Tuesday, 26 May 2009

If The Kids Are United

Children: love them or hate them, but you can’t eat them.

I don’t have any myself. Partially on the grounds that I wasn’t that keen on them when I was one, partially because right now I really don’t have the means to support one or raise one and partially because I’m a selfish bastard.

I find other people quite hard to cope with in general: I’m not always entirely sure what they are there for and mini people who shout all the time are particularly hard to cope with. In general I much prefer a good book to a conversation.

Sometimes, when I stop and listen to kids talking today, I’m surprised by how much their language has changed. Don’t get me wrong: we were no angels when I was a kid, but they seem so much more knowing and less bound by the rules of society. It’s not that they don’t know the difference between right or wrong: they just don’t care.

We live in a society where it often feels like slacking off is often better rewarded than working hard, where ignorance has somehow become something to achieve and where it is no longer important why you are famous, just so long as you are (hence we have singers like Amy Winehouse who are now better known for their boozing than their singing)

But even if I were to have kids and be the best parent in the world I would still have to compete with all the rubbish parents out there not teaching their kids right for wrong, I would have to cope with rampant consumerism: where TV Soap operas and PS3 games hold a bigger sway on kids attention than any parent’s idea of right or wrong.

And yet, as a country, we are breeding like rabbits. England has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Europe and I have begun to worry about what they’re putting into the water here at work: as a larger than usual amount of women are going off on maternity leave as we reach the end of the contract.

It’s a well known fact that having a kid is a quick way to ensure a council house and also increases any household allowance – meaning that as a person who has chosen not to have kids I am effectively paying for educations for a bunch of strangers through my taxes.

Meanwhile fertility treatment requests are at an all time high. What always interests me about these cases is that the women involved always talk about their right to get pregnant, their right to have fertility treatment.

This is going to sound harsh: but fertility treatment is not a right. Having a fair trial is a right; freedom of speech is a right: fertility treatment is a privilege of living in a developed society that recognises rights.

The desire for kids can actually be a big strain on a relationship: I’ve known several couples that have practically put together a flow chart to show the optimum time to have sex to ensure pregnancy, whilst others try any number of alternate therapies to ensure a child.

For those for whom no amount of IVF, strict timing of ovulations, turkey basters or rubbing of potato peel on the forehead at midnight during a full moon will help there is always adoption: and not the rather disturbing kind of celebrity adoption that has famous stars jumping the queues and running to third world countries to “rescue” a trophy child because the parents are so desperate to survive that they are willing to sell their own children – the kind that everyday people spend years going through a variety of governmental hoops to achieve.

A couple of years ago I was watching Question Time (a weekly debate programme where questions are put to a panel of experts in a variety of subjects) and the question of homosexual couples being allowed to adopt came up.

To be honest I had, until this point, assumed that gay couples could already adopt under the law – apparently I was wrong.

The argument being put forward by those against them being allowed to adopt seemed to be two-fold: firstly that there was a chance that the child/children would be influenced by their parents to become gay when otherwise they would not have been, and secondly because statistically gay partnerships are more likely to end than heterosexual ones.

When I heard these two arguments I had to restrain myself from yelling “utter bollocks” at the TV.

Firstly: no one really knows what degree of homosexuality is due to nature or nurture, but the question I would ask is “Why the hell does it matter?” As long as the child is brought up in a happy, loving environment and reasonably well adjusted (as well as a human can be) then does it matter whether they are gay or straight?

Secondly: if a couple are serious enough to spend two years jumping through hoops proving that they are willing and capable to adopt a child then they must be fairly committed to one another – so it is wrong to apply statistics, especially when 69.5% of statistics are made up on the spot (think about it)

I live on a street where a lot of the mothers have two or three different kids, each one from different fathers. Some may have little or no relationship with their father.

And I find it interesting that people wishing to adopt have to go to such lengths to prove that they’re suitable parents. As a heterosexual male I could go out for an evening, get very drunk and get the first woman I meet pregnant (assuming that a: I wasn’t currently in a relationship and b: she was equally drunk). After that there isn’t any law that can force me to have any kind of involvement with that child’s life (other than financial). I can chose to raise it any way I want, in accordance with any beliefs that I want: and no one, at any point, no one will ever ask me how secure my relationship is with the mother and no one will ever stop to ask me if I am suitable to be a parent.

And yet those people who have actually thought about the decision have to wait. I guess the reason is that a child coming up for adoption is going to require different emotional support to one coming through birth to a family – but is there an argument to say that all parents should have lessons to ensure they know how to teach their kids right from wrong?

Watch any programme about problem children and ask yourself who the expert is actually focussing on? On every edition of Super Nanny that I have watched it is always the behaviour of the parents that has to be adjusted in order to correct that of the child. We give our kids no sense of right or wrong and then complain because they’re out of control – blaming it on popular music, TV, e-numbers or anything so long as we don’t point the finger of blame at ourselves.

But even so I still believe that there are decent parents out there doing their best to raise their kids in an increasingly hard world. Most probably they are battling for every penny and fighting against the tide of parents who don’t care as long as the child is out of sight or mind. Perhaps living in a rundown area where kids are constantly given mixed messages has jaded my view of the world: if so I hope not irrevocably.


the watercats said...

Indeed.. uh huuh.. nods.. yes.. yup..i know... yup...
Basically, I agree with everything you say. I think nearly every person I've ever met agrees with what you say. It never fails to amaze me the stupidity on this planet when it comes to dealing with kids, by parents, schools, blah and blah.. Kids thrive on boundaries, they need boundaries to feel safe, but also to test. in being chastised for testing said boundaries they know they are loved, if you don't discipline your kid you are saying to it, do what the feck you want, I don't care! That is why there is such a huge amount of kids out there who are little feckers. They probably are not bad or evil, they're just waiting for someone..anyone.. to say "stop it!, I care about you!". Unfortunately, society has gone nuts and taken away parental, teaching, anyone's power.
A time would be that a mouthy, naughty kid smashing windows would have come up against, either their own parent and a clip round the ear, a policman and a clip round the ear and an escort home, someone else's parent and a clip round the ear and an escort home, etc etc...
As for the adoption thing.. well, the same feckers that were responsible for making parents afraid to discipline their kids made sure that even more kids would be without boundaries and thus, love.. (join in with me... GRRRRRGGGGGGGGGRRRRRRRRRR!!!)

Lydia said...

I also basically agree with everything you said here. I chose to remain childless and have not regretted it. It's my contribution to the planet. When my mother was dying Mike and I had a powerful episode in our marriage, something I actually initiated that seemed to spring from my inner being at the time ... that of going through the state adoption class and subsequent application process. After her death we asked the adoption counselor for six months to catch our breath, then reinstated the process. It got to the stage where her home visit was scheduled for a particular day. The prior weekend we were working outside on our house and I told my husband it felt all wrong, my feelings had changed. He agreed, and we called the counselor to let her know. I do think the classes, the whole intense emotional process were good for us. We learned we were parent material, and probably wonderful parent material, at that. But we had learned so much about ourselves, our marriage and those things didn't include a child at this later stage of our lives (hell, I have friends who are now grandparents!). That's when we began sponsoring needy children through Plan.org and really opening ourselves up to having relationships with the kids in our lives, some related and most right here in our neighborhood. As watercats said, we take the time to tell them that we care about them and a whole new world has opened up for me because of that.
Thanks for this post!

pohanginapete said...

Crikey, heaps to think about here, and I'm not sure where to start. Well, I will say I loved the writing: that marvellous combination of serious thought and wicked humour — the classic starver-of-pixies voice.

Being a parent seems a frighteningly difficult prospect to me. I love kids (well, most of them), but it's great to be able to hand them back to their parents.

I suppose I should have something more profound to say, but my brain has gone. Somewhere. Else.

But that opening sentence deserves an award (as does the rest of the post). Wonderful.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Watercats - i agree with regards to boundaries, although i'm uncertain regarding physical punishment (but then people in glass houses...). Travelling on busses you constantly see parents tell their kids off one second, then reward them the next - no wonder the kid doesn't know right from wrong.

Consistency has to come from the parents, but sadly a lot of parents are little more than kids themselves. Kids start out as empty vessels waiting to be filled with knowledge.

A famous case on local telly: a kid had been suspended from school for hitting the teacher. They went round to interview the mother: she cigarette in hand, kid in the background yelling and playing on the Playstation - she: "Well it's not my fault if he's evil"

Lydia - thanks for sharing your experience: i found it really touching and i admire your stance with supporting needy children. I also support a charity that gives to kids in africa - i think they need it more than any kid i might chose to have.

Pete - thanks as always. You are too kind xx

English Rider said...

I enjoy all your posts but particularly your "considered opinions". The political/voting one a while back was remarkable, as well as quirky and thought provoking. I printed it out and placed it in my file of interesting writings.
Consequences and consideration are invaluable lessons and attributes. Feral children are unnacceptable!

Lisa Allender said...

Hi Pixies--I loved this post--you say what many of us frustrated non-parents feel.....
I always say I am "Child-Free", not Child-Less", because I never feel I am, or have, "less".
The freedom of no live-in children allows me lots of time to volunteer(with Poetry-in-the-Schools, and Screen Actors Guild's BookPALS program), to encourage reading/writing with young children.
I try to "be there" for my lovely niece, Breaz(I've held "Camp Aunt Lisa" summers for many years now--we camp-out in backyard, bake homemade cakes, pick blueberries, see theatre, walk the dogs, go swimming, horseback-riding, and do "make-overs"(skin-care & facial, and makeup, and high-heels with big-girl dresses!!)....... and two other nieces(through my marriage), Rachel, and Grace, and I hope to do "Camp Aunt Lisa" for a couple of weeks with them every summer, too!
I also believe our furry companion animals are "family", too!!

Roxanne said...

arg. I'm so mad. I wrote a comment last night and then in the middle of me sending it, my internet service had a black-out.

Ah well. no need in repeating - except I enjoyed your post! (and reading people's passionate responses to the post)


Anonymous said...

Ahhhhh.........*sits down Indian style, sheaths my samurai sword and sips tea*.........B.F.A.B.M. (Brother From a British Mother). I.....I don't even know where to start.

Of course, you know, I (speaking from two pregnancies and two abortions) do not want children either. Partially for the reasons you listed, but mainly because they suck. They're not, fun, cute, inherently inspirational or automatically good. They're just a plague to this earth. Yes, pretty harsh considering I just mentioned having two abortions, but those weren't because I didn't like kids, they were because me and my ex were not ready for that venture.

But I digress, it's Devil's Advocate time:

1) The gov. has no control over pregnancies stemming from drunken sexual escapades. And those things can actually remain well hidden from the gov. until it develops into a situation that it's quite difficult for them to repair (drugs, prostitution, gang activity).

When it comes to adoption, I think the point is to place the child in a situation that, for the most part, is ideal. Not just handing them to any old person. Of course, due to the gender bias in American courts (where in custody battles, judges automatically think the mother is more fit to be a parent, although she's a crackhead whore with no job and the father works and is clean), this doesn't always pan out. But I think that's the idea.

2) I will not play Devil's Ad. towards the gay thing. Anyone who thinks gay couples shouldn't be given children because the children may turn out to be gay should be Flying Stork kicked in the face at least three times a day. Before being piledriven.

3) However, a couple spending years and years jumping through bureaucratic hoops to adopt a child could also only have that going for them. Passion for a child is what would keep them together. Of course, on how the child would be raised, what (s)he can and can't do, their interpretation of morality, etc., can end up being different for each parent, and once they actually have the child, all can fall apart.

I didn't know teenage pregnancy was like that where you lived. Is it an economic thing? A race or cultural thing? Here in NYC, an area like Manhattan where it's mostly Middle-Class and Upper Middle-Class Caucasians will have next to no teenage mothers. Here in the Bronx, Lower Class and Lower Middle-Class Hispanics and African-Americans, I don't think there is a person without a child or 4 or 10. Both classes have just as much sex, but I think only one is really using protection.