I almost exclusively socialize with people who don’t want to have kids. It goes beyond that. They think kids and babies are repulsive. They say they will never have them. And these are some very smart people who are not swayed by popular opinion.
This wasn’t always the case. My 20’s and 30’s were spent in the company of a lot of friends’ children. I tolerated them. But I didn’t even like kids when I was one. The feeling was rather mutual.
And every parent seems to think their kid’s a unique genius. As a genius child myself, I can tell you that most parents are lying to themselves. They can’t possibly be equipped to measure genius because they have no concept of what it actually means. They think honor roll makes their kid special. I am here to say I have heard this so many times that it is a statistical impossibility for all these children to collectively be so exceptional. But they will make solid functionaries…cogs in the wheel…lawyers and accountants and pharmacists. Someone, after all, has to make the donuts.
And then there are the parents who think their children talented. They go on and on about the piano lessons and the painting and the acting and the ballet. It isn’t that their child possesses real talent. Maybe they do; I guess it could be possible. But more likely, they just have more exposure to talented works. These children are enthusiasts. They are fans. They can perform at a certain level. But their art, whatever it is, will lack soul because it is the product of a child who was told he was great until he believed it, when in all reality greatness is thrust upon the unassuming. And then the talented are left to wrestle their whole lives with the permanent outsiderness of talent. Happy children, Malcolm Gladwell noted, plateau. Genius, on the other hand, is born of pain and fed on hardship.
Pushy parents, me thinks, lead to mediocre children with overblown senses of self. These kids get into their safety schools to study liberal arts. And then they walk around in a cloud of delusion of grandeur their whole lives or constantly question why they never lived up to this potential everyone told them they had. It’s a raw deal.
If you find the very antipathy for children, their bearing and rearing odd because you love your babies or want to have one yourself, it might be (but not necessarily conclusively) that your babies or even you yourself as a baby are the reasons why the rest of humanity has such low opinions of children in general. It’s like looking for the asshole in the room. If you can’t find him, it’s because you’re it.
Having said all that, I would have liked to have had a kid. It didn’t pan out and I’m ok with that because of the life childlessness afforded me. But I think that, in general, this amassing sentiment of anti-reproduction is a sign that how we raise children in our alienating civilization. Having a child is encoded into our genes. It’s how our genes get passed on. It is the very reason for being, evolutionarily speaking. But we have taken society to a place that is so wretched that anyone with a moral compass and sense of duty questions the sanity of propagating.
None of these ideas are new. I’m not the first to comment on any of these phenomena. But I will say that birth rates are a pulse rate on the health of civilization. And the feedback I gather from what I’ve seen is that I’m not sure I want to live to be old enough to see my contemporaries’ children run things. They’ll have inherited a shit show our parents’ generation thought they fixed in 1968. And they’ll think they can do anything because anything they succeeded at went down a well-trodden, already macheted and leveled path. They don’t know from hardship. But they think they got to the top all on their own. It isn’t their fault. Of course they think this. It’s what they’ve been told their whole lives. There should be a child abuse number for parents who pump their children full of unearned self-esteem. 1-800-ENTITLED.
To not only have a child, but to also have to raise that child amongst other children you find grating and awful and to have to interact with their equally grating and awful parents is a hell so terrifying that some of us have refused to swim upstream and spawn. No thanks, we say. We know where it leads. And we’d rather not. We are not right and we are not wrong. But at least we gave it some thought before bringing more souls onto the planet to suffer through what we experienced.
Our experience being the rest of you, Mindee Padilla and Nick Bracamonte and Becky Hoeffer and on and on.