Ruling by Exception

May 21, 2004

My dad was a lifelong smoker.  He tried his first cigarette at eleven years old, and the habit stayed with him until his death at 62.

My father died of lung cancer.  I tried to convince him to stop. Research on smoking was mounting everyday.  Smoking kills.

The biggest challenge to my pleas to dad came from other smokers.  At least once each year a major newspaper would print the photo of a hundred-year-old man who swore he made it to the century mark by smoking a cigar every day.  Mr. Exception.

Mr. Exception broke the rules on smoking, and he won.  We break rules all the time, and we make it.  We cross the street without looking, we forget to floss, we dash to the store and leave our seatbelt undone.  And we survive.

Nowhere does this rule of the exception shine brighter than with the subject of marriage.  Ms. Exception…she proves that marriage doesn’t matter.  She had ten children and raised them all herself, the veritable Enjoli woman who brought home the bacon and fried it up in the pan …by herself and for herself…and her brood of ten.  And that’s not all.

All ten children made it through college with PhDs, and today they drive Porsches and live in mansions on hundred-acre estates.  As a group, the terrific ten have developed the cures to the top twenty diseases worldwide.  Mankind will survive now, thanks to them. And they owe it all to their single mom who sacrificed everything in life to make it happen.  If she can do it, you can, too.

Single moms deserve our applause for making it.  But parents beware.  In our hurry to encourage women who raise families on their own, we run the risk of making the exception the new rule.

In the modern era of cultural redefinitions, Ms. Exception has been lifted high on a modern pedestal to make a woman feel guilty that she ever wanted something as ordinary as a husband, as common as a simple home where two people work together in love and harmony to raise two children.

How mundane.

How ordinary.

How limited in imagination!

Surveying the American landscape with its single moms and children, the visual message for our children is clear.  Marriage is an option.  But it isn’t necessary.

Movie actresses lead the charge.  Slipping in and out of marriages like changing dresses in the boutique, using their ample cleavage to lure the next boyfriend into a romp and a magazine cover, they vow that life was never so good as when they were freed from the shackles of traditional families founded on lifelong marriages and fidelity.

By failing to embrace marriage, we effectively give our daughters a new vision of the future.  We tell them, “You could be the next Ms. Exception, if only you would dream and plot and plan and scrape and skimp and save and struggle.  You could do it all on your own.  You could.”

After all, they could be the next Ms. Exception?

Is that the best we have to offer them…to let them struggle for success on their own?  What about the tried and true formula?  Marriage?

As one American voice, we could actually admit that social engineering has done nothing to create a better chance for success than a marriage between a man and a woman who love and honor each other till death do they part.  We could set marriage as a goal for our children and work to teach them how to succeed.

Where better for children to learn the true magic of unconditional love than in a family where Father and Mother model the daily work of giving and forgiving, of taking turns, of sharing the sublime and the mundane with the one special person they gave their life to?

Sure, it’s not easy.  It takes commitment and hard work…planning, forgiving, regrouping, and sacrificing.  But, for those who make it, the joy of a family together throughout a lifetime makes it all worthwhile.

The choice is fairly simple.  We can actively teach and guide our children to plan for and make families through marriage.

Or…we can let them do it themselves.  On their own.  They could be the next Ms. Exception.  Wow!  Imagine that!

See Archives for past editorials.

April 23, 2004:   m…m…m…Married?

May 14, 2004:   Order in the Courtroom!