I have previously written about my family, about how large it has become in successive generations, and about how prolific we are at producing offspring. Well, if you read that you probably know that I am nearly unique among my family as one of a handful of people who never had children. Actually, I think there are three of us, but my cousin Shawn died last year, so the number dwindles. If my brother and his girlfriend have a child soon, I will be in a club with one member.
I have never presumed to tell anyone with children how they might improve their parenting. Advising a parent on how to raise a child, especially if you have none, is an invitation to a verbal assault, if not something more violent. Where everyone seems to have opinions on everything, whether they are experts or not, from things like cooking to sleep disorders to weight loss. Wives’ tales and home remedies abound, and anyone you meet will likely have something in the way of advice on their best recipe or how to get a stain out. But parents are very sensitive about how they raise their children, and they resent having to take classes or read books on how to improve, even though every one of them could use some help.
As a childless couple, my wife and I avoid couple with children, essentially to keep from being silent observers when the topic of conversation turns to kids. I’ve been stuck there before, having to hear stories about their teenager or their toddler, and how their child is evidently the only one who doesn’t clean his room or do his homework. (I wish I could jump in and ask, “what if your son told you he was gay?” That would be a fun conversation, provided it continued.)
But I remain silent. I wish I could place the same constraint on parents. No one with kids should have the right to discuss being childless.
“Have you considered adoption?” This is where I usually lose it. Anyone who has ever tried to have children, for many years, has of course explored the option. But I cannot get into why we decided not to, for the moment. My wife also gets very upset, for good reason, when a couple complains that they have been trying to get pregnant with no avail, for FOUR MONTHS!
Try 12 years.
When I see bad parenting, it burns a hole in my soul to not be able to speak. We did get an ear-full when we tried to warn a friend of ours about her daughter’s behavior. It went beyond simple observation. There were, and are, things this parent might never know about, and it’s a miracle this kid is alive. This parent proceeded to chastise us and tell us we had no right to give her advice because we have no idea what it’s like to raise a child. She was fairly abusive, and I hope she reads this.
When a parent has trouble with their teenager, and he or she tells me about it, I wonder if they are soliciting advice or some feedback of any kind. What am i supposed to say? I often see the irony of it: I am the guy with no kids, so maybe I can be objective in my response. Sure, I’ll tell you what you want to hear. But it won’t be the truth. The truth is that no one is a good parent without the advice of friends and family, even those who are childless.
The haves and the have-nots will rarely agree on things, whether it’s about raising the minimum wage, or the ability to have children. And as a have-not, I admit that I resent those with children, especially when they appear to flaunt their wealth. Who could blame them, though? But it burns me when I see people who have kids while being abusive and neglectful toward them. Children are a gift, and they should be cherished. Some people should never be parents, and the universe has decided they should be. Go figure.