Linguistic Musing: Parent vs. Guardian.

Think back. For some of you, way back.
Think back to when you were in elementary/primary school.
Can you recall the letters that went home with you?
What did the letter start with?

“Dear Parent/Guardian…”
For the longest time, I never thought much about it. For some children, they have biological parents – the very people who physically brought them into the world. For others, they had guardians: grandparents, uncles and aunts, foster parents, etc.
On the surface, these two terms seems quite different. And they are. Somewhat.

The term “guardian” is a noun (of course), but its root is “guard.”
“Guard” is an early 15th century word, taken from the Middle French (French that was spoken circa 1400-1600 BCE) noun garde, “guardian, warden, keeper; watching, keeping, custody.” And this word has its root in the Old French verb (~900-1400 BCE) garder, “to keep, maintain, perserve, protect.”

Now, THAT’S a guardian.

The term “parent” is less exciting, but I’ll cover it, anyway.
“Parent” is from Old French (11th century) parent, which is actually from Latin nominative parens, “father or mother, ancestor.” Also, the word parere (prepositional usage) means “bring forth, give birth to, produce.”
Fun facts: The term elder was the native word for “parent” until the 1500s. And even more interesting, the verb form of “parent” wasn’t actually attested to until the 1660s. The noun “parenting” wouldn’t surface until 1959! (“parentcraft” was the precursor to “parenting” [1930]).

So, why did I drag you through French and Latin? Because it’s remarkable how we add to the evolution of language.
The word “parent” means nothing more than producing a child whom you happen to mother or father.
The word “guardian” actually encompasses more of what we ascribe to the word “parent.”

For those of you who are parents, do you see yourself as a guardian?
You should. (Especially the custodial aspect.)
Parents need to become guardians of their children again.
“Guardian” need not have a legal, non-parental connotation.

Our world would benefit greatly if we all saw our children as people whom we have produced AND have the task of guarding, protecting, and keeping watch over.
Our families would be healthier.

 

Our children need protectors.
I am honored to be the guardian of Zoë Anastasia Poppen, and I will protect her with my life.

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