more parents than Renee has – quantity isn’t the same as quality), and she feels pretty lucky.
Sometimes Renee and Irene argue. Irene sets some limits Renee sometimes tests. Irene isn’t perfect, either; she has her moods. If some critic walked in at the wrong time, the critic could conclude that the family is dysfunctional. I don’t know of any families that don’t have their dysfunctional moments. Do you?
But Renee and Irene are more functional as a family than the national average. When Irene’s or Renee’s friends visit, they have good times together. Sometimes they go places together. Sometimes they stay home and play games,
or just talk. Irene and Renee are very lucky to have these friends, and even luckier to have each other.
I suppose I should tell you about Renee’s “father.” He knew that there were some unmarried women who wanted children, and he donated some of his own sperm to a sperm bank so that they could. He’s a nice guy who just doesn’t want children – maybe never will. He runs a consulting service, spends some time jogging, occasionally dates, and though he occasionally wonders whether there is some child somewhere who has some of his genes, he’s much more involved with things he does know about.
I think people waste a lot of time envying, pitying, and condemning other people who have figured out how to live their lives. I think the time would often be better spent figuring out how to live their own lives, and living. That’s what Irene and Renee are doing.

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