Thursday, June 14, 2012

All That They Can Be

A chair is still a chair,
Even when there's no one sitting there.
Burt Bacharach and Hal David "A House Is Not a Home"
Catalyst for maturity.
Sign of domesticity.
End of selfishness and self-absorption
Meaning or fulfillment.
Evidence of superior morality.
Discharge of a responsibility.
Something one owes one's parents.
Gateway to true adulthood.
Immortality via a family name.
Source(s) of endless and unconditional love.
A contribution to the future viability of society, the social contract and the social safety net.
Affirmation and validation.
The purpose of one's sexuality and/or gender expression.
Potential source(s) of labor and/or income.
Something to be loved and cared for that that needs it.
A way of being like everyone else.
A ticket to new opportunities.
A central part of one's identity.
The missing piece of an incomplete life.

A young person, especially between infancy and youth.

That last piece, pulled from Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, is hard enough, I think. Why must we freight being a child with any one, let alone several, of these other things? In reading through the comments attached to the various "No Kids for Me, Thanks:" essays on Slate, I assembled a list, which you may have just read, of some of the things that people attribute to their children, along with some old standbys.

Perhaps it's because I spent a few years in a past life working with children, but I don't see children in this way. They are, to me, simply young people, and one's offspring or adopted family. To borrow a shopworn cliché, they are what they are, and nothing else.Viewed in this light, they are simply another life experience, to be had or not as it suits you, no different than a trip to Hawaii, a really good bowl of phở from a nice restaurant or having a dog. I admit that it's unromantic. But then again, I have never been a very good romantic.

We often to seek to weigh down mundane items with meaning that they do not intrinsically carry, and sometimes cannot live up to. Everything choice one makes, from what cellular telephone one carries to what car one drives, is supposed to do some of the work of telling other people who we are. And there is pressure to not only buy into this, but to pretend that the judgements that we come to are objective views of reality, and that any one of sufficient intelligence and sensitivity would come to the exact same conclusion. But, to misquote Freud, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." Because things often have their hands full with what they are.

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