I am asking for something specific

Posted: September 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

My son is a natural born misanthrope. I know, it’s absurd to believe me. I too was in disbelief when, as a “tender” toddler, he spoke a telltale phrase. We were on the bus, a young bubbly college student was all up in his face, “Oooo, you are sucha cutie, o, my, my” she cooed in her high-pitched condescension. He sat on my lap, wide eyed, staring directly at her. Once she finally took a breath he turned to me and in all seriousness said, “Mamma, I hate people.”

I thought for sure he’d heard someone else say this and was just copying, trying on worldly phrases as his own—until, of course, it reoccurred under similar circumstances: adult speaking at him as if he were an idiot. He never spoke directly back but would just turn to me afterwards to insist, matter-of-factly, “Mamma, I hate people.” The targeted adults would always laugh, thrilled by his imitation of adultness.

He’s eight now, my little misanthrope, and hasn’t mentioned hating people in a while though he gets a look in his eye and I know, yep, I know what he’s thinking. I think this too, I’m sorry to admit, but I do. Natural born disappointment in my team: team adults.

My son has a plethora of reasons for his disappointment. The culture sends mixed signals, oohs and aahs and no no no. In a given day he may be praised for his cuteness or joked with about being a “good boy” and then told to keep it down just for walking into an establishment, before even a peep has come out of him. Signs posted in vintage costume shops (of all places!) “Adults, control your children” or noise control via evil eyes on buses, in restaurants, retail shops and generally everywhere. He has heard the phrase, “you can’t do that” way more often than, “can I help you.” And certainly more often than “you’re welcome.”

Children are objectified repeatedly and nobody has a problem with it. They are regarded as controllable, undesirable or used as a symbol in disgusting displays of adult-centered culture. People find it reasonable to touch children they don’t know, speak as if they don’t understand anything—as in real slow or in unnecessarily simply language—or speak as if they aren’t standing just beneath the tip of their snooty noses.

My son may be small but he has fairly big ideas about how respect feels. He understands that when you won’t look into someone’s eyes you aren’t really listening. He too translates eye rolling into disdain and impatience. He fully gets the inequality of other people making choices on his behalf and shit does he hate that! He is just as offended by being interrupted as the rest of us. He too has hurt feelings if his ideas get blatantly brushed off. Human to human relating doesn’t actually change all that much from age to age. Children are capable of incredible bluntness, sharp-wittedness and unprompted compassion. And it’s true; children can be loud, obnoxious, disrespectful and needy. And they can be told so; nine out of ten kids will quit once their behavior is called out. I’m not sure this statistic stays true for adults.

As an adult in the world, working my ass off to raise healthy, conscientious, critical thinking children, I feel repeatedly challenged by my own misanthropy. Too many adults model awful examples for my children. I believe in parenting by example and every interaction models behavior for better or for worse. I get fired up because, pardon my tongue, we come across too many douche bags.

How in the world can children grow into functional efficient adults when their childhoods face a culture that too often excludes, dis-empowers, misrepresents and/or ignores them? The very culture they are expected to integrate seamlessly into. Adult culture contradicts itself repeatedly. Don’t touch that / you are the future. You aren’t old enough to understand / work harder to get the right answer. You are too loud / speak up for injustice. You can’t do it like that / experiment, think outside the box. You are too spoiled / a good citizen is an active one. You are too dirty / be a steward of the environment.

I’m tired of too many kid-free adults’ attitudes about children. Tired of these so-called adults’ inability to care, relate, or feel any sense of responsibility in regards to the children in their midst. Yes, I know, having children was my choice, and not having children was/is yours but the culture is all of ours—the present, the future and that tenacious past we’d like not to repeat, no? I can’t help but wonder, who’s gonna wipe your ass when you can’t anymore—my children. Who’s gonna decide about your social security checks in fifty years—my children. Who’s gonna run your banks, schools, farms, subways, keep buildings clean, advance science, thrill the world with art—my children and all of their friends.

Here’s what’s frustrating about the sub-cultures I have brushed elbows with, the activists, earth-firsters, queers, anarchists, radical leftists (I realize I’ve got some generalizing going on here but I trust your self-reflectiveness, you know if I’m talking about you and I trust that you’ll keep reading either way). Every one of these little worlds takes diversity, inclusion, and strict political correctness quite seriously. Every ism in the universe is deconstructed and bashed around and spent hours upon hours of potluck time rapping about it all. Each group expects the culture to change according to their seemingly common sense of equality and human rights. What’s so funny is that ultimately, raising children equates to this: you, child, need more than I do and I am willing to give you what you need first. Meeting children’s needs models what these groups ask of the world: care for others especially when others have less. Yet these very groups all too often exclude children, perhaps not always consciously but so often by way of disregarding simple things like event times or spaces and their kid-friendliness. Excluding children by default excludes the parents tied to them.

Children, oh children: after all overpopulation is the root evil, and children disrupt meetings, are a symbol of heteronormativity, and children turn radical people into unconscious sell-outs. Oh yes, I’ve heard each of these gems spat at me by more than one glorious “adult.” Indeed I have been looked upon with disgust and exasperation for daring to bring children to an “adult” event, I’ve been asked to leave, to hush my children (and by hush they meant make invisible), I have been ignored in queer spaces where my children were present (as if it’s contagious). One time a person who’d blatantly been eying me in an I think you’re kinda cute way asked me, “are those your children?” Of course they were/are. That person never talked to me again.

Don’t get me wrong, for all of these instances I have had gorgeous kid-free souls reach out, engage with my kiddns, ask meaningful questions about the reality of my living, show up for me and my kiddos—a thousand million thank yous to you (you know who you are). Unfortunately, these folks, these rare jewels I have found (and kept) are the exception.

Seriously, I’m not trying to complain or take up too much space with my self-induced ism. Actually I worry about my ability to participate as an active citizen, worry about what it means if “my people” aren’t really, I worry about my kids being surrounded by super cool adults that disdain children. I seriously work at raising good kids, shit; this is my major contribution to society for now so I best be doing my fucking best. But how am I supposed to be sure I am doing my best when the folks I supposedly agree with politically, my social peers, don’t actually see—let alone support—the major facts of my life? And by life I mean identity. Whether I like it or not parenting defines me, personally and as a member of society. (Which is not to say that it’s the only thing that defines me!) To really see me as a parent means to see my kids and their needs and the fucking hell I go through to meet their needs (emotionally, spiritually, monetarily, etc.).

Look, the truth is that if I hadn’t had children before I’d formed an adult identity I probably never would have. And honestly, I’ve met several children that I plain don’t like. It’s not possible to like all children (or adults for that matter). I don’t expect everyone to like all children—I am, after all, raising a natural born misanthrope so who am I to talk about love for everyone. And this is not a call to have children, not at all. But I am asking for something specific from those of you who want a certain kind of social change. You who want fairness and equality, who want sustainability and just use of natural resources, you who want to be accepted just the way you are, no matter who you love/fuck, you who want to be heard, who want peace and justice. Please participate in kids’ lives, in the lives of people raising children, alone or partnered. Love as many children as you can. No, it’s not necessarily easy or comfortable but isn’t this the point? Isn’t re-building a new and improved sort of humanity a tough job, full of discomfort and sacrifices? Perhaps, the more children you connect with and share your ideas of the world with the more chances those children get to grow into adults who carry these visions on. (Are we really willing to leave the population in the hands of right-wingers and Mormons?)

The future is out of our hands. We are only able to pass it on and on and on. We won’t be here for it, and actually, we won’t even be physically fit for all of the future that we are here for. Like I said, if you don’t help raise kids someone’s gonna have to wipe your ass once you can’t, it’s either gonna be my kid or some right-wingers kid. If you’d rather it be my kid, put the time in.

Sigh. Truth is, sometimes I hate my job of raising children, of doing a good job of it. Sometimes I can’t handle the pressure of being honest with them, of making the better meal (hell yes we have toast for dinner some nights), shit, sometimes I can’t handle the simple task of being kind to them. Sometimes they need way too fucking much from me and sometimes I really only want them to shut up and leave me alone to be a free-adult in a kid-free world. Fuck, I don’t even know how the hell I make it through some moments but I do because they need me to. And in the future I envision for them, for us, this is what people do for one another: show up for each other even when it’s the last fucking thing in the world they want to do. I want a culture that consistently tends to the weakest links’ needs. I want a culture full of people willing to sacrifice their own desires for the sake of a less privileged person’s needs. For this to be possible the whole damn thing has to be built on a deep trust in humanity. Deep trust—isn’t this what childhood should be made of?

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Comments
  1. Dianne Dupuis says:

    Thought provoking……

    • Si says:

      You speak so much truth…. This same culture you speak of also does not, in my observation, hold Fathers accountable for lack of involvement. I know this from my own experience. I am a Father of a 16 year old . When my Son was young, I became heavily involved in addiction and surrounded my self with People who, although, calling themselves “radical”, would drink with me every night and ride freight trains (hundreds of miles from my Son) and looked at my Fatherhood as a novelty (“How cool, a radical train hopping Dad”…etc.)”.With patches on my tattered jeans claiming “against patriarchy” all the while, leaving the Mother (I Honor You!) with all the responsibility of raising a Child alone in a patriarchal world. I knew I was not doing a honorable thing. It took me a bit to break out of the shame cycle my actions had created. Now… I am surrounded by strong Womyn & Myn these days.. and for this: I AM GRATEFUL! I have learned that the most Radical Change I can make.Is being present period! and that is breaking cycles Thank you for your Honesty! and Thank You for sharing! I appreciate Your contribution to the survival of Love, Hope, Compassion & Life. All My Relations.

  2. I share a lot in common with Christians, but they won’t have me because I can’t take their mythology literally or exclusively. I share a lot in common with hippies and punks, but I can’t be bothered to wear the outfit or use the language. I agree with some radical conservatives and some radical liberals, but I’m not going to sit around with them and bad mouth other groups with them.

    I’m human and I won’t pretend to be homogeneous.

    All these groups pretend to be concerned with values. But what they’re concerned with is consistent, predictable behavior. There are great benefits to this and I sympathize. I don’t like people who drink too much or do a lot of drugs for the same reason. Who knows when they’ll freak out? Who knows what they think is safe or ethical to do in their altered state?

    To be honest I have always wanted to be part of such groups, but have never been able. I can’t wear what some of them wear, I can’t pretend to hate people I don’t know, and I can’t pretend to believe a ludicrous mythology literally. These group finds me suspicious. Which is fine, because at this point, the feeling is mutual.

    This is all to say that I find your message a little heart breaking. I don’t have a child, so I can’t imagine how shattering it would be to have my kid rejected by my group. But I do know that I found myself hurt on a number of occasions by ‘communities’ that I was immersed in for years (“Anarchists”) and ones that I had only a short commitment to, in situations ranging from short social interactions to times of need.

    I think it’s obvious that you are completely right to keep those friends who love your child as a human and not as a prop.

    What’s a little foggy is how you regard those who do treat your kid inhumanly. It seems like you are appealing to the community to look to their values and compare it to their behavior and address their hypocrisies. And of course you’re welcome to do that. But being a reasonable person, being a conscientious person isn’t easily obtainable and you can’t see it in someone through her/his style or politics. You recognize it by exposure.

    It’s one person at a time. If you get enough of those, then you have a community. Building a community of ideals is ruinous. I’m confident you can think of many examples. Building a community of people with good hearts is impossible, but much kinder to one’s mental health.

  3. naali aelfgifu says:

    hey you papa this is awesome and thanks for saying it. I want to say though, that in my experience I am seeing radical people be all about going after non-present or abusive dads, yet I’ll see some of the same people limit using their energy towards helping families to this and still are not putting any towards helping the parents or making them feel more included, hanging out w/ kids and making them feel included, creating kid-freindly spaces, family accessible events and event times, etc. It’s as if they only feel comfortable doing something conflictual-necessary, yes, but obviously they don’t feel comfortable being supportive in other less conflictual ways that are needed on a regular basis. Thanks for your comment.

  4. janaecm says:

    I totally understand what you’re saying. If it makes you feel better- you’re not alone. My husband & I wrote/ illustrated a book for kids telling them- basically- don’t listen to adults- we’re wrong- do what you want- you’re right. It’s called The Child’s Guide To Anarchy (sounds scary, but it’s not). you can download it free here if you’d like: http://www.flotsamandjetpacks.com/auntieuncle/occupy-us/

  5. Marilyn Rowe says:

    A BIG LIKE on all your comments!! My son instead had said “mommy, I think people don’t like kids any more.” based on the treatment he received and witnessed. I radically unschooled him — actually – a wrong term: I protected and let him have his childhood. and I agreed with him and took more notice than I had before. I believe only Love can heal this world – those adults are not loved enough and I believe that I can show them how to be kinder, more authentic, and kid-friendly. It has become my mission in life to change the way we ‘see’, treat, and school our children! I am so happy to meet all of you! We are all in this together, awareness is the first step! Kids are more evolved, smarter, and more sensitive to the injustices of this societal structure and it’s results of inhumanity. Which reminds me — a community I recently became of part of has now implemented ageist policies and I must send a message to the ‘founder’ and start working to resolve it! See you all again, Marilyn of Education Evolution and the IMAGINe educATION Center in Montreal, Qc. Canada

  6. fairywoman42 says:

    As a mother of three unschooled children, political activist (sort of), metaphysical healer, writer, and punk I say……..Thank You! I can all too relate to what you are saying here. When I do a session or a class for a child I actually have people ask “Well how do you help them understand what is going on?” My response is “Easy. I don’t have to dumb it down or choose my words with them. They get it.”

  7. Martin says:

    I find this post ridiculously offensive. I think I might be one of those right wingers you talk about, yet I care deeply about sustainability and all of the list of the things that you think makes humans valid apparently. The problem as I see it is, you say,

    “I want a culture full of people willing to sacrifice their own desires for the sake of a less privileged person’s needs.”

    So do those right winger Christians who’s “mythology” you have so risen above. Yet you belittle whole groups of people with your vitriol. That sounds out of step with the world you want. Further, there is no reason for a world without a God who has clearly communicated to His people to strive for these things you say you want. I’ll be the first to admit that many people who claim the title Christian don’t live up to those standards. But they have a serious reason to do better, they have been commanded to do better by the God of the universe.

    There are certainly people who are Left wingers who have the same problem and fall short of these standards you’ve set but have no concrete reason that they should do these things except some existential Oprah Winfrey feeling that it might be nice to do that and it makes them look good to their pot-luck friends. But at the end of the day, if we’re all just evolved protoplasm, we have no vestigial organ that holds our ethics gland. Ethics is as much a mythology as you accuse the Christians of having if there is no clearly speaking God in the universe. So why expect Atheists and agnostics to prescribe to ANY ethical framework, much less the one you suggest, you can’t prove it’s true or “good”. All you can do is curse yourself into a dither trying to make other people see the world the way you do.

    And if one day for whatever reason you’re at a stage where someone else has to wipe your behind, I would hope you’d be grateful for that kindness from your kid, or anyone’s kid, whether they be mormon or the children of a right-wing Christian fundamentalist nutball like me. Me, holding all these titles that you’ve used as insults and feeling the same way about kids that you do, that they deserve respect, that their feelings matter, that their ideas are real and that they need a good example set for them by their parents and by their community. I am a parent and I want these things for your child and mine, even though you’re a liberal left winger and I’m a fundamentalist right winger.

  8. ” I have had gorgeous kid-free souls reach out, engage with my kiddns, ask meaningful questions about the reality of my living, show up for me and my kiddos—a thousand million thank yous to you (you know who you are). Unfortunately, these folks, these rare jewels I have found (and kept) are the exception.”

    Well don’t make them the exception – focus on those kinds of people as the people you want in your life and your child’s life and you will start to see more and more of these people come into your life. Nevermind about all of the childless people who don’t like children, let them do their thing, don’t give them any of your attention.

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