Return to Krista's Korner

"Each of us must come to care about everyone else's children. We must recognize that the well being of our own children is intimately linked to the well being of all other people's children. After all, when one of our children needs life-saving surgery, someone else's child will perform it. When one of our children is harmed by violence, someone else's child will commit it. The good life for our own children can be secured only if it is also secured for all other people's children. But to work for the well being of all children is not just a practical matter-- it is also right!" - Lilian G. Katz, Phd.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Children & Society

"It never ceases to shock and upset me that otherwise supposedly intelligent people just cannot get past the idea that having children is a 'choice' and that any proposal to benefit kids and/or their caregivers is somehow unfair.

First, we have this--"I'm not persuaded that there really is a loss of autonomy involved"--which is just laughable and not worth refuting; childbearing is so very NOT "of a kind with other autonomy losses consequent on voluntary choices" because, as the book apparently points out (according to the very essay I'm quoting), having a kid is pretty much the only "voluntary" decision that one is not allowed to walk away from. Literally: this very evening I found myself explaining to pseudonymous kid that no, I could not let him just sit in the car while I went into the fast food place (yum) to buy dinner because 1. it is dangerous; 2. it is illegal. A small, petty example, but a significant one that, until you've had a little kid who you must tote around, like a 25 lb. sack of stubborn, questioning, clumsy potatoes that kicks off its shoes at every opportunity but can't put them back on by itself, you can't really understand. I would wager that there are few other voluntary commitments that require so much physical and mental energy. You try thinking when your kid won't shut up asking you "why" every 30 seconds, and then tell me there's no loss of autonomy there.

We have a social obligation to children because CHILDREN ARE PART OF SOCIETY. As they are young and dependent, the obligations of adults towards them are greater than theirs towards us. But see, they do grow up (if our obligations are fulfilled), and then they take on social responsibilities too, including caring for us when/if we ourselves become dependent. This is a nice thing, but it
is not the REASON we should take care of children, it is merely the logical consequence of doing so."

Great blog post from Bitch PHd

And from Raising WEG:
Salon invited readers to respond to the story. A surprisingly large number of letter-writers referenced parental sacrifice -- we've chosen to have children, therefore we have to endure a life without expensive espresso drinks or foccacia sandwiches.

I believe that children are not a consumption good. Children are not an expensive car whose purchase you subsidize by sacrificing other luxuries. Children are not a lifestyle choice. All this talk about parental sacrifice is therefore a dupe. Parenting does involve sacrifice, it involves the ripping open of your essential self, but that's not what people mean when they talk about sucking it up. No, in this context, sacrifice is a rhetorical flourish designed to send us skulking home, giving up not just our fa-la-lattes but all the basic services that protect families.

The contemporary language of American parental sacrifice is more than just a dupe. It just so happens that this concept of parenting -- that parenthood demands special sacrifices by entirely private individuals, and that society shouldn't be in the business of making parenting any easier because, after all, it was your self-centered choice to have children -- precisely contributes to the mindset that allows kids to run wild in public. If my children are my private concern, then their public behavior is really none of your business. Screw you if you don't like it. Or so the argument might proceed, if anyone stopped to articulate it.

The real problem, as I see it, is a society that sees child-rearing as an individual pursuit. I'll raise my children, and you raise yours, and those folks over there will have nothing to do with children whatsoever. The kind old woman on the bus who tries to calm my rambunctious four-year old is just an interfering old biddy, and the young man who tries to divert my impatient six-year old with a story while we wait for our tables at the restaurant is just a pervert in the making. Families are on their own in this dog-eat-dog world, and you can only rely on yourselves.

Go further: all people are only responsible for and to themselves.

Now that's a problem."

Here is my problem that these fine blogs highlight. When did independence become such a value in our lives? What happened to interdependence? If you think of it, the old saying that "no man is an island" is true.

Children are valuable resources to society. What does it say about our society that children are de-valued along with those who nuture, teach and care for them? How does this attitude change? When do we emrace our interdependence and realize that true independence is just a myth?

When do I stop asking rhetorical questions? Probably never. At least I can pose one question that I can answer...