Occassionally in the morning, I watch the Today show. Lots of news and tidbits and the local weather report comes on pretty frequently, which is nice. Yesterday, they brought in a guest who had surveyed couples and determined that couples without kids are happier than those with kids.
They chatted about how taboo it is to say this and why it might be true, but I thought they were off the mark, not to mention, a little too careful not to offend anyone.
Can you imagine this information being passed on to kids? "Oh, we'd be happier without you honey." "We'll be happier when you're gone." As if American kids today don't feel unloved enough, this has to be dropped on them. And the reasons given, of course, are about money and time and romance.
I think the reasons are a great deal deeper and more dangerous. Throughout the past 90 years or so, a creeping attitude of gratification and selfishness has insinuated itself into American society. People feel they should have things because they "deserve" them. unfortunately, most of the things adults feel like they deserve are expensive. They take money. The nicer car, the boat, the renovated kitchen (with granite countertops), the bigger house, the better restaurants, all of it requires mucho dinero. The things that perhaps don't require all that money require time. Many require both. What is the point of the boat if you never have tiem to take it out on the lake?
Amazingly enough, kids take money and time as well. The estimate on the Today show was that raising a child from birth to age 17 required about $275,000. For each kid. After all, kids are truly another mouth to feed, they require clothing, going out gets more expensive, as does going to the movies and kids want things. they aren't innocent or immune from the "I deserve it" attitude. By the time they're in intermediate school, they have a strong desire to acquire, just like Mom and Dad. Kids are expensive. And boy, are they time consuming. Sorry, parents, but you can't just flop on the couch with a book because the baby, or the toddler, or the teenager (or anything in between) needs you NOW.
Right there is where modern society and thinking had chosen the parents over the child. The child is now a burden. He or she is not a gift, not "arrows in the quiver" as the Bible puts it, but a drain on money and time and energy. Why, kids might interfere with your love life. This attitude has been realized and cultivate since the 1920's (at least). It fuel the spread of contraception because now, couples would finally be free from the fear of children.
Couples today are happier without kids because they have bought into the the twin attitudes they they deserve to get what they want when they want it and that kids are only going to stand in the way of that. Many people don't even realize they've been tainted, they simply decide to stop at one or maybe two, but God forbid they have four, or five, or *gasp* more. The disservice this does to our children is immense. They pick up on attitudes. They detect the undercurrents of people's feelings more accurately than most adults. They know when they are not wanted. They also know, intrinsically, within their soul, which is aware from conception, that they should not be unwanted but cherished. They know they are being cheated.
The long term result of this used to show up in our parent-teacher conferences. The student wasn't performing well, or wasn't performing as well as Mom and Dad wanted. How could be fix them? What could the school do to correct this problem. There are strategies and thing a school can do, yes, but more importantly, they parents need to remember that they should love unconditionally. This life they helped bring forth is something important and precious and the safeguarding and raising of it should be a primary concern.
A word here to the kids who are reading. Unconditional love from a parent does not mean giving you whatever you want. It doesn't mean being your friend. It means loving you enough to keep you safe, even when you think it will ruin your life. Think of it this way. I'd be a pretty poor parent if I let my toddler play with a knife, or drink pesticide. My toddler may really want to play with that knife. It's shiney and interesting. She will probably throw a tantrum when I tell her "no." None of this changes the fact that a loving parent will not let her play with the knife. For the same reason, I won't let my teen go to a party where there is no adult supervision (and where I don't know the adults supervising). She may really want to go. That party is going to be fun. She may stomp around the house, tell me she hates me, and not speak to me for days. None of that will be pleasant. But the potential for her to get hurt there is just as high as the potential for my toddler hurting herself with a knife. Either way, I'd be a poor parent to let it happen.
At some point, not too very far in the future, my teen will be on her own, at college, and she will be the one making that kind of choice for herself. The hope is that she will make a good choice. A healthy one. Those type of choices can only come when a child has a strong set of parents who have set limits, endured tantrums, and still reminded their child that they love him or her, warts and all.
That kind of parenting doesn't sit well with the "I deserve it and and now" attitude. It doesn't sit well with the "Kids are a burden and will take ll your time, money and energy" attitude. In a country where the vast majority of citizen identify themselves as Christians, though, there is something else that should be more important. We are called to see children as a blessing, the greatest gift God can give us. We are called to lay down our lives for others, not in some dramatic moment, but daily, hourly, for others. We are called to serve with a service that is love. That kind of love is not the physical love of the body (lust), not the love of friends, which says "I love you until you betray me", but with the love that says, "I will do what is best for you even when you do not want what is best for you. I will do what it takes to show you the way to Heaven."
It's hard. Never think it is easy. Never think those pervasive attitudes poisoning our society will skip some people. They don't. They affect me. They affect my family. We have to be aware of them. We have to fight them. If not, the human race will continue to self-destruct.