The recurring theme in headlines in the last few days? They all claim Michael Jackson is not the dad of his kids.
But he was. And not just in a legal sense.
First let’s clear up the legal sense: Michael Jackson was legally married to Debbie Rowe when she carried to term both Katherine (Paris) and Prince Michael II. Whether or not Jackson supplied the sperm (which is looking highly unlikely at this point) or Rowe supplied the egg (this is a little more likely, but nowhere near absolute), the two were legally married at the time Rowe carried the children. Which means if Rowe were the genetic mother of the child, her husband automatically was granted rights as the father because of their legal marriage.
If she had no biological connection, a variety of court rulings would still give her and MJ clear rights to the child – it’s a simple case of “gamete donation.” Again, because of her marriage and the idea that Rowe was carrying this baby for herself and her husband (in a legal sense anyway), she would not even technically qualify as a gestational surrogate – the term used for women carrying non-biological children for another couple.
The legal case with the third child, Blanket, who was carried by a surrogate without benefit of any marital ties, is more uncertain.
All of this is beside the point, really, when it comes down to the question of what makes a dad. Because it isn’t genetics. Sorry. My husband is a fantastic biological father. So too was my own father.
But I’ve bristled at the term “adoptive” parent for years because of its insinuation that non-related parents are any less parents. His public persona aside, Michael Jackson has been raising these kids their entire lives – as much as twelve years (in Katherine’s case) of parenting.
A friend who has no connection with her biological father (actually no knowledge of his existence) has driven that home time and again. Her father is the man her mother married, who raised her from toddlerhood, who read her bedtime stories and took pictures at her graduation. Technically, he is her stepfather. He didn’t need to have a blood connection to be daddy.
So why are we so quick to write Jackson’s parenting off? Is it because it makes for good copy? Because there’s the squeamishness over the man’s brush with pedophilia allegations? Because until he died many of us were willing to pick on him for his ultra weirdness?
Or is there a deeper problem here? A lack of a simple respect for the ties in non-biological families?