Filed under: Family
Like Andrew Sullivan, I liked Tim Kreider’s piece in the NY Times on “The Referendum” — the sidelong glance we constantly cast at our peers, to determine whose life turned out better and who gets to pat themselves on the back for having made the right choices while ignoring how big a role luck played in it all. But I was also struck at how electrically the lines about the undesirability of children tripped my switches. I have the same reaction to people who make similar points based on “happiness research” (a fundamentally incoherent field that suffers from many of the same difficulties as “funniness research”).
My first, intemperate reaction on reading something like this:
I have never even idly thought for a single passing second that it might make my life nicer to have a small, rude, incontinent person follow me around screaming and making me buy them stuff for the rest of my life.
…is that it’s cruel to explain to a eunuch why having testicles is actually worthwhile, even though it creates a lot of emotional stress and often gets one into complicated situations. But on reflection, I don’t really care whether or not Tim Kreider wants to have kids. A lot of my friends don’t want kids; that’s where they’re at and that’s who they are and it’s, like, their life and everything, and as Kreider writes, they do us kid-having folks the favor of letting us vicariously experience the thrills (and tedium) of existence unfettered to dependents. Besides, every kid they don’t have fails to emit a titanic amount of CO2 into the atmosphere, leaving the world less ruined for my kids; so, thanks.
The part that bugs me isn’t so much the not having kids part, as the not raising kids part. Whether or not you want to put your own progeny into the mix is neither here nor there; but society is a going concern, and not having any interest or stake in how the next generation gets brought up is, by definition, antisocial. It takes a lot of work, and if you’re not helping out, the least you could do is recognize that others are doing you a favor, and not insult them for their trouble.
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