There are times when I pause to wonder how the 50,000 adopted children who enter the American child welfare system this year, often due to abuse and neglect, will refer to the best of times and the worst of times, knowing that many of them have suffered traumatic loss and have special physical, learning, behavioral, and health needs?
The number of children born to single mothers in the United States increased from five percent in 1960 to 40 percent in 2014. It is the most impactful, tragic, far reaching, and weighty consequences trending today because children born to unmarried mothers are more likely to experience poverty and socio-emotional problems. Single mothers can expect lower incomes and a greater dependence on welfare assistance. The children are more likely to have low educational attainment, be absent from school, and remain unemployed. They can expect to fare worse across a wide range of behavioral and emotional outcomes. Children born into these surroundings and circumstances are at a disadvantage for achieving prosperity, education, and a Hollywood ending, even in the best of times.
Although doubt will always remain about the ultimate cause for something as widely diffuse as the evolution of social customs, there is no question that public ambivalence about out-of-wedlock pregnancies, single parenthood, and the difficulties caused by adoption has significantly changed our society by decreasing opportunities for affluence and happiness for many children. Ideally, all children would be able to grow up well cared for in their families of origin so adoption and single parenting would not be needed. Pursuing this vision is a crucial international agenda for all countries.
Charles Dickens’ novel, A Tale of Two Cities, opens with the statement, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…” His story speaks of Paris and London during the French Revolution; two contrasting situations and environments during a period of chaos, upheaval, conflicts, oppression, despair and suffering verses an abundance of human prosperity, joy, hope, optimism, and happiness. It is a cliché that contrasts and compares opposite ways of living with no shades of gray in-between that has the same meaning today as did then.
The “Good Old Days” is another popular phrase that is a product of selective memory and sentiment; a positive belief and an attitude held by people who believe that a previous era is preferable, more desirable, and less demanding than the current era. It is an expression that provides intimate and uncomplicated views of the way things were that reminds us of childhood, sunny dispositions, and untroubled relationships. It is an expression of exuberance, romanticism, and admiration characterizing a golden age when circumstances were positive, our lives were in waltz time, and everything was coming up roses. It’s easy for some people to be nostalgic for the way things were when families ate dinner at the dining room table and things were built to last. Work couldn’t follow you home on the weekend. Airplanes were glamorous and people dressed up to go to the theater. Home remedies solved health problems without the help of expensive medicines. Relationships were respectful and romantic. Face-to-face communication was normal and people knew how to have a conversation.
“What are the best years you can remember when hopes were high; relationships were positive, you had good health, energy, and vigor, and you were content with the way things were? Was it the carefree, heady, and reckless days of youth, middle-aged competency, contentment, career fulfillment and satisfaction, or was it during an era of old age bliss, comfort, resolution, and retirement? Count yourself as fortunate, if you have lived a good life and have fond memories of an interval of time you refer to as the ‘Good Old Days’ because not everyone is afforded that luxury.” —Judith Land