So, here’s the thing: the Tolari split off from us around the time we invented the wheel. They were taken, genetically engineered, plopped onto a planet something on the order of 150 trillion miles away from Earth, and left to develop as they would. Before the rise of any of Earth’s great civilizations.
Understandably, they lack any of our cultural referents.
The aliens that kidnapped and altered them also tinkered with their family structure. Just between you, me, and that rosebush over there, for all their brilliance, they couldn’t wrap their heads (and I use that term loosely) around the idea of a two-parent family. So they did away with it. Tolari children only need the one parent. I’ll be exploring parental bonding a bit more in book 4 — there are hormonal components to it. That bond gives them all the stability they need.
Trying to understand this within a human conceptual frame doesn’t work. If a Tolari, man or woman, is bonded to a child, they will have a strong parental response to said child. Love, caring, protection, emotional support, all that. If they are not bonded to that child, they will still have a normal adult’s concern, of course. They’ll act like an aunt or an uncle or a grandparent to that child if they spend a lot of time around them.
Enter the Sural. At the end of Daughters, he’s in the unusual-for-a-Tolari position of having three daughters bonded to him: Kyza, Thela, and Rose. Two little girls and an infant. If anyone tries to tell you he doesn’t love any one of them as much as the others, don’t believe them. He’s a bonded father to each, and you’d have a better chance of surviving if you got between a mother bear and her cubs. Can you honestly see him coaxing the grieving Thela to eat, or cradling the newborn Rose in his arms, and still think he loves them less than Kyza?