When I was younger, I told everyone that I hated children. Mind you, I didn’t actually hate children in the literal interpretation of the word. I just had no interest in them and no use for them. (I am nothing if not practical.)
Many oh-so-witty Facebook posts over the years on the subject later, one of my good friends straight up tells me, “Scott, you don’t hate children.” I scoff. Scoffing is something I’m quite good at.
“You don’t!” she insists. “You hate parents.”
At first, I rejected her out of hand with all the self-assuredness of a mid-20s American male who’s avoiding a disconnect with the internal foundation of his identity. But like that time you got really drunk with your best same-sex friend, there were some things I couldn’t deny. It all made sense. I don’t hate babies; I hate parents. And that’s because parents are horrible at being people.
I don’t necessarily mean they’re horrible people, although this could also be true. No — I mean if you went to the HR team of American society and asked, “Hey, could I see the job responsibilities of a Person?” and then evaluated parents, chances are good they’d be up for a performance review. At the very least they’d get assigned lots of dull projects to keep them occupied and limit the damage they could do to the rest of the company. You see, having children makes parents incapable of participating in society in the proper way.
A quick biology lesson: when it comes to babies, the goal is to get them to adulthood. But there are two pages in the baby playbook.
The first strategy is to have lots of kids, and have them everywhere, and then get out of the way as the babies grow up quickly and have lots of babies of their own. The second option is to have one or two babies, and spend a lot of time and energy raising them. Biologists know this as “r/K selection theory.” I call it the “shotgun vs. laser-guided missile theory.” Shotguns, you see, are widely known for sowing oats, while baby missiles often return home after college.
At any rate, humans fall on the extreme side of the K-selected species / missile group. The problem for humans is that when you spend all of your time and energy toward raising your offspring, you become a dick to other people. Part of this is because you’re trapped in false zero-sum thinking. You are being fooled into thinking that any energy spent thinking about — or being thoughtful toward — other people is energy you can’t devote to raising your kid.
There’s also some Stockholm Syndrome going on, of course. Try it – ask a parent, especially of a newborn, if they:
- Like having no time to themselves;
- Enjoy being wholly responsible for the survival and personality of another human; and
- Appreciate spending lots and lots of money on people who aren’t themselves.
Chances are good they’ll falter, stutter, and say “Oh, of course! Why in fact, just last week little Johnny actually defecated in the toilet instead of on my carpet! Well, not in the toilet, but at least on the bathroom rug.”
Bravo, Johnny. Nothing makes up for your parents’ self-sacrifice and stress like your approximating correct control over your bowels. But parents’ minds are so warped that they actually think wiping up human feces is a good thing.
As parenting continues, the mental stress of the process definitely takes a toll on the parents’ relationships with the people around them. Be they close friends or just strangers on the street, chances are good everyone else is getting the short end of the stick. The progression is insidious:
- Before the child is even born, the to-be-parents will bombard their social media feeds with due dates and gender reveals and all the trappings of parenthood. They do this to make sure everyone knows they’re expecting, as if the mother were not a distinctly and visibly larger human being. For some reason, parents forget that people know what pregnant women look like. They can draw their own conclusions. Perhaps they’d like to have Facebook deliver relevant content to their interests instead of yet another blurry ultrasound. But this is merely a minor nuisance.
- After birth, of course, the parent is just simply physically not present. They’re physically recovering from sliding humans through their uteri / being supportive of uteri-sliding, so they can’t come out drinking or building houses with Habitat for Humanity or whatever. You’ve probably written them off at this point, but so far their reach only extends to their friends and family.
- Once the parents can venture outside the house again, they do so armed with a plethora of anecdotes and pictures to show to people who couldn’t give a rat’s ass. The fact that all children are functionally equivalent is lost on these people, and so we are forced to grin while Jack at the office tells us all about how adorable his spawn is and shows pictures. By this stage, the impact of parenting has spread to work acquaintances.
- At some point, the child becomes old enough to physically accompany the parents to places. This, of course, happens without regard for any of the screaming that so often emanates from young humans, summoned on the spot as if by a lost incantation. If you have a young child and an itinerary that requires flying, cancel one or the other. Strangers are now feeling the consequences of parents’ poor decisions.
- Eventually the child gets old enough to have friends – or at least, children approximately his/her age between whom the respective parents desperately contrive a relationship. This is done so the parents can spend time with each other, as the only people whom they haven’t completely alienated at this point. This leads to such formations as the Stroller Phalanx – woe betide he who tries to walk in a mall when there are a group of strollers approaching from the other direction. Traffic and the flow of society now start to suffer.
- Children develop speech and the ability to express themselves in movement before they develop reason. This leads to people like our upstairs neighbors. I don’t think I’ve ever taken so long as I have to compose a text message as I have the ones that boil down to “Hey, it’s your downstairs neighbors again. Just reminding you that your child is still making far too much noise stomping all over the apartment, and perhaps you should take her to the park outside when it’s play time or at the very least proactively monitor her noise level so we’re not put in the position of having to send these awkward texts. Thanks!” (Seriously – to help distance ourselves from the unpleasantness of this reality, we’ve made up songs about “Glipthor the Destroyer, Scourge of the Upper Realms,” featuring a noble hero who vanquishes the menace by cutting off its feet, ridding the populace of its evil stomping for good. The alternative is to seethe in silence.) Parents are now actively currying aggression.
- Then, parents send their children to school, where underpaid educators are simultaneously expected to erase all the kids’ bad behavior and habits, ignite in them the passionate fires of learning, and help produce model citizens. Meanwhile, the parents don’t even bother spending time reviewing homework, instilling good manners, or teaching them about how not to rape women. Alternatively, the parents think they can do everything, and home-school the kids. Either way, their failures are setting up their children for difficulty in life.
- At some point the parents realize their child’s achievements can stand in for their own. Now, they push their very offspring into doing things “they never had the chance to do,” or at the very least sit around and compare their children as if they were résumés. At no point do the child’s feelings, wants, or needs come into play. Suddenly, the child is now drawn into the web of victims who are impacted by their parents’ self-centeredness. Before, the child was the center of the parents’ world. Now, the parent wields their child against others.
- While the parent-child relationship lasts a lifetime, American society generally deems it appropriate for the primary physical and social supports to end after graduation from high school or college. This would be possible if their parents had built a stable economic system in which it’s possible for a person to be self-sufficient at such a young age but oh, wait, they didn’t – so the kid has to move back home. This does wonders for the developing social lives and finances of the people who we hope will solve the problems of tomorrow. At this point, parents have successfully and irreparably damaged their offsprings’ futures.
The list abounds, but it’s pretty clear: parents are the only people with the perfect concoction of hubris and chutzpah necessary to create a life. What arrogance, this, to play God in a world where we’re already doing a great job maintaining our population, not destroying the planet, and getting along so well with each other regardless of differences in religion, political views, and skin color.
Thinking of having kids?
Be a good person. Get a dog.
Paid for by the American Association of Childless Couples Who Would Just Like To Sleep In on Saturday Morning and Seriously, There’s a Park RIGHT OVER THERE