Showing posts with label childfreedom. Show all posts
Showing posts with label childfreedom. Show all posts

opinionated person is opinionated

Ugh, I can't believe I'm giving this any play, but whatever.

Someone on the internets has a different opinion than me. It's the same person who holds this alarmingly lax and ignorant attitude towards the exposure of naked children on the internet. I'm quoting her post below; my responses are in red.

I read Elliequent's blog (she is a skilled and rather lyrical writer, so I enjoy reading the blog even though she has some serious psychological issues). LOL. How nice. If only I was in better company. She is "childfree" (aka someone with no children who's self-righteous about it), which in itself doesn't bother me at all. No, clearly not. That must be why you put the term in scare quotes. Incidentally, "childfree" is the term that confident and reasonable adults have adopted when engaging in this conversation, since "childless" both implies a lack we don't feel and, more importantly, is the specific designation for people that DO want to have children, but cannot for whatever reason. When someone insists on using the term "childless", that suggests to me their need to believe I'm lacking in some way due to my choice to not to procreate. Trust me. I'm not. It was and is a deliberate choice. But hey, whatever makes you feel better. It's great that people know what they want (no kids) and are willing to pursue it despite societal judgment and expectations. Good for them! Societal judgment and expectations weigh extremely heavily on me, as you can tell by the openness with which I talk about things like depression, sex, drug use, and atheism. 

But her post about how she is entitled to give other people (strangers) parenting advice is truly horrible.  It sort of encapsulates all the worst stereotypes about non-parents: their ignorance of children and everything pertaining to them, their self-righteous "I could do it better" attitude (thus the joke "I was a great parent before I had kids"), their idea that they are so helpful and considerate to parents (hahahahaha) Not even sure how to respond to that. But boy is there a lot of assumption going on, and a huge amount of mischaracterization of my post. It actually sounds like the only stereotyping that's going on is YOU stereotyping the childfree as knowing nothing about children. Clearly you've had some bad experiences with the childfree, that have embittered you in some way, because you sound really angry. That sucks. Maybe the fact that they were childfree had less to do with it than the fact that they were just assholes? Just a thought. And don't you think you're tarring me with that asshole brush, when you know NOTHING about my interactions with parents, and whether or not I am in fact helpful and considerate to them?  ...Just to complete the stereotype, she often refers to her dog as her child. I love this. I love when parents get SO FURIOUS when the childfree or childless or childwantingsomedays refer to their pets as their kids, or their babies, or whatever. What is that all about? I mean, you do know that we, um, realize that we're not biologically related to our pets, right? I really, really love my dog, but I didn't fall so head over heels for him that I lost my mind and now imagine he traveled through my birth canal and latched onto my breast afterward (WHICH WOULD HAVE BEEN AWESOME). What is it that bothers you so much, about people playfully and affectionately referring to their pets as kids? I think that's more your issue than anything. Does it anger you to think that I could love my dog as much as you love your kid? Because how do you know I don't? And what difference does it make, anyway? Does the amount of love I have for my dog in any way detract from the amount of love you have for your kid? Or maybe it just pisses you off to think I could enjoy my relationship with my pet as much you enjoy your relationship with your child. But who the fuck cares, either way? IT'S NOT A COMPETITION, AND WHAT I CALL MY PET HAS NO BEARING ON YOUR HAPPINESS AS A PARENT, DOES IT? Maybe you should think about why that's a problem for you, Grace, or Amanda, or whatever your real name is (your blog has one name; your email had another). 

Actually, though, the post is a good learning opportunity. I tend to be judgmental and opinionated myself, with strongly held beliefs on all sorts of topics, including those about which I know almost nothing. This is a reminder of how obnoxious such an approach is, and how important it is for me to continue to strive for empathy, tolerance and understanding when making statements (or even thinking about issues). It doesn't come easily or naturally to me, but it is essential. Yes. Nothing says tolerance like mischaracterizing my post with a title that implies I gave "awful advice", when all I did was put a call out for parents not to exploit their kids' privacy on social media. Nothing says empathy like saying you enjoy my blog even though I have "serious psychological issues", as if talent and depression are mutually exclusive. Christ lady, did you miss the artistic output of the last five hundred years? 

Speaking of which: I need to cultivate such an attitude about Ellie herself (after all, she was expressing concern about children: a nice impulse in essence even if her execution was bad). I was so irritated by the post that after I read it I wrote her a long, critical email (she doesn't allow comments). This was probably a really bad idea (certainly not falling under the category of "What Would a Loving Empathetic Person Do?") and I am now rather regretting it. Good. Because that long, critical email was full of absurd assumptions, mischaracterizations of my argument, straw men, insincere over-dramatizations, and insults. And your second one was even worse. So maybe the post was also a good chance for me to think about improving my impulse control and emotional reactivity. Food for thought: I guess I owe Ellie thanks after all! Anytime.


Ok. We now return to our regularly scheduled mix bag of posts about festivals and doodz and sad days, shitty maudlin poetry, and esoteric short fiction. Thank you for your patience.

your kids; my opinions

I have a few things to say about the idea that, because I'm not a parent, I shouldn't voice opinions about parenting. And I'll just be direct and say that this is more or less in response to Jenna Cole's retweet of @benjhaisch's tweet, which was this:

And all I know about Ben Haisch is what he describes himself as, on his Twitter profile: a husband, a photographer, and a "jesus follower."*

And really, this isn't about going after Jenna. Jenna, I'm not going after you on this, honestly. This has nothing to do with you personally, other than the obvious fact that I disagree with you. It's just something I've seen said before, and it always rubbed me the wrong way. But since I never took the time to collect my thoughts into some kind of coherent post, I want to do that now. And yes, I know I'm probably not saying anything that hasn't been said before along these lines. But when people propagate a belief with which we disagree, we have two choices: a) sigh, say nothing, and be frustrated, or b) stand up and say something, and humbly dump our teaspoon's worth into the conversation.

If you don't have kids, keep your opinions on parenting to yourself.

It's an easy, pat little sentiment. Superficially it seems sound enough, right? Somewhat fair and logical? I mean, I'm not a surgeon, so I wouldn't go around advising people on what sort of operations they need. Likewise, I'm not a dietician, so I wouldn't presume to dispense advice on diet and nutrition - or exercise.

I just don't think it's quite as simple, however, when it comes to parenting. Because no, I don't have kids. But childrearing doesn't occur in a vacuum, or on some isolated island, where the decisions you make as a parent affect no one but yourselves and your children. It happens in the collective society, where I live, work, pay taxes, and vote. As a parent, you're raising children who will be interacting with me, directly and indirectly, for the rest of my life. Your parenting decisions affect me now, and they affect my future.

Let me back up and say that there are obviously some parenting choices that have nothing to do with me. Though now that I've written that, I'm having a hard time coming up with examples. Because there is very little that you do or say to your children that won't shape who they grow up to be, or the kind of person they are, out in that world they share with me. But let's assume that while I can't think of any but the most trivial (such as what toothpaste your kids use), that there are plenty such examples.

What you teach your children at home is what they'll carry out into society at large: kindness, or a lack thereof; empathy, or a lack thereof; generosity, or a lack thereof. Etc, etc, etc. And as we all know, children learn more by example than by verbal instruction alone. Do as I do, not as I do say sure sounds good, but we all know it doesn't work.

Children repeat and manifest the behaviors that are modeled to them by adults. Every single thing you do, all day long, teaches your child something about life, whether you mean it to or not. In your life choices - big and small, in your words and actions, you are passing on your values, day in and day out. Parenting never stops. Every single thing you do says to your child, Hey, it's ok to do this. The lessons your children are gleaning from your behaviors are the mold into which you're putting them. And when they reach an age when you gently flex that mold and pop them out - where they're venturing out into the world they share with everyone else, including the childfree - those lessons will be put into action. And each night they come home to you, until they're of an age that they leave the nest, they're climbing right back into that mold.

And as a thinking, feeling human being, as one of the seven billion people on this planet, I sure would like those little humans to be decent, thoughtful, and kind. And as someone who contributes to their welfare by way of public schools (among other collective services),  I deserve them to be such, as well. And for my part, I have a responsibility to them. Because I'm helping to shape them, too. Every time they see me hold the door for their mother and smile; every time I stop to let them pet my dog (though really, Chaucer and I get equally as much joy out of those encounters), or clear a seat for them on the Metro, I'm having a hand in their molding, too. In some small way, I'm teaching them, too.

The idea that the childfree shouldn't opine about your parenting is problematical for another reason. It almost posits the child as the property of her parents. As if the child is some belonging, something that is kept in a bubble, an entity only affected by the two people responsible for its primary care. But this isn't the case. Children aren't property. They aren't just dolls to be dressed up and shown off. They aren't mini yous.  Don't be fooled by how small and cute they are - they are fully formed (and forming) human beings, complete with their own personalities, their own needs and desires, their own capacities, and their own value. They're just as unique and special as you are; being charged with their care only gives you so much dominion over them. They need guidance, but they deserve respect. They're yours to cuddle and love, but they also need the things they can't easily ask for, because they don't yet understand them.

Things like privacy. And now I'm going to wax tangental, but only a little bit so, because I think this is a good illustration of the larger picture I'm trying to paint. It makes me sad and sometimes concerned, when I see the lax attitude some parents have towards sharing photos of their children on the internet. And I'm not talking about 95% of the photos I see, which are happy and harmless and sweet. I'm talking about that other 5% that are questionable. Photos of children undressed, partially or completely. Photos of children in emotionally compromising or embarrassing situations. When parents post photos of their kids selfishly, without regard to the child as a complete, respect-deserving human being on its own, they're doing exactly what makes me cringe: they're treating that child as property. As a toy of theirs, or an accessory to display however they choose. It's selfish and it's unfair to the child, who is simply just a small human.

And I'm not even going to get into how grossly inappropriate and dangerous the undressed photos are. I've had two - TWO - real life anecdotes come my way in the past six months, having to do with child pornography. People, it's real. It happens. One of my best friends had his world turned upside down when, out of the complete blue, his roommate was busted for it. And this is a man with a four year old child of his own. 

So yeah, I don't even want to get into that. Point made, I hope.

Here's another problem I have with this idea that I should keep my ideas to myself. The same people who want me to shut up about their parenting choices tend, in my experience, to be the same ones who complain the loudest about what they deem to be society's apathy towards their parental plight. They're the ones who bitterly decry the lack of consideration when a stranger fails to help them with their stroller in a busy subway station. They're the ones who get insulted when I comment on their pregnancies. When I ask the "wrong" question, or the right question the "wrong" way. They get indignant when I express interest and curiosity about this child they've created. Well I'm sorry, but you can't have it both ways. You can't ask the world to accommodate your choice to procreate and then dictate how all of us respond to that choice.

Look, I'm happy to help. I'm actually quite grateful you've taken on the tremendously difficult work of raising a kid or two, maybe someone who'll approve my bank loan in twenty years, or help me cross the street when I'm eighty. Because hell, I certainly didn't want the job. So thanks. But do me a favor and stop demanding, out of one side of your mouth, that I back off - and complaining I'm not contributing enough out of the other.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. But that expression hails from a time when children grew up in actual villages. The distance and time elapsed between "village" and "multibillion person global community" is vast. And while in some ways we're closer to one another, in many ways, we've become more isolated. But no matter how much time your kid spends playing on my block vs. holed up in his room staring at an iPad, he's going to be a part of my life, in some way. You might not like that I have opinions about the way you're raising him, but it's hardly fair to expect me to fork over my tax money, to pony up my empathy and attention when you want it, and then to shut up the rest of the time.

It just doesn't work like that.


* and in case it needs explaining, yes, I used scare quotes purposefully. I'd also put "teapot follower" or "unicorn rider" in quotes, because to not do so, IMO, legitimizes the worship of a supernatural deity, and that just ain't my game.