Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Children As Score Cards

I read this post a couple of times, trying to decide what, precisely about it bothered me.


I knew it reminded me of that obnoxious Brooks NYTimes column a few months back, the one about "natalists," when he got all drum-bangy about our-guys-have-more-babies-than-your-guys, nyah-nyah; and I knew it reminded me of that perfectly dreadful Scott Card short story in one of his recent books, where he has Ender's ever-so-brilliant daddy (it's too bad Card isn't brilliant enough to pull off writing a brilliant character, but never mind that for now) pontificate about how societies that have chosen to use birth control, in which women are only having one or two babies each, have obviously "decided to die"; but all this was just the surface stuff: standard nonsense.

No, this, I realize, is at the core of what's getting to me:

"Onto the landscape of Manhattan, a new and lethal status symbol has alighted—and it’s causing the J.A.P.’s and WASP’s of the Upper East Side to quiver with envy....Yes, I’m talking about THE THIRD CHILD.... That critical third child—quite possibly the status symbol of this decade—will get you more Park Avenue cred than a fleet of Bentleys."


If Doonan is right, I’m glad to see that the blue-state elite, with its notorious ultra-low fertility rate, might be waking up to the fact that it’s gradually losing the demographic war to red-staters and their tendencies to have large families. Instead of wondering "what’s the matter" with the red-staters, the blue-staters are getting off their duffs and fighting back. That’s healthy.

That's sick.

Not the having of third children -- heavens no. Being firmly and perhaps even insanely pro-choice*, I am all for folks having precisely as many kids as they do or don't want. Have one. I did. Have two. Have three. Have eleven, if your heart desires, though I must admit I will gape in astonishment as I pass you in Wal-Mart and wonder what in Sam Hill you coulda been thinking -- but hey. It's your life, I will say, and shrug, and keep going.

So it's not the having of the third baby, even in NYC, I find appalling here.

It's the IWF getting all chirpy over this third child as some sort of political gambit -- on either side -- thinking, as Brooksie was thinking, as Scott Card was thinking -- that people should have, or do have, or ought to have, children to score political points.

This works my humanist nerves.

Children aren't ways of keeping score. They aren't ways to show up your enemy.

Really not.

They're human beings. If people aren't perpared to think of the humans they are bringing into the world as humans, with their own wills and rights, and not as tools to further some political or religious or cultural agenda of their parents (or some mythic creators), well, I'm thinking those people should maybe raise poodles instead.

Or, hey, write blogs.

I'm just saying.

*An example: The kid is seven now, but I've been teaching her that her body is her body since day one. All the standard ways. No one gets to kiss her, not even me or mr. delagar, unless she wants a kiss; she gets to wear the clothes she wants to wear; when she asks me whether she can get a tattoo when she grows up, I give her the little liberal parent lecture ("Well, the Torah says this about tattoos, but we interpret it this way, so it's probably okay in a religious sense, on the other hand people will think blar blar blar, but it's up to you because as you know it's your body and you can do as you like with your own body." and all the while you must picture mr. delagar who so does not want his child getting a tattoo or a belly button ring or a tongue stud EVER sitting there with his eyes squinched like this saying in his head o please can't we just tell her NO?).

Anyway. A few weeks ago I came into the front room and she's sitting in the white chair and there's a pile of hair on the floor next to her -- her hair -- and she's snipping her new scissors dreamily. "AAAARGH!" I howled. "WHAT DID YOU DO?"

"Well, Mama," she said, very calm and cozy and certain of herself. "It's my body."

Which of course it is.

So I had to let it go.

"Interesting haircut," I said, only slightly strangled, and went on into the kitchen.


Anonymous said...

Children shouldn't be a way of keeping score, no. But when they're grandchildren -- wow, that's a whole 'nother breed of politics. My aunt, for example, is sure she must be superior to my mother, because Auntie has (at last count) 16 grandchildren (including three "steps") courtesy of her three kids, while my mother, also with three kids, has a mere five. I wonder if that's a new trend too: Whoever dies with the most grandkids, wins.

delagar said...

Hah! You've got me.

The kid's grandmother had to add in granddogs, and she still always loses, cause all her friends' kids have four and five kids each and look at us, man. We just didn't come through.

Neither did my brothers, though, so it ain't just me.