Friday, July 1, 2011

Does Having Children Make You Special (No.)

Having a kid is not like splitting the atom.   Turns out nearly everyone can do it!

A few years ago, I was driving up Route 1 in a driving rainstorm from Quantico to Alexandria.   I-95 was backed up and the traffic was a nightmare.  There was a long line of cars on Route 1, and for some reason, this lady in a Camry was driving very, very slowly and causing a backup.  So the first chance I had, I passed her, legally and safely, in a passing zone, doing under the speed limit.

Then something weird happened.  The car I passed sped way up and started tailgating me, flashing their lights at me, over and over again, and honking their horn.  This went on for miles, until the road went to two lanes.  At the next traffic light the car pulled up next to me and this lady rolls down the window and says, "How DARE you pass me!  Don't you know I have children on board?"

So of course, I said, "So sorry, ma'am.  My fault!" and drove on.  Actually, I think I said something else, but it is not printable here.

It was such an odd thing.  She was intentionally driving obnoxiously slowly - creating a huge backup of 20-30 cars, because she had "children on board" and I guess she felt this precious cargo needed special treatment.  But after I executed a safe pass, she exhibited the most unsafe driving practices imaginable - tailgating in a driving rainstorm - just to tell me off.  She was and is, insane.

But it underscores another issue that you run into all the time - people who have children who somehow, by dint of their getting pregnant in the back of a '87 Trans Am, are doing the greatest thing humanity is capable of, and that is bringing another load of mouth-breathing trailer-park dwellers into the world.

As one bumper sticker notes, "Isn't 5 Billion Little Miracles Enough?"

Many of them will not come right out and say it - as the crazy "baby on board" lady did - but they feel that they are better than everyone else by virtue of their reproductive achievements.  And many folks are willing to pander to this mentality - providing special parking spaces for expectant mothers - and even special parking spaces for families with children.

It is the classic status-seeking behavior - "I'm better than you, because..."

But having kids doesn't take a lot of talent - and pregnant teenagers are testament to this, everywhere.   It always kills me when I see some 17-year-old boy say, "Gee, I'm going to be a Father!" - to which I want to reply, "No, you're not, you just knocked-up your prom date!".

Having kids and parenthood are two different things.  The act of reproduction is a mere biological formality - any one can do it, even animals.   And increasingly, we are reproducing little more than like animals - squirting out litter after litter of unwanted babies to parents who are ill-equipped to take care of themselves, much less children.

But like the friend with the perpetual problem, parenthood can provide a person with an identity and a role to play.  Suddenly, to a young woman living in the trailer park, they have an identity and a purpose - a great purpose - to raise a child.  The are no longer just some not-very-bright girl who got knocked up, but a Mother, and that makes them special.  And they think that this is the greatest thing that anyone could possibly ever do.

Which it could be, if they were good parents.   Few are.  Most rather use this "parenthood" moniker to feel superior to others, as our insane "baby on board" Mom illustrated - she has a child, ergo she is more important than anyone else, and everyone else has to cow-tow to her.   After all, she had a baby!  So hard to do!

But it turns out that nearly anyone can have a child, and even those who biologically can't, can adopt.  The real trick, it seems, is in the raising - and very few do that well.

And given the track record of parenting, I don't think it is incumbent on someone to start patting themselves on the back for being a parent - at least until the kid is off to college and not in jail.

Having a kid doesn't make you any better than anyone else.  It just means you got laid at least once.

Being a good parent is something that is special and laudable - but I think the best of parents would be the last to go around bragging about it.  And the jury on your parenthood is pretty much out, until the day you die.

So pardon me, if I don't bow down to you while I watch you back-hand slap your kids in Wal-Mart.  Having a kid doesn't make you special or better than everyone else.