Thursday, December 31, 2009

In With the New

DISCLAIMER: This blog post talks about the extremely touchy subject of parenthood. This disclaimer is in place as a preemptive strike as anyone who is childless that expresses their opinions on the matter will usually be greeted with responses with "Well, you're not a parent!" and the like. True, I'm not a parent for various reasons (which will be noted below). But, if anything I understand that parenthood has a huge host of responsibilities that should not be taken lightly. If you are a parent, you may feel that this post is directed at you. It is not. The purpose of this is not to judge or condemn, rather than to make a comment about civilization in general.

Parenthood is not necessarily the most topical of subjects, especially on New Year's Eve. I could stretch it, saying that birth and childhood represents the new, with promise, but the bottom line is that this post is motivated by an incident that happened recently at work.

Without disclosing details that will get fired or alienated my coworkers, the short version was that several of my officemates temporarily added "babysitter" to our list of job descriptions as one of our associates was required to come in for business matters, but had their offspring in tow. This is generally not a problem, as my coworkers who bring their children are cognizant of the fact that it's a place of work and not a daycare centre. However, this did not happen in this case, as within minutes, the child became bored and began harassing my officemates.

In an attempt to keep the kid occupied enough to concentrate on work, I show him one of my Rubik's Cubes, which I solve for him (all the while he's calling me "slowpoke", despite his inability to solve it on his own). He wants to see another one that I keep on my desk, which is extremely similar, but I decline, given the monetary value attached to it. He then defiantly says that as soon as my back is turned, he will take it. He then sees the bag of cough drops on my desk and requests one. I'm reluctant, given that it's actual medication, and with my attempt to understand the child's limited vocabulary, I decline saying that "It's only for people who are sick."

Given this child's willingness to steal and the fact that he looks healthy, I have no reason to believe him when he says that he is sick, so I agree to give him one on the condition that his parent allows it. He manages to secure permission, but given the fact that the parent is busy, I don't feel that the explanation that it's for "people that are sick" is sufficiently understood by the parent, so I still decline (the package clearly states, "keep out of reach of children"). As a substitution, I provide a lollipop (leftover from Halloween), which he takes without so much as a "thank you."

Probably not the worst behaved kid I've encountered, but his lack of manners, overt willingness to openly steal, and failure to comply with his parent's instructions have me reaching for the word "crotch fruit" to describe him (a derisive term used by childless individuals that have a lot of contempt and resentment towards children in general).

I'm not going to delve on the probable complexities of his family life. If anything, a "traditional family" (ie: parents of opposite gender, married, and living in the same household) is not a guarantee of raising a child into a productive member of society. I've seen extreme opposites on both sides - single parents who raised (and are still raising) kids on their way to becoming productive members of society, and married couples that are raising kids destined to be drains on society. But, it does speak to the level of responsibility that parenthood entails, which is dismissed way too many in today's society.

This leads to an interesting dichotomy, where despite the level of work, money, and time required to turn a newborn infant into a productive member of society, it is considerably easier to make a baby than it is to secure a student loan, obtain a mortgage, or get a job. While the latter three considerable damage to one's credit rating if mismanaged, they pale in comparison to the potentially unlimited amount of damage caused by a child with lackadaisical upbringing. This is also irregardless of things like class and income, as even well-off families (at least financially) are capable of raising kids that grow up to be Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

While parenthood isn't an idea I have written off completely, it comes with a lot of consideration. I could very well choose to be the deadbeat dad, but personal ethics and the fact that financial support (at the very least) is required by law keep that from being an option. Economics, genetics (what crappy genes will they inherit?), and the very course-of-life altering nature of parenthood in general are other considerations. Also is the fact that we're already at a world population of 6.7 billion, which the planet is barely able to sustain even with a steady supply of fossil fuels.

This is why the decision for parenthood really needs to be taken a lot more seriously than it is now, and given the inability for the general population to think for itself, makes it considerably more difficult. Government intervention is always a possibility, but is always going to be subject to controversy as it will be seen with interference with human reproductive rights. Then there's also the religious point of view, which has been associated with a notion of "Go Forth and Multiply," which makes the idea of government intervention even less of a desirable idea.

And then there's the consideration of what state-ordered family planning may entail. Those against the idea will point out theoretical situations where reproduction ends up becoming a commodity or a right only entitled to the wealthy. This is something that's entirely possible if the right to bear children is bestowed based on worthiness, genetics, or projected income, which could lead to a nightmarish future in which eugenics becomes the norm.

China's one-child policy is one attempt at averting a population crisis, although it is subject to a lot of flaws. Wealthy couples are more than willing to pay out fines for the privilege of a larger family, while those who are sticking to the one-child policy generally lean to raising young boys (via selective abortion), which has the potential to turn future China into a sausage party.

Given the complexities of parenthood, the overdeveloped sense of entitlement that can come with parenthood is entirely misplaced, especially when the larger picture is considered. Even the notion of "Go Forth and Multiply" is completely outdated today, as the Bible was written at a time when life expectancies didn't even reach 40 years of age and infant deaths were commonplace, and exceeding the carrying capacity of the planet wasn't ever a consideration.

On a smaller scale, the sense of entitlement is just as worrisome. While the prospects of having a night out at the movies ruined because of a kid with bad ADHD just won't shut the hell up is annoying, it's trivial in comparison to the larger costs on society. Raising a child that ends up being a drain on society will mean everyone else has to work harder so that the said individual will have a comparable standard of living to those that have to work for it. Considering that the current and future generations now face the prospect of having living standards below what their parents had, this makes it that much harder.

Yes, parenthood is hard. Yes, I'm not a parent myself, so I have no idea what it's like to carry the thing for 9 months and take care of it for 18+ years. Yes, I'm aware of the fact that you have to work three jobs and your spouse is living in a different country. Irregardless of any of that, it doesn't make ill-behaved children something that can be simply dismissed with any sort of excuse or justification. Just remember that you will be responsible for bailing that child out from prison and you'll have to answer to the society when your child goes on a high school shooting rampage.

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1 comment:

Daniela/Graciosa said...

Hey Vince, stumbled across your blog about parenting.. very interesting. HUUUUGE responsibility and not something I intend to get myself into anytime soon...