Manners, Morals, and Children’s Names

Many think the only legitimate position a parent should take is to 'affirm' what a child says he wants

Once upon a time, people distinguished between morals and manners. One shouldn’t offend either, but violating the former is a lot more serious than infringing on the latter. People instinctively recognize sleeping with your neighbor’s wife is in a qualitatively different ethical league than eating your main course with a salad fork.

I’m not so sure our elites do. In fact, one of the reasons we live in the miserable culture we do is that the woke among us have collapsed morals, legality, and mores into one comprehensive goulash which they seek with overbearing surliness to impose on everybody else.

Case-in-point: The New York Times’ June 21 “Social Q’s” [here]. In this Miss-Manners-for-the-Very-Woke, Philip Galanes tackles for major faux pas. His anxious questioners asked what a carpooling soccer mom should do when one of the kids in the SUV wants to be called by another “gender’s” name, something “the child’s mother said she wasn’t going along with… but didn’t [explicitly] say that other people shouldn’t.” Other queries asked about a girl whose boyfriend told her she was getting fat, which would have led to him initially not noticing her; what to do about a hugging family whose enclasping matriarch does not want to reciprocate hugs from her daughter-in-law’s mother; and an atheist who gives granola bars to beggars who approach her car window but is offended when the recipient thanks her with a “God bless you.”

You can’t make this up. There are, apparently, well-off folks ruminating about such conundrums.

My focus was on the name question. The answer was to “skirt the culture wars” and instead “create a family car in which everyone feels accepted.” In almost Jesuitical style, Galanes argued that since “the mother didn’t ask anyone to adhere to her position” we can ignore it. Who knows if the child is just “experiment[ing]” or decided on a name change after “years of suffering.” We also don’t know where Mom is on the spectrum: is she “working hard to accept her child, rejecting her child, or waiting to see how things play out.” However the parent might “fall short,” you should be an “ally” – of the child whose “loved ones may not” be warm towards him and of the parent “as she processes what may be distressing news to her. Let’s hope she rises to the challenge. If she doesn’t, and you feel well-placed to intervene, get back in touch” (emphasis added).

What dripping condescension!

It’s clear that the NYT elite think the only legitimate position a parent should take is to “affirm” what a child says he wants. Anything less is not “rising to the challenge,” and — wink-wink, nod-nod — you might need to “intervene.”

Who are you?

You are not this child’s parent. You are at best a convenient chauffeur, and while I entrust my child to you for transportation, I do not do so for child-rearing. I conceived this child. My wife gave birth to this child. We named him. You did not. So, butt out! Parents are the primary and privileged persons to raise a child.

I think we need to make this clear. My child is my child. My child is not “all our children.” My child is not the federal government’s nor the State of California’s child nor the APA’s child nor the Falls Church City Public Schools’ child nor Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence’s child nor a judge’s child. Washington, the state, the APA, the school board, the judge are there to help me raise my child, not to tell me how to do so.

We need to make this clear, because we have an increasing interference by outside entities arrogating a claim to “co-parent” a child. This nonsense is centered in the sexual revolution and, like most aberrations, began with Roe v. Wade. In the 1970s, a school would not give a child an aspirin without parental consent (and still won’t). But because Planned Parenthood wanted to up its teenage blood-money profit margin, it sued the State of Missouri, which required parental consent to a minor’s obtaining an abortion.

Planned Parenthood v. Danforth struck down the Missouri law and, in the ensuing 45 years, that behemoth and the ACLU have both fought parental consent and even notification without a “bypass” provision, i.e., some judge, adult, “other relative,” etc. whose consent could be substituted for parents. What began with abortion soon progressed to venereal diseases. Now, the camel’s nose pokes under the tent of chemically castrating or genitally mutilating your child. So it’s time to shove that intrusive camel’s nose out of the tent; states should use Dobbs to reinstate parental consent laws on abortion as a first step to recovering and reaffirming the primacy of parental rights.

What also struck me was some of the commentary on the story in response to criticism of the author’s view.

When it was pointed out that a parent names a child and, therefore, that choice must be respected without being explicitly told to do so, three commentators insisted “nooooo.” One argued that a name is a child’s, not his parent’s. (How soon will liberal Christian parents announce that, alongside the inanity of not baptizing their child so “he can choose his own faith way,” they’re also not naming their kid so “he can choose his own identity?”) Another suggested the idea that a parent’s name for his child is binding was akin to slavery. A third disingenuously argued that the argument would stop “Joseph” from being called “Joe” (and, hey, from there to Jo-Anne is just some letters).

Nobody pointed out that, in most states, a child as a minor cannot legally change his name. California, which recently proclaimed itself a “sanctuary” for “your huddled masses yearning to be free” of their genitalia, requires one to be 18 and petition a superior court before one can change one’s name. So, those school districts playing their version of “don’t ask, don’t tell” vis-à-vis parents are clearly breaking the law. But don’t expect anybody to point out how their actions—actions of a public entity—undermine “rule of law” and “democratic institutions.” That only happens if those public schools use the G-d word.

Earlier this year, I wrote an essay on how this child-centric “naming” convention pushed by votaries of the sex/gender revolution is utterly alien to the Judeo-Christian/Western heritage of “What’s in a Name?” [here]  We need to shove back against these trends, because their advocates have no intention of an honorable discussion. As the off-put atheist asked, should he use the beggar’s “God bless you” as a “didactic moment,” presumably to advance his worldview? That answer makes it clear: opponents of the Judeo-Christian/Western worldview will use everything—from “child protective custody” laws to the backseats of their SUVs—to push their agenda. We’d be fools not to push back.


John M. Grondelski (Ph.D., Fordham) was former associate dean of the School of Theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey. All views expressed herein are exclusively his.

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