Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Sins of the Parents

The first question anyone asks at a wedding is, "when will the first kid come?" We consider children to be a visible sign of the love two couples share; the more children they have, the more they must love each other. In a day and age with effective birth control, this is rather absurd! Couples who decide not to have children are still -- even in academia where it's becoming more common -- viewed as only "biding their time" till the inevitable happens. I myself am torn about whether I want to have children. As a child, I was going to have 5 -- the number Anne Shirley had minus the last one I could never remember easily. And as L. M. MontgomeryL. M. Montgomery killed him off in WWI, I imagine she felt a similar difficulty. Now that I've been duly informed of the process of pregnancy, I think I'll pass. That and my boyfriend and Al Gore have introduced me to the concept of population explosion.

Which brings me to today's article: "Children, 'Bad for the planet'". Beyond the provocative title is an interesting concept -- obvious, but anathema: that each child born adds considerably to the overcrowding of an overcrowded planet. This elicits a rather visceral response to most people. Even young adult novels find this disturbing -- Margaret Haddix's Shadown Children Series for instance. On a more basic level, we believe that children are a blessing and that more children are more of a blessing. The cynic might say this is merely a way for men to show their virility and a bit outdated.

Regardless, regulation and studies are rather silly ways to go about this message, which is worth disseminating. We actually need a sea change where it becomes cool not to have celebrity children or adopt massive batches (much as I admire Angelina Jolie, it's becoming a bit of a compulsion for her to save the world) of families. But further, we need to move beyond the idea that individual happiness comes from a brood of "Brothers and Sisters" -- though I'm not sure happiness is the message that tv show reflects. A friend once said to me (I was in college), "you know, you don't have to have children if you don't want to," and I found it a revolutionary message -- I grew up with the clear understanding that my significant purpose in life was children. We need to spread this message -- that people can also be whole by themselves. Or, that at the very least small families are families too. And, finally, that if you want a large family -- which I may still want (I go to the mall to curb this desire quite quickly...) -- adoption is a fine way to go about it.

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