The Unsimple Responsibility of Parenthood

I read this article last night, and though I’ve been meaning to post a blog about the end of my trip to Texas, I wanted to post this now because I found it fascinating. The comments people left under the article were even more fascinating than the article itself, however, and it’s to any number of those that this post responds.

There were over 1,500 comments as of last night, so who knows what’s there by now, but some of what I read was awe-inspiring. It amazes me that so many people could miss the mark by as many miles, and it goes to prove the very point of the article when you watch these people try to justify their choices and idealize their situations. People actually believe you’re selfish because you don’t have kids? That you’re a liberal? That you’re attacking religion? Such illogical arguments are demonstrative of just how much people feel the need to defend their position. Speaking as a conservative and a Christian, I find this perversion of logic appalling, yet some of these people truly seem to adopt the blanket belief that society receives some great benefit from children, or that an individual who becomes a parent is suddenly engaged in a system of personal improvement. This is a falsehood.

Take a good look at the country we live in. Our society is stuffed with worthless parents and their spawn, the latter who do nothing but grow up to continue the cycle and become a further drain on society. There are many reasons our country is in the state that it is, but one of the big ones is just how far the average level of personal responsibility has fallen, and this because we have few real parents. So many people have children within the confines of ill-conceived or juvenile relationships that are destined to fall apart, or have children outside even the pretense of a lasting relationship. Worse, they have a tendency to leave their children without discipline regardless of birth circumstances, leaving the rest of our society to bear the burden once their children are grown.

This article reinforces what I’ve said for years: if people would acknowledge the realities of what proper parenting entails, of what they should do in order to raise a decent child and turn him into a decent adult, maybe fewer of them would pop out the weary, resource-consuming spawn that they do. It’s a harsh thing to say, and not the fault of the poor kids who are being trained for that role in life, but we have a lot of untalented, uninspired people in our society who have been raised to do little more than suck at the teat of Government or coast as best they can in a world they were never given the tools to meaningfully navigate. The article talks about how kids used to be sent out to work and how we now place importance upon their education instead, but that education is too often a joke. Kids might well learn more from life experiences we routinely deny them as they spend years “educating” themselves. In reality, they’re often spending more time feeding landfills, getting diabetes from soda and pastry binges, and keeping their favorite actors, sports stars, and musicians in business by consuming ridiculous quantities of entertainment media.

This leads to my ultimate point, which is that the merits of raising a child, like most things, should be based upon how well that job is done. I don’t understand the notion that childbirth carries some sort of inherent nobility with it, or that it somehow transforms ignorant people into bastions of wisdom. It brings to mind a poem by Sharon Olds entitled “The Language of the Brag“, a poem I always intended to write a rebuttal to called “the embarrassment of the brag”. It’s not that I don’t understand the beauty of childbirth, because I do (I’ve even written poetry that romanticizes it), but I believe if you have a great desire to do something exceptional, you should do something exceptional! Work toward a goal, achieve a dream, find a situation in which you can improve yourself as a human being and thereby grow to better serve the people you love. I have nothing against parents or children, but the world would be a happier place if we could stop pretending that having a child makes you a hero. This is fallacious. It does nothing more than prove you are a piece of meat much like all the other pieces of meat walking around the planet. If you want to be greater, you need to aim higher than merely performing a fundamental feat of biology that almost any living organism can perform.

I don’t want to be dismal, so I’ll end my diatribe by saying that I do believe one can rise above these things in parenthood. If you are serious about having both kids and heroism in your life, do so by being a good parent who raises their child responsibly. Few now seem to bother, so those who do are certainly heroes in my book. I thank God for real moms and dads out there who prove they love their kids not just by popping them out and blowing smoke about how rewarding it is, but by spending all those draining, troublesome, and downright miserable years teaching them what it means to live with values, perseverance, and conviction. With that mindset steadily held over the course of a child’s youth, I think most parents would have the honesty to admit that it’s a long road where the struggle frequently outweighs any perception of gain.

The more you sugar-coat and idealize the hard job of parenting, the more you trivialize what it really means. If you do believe that being a parent is a noble cause, believe it for all the harsh truths about where its nobility really lies—the manner in which it’s carried out—not the half-truths of its rumored reward.

[This post originally appeared at theflyingmonkeyapparatus.com.]

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