In California especially but also, if to a degree less-pronounced, throughout America a new trend is arising: deferring or permanently putting off, i.e. not having, kids. I am writing about this trend for two reasons: first, a world without kids scares the life out of me. Second, I wish to advance the notion that a child is not a thing, like a house or a car or a Ski-Doo, that one expects to be able to accessorize at a certain income level. Those items are useful or, in the case of the Ski-Doo amusing. A kid, conversely, is a remarkable blessing and a constant reminder to do better.
My thinking about this all started in roughly 1990 in the backseat of a car. I was sharing a cab with a new acquaintance who then taught at Rutgers University in New Jersey. A German with perfect English, she minced no words. “So, I see” [but she meant ‘hear’] “that you have children, qvite [so she pronounced quite] a lot of them.” (We had three at the time.) “They must be very pleasurable.” Now kids are a lot of things, but pleasurable is not exactly at the top of the adjective pile used to describe them. They are challenging, delightful, cute, mischievous, even highly innovative. They bring joy and, sometimes, sadness, hope and disappointment, laughter and tears. But pleasure? And no, the acquaintance in question did not then, obviously, nor did she ever, to my knowledge, have any kids. And if she were looking for pleasure, perhaps it is good thing she never did have kids, for pleasure is, more or less, what a Ski-Doo is for.
But why is a world without kids scary? Here’s why: kids are the only sensible people left on the planet. They are, it seems more and more these days, the only folks who will actually admit they are wrong when they are and say that they are sorry. They express love the right way. They are sincere, cute, and affectionate. They know how to play appropriately. They genuinely like each other. They don’t see color or think in terms of race or other ethno-socio-political differences. They are great. They are adults’ best role models.
Yet people want children less and less. Or if they want them, they want them like they want a Ski-Doo. They want them for the wrong reasons. And, I am sorry to say, they treat them like a Ski-Doo, too, pulling them out from time to time for fun, but then just putting them back on the shelf—in the case of the Ski-Doo a rather sturdy shelf, I suppose—until the next time. The idea of a family qua sacred bond, nurturing trust, blessed haven—that ideal is fading fast. And it is doing so in the name of economic prosperity, aka lucre, filthy lucre, and, ultimately, pleasure. Money can’t buy you love—I heard that somewhere—but it can buy you a Ski-Doo. A kid can do, and indeed is, much more.