Saturday, August 13, 2011

having kids

I hate being caught out -- either by myself or others --in some bare-assed bias, but this morning I ran across what I suspect may qualify. As a Ku Klux Klan adherent might look on a black person with disdain or loathing without knowing anything about the person, so there is some file box in my mind that assesses and is wary of people who have no children.

Not that I am proposing a large-scale lynching, but, in some amorphous and poorly-examined fashion, I feel informed by childless adults -- suspecting that there is some very important information they lack and it would be wise to factor it into their pronouncements and actions. Do I think this because I have children and, as with any good bias, if I do or think something, then everybody else ought to do or think the same? Is it because if I have been hit by a truck, everyone else should? Is it like war ... a situation in which those who have been involved are the ones who have earned the right to talk and the rest, however kindly disposed, simply have no way of 'getting it?'

Before I walk too far into this cloud of unknowing, I would like to say that I don't think it has anything to do with right or wrong, good or bad. I am not trying to set a Vatican-esque every-sperm-is-sacred (to borrow from Monty Python) point of view off against some austere and pristine life in the woods. It is more a matter of experience. The experience is one I can recognize because I have three children. It is not an experience for which there are merit badges ... it makes exactly zero difference if anyone does have and has had children. Assholes with children and saints with children stand on a level playing field. Gautama had a child which he left behind. The news is replete with examples of people who had children and treated them abominably and lived idiotic or exalted lives. Except in group hug settings, it's never news if parents treat their children with care ... endless, attentive care.

I guess my bias goes to the fact that children require attention ... sometimes responsibility as well, but anyway attention. Children are, to greater and lesser extents, ego-eaters and getting your ego eaten and challenged and bruised is important. It is important to confront a sense of self ... and discover its wispy fragility. This is a challenge that inevitably arises in life, but kids put a sharp point on the stick, not least if their parents like or love them.

Maybe it's all a little like having a college degree -- it's useless ... unless, due to the widespread mediocrity of those who have them -- you haven't got one.

A while back, a repairman came here to fix the dishwasher. He was missing one and a half or perhaps two fingers on one hand. When I asked him how it happened, he told me he had been careless with a wood chipper or some other piece of machinery. But he said that he was glad the doctors could not reattach the fingers. If they had, he would forever have been saddled with the imperfections and aches and pains that such reattachment would entail. Today, he could do pretty much anything and he was at ease.

And when I hear that someone has been in the military, there is an instant understanding between us. Not that I ever killed anyone -- I don't have that experience. But having been in the military is a 'shared' experience ... something of no particular import and yet understood as having been an important experience with important parameters.

Kids, to me, are like that. Important in a way that cannot be enhanced or described by calling it "important." Good for a laugh. Good for a tear. Good for an understanding of what it is like -- in your face and on the ground -- to feel the ego whittled and sanded away ... leaving ... leaving ... I don't know exactly what it leaves, but whatever it is, its unimportance is important ... or anyway that's what my whispering bias tells me.

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