Monday, June 14, 2010

A world without children

I have pretty much firmly decided that I do not want to raise children. I won't go into all, or any, the reasons, but I have thought long and hard about it, and I believe them to be good reasons. Still, I suspect that there is something lost in opting for this course. There is something gained, too, but also something lost.

What that "something lost" is, is to a large degree unknown by me, as someone who has never had children or played a significant role in raising children (I'm the youngest in my family and played no big role in my nieces' and nephews' upbringings). To a large, perhaps extravagant, degree, I don't know what I'm missing. As D. A. Ridgley said in a blog post on parenthood (click here to read; in fact, I recommend reading his entire blog; even though, to my knowledge he does not contribute to it anymore, I find it enjoyable reading):
The parent / child relationship is asymmetrical: you cannot understand what it is to be a parent merely by having been a child. I want all my children to be healthy and happy and harmless people who are loved and share love freely. Beyond that I am mostly indifferent about the particulars of how they choose to spend their lives and even less concerned about how they make a living.
And much of what I hear from parents is that they find being a parent, to paraphrase what a friend of mine once said, "both easier and harder than you can imagine."

One thing I've learned from reading C. S. Lewis, even though I'm not sure he phrased it in exactly these terms, is that almost everything, except perhaps, for him, the grace of God, comes with its corresponding dangers and corresponding virtues. Deciding not to have children comes with certain "virtues"--if one may call them that--but it also comes with the danger of being locked increasingly into oneself, making oneself as a God, or as an island entire unto itself. Raising children can, I imagine, be a strong antidote to that.

I imagine that deciding to raise children entails potential dangers that, like the virtues, I cannot, perhaps, fully imagine or appreciate, although in the news we see frequent (although perhaps anomalous?) instances of parents neglecting their children or abusing them. And my reasons for not wanting to have children relate, at least partially, to fears that these dangers would be realized; however, I promised not to go into my reasons.

But I should say that in most of the parents I know, I see loving people who have given, and who continue to give, love and nurturing to another being that, at least at first, is completely dependent on them. Perhaps such a role, for the parent, is heartbreaking. A friend of mine once said that you never love your parents as much as they love you. I don't know if that's true, but she had children and could at least speak from experience.

Now that Mother's day has passed and that Father's day is approaching, I guess I'd just like to give a shout-out to my friends who are parents.

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