It’s been one week since the Mia Farrow story published in Vanity Fair re-opened the wounds of scandal associated with that family, and in turn dragged some old accusations and family hurt back into the public discourse. Everything mentioned with regards to the 20-year-old scandals in that article — whether true or false — makes one shudder.
There was one big new bomb dropped, however, that has put a single word on everyone’s lips ever since. “Possibly.”
Could Ronan Farrow, someone up til now believed to be the biological son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen actually instead be the biological son of Mia Farrow and Frank Sinatra? “Possibly,” said Mia Farrow, according to the story.
Putting that particular family and that particular family’s complex and multi-layered issues aside, the word “possibly” itself is worth thinking about when it comes to our perceptions of fatherhood. The possibility of “possibly” being uttered by anyone’s mother, or ex, in a context like this is huge. The word has the power to both give and take away all at once. It’s a word that offers confusion and enlightenment. It raises questions and presents ambiguities. The word is an entire world and a whole universe.
First of all, “possibly” means . . . there’s the possibility that “something” happened between two people. “Possibly” relates directly to what one might have thought about loyalty, and truth, and faithfulness, and terrestrial origins. Finding out that your father or finding out that your child is “possibly” not yours biologically is potentially devastating — or maybe in some cases a relief.
But on the flip side, the word “possibly” means that biology is a tenuous thing. It doesn’t wholly define a relationship. It doesn’t trump what we know to be true, and it doesn’t change who we love and depend on.
On some level, of course biology matters. It matters to people who spend lifetimes tracking down a biological father or biological mother who physically “made” them. In those cases, finding birth parents promises wholeness, closure, or simply the answer to something rather not left a mystery.
But then again, does it really matter? Sometimes not. Adoptive parents earn and should claim the title “parent” more than anyone else — period. “Parent” is a verb every bit as much as it is a noun. Guess what? So is father. And mother. The only ones that are strictly passive nouns: Son, and Daughter.
Looking at the flip side, the word “possibly” can mean something else. Possibly can mean that being a parent figure to a kid that needs one is open and available to any and all of us. Any child can and should have an entire village looking out for them. “Fatherhood” can present itself as an opportunity, a challenge, and gift in our lives in so many different ways — biology only being just one. We can find ourselves with children who need us through friendships, or by teaching, by coaching sports, adopting, as our foster children, or through a marriage to someone who already has children (and that’s only to name a few.) “Being” a parent might have something to do with biology, or it might not. But parenting a being — well, now that’s not biological — it’s biodynamic.