DEAR CAROLYN: I know a number of people not interested in having children. This is not a problem and I don't want anyone to have kids who doesn't want them, nor do I think everyone needs to adore kids. But some are so mean about kids — speaking about them like they are just a drain on all the civilized, child-free adults — and I don't understand why this is considered acceptable. Children are neurologically different from adults. It's not any more OK to universally hate kids than it is to broadly dislike those with mental illness or special needs. So why do people seem to feel comfortable talking about kids this way? Any witty suggestions for shutting this down?
Think of the Children!
THINK OF THE CHILDREN!: "They'll grow into the doctors, nurses, pilots, drivers, autoworkers, farmers, chefs, wait staff, designers, builders, writers, artists, bankers, insurers, first-responders and attorneys, who will care for you, transport you, feed you, clothe and shelter you, inform and entertain you, and bail your butt out when we're all too old to do this ourselves. So may I suggest a little respect for them and the people who raise them."
RE: KIDS: As long as there's equal respect for people who DON'T have kids, which is where the root of this problem probably lies.
EQUAL: If we're all going to wait around for respect to be a quid pro quo, and refuse to give it unless we see proof of delivery of ours, in exact equal quantity, exchanged on a bridge somewhere with the two sides all armed and ready to fire if someone on the other side so much as twitches — then we deserve no better than the polarized mess we're in.
If instead we do the brave thing and give any warranted respect just for the sake of it, without guarantee of anything in return, because showing it is as good for us as it is for everyone else, then we'll get somewhere.
OK, I'll start it because we all knew this was going to happen: I'd also like the child-raising people to quit bugging us for not having children. The ones who continually harp on how selfish the child-free are and how we'll regret it when we're too old to have them. Your turn.
CHILD-FREE: No. It's no one else's turn and I am not hosting a carp-fest.
These are two different issues. The selfishness charge against non-parents is ludicrous and mean, as I've acknowledged many times, but the impulse to see a valid complaint about the treatment of children as an opening to complain about parents? That's not a happy reflex, and not one to feel gratified for indulging. Finger-pointing is not the inevitability you make it out to be.
RE: CHILDLESS: But the issues are related! Did childless bigots come up to her on the street and start raging about children? Or is possible the letter-writer said, "Before I became a parent I didn't know what love meant"?
I Don't Buy It
I DON'T BUY IT: The appropriate response to such knuckleheadery as "Before I became a parent I didn't know what love meant" is never, has never been and will never be even more knuckleheadery in the form of dissing children. Seriously.