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Kids Need Their Parents: Memoir Provides a Welcome Relief


The elites of our society have concocted an elaborate belief system to justify themselves as they sacrifice the needs of children to the desires of adults.

FamilyWalkPhoto by Jakob Owens on Unsplash.

As someone who has been promoting the family for decades, I am delighted to see a new, fresh, young voice proclaiming the core message that kids need their parents. Robert Kim Henderson, with a bachelor's degree from Yale and a doctorate in psychology from Cambridge, has written not an academic tome, but a memoir.

Henderson did not come to Yale and Cambridge by the usual routes. He came via family breakdown, foster care and the U.S. military.

In his memoir, Troubled: A Memoir of Foster Care, Family and Social Class, he recounts his tumultuous childhood. His earliest memory is of being taken away from his drug-addicted mother at age 3. Little Robbie entered the California foster-care system. He was angry, unhappy and marginally literate. He recalls the stress surrounding his multiple placements: unreliable adults, minimal supervision, limited food, and a bevy of temporary foster siblings, who, like him, would come and go.

When he was adopted by the Hendersons at age 7, he hardly dared to believe this would be permanent. For the first time, he was welcomed by his new sister, the Hendersons' daughter by birth, who was three years younger than he. "No more moving," he thought. "Realizing that my sister and I would not be taken from each other filled me with unexpected joy" (p. 37). His love for his sister shines throughout the memoir.

This part of Henderson's memoir tugged at my heartstrings and my own memories as a foster mother in San Diego County from 2003 to 2005. We didn't have any kids with a history as rough as little Robbie's. But I can testify that kids in our care were deeply attached to their siblings. We made a point of making sure they got to visit with their siblings who were placed in other foster homes.

I can also testify to this: Our foster kids really wanted their moms and dads to pull themselves together and be appropriate parents. They'd rather live with their parent or parents in the back of a car than with us in our big, comfortable house.

Back to Rob Henderson's story. His adoptive parents, whom he thought would be his forever parents, divorced. His mom explained their new living arrangements.

"For now, Dad was upset with her. He was mad that she left and wanted to get revenge. She said his decision not to see me anymore was his way of hurting her" (p. 54).

His adoptive father continued to have regular visits with his birth daughter, Rob's sister. Can you imagine that kind of regular reminder of rejection, week after week? Unbelievable.

The instability and poverty that dogged his mother's life spilled over into Rob's adolescent life. He describes his life of short-term thinking and self-medication, including violence, substance abuse and skipping school. Harrowing stories of some of his peers, including gang violence and drug abuse, are included.

"Gradually, I realized the path I was on had nothing but a tragic ending and came to believe that the military was my only lifeline" (p. 161).

He joined the military, which did indeed prove to be the key to his dramatic change in fortune. He participated in a program at Yale to help military service members enter college. Ultimately, he applied to Yale and got in.

While at Yale, he was shocked to learn that his classmates believed that their choice of Halloween costumes was potentially an act of "violence." He also put two and two together and realized that his peers at Yale not only came from wealthier homes, they came from stable two parent homes. His classmates professed to be opposed to the "patriarchy" and outdated moral systems that "privilege" marriage. But they pretty much planned to replicate that pattern in their own lives. Observing this disconnect led Henderson to develop his important theory of "luxury beliefs."

Luxury beliefs: appealing fantasies that have negative consequences if implemented, but not for the people who advocate them. The comfortable classes, including the college-educated, managerial and professional classes, hold and promote these beliefs, yet never have to pay the price of the implementation of those beliefs. Poor people like Rob Henderson's family pay the price. Another term to describe these beliefs might be "superstition:" a belief we hold in spite of the evidence because we like the way it makes us feel.

The concept of luxury beliefs helps explain many otherwise inexplicable, seemingly irrational beliefs about many public policies. In fact, you could say the sexual revolution is nothing but a series of luxury beliefs.

In the conclusion of his book, Henderson melds the story of his life with his theory of luxury beliefs.

"In order to avoid misery, we have to admit that certain actions and choices are actually in and of themselves undesirable—single parenthood, obesity, substance abuse, crime and so on—and not simply in need of normalization" (p. 279).

Henderson found that his ultimate goal was not simply to take care of himself.

"Ever since I left home, I'd been focused on trying to escape my past. I'd strived to be independent so that I wouldn't have to rely on anyone. But now, what mattered most to me was to become someone who could be relied upon" (p. 288).

This is completely consistent with the Catholic understanding of human nature and what will really make us happy. The modern world of autonomy and self-realization has no room for love, no understanding of love. Yet, as Pope St. John Paul II said in his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis:

"Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it."

Kids need their parents. Therefore, grown-ups need to behave. The elites of our society have concocted an elaborate belief system to justify themselves as they sacrifice the needs of children to the desires of adults. Rob Henderson comes down squarely on the side of the needs of kids.

I've been laboring in this vineyard for a long time. I am relieved to hear Henderson's voice. Now, at last, maybe someone will listen.

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JenniferRobackMorseJennifer Roback Morse. "Kids Need Their Parents: Memoir Provides a Welcome Relief." National Catholic Register (March 20, 2024).

© 2024 EWTN News, Inc. Reprinted with permission from the National Catholic Register.

The Author

MorseBook1Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse is the founder of the Ruth Institute, an interfaith international coalition to defend the family and build a Civilization of Love. She is author of Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love In A Hook-up World, The Smart Sex Series: 3 CDs, and Love and Economics: Why the Laissez-Faire Family Doesn't Work.

Copyright © 2024 National Catholic Register

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