Somewhere I read or heard that new US passports no longer list father and mother but parent 1 and parent 2. Oh, yes, here it is.
A statement on the State Department website noted: “These improvements are being made to provide a gender neutral description of a child’s parents and in recognition of different types of families.” The statement didn't note if it was for child applications only.
As one wag put it, the next thing you know the second Sunday in May will become Parent 2 Day and the third Sunday in June Parent 1 Day (or if my numberings insult you, you may reverse them). Or, perhaps we will do away with them entirely -- perhaps that would be best but, you know, it would put a a big dent in the greeting card, candy, flower, necktie, and restaurant industry. So, keep it, at least until we are out of this darn recession.
While not entirely unpredictable, what is strange is the idea of gender neutral parenthood. Do children with two female parents not call them "Mom" -- or do they prefer the generic parent? Do children with two male parents not call them "Dad" -- or is parent more comfortable? It was one thing to suggest that having two moms or two dads was still family; it is quite another to suggest that having parents who are neither mom or dad is an advance.
When my dad (excuse me, parent 1) brought home our first Amana Radarange microwave oven, it was a big box, not overly powerful, with an imprecise dial timer that made it hard to accurately input cooking time. That was 1967 or so (my dad was an Amana dealer -- one of the oldest of the old Amana brand before it was sucked up into greater corporate America). Now our microwave senses the food and picks a cooking time and style appropriate to the food. It has a very exact digital timer. It is about twice as powerful and much more compact. That was an advance (though, sadly, this one is not built in the US but in some unnamed Asian country).
Who would argue that ditching the nuclear family, stretching the imagination of family to include every possible variation on the original model (well beyond the intention of the Inventor), and that making family impersonal parenthood represents advances to the first production model? I do not mean to condemn single parents, grandparents raising their grandchildren, blended families, or the like.... just to suggest that these are make do attempts to pick up what is missing -- not attempts to improve upon the original model. We are always making do with things that are less than optimal but this is hand we were dealt. We are also guilty of making grave mistakes in the name of improvements that went astray (remember NEW Coke or the Edsel?).
Whether you are religious or not, whether you are Christian or not, who would call adaptation to a fractured and broken circumstance an improvement? If the State Department had come out with a change to ADD Parent 1 and Parent 2 to the designations Father and Mother, they could have easily justified it by saying that there are situations in which the terms Father and Mother do not fit. We would have shrugged our shoulders and left it at that. No, it is not what we like, what is best, but it is a reflection of reality (though, really, how many families are there in the US where there are two dads or two moms -- pardon me, two "parents?"). We are making an accommodation needed for a very small minority of families who might need it but by making this change we are, in fact, giving official legitimacy to a cultural movement to do just that -- replace mom and dad with a parent, and call it an advance.