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Mormon Parenting: Focus the debate on children

Published: Friday, April 12 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

We were sorry to miss the “Celebrate Marriage” event held a couple of weeks ago at the Utah State Capitol Rotunda. We were out of town, but we salute this gathering, which was timed to coincide with the first of two days when the U.S. Supreme Court was hearing oral arguments on the marriage cases before it concerning Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.

The theme of the gathering was “Every child deserves a mom and a dad.” Similar celebrations were held in other states across the country.

The program was emceed by our good and true friends Alan and Suzanne Osmond, and music was provided by other members of the Osmond family.

But from what we heard, 13-year-old Amelia Summerhays stole the show with her remarks — which captured a child’s point of view, complete with a touch of humor. Here is a little of what she said:

“As a 13-year-old, I’ve got it all figured out why I need a mom and a dad. When Mom says no to ice cream, I can go ask Dad. And when I want to invite boys over, Dad says no, so I go ask Mom.

“But really, I’m here to talk about why every child deserves a mom and dad. From my mother, I have a pattern to follow, and I can learn what it means to be a woman.

“Certain understandings can only happen between a mother and daughter. I would pattern my cooking after my mom’s, but she burned dinner twice last week. Actually, she lit it on fire. She isn’t perfect. No mother is, but in my world, she can’t be replaced.

“My father protects me and helps me to figure out the immature minds of those boys I want to invite over. My dad’s example and advice help me see the male perspective and bring a balance to my life as a young woman.

“My mom and dad both have their strengths and weaknesses, but when it comes down to it, I need both parents.

“Most of what I hear in the current debate about marriage is all about adults’ rights. I’ve noticed that children’s rights are often ignored. Children are defenseless, so shouldn’t they be the main focus in this debate? When we favor the wants of consenting adults over the needs of children, who cannot consent, something is very wrong.”

It’s hard to argue with the sincerity of a 13-year-old — and she is absolutely right in saying that the marriage debate should be less about the rights of adults and more about the rights — and the needs — of children.

We know many parents who are doing all they can to keep their marriages together — and to strengthen them — for the benefit of their children.

We know others for whom, despite every effort, the marriage was so poisoned and irreconcilable that they divorced for the benefit of their children.

We are not here to judge or even to agree with everything young Amelia said, but a point we should all pay attention to is that one guiding priority of all public and private debates and discussions about marriage should be the rights and needs of kids.

Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them anytime at www.EyresFreeBooks.com or www.valuesparenting.com. Their latest Deseret e-book is “On the Homefront."

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