Monday, June 18, 2007

The Zero-Child Policy

Alien I should say a bit more about the zero-child policy — the desire not to have kids — alluded to in my prior post, to the ongoing bafflement, apparently, of most of the human race and to a few of my past girlfriends, all of them warned at an early stage about my desire to avoid kids. (It has caused a few break-ups, perhaps meaning it’s the sort of deal-breaker that will be discussed at Lolita Bar this Wednesday in the Rev. Jen vs. Katherine Taylor clash.)

First of all, let me say that there are over six billion unique sets of human preferences on this planet, yet rare indeed, it seems, are people capable of understanding that their own preferences are not necessarily shared by those around them — which is one important reason there are so few libertarians (most people don’t even see forcing others to pay for, say, a solid-gold monument to the state’s first governor as force since everyone [meaning, in fact, the person speaking and a few others who think much like the person speaking] wants a solid-gold monument to the state’s first governor).

And even on the rare occasions when people are able to understand that preferences vary, it’s usually because they’ve been hammered by the general culture into feeling severe shame if they don’t acknowledge diversity in one specific variable — say, sexual orientation — but not because they have in any way generalized the idea of diversity to arrive at the realization that a great many sorts of preferences might vary. So, particularly in New York City, you’re quite likely to hear people who in one breath will say they cannot imagine anyone being so narrow-minded as to fail to understand gays (good, good, that’s a start, almost there) and in the next breath say they cannot imagine someone not wanting kids or liking football or, say, loving Crosby, Stills, and Nash — alas, the imagination apparently has its limits, and in most brains they really aren’t very far away.

To help you imagine how someone who doesn’t want kids might look at them, first recognize that much of what seems universally-desired seems so because of instinct and cultural habituation — but that these things can sometimes be overcome, ignored, or for whatever quirky hormonal/environmental reasons simply absent in some people. Some people can’t look at skis without feeling, as if by ancient and nigh-universal instinct, a compulsion to get on them and go hurtling into the future — while others, like my manga-selling friend Ali Kokmen, react to skis by saying, “I sort of feel like just by walking I’m going fast enough already.” Some people look at kids — and by people I mainly mean women, since I have successfully refuted feminism in an earlier blog entry and am thus allowed to speak in gendered terms, though preferences of course vary — and feel a deep, visceral need to go grab them, marvel at their cuteness, squeeze their cheeks, ask how old they are, and dream up ways to get one just like that inside their wombs as quickly as possible.

I look at kids, especially the young ones, and think, roughly: “I have an IQ of about 150. I am horrorstruck anew with almost every day that I walk through this tragic world at how stupid, vicious, ignorant, parasitic, irrational, and lacking in emotional self-discipline even the adults are. Indeed, every time I walk around New York City, I find myself wondering, metaphorically speaking, Where are the adults? since almost every overheard conversation seems like the inane, gossipy, cruel, vapid, amoral, shallow natterings of mental defectives and emotionally-stunted pseudo-children. Thank goodness I do not have to deal with people who are still worse, such as people who drool on themselves, expect me to feed them because they can’t figure out how to do so themselves, or emit ear-splitting shrieks like alarmed monkeys when they are distressed. And yet — and yet! — there are people among us who indeed do drool and shriek, who demand toys, know next to nothing of this world that might provide conversation fodder fit to relieve the general tedium, drain precious time and energy like vampires from those around them, and continually drag those around them down to something resembling their paltry and rudimentary intellectual level, so that even the geniuses in their presence, like defeated and enslaved beings, must now spend most of their waking hours talking about poop, blocks, why not everything with fur is a cat, and how if you be good and stop the ear-splitting shrieking for just a few minutes maybe we’ll go look at the horsey (or what have you). What an unmitigated disaster. What a nightmare. I would sooner be tortured to death by terrorists or some Latin American death squad, since at least then the pain would end soon enough, than endure this mentally-stunted worst-case scenario for years on end, as if having voluntarily lobotomized myself — and at great expense, while so many of the projects of far greater interest on my to-do list remain tragically unfulfilled. It’s hard enough to find adults worthy of the label, why intentionally interact with people who — admittedly through no fault of their own — are years away from embodying the qualities of mind I most admire and want to be around, such as being articulate, well-informed, rational, and self-sufficient? Children are, in short, a catastrophe.”

And yet I can understand and sympathize with those who think they’re interesting and cute enough to endure — more power to you, parents of America! I would not try to stop you from doing your jobs as parents — the most important jobs in the world, really, and if I wanted to do it, believe me, I’d want to do it well. There can be no greater moral responsibility in everyday life than raising a child well — which is all the more reason I choose not to do it. I mean, I don’t wake up in the morning and think, “You know, today might be a good day — but it’d be better if I were shackled to a midget who was completely dependent on me for all his needs and indeed his very life! That’d make things more pleasant and special!” Few seek out such situations (though again, if you’re one of those people, by all means, go for it!).

In fact, fewer people reproduce in large numbers as societies become more modern, so there’s a sense in which people’s preferences are subtly “coming around to my way of thinking” — as people find more things to do, women have more options (there’s something useful about feminism — I didn’t say it had no useful facets at all), and the necessity of youthful farm labor retreats into history, they tend to have fewer kids, such that the eco-doomsday warnings of a population explosion so common a mere generation ago have now turned (like ice age warnings into global warming warnings) into dour analyses of the “birth dearth” — with places like Italy and Japan already falling below replacement level (slightly fewer than two kids per two parents, statistically speaking) so that if current trends hold (though they never do), Italy and Japan will cease to exist in the not too distant future.

And while I don’t expect the human race to cease to exist, I am not morally alarmed by the idea of it shrinking considerably (that would mean fewer jerks walking around), something that is in any case still generations off, if it ever comes to pass (at which point environmentalists, if they have not simply forgotten or consciously obscured their population-shrinking intellectual lineage by that point, will have reason to celebrate). In any case, in the long run, I expect much of the population will be either immortal or replaced by robots, or both, but I’ll discuss that topic more in two weeks (as preparation for our July Debate at Lolita Bar, on history and the future).

So to sum up: you may like kids, but please understand that some of us have a long list of other things to do and just don’t see the big appeal in jettisoning lots of those things in order to spend an inordinate amount of time hanging around with needy dwarfs. As I once said, in a joke that found its way into Kyle Smith’s novel Love Monkey and that may (come to think of it) have been the inspiration for an Alien-themed baby shower I went to, we are accustomed to seeing people have kids, but if you somehow reached adulthood without hearing about it and then saw the process for the first time with unbiased eyes, you might think it was like something out of a horror movie, this creature bursting out of the woman with blood and screams, taking over the lives of those around it. No thanks. What part of “Gah, gah, bah, guggle, SHRIEEEEEK SHRIEEEEEK WAAAAAAAAHHH!! SHRIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK!!!! SHRIEEEEEEEEEEK!!” don’t you understand?


caveat bettor said...

Todd: I empathize with the costs and disincentives with caring for young children. I have a 2 year old and 6 year old and sometimes it really intereferes with important things in life.

But I suggest that you jump into the time machine and have a conversation with yourself 40 years from now. Most people in their 60s and beyond wish they had had more children.

You seem to be assuming your preferences to maintain a constant utility function. But, like growing children, adults’ utility functions change over time, too.

Just a heads up. Bryan Caplan has a good post about this:

nicole said...

oh i don’t know. it’s not the fact that you don’t want kids that’s the problem. the problem is you spew forth this hateful railing against kids – CONSTANTLY. kids exist. hey, they’ve got just as much a right to exist as you do. accept it. move on. get a life and get over yourself. just because you’re a hatemongering bigot doesn’t mean others have to be bored to tears by your constant hate-railings against off-spring.

plenty of kids out there, some even have IQs higher than yours, more degrees than you, and attended mor Ivy league colleges than you.


Christopher said...

Nicole, is “mor Ivy league colleges” and institution of higher evil founded by Morgoth? Just checking.

Your comment is so fucking stupid I won’t bother actually engaging with it. But let me just note that “get a life” (Todd seems to have a very pleasant one, for him) and “get over yourself” (which implies Todd thinks his choices are the correct ones for everyone, the opposite point of his post), are really witty phrases. Where did you come up with them? Did you also invent “too much information,” “don’t go there,” “as if,” etc.? As Steve Martin once said, “Some people have a way with words. And others…um…not have way.”

Brain said...

What do your parents think of your views?

Todd Seavey said...

My parents have always been very easy-going about letting me make my own decisions — and not in a hippie way but just in a laissez-faire no-nonsense why-boss-people-around way — one more reason I should be grateful on days like yesterday or the 364 non-Father’s-Day days of the year, I suppose. I once asked them when I was a kid why anyone would want kids — which has always been a mystery to me — and they good-naturedly said “Beats us” without for a moment letting me think that was an insult or a sign of anything less than love on their part.

Even as a kid, I always thought of _raising_ kids as stuff of no interest to me but of possible interest to relatives of mine, much the way I thought of fancy doilies vis-a-vis Grandma. Grandma stuff, not Todd stuff. Just not interested.

Clara said...

A lot of people — nay, *most* people don’t care about children who aren’t their own. But they can at least imagine what it would be like to have children, and they predict with accuracy that they will dote on these imagined offspring.

I remain astonished that Todd cannot conceive of this — no pun intended — in his own future. (Astonished but not bothered in a huffy moral-outrage way. I have no right to plan his family.) A child is an extension of oneself that grows into its own self-contained being with secret thoughts and preferences and skills different from its parents’ abilities. Yet as a parent one feels the child’s needs as acutely, and rejoices in its achievements as sincerely, as if they were one’s own.

If nothing else, it’s a diverting spectacle, watching the product of one’s handiwork and genes grow up.

Brain said...

It seems that your animosity towards self-perpetuation is one born of inclination and passion rationalized, rather than any a priori philosophical precept.

You are right that parenting can be a miserable task, in just the ways that you described. Even a smart three year old is as stupid as a severely retarded adult. The difference in perception is hope. Caring for a dying mother gives no hope of improvement. Caring for an infant, while just as taxing, can be a pleasure, just in considering the potential for future improvement. It is this reason why I think that having a severely developmentally handicapped child must be such a disappointment. One has all the trouble of raising a child, with no hope for the future. But nearly all great endeavors are long and arduous ones, with little reward up front. Aren’t you glad that you applied yourself to your schoolwork, and that you still try to improve your intellect?

You would probably agree that properly raised children, once grown, are an asset to their parents. They provide companionship and solace, loyalty and love, protection and assurance. I cannot imagine you rebelling against the orthodoxy that sunk costs should be ignored in economic decision-making. Having grown adult children is generally a good thing.

I would consider your animosity to child-rearing and feminism as connected. The “traditional” 1950’s-style fatherhood would suit you. The mother would raise the children, while you went along with your own business, all the while providing material support and occasional moral instruction.

And we must consider, that however parents might be burdened, children are glad to be born, and to live. Existence is a necessary precursor to happiness.

nicole said...

i don’t want to listen to KKK members hate on blacks, jews, chinese, etc., i don’t want to hear nazis hate on jews, etc. i’m sick of hearing todd hate on persons under 18 – justified by his own bizarre “rational” jargon. sorry todd. i don’t like cats, but i don’t bitch endlessly about “why does a person have to have a cat?” nor do i feign that i’m so misunderstood/misjudged because i might prefer dogs to cats. i just go out with dog lovers and don’t think twice about cats or the people who own them. get over it. this is just about all you talk about when it comes to women/dating.

Clara said...

I don’t want to listen to people complain about the unimportance of blog material that they voluntarily seek out and read. The Internet is big enough for all of us.

Koli said...

What? No gold statue of George Clinton?! What WILL you deprive us of next, Todd?????

Todd Seavey said...

It’s funny, for a moment I honestly thought you meant a statue of the leader of Parliament/Funkadelic when I first read that. That _no one_ would oppose…unless they lacked the funk that forged this nation, of course.

Peter Bessman said...

It’s funny, for a moment I honestly thought you meant a statue of the leader of Parliament/Funkadelic when I first read that.

Ditto. One nation under a groove, gettin’ down just for the funk of it.

As to the matter at hand: de gustibus non disputandum est. I personally think it’s a shame Todd doesn’t want kids, since I’d rather have Todd breeding than, say, nicole, but eh… whatever. That’s just, like, my opinion, man. And hey, the upshot is that even though Todd’s IQ is about 10 points higher than mine, his lineage will stop with him, so I win. Ipso facto.

That said, considering child bearing as a pure preference is philosophically suboptimal. I think a great many people view child bearing as a moral imperative. To them, choosing to not have kids isn’t the same as choosing to not have chocolate cake — it’s more like choosing to not pay your taxes (which most people consider to be a moral imperative).

Framing the debate in a moral context, you ultimately get into the classic question of which set of morals is right. Me personally, I’m a “nothing matters unless you say it does” kind of guy. Not that that really counts for anything, I just like to talk about myself.

There’s also some interesting follow on questions. Why would people tend to consider child bearing in moral terms? Perhaps this is evolutionary psychology? I’m not sure if that’s a topic of interest to you.

Anyway, if you’re goal is to not get bothered about not wanting kids, my advice would be to employ some combination of lying and/or shutting up. Don’t argue with the weather, as they say.

Koli said...

It’s debatable whether you “successfully” refuted feminism, but you’re allowed to speak in whatever terms you want because we live in a (relatively) free society where you are allowed to have views regardless of how successful you are in refuting opposing ones. By the way, feminism doesn’t deny the existence of gender differences. It just questions arbitrary assumptions about what exactly those gender differences mean. But I better not get us into THAT discussion again….

jenny said...

It’s funny, for a moment I honestly thought you meant a statue of the leader of Parliament/Funkadelic when I first read that.

what, there’s another george clinton?

jeez, people, lay off todd. so he doesn’t want kids. bfd. childbearing as a moral imperative? i just can’t see it. biological one, perhaps, given the likelihood of pregnancy over a lifetime of uncontracepted heterosexual bumping of uglies. but moral?

i announced at age 2 that i wasn’t going to have any kids. at the time, my mother fully supported my decision (or so she claims). these days, seeing her age-mates dandle grandbabies on their knees, her support has eroded, so i’m forced to point at my little brother and his partner and tell them to go forth and get kiddified. meanwhile, i’ve moved from the squarely no-child camp to the fence (shhh, don’t tell my mother, i’ll never hear the end of it). perhaps if i could acquire one between the ages of 3 and 8. already housebroken, verbal, and relatively well-mannered…

what am i saying? i already have a dog.

Ali T. Kokmen said...

This is, I think, the first time I’ve been name-checked in Todd’s blog, and the interesting thing is that I have almost no memory of what conversation of ours Todd’s citing here. I suspect, though, that it had to do with cross-country skiing and not downhill. Just wanted to set the record straight so as not to offend any skiing afficionados.

As for the topic at hand, Todd’s rationale in deciding to not procreate makes perfect sense. I suspect that many of us who chose to procreate do so out of some desire–recongnized or otherwise–to maintain some influence on how the past is carried forward into the future. But if one doesn’t think that’s important–or if one believes there are ways to ensure legacy other than through one’s progeny–then more power to ‘em. And if that means the world will be deprived of Seavey: The Next Generation, then I hope at least there’ll be some impressive body of work (this blog notwithstanding) to show the future what Seavey-past was like.

Koli said...

Ok, that’s THREE people who thought of Parliament-Funkadelic before the first governor of New York! Todd, this may be a great opportunity to plug that upcoming debate you’re hosting on whether history is still relevant :)

Jacob T. Levy said...

As someone who’s childless by choice though without Todd’s commitments to the choice (unwilling to make the requisite tradeoffs, but recognizing that I give something up that I would value in favor of other things I value more), I’m completely out of sympathy with Nicole. The world is filled to overflowing with pronouncements in favor of the wonderfulness of children and child-bearing and child-rearing; there’s surely no harm in having the occasional vocal principled dissenter. And while one doesn’t want only Ambrose Bierce-types in the world ["child: (n) a retarted midget who" etc etc], a Bierce does help clarify certain truths…

Laura said...

I’m with Ali and Peter in that my main objection to the zero-child policy is that Todd will leave only an intellectual legacy of his greatness, and not a genetic one. I won’t belabor, as it were, the point by giving my personal reasons for finding parenthood rewarding either, although my general feelings about children — other people’s children, that is — aren’t too different from Todd’s. As to whether parenthood is “wonderful” and “delightful” — there are certainly aspects of sheer joy, but I’m finding that the rewards come from sticking to it when it isn’t fun, just like with writing (and marriage, I suppose).

Some years ago, the husband and I suffered a very serious setback in our effort to become parents. I really dreaded Todd finding out, because given what I’d heard him say about children in the past, I feared receiving something along the lines of “whew, aren’t we all relieved that you will no longer be obligated to be shackled to a needy dwarf in the near future.” I’m still ashamed for thinking so unfavorably of him, because Todd wrote what is to this day one of the most kind and supportive letters I have ever received in my life. He sympathized not because he shared a desire for parenthood and could personally understand such a devastating loss, but because as a friend he didn’t have to have (or even understand) the desire in order to imagine the pain of its frustration.

Also, not that I’m a typical parent, but I find that, given my long history of potty-mouthed humor, these days I talk about poop much less frequently than I used to.

Brain said...

If Todd were an isolated case, his would merely be an example of charming eccentricity. But he is symptomatic of a way of life, our way of life, the educated liberal affluent society, in decline. This is not merely a question of moral turbidity, but of a panglobal slouching towards actual biological extinction by the supposedly best elements of society.

nicole said...

the educated liberal affluent society usually earns a lot more than todd does. usually people get over themselves. todd doesn’t seem to be able to do that. i predict you’ll be 65, and debating in bars why the 30-45 y.o. bracket has to exist as it clutters your ability to philosophize about things no on cares about, and wondering why the half of manhattan that’s “dated” you still hates you.

Thorbjorn said...


Please take your crazy pills. Thanks!

JD said...

Personally, I don’t get the hate that some people have for Todd’s views here. Todd doesn’t want to have children, and he doesn’t have to; you don’t want to read about it, you don’t have to…

I’m ambivalent about children myself. I don’t feel any particular desire for them, but I think I would be a good father in some ways, and being already in my 30s, I suppose I should hurry up and decide if I’m going to have any or not. (Although my father was 59 when I was born, so obviously I _could_ put it off, but I’d rather not wait that long.) But sometimes I feel hardly responsible enough to own a houseplant, let alone have a child. And how anybody in New York (who isn’t a bank president) affords children is beyond me.

And to address a point of Todd’s that no one else has really picked up on – “I am horrorstruck anew with almost every day that I walk through this tragic world at how stupid, vicious, ignorant, parasitic, irrational, and lacking in emotional self-discipline even the adults are.” I came to realize a while back that most people’s emotional, intellectual, and moral development stops around age 14. The world is basically high school writ large.

Kevin Walsh said...

Todd, I’m with ya, pretty much, about kids. Rather, if they could be born already pre-aged, to, say, about 22, when everything starts to calm down, maybe I’d change my mind.

I still celebrate the end of my childhood, June 17, 1971, when I got out of grade school. All those years getting kicked downstairs and getting lit cigarettes held up to my eyeballs while they had me up against the wall by the bigger kids and getting my magazines ripped up by the nuns. Even when I was a kid, I hated being a kid because of the kids, and the adults in charge of us, that I had to put up with.

I just haven’t been interested in kids since then; I’d make a bad parent by 2007 standards. For one thing, I’d encourage any kids I’d have to be quiet in public. A lost art.

At age 17 I announced to an aunt I didn’t want a family; I knew it then. She correctly denounced me as being selfish, which, in that regard, I can’t deny.

nicole said...

poor todd. you’re not fit to socialize with pigs, much less women. desperate to get laid and pathetically trying to justify your sick hypocrite lying ass with your b.s. jargon. now go jump loser.

dan g said...

Based on nicole’s posts, I suspect that she is, in all relevant ways, a child.

Thorbjorn said...

Um, if Todd is desperate to get laid, announcing to the world a number of opinions that are likely to reduce his chances to doing so would seem an unlikely strategy. But in the final analysis, he is a love machine.

And Nicole, allow me to repeat my request about the crazy pills. Perhaps you misunderstood and thought that they would make you MORE crazy. In fact they are intended to do the opposite.

Koli said...

As one who arguably has a stake in Todd’s views about children, I still support his right to make that choice, even if I might, for personal reasons, wish he felt differently. The fact that I may want something from him doesn’t morally obligate him to provide it.

Similarly, the fact that we may wish “our” kind of people to continue to exist, doesn’t obligate others of our kind to help make it happen. While I share some of Brain’s distress over so many of the brightest people I know simply refusing to propagate (including, to my mother’s great sorrow, both of my sisters), I don’t quite share Brain’s *moral* concern. I really think this is a personal choice.

Besides, for every Todd out there who doesn’t want to contribute his/her good genes and/or positive influence to the next generation, thankfully there’s a Brain or a Laura taking up the slack.

dinka said...

What a sad post and I say that without irony. It’s not the repulsion towards what kids do or what caring for them entails, but it’s the deep rooted despising of everything human, of the broken, the weak, the apparently not valuable enough to be exist. You view the world in terms of how it relates to you while seeing yourself as the measure of things, above all the revolting things that are around you. You are blind, my friend. The true beauty of being human eludes you, whether it is a child or an adult. You are right, there is not theory or explanation that will make you see any of it differently. It’s your heart that’s in question and that doesn’t respond to eloquent blabber.

There is not “need” to have kids, not for recreational or vocational purpose, not even to just see your genes grow up. There is no “need” to love or to sing or to befriend either. We could all survive anyway, but the real question is what it means to be a human being in its fullest and truest sense.

Clara said...

Dinka has a point. I think the postmaster’s insistence on near-perfection in a significant other is somehow related to an intolerance of children, who are born weak, ignorant and literally “immature.”

But the lovability of dependent children who grow into self-reliance and the enjoyment of slight unpredictability in one’s companions — there are instincts that one either senses or can never be taught. Todd cant be faulted for something he does not feel.

I do wonder about a fatherhood-averse man finding a straight woman who shares his disdain for children. (Growing up, I had two female friends who were adamantly against motherhood. Both now are lesbians.) Motherhood and femininity seem, to me, bound inextricably. What sort of woman lacks the nurturing instinct for motherhood, yet embodies the warmth and compassion of a girlfriend? Similarly, if a man has no interest in defending the weak, mentoring others and providing for dependent relatives–what sort of man is he?

Leo Tolstoy (_War and Peace_) said it better.

Ersza said...

This is a driveby, and for that I apologize. What strikes me about this post is that what I am reading is “I am too intelligent to spend my time with people who are beneath my intellectual level.”

I have no argument with anyone’s desire not to have children. In fact, I think it’s a choice more people should make. It’s obvious that our species produces some good “breeders” and also some good “workers.” However, Todd, I wish you would reconsider your views about the children themselves. I can tell you have not been around children much at all in your life. You confuse developmental stages with “intelligence.” A person can be three years old, and not know how to use the bathroom, but still be an intelligent, insightful, fascinating little person. In fact, one of the great things about children is in talking to them and hearing what they think about life. They can give you a very different perspective on things.

Anyway, I want to support your decision not to have children, but also to call you out for what seems like a basic lack of respect for a whole category of human beings.

Laura said...

Well, not to get into the whole “I’m posting something on the internet and therefore I must prove my point with circumstantial evidence that I think is better than your circumstantial evidence that was supposed to prove something on the internet” thing, but some of my best friends, who happen to be rather feminine lesbians, also happen to be mothers. I’m a mother (but not a lesbian) and I often don’t feel particularly feminine, nurturing, warm, or compassionate. Perhaps that’s because I’m the mother of a toddler, and most days I hardly know my own name.

Many of Todd’s most persistent defenders so far have been those of us who understand the difficulty and challenges of parenthood from experience, and still have the energy to accept and tolerate that other people might not feel the same way about children that we do. My earlier comment was intended as evidence that Todd has a great amount of warmth and compassion. I still can’t understand why not wanting or liking children, and publicly describing these feelings with wit and eloquence, should make someone a terrible, heartless, intolerant person.

Koli said...

Judging from some of the pro-child posts here, “warmth and compassion” don’t necessarily accompany the desire for children.

I adore children. But I find it disturbing that a desire for them should be assigned –in an offhand way– some definitive importance in whether one has any number of other qualities.

Todd is in no way lacking in protective instincts, generosity, tenderness or the ability to enjoy “unpredictability in [his] companions.” Likewise, my sisters, who are both straight and married and who have chosen not to become mothers, have plenty of warmth, compassion, kindness and affection –including affection for other people’s children. Osama Bin Laden, on the other hand, has chosen to reproduce.

Parenthood is a wonderful ambition, one that I can’t wait to fulfill, but there is absolutely no basis for requiring it as a measure of humanity.

On a side note: Ersza is correct in that Todd’s description of children seems to “confuse developmental stages with ‘intelligence’.” I was just telling him that the other day. Rejecting children because they are cognitively unskilled is a little like rejecting the early chapters of books because the ideas introduced in them aren’t yet fully developed.

Gina Duclayan said...

I’ve discussed this with Todd before, so it’s not like this post is going to change his mind…but here goes. In his post, Todd states, “Some people look at kids…and feel a deep, visceral need to go grab them, marvel at their cuteness, squeeze their cheeks, ask how old they are, and dream up ways to get one just like that inside their wombs as quickly as possible.” Though I admit there are people like this, I was never one of them. In fact, babysitting as a way of earning money as a teenager was always repellent to me. As someone else said here, other people’s children are just not my thing (for the most part). One’s own children are a completely different story. It’s odd to me that Todd can’t seem to get his brain around that concept.

There is no way that I would say that parenting is completely fun, or in any way easy. However, it is such a rich and amazing experience. Something I am so glad that I did not miss out on.

The thing that makes Todd’s attitude on this score so frustrating is that Todd has so many characteristics that I think would make him a great parent. He’s intellectually curious, caring, mature, sane, and funny, just for starters. Just on intellectual curiosity alone, I think if he tried it, he’d really like it. But add in compassion, maturity, sanity, and humor, and, well, he seems a natural.

I have many friends who do not want kids, and it doesn’t trouble me at all. With Todd it does trouble me a bit because I think he’d be good at it; I think he’d have great kids; and, most importantly, I think he’d really enjoy it. With most of my other friends who don’t want kids, it makes sense to me. With Todd, it doesn’t make sense to me. But, whatever.

missb said...

There’s a whole lot going on here, but I’ll throw in my two cents, too. There are snippets of truths all over the place; in Todd’s post and in several of the comments (although seemingly none in Nicole’s). Wherever shall I start?

First off, I’m 90% certain I don’t want kids. I’m 50% certain that the 10% of me that is unsure is due to the fact that I turn 38 this year. I think kids are nifty — babies escpecially, believe it or not — but the overwhelming responsibility (and the lack of sleep and the time-suck and the utter about-face of the focus of my life) gives me hives. Now that my window of opportunity is sliding shut, I find I’m thinking about kids with alarming frequency. Three years ago I could not have cared less. I was single and loving it and was totally ambivalent about having kids of my own.

Todd is not alone in being totally put off my kids for the reasons he’s cited here. I have several friends who feel EXACTLY the same way (and three of them are women) so I’m surprised that people are surprised by it. Maybe I just hang out with a weird crowd. I know men and women who react with actual disgust when people shove babies in their faces for their cheeks to get pinched. They make that “I just ate a lemon” face. Kids are baffling to them. They think they are simply “yucky”. But none think that they are too unintelligent to deal with.

Todd, you can’t seriously claim to dislike kids because they are unintelligent. They’re wildly intelligent (well, many are, anyway) and learn things at a rate that puts most adults to shame! Ever see a two month old discover his/her tongue? Feet? It’s amazing and totally hilarious. I digress. Developmental stages are just that: stages.

You know what flips my wig? What really makes me crazed? When people (usually pregnant friends, new parents or My Own Mother) tell me “but you’d be soooo good at it! All those smarts! All that patience of yours! So caring!”. This is uncool. The fact that other people lament that the world will somehow lose out if I don’t attempt to create a teeny-me to carry on my — my what? My good nature? As if that was somehow guaranteed in my offspring– makes me bananas. The world will trudge on, I’m sure. Todd is a singular character: interesting as all hell and smart enough to know how smart he is, and guess what? One Todd is fine.

I’ve been told I was selfish for not having kids! Selfish! I posit that perhaps THE most selfish thing a human can do on this planet is breed. I really enjoy kids, and I don’t hold it against people if they want to have them (unless they have more than two and don’t live on a working farm, and unless insurance is paying for infertility treatments). What I DO resent is that I am constantly being treated like a second class citizen because I am childless. I fall out of the cultural norm and am thereby “weird”, and it’s totally okay if my co-workers are late because they were at little Betsey’s dance recital, but I get in trouble if I miss the train. I could go on. I won’t.

I happen to have met and fallen in love with a man who insists he doesn’t want children…unless there are children around. Then he lights up like a Christmas Tree. The man is The Baby Whisperer. It’s a little frustrating. Watching him is what nags at my 10%.

Todd doesn’t feel The Urge. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that I don’t feel The Urge either, but as a woman I’m under far more cultural pressure to reproduce. It’s screwed up.

Brain said...


Yes, Son?

What does regret mean

Well, son, a funny thing about regret is, that it’s better to regret something you have done, than something you haven’t done. And by the way, if you see your Mom this weekend, will you be sure to tell her…


-Sweat Loaf, Butthole Surfers

It seems somehow appropriate. I can’t wait until my 3 1/2 year old is old enough to appreciate that song. He already takes well to moshing. The 1 year old is willing but not yet able.

Parents do have an absolute right to pressure their kids for grandchildren. In fact, providing grandchildren is just about the most elemental obligation a child owes his or her parents. The problem arises in the permissive parenting of the last 50 years, where traditional mores and expectations were not passed down in a despondent fit of self-loathing over two generations.

The ambivalence towards bearing and raising children by so many of my peers, shared by myself up until a few years ago, is indicative of the unhappily self-indulgent and immature world-view we suffer from. What is salient about this in reference to our host, Mr. Seavey, is that he is ostensibly a great defender of tradition. I think that we realize, in actually, that this robot-loving libertarian is just a traditionalist poseur.


Funny said...

I think it is pretty obviously selfish to HAVE kids. I’m not saying it’s the most selfish thing in the world, but the main reasons people have kids are to satisfy and amuse themselves and perpetuate their genes. I don’t think those are horrible reasons, and I would like to have kids myself. I also (unselishly) believe that if I raise them right, they will add some good to the world. But to call Todd selfish because he DOESN’T want kids? Preposterous. The world, and our country especially, is not lacking in kids. There is no baby drought. There are, of course, kids who need good homes.

If Todd isn’t into kids, he shouldn’t have them. If I were dating him, that would make me sad, not just because he doesn’t want them, but because he doesn’t have that warm need to hug kiddies when he sees them. Still, it’s his choice.

Funny said...

Brain – no, parents don’t have an absolute right to pressure their kids to have children. Who gives a crap that it’s tradition? So are lots of nonsensical things. I want children because I think I have a lot of love to give, and I want to be loved by them, too. Both pretty selfish reasons. I admit it.

Melissa said...

I would like to say that I think it’s great someone doesn’t want to have kids. It seems like everyone you meet (and more so with every birthday you have) people want to know when you will have kids and how many will you have and how your life would be even better with them. Like it’s any of their business to begin with. Are they morally or financially going to support this family they want you to have?

I agree- if you want them, have them and if not- that’s great too. So many people don’t truly appreciate the kids they have, yet I’ve noticed an over reproduction. I can definately see Todd’s point about the nagging and drooling and being responsible for at least the next 18 years for another human, when most cannot even take care of themselves. I have one child, and you know what, for me that is perfect. I am glad I had her and its worked out for the best for me and my family. But no I am not having another one. I don’t want another one. I did it once and it was the most challenging and rewarding thing I have done yet. (For now I would like to say I think I am doing a good job. I am proud of how she is turning out.) I do not have any desire for another child. Not even a little. Many people have to vocalize their dislike for the fact I have “only” one child. Isn’t She lonely? they say. Well my Mother decided to ask her view on that. And you know what her answer was? “No, I already have friends.” For some reason people have this misnomer that ONLY is bad. It’s not. I like when people can respect each others choices. The child rearing or choice not to gets to be such a touchy subject -at least for me. Fuck off and mind your own business… Oh wait one last thing! I even went to the gyn and she was very against my decision for a tubal ligation. “What if something happens to your husband and you want another one?” She said to me. Well is that any way to live a life… what if? “When you take someones choice away, it suddenly makes a big impact. You may regret your decision.” At least that statement made a little more sense! OK but as stated above, I would much rather wake up one day and say, “Too bad I didn’t have another child.” Then wake up and resent an innocent child I never wanted. In the end if I changed my mind then I’ll adopt. If I want a child so badly it shouldn’t matter how it came into my family. I won’t even get a puppy because it requires even half the amount of effort I’ve put into rearing a child.

Anonymous said...

It makes sense you don't want children, or you brag about your supposed "150 IQ", like its your dick size, despite having accomplished nothing of intellectual merit. The Ayn Rand Libertarian cult devotees are self worshiping, inane, assholes.