The Sin of Inconvenience

From “Reasons My Son is Crying”

I’d like to highlight a couple comments from the quite long thread on Babies on a Plane! My original intent wasn’t to shame people for being bothered by screaming babies. There are few people who enjoy the sound of a human in distress (of any age), and we would be a little concerned about someone who was unmoved or pleased to hear someone cry.  My objection wasn’t to the NYT letter writer being uncomfortable, but the tone of entitlement in her note that suggested the presence of a baby was an aberration that she should be defended from.  Perhaps not what she meant to convey, but (unluckily) some commenters made took up that argument a little more pointedly.

First, anon:

Perhaps parents should be expected to withdraw themselves from adult company (and yes, the gender dynamics that invariably follow are problematic). But it was your choice to have a child (well, again, assuming it was your choice to have the child), you should live with the consequences. People with the flu are expected to stay home, and they didn’t even chose that state of affairs about themselves. If you chose to be bound to a screaming and inconveniencing organism, you should also be choosing to sequester yourself until that organism stops being so inconveniencing.

And then TerryC:

What I have found is, though almost every parish I visit has a nursery for babies and toddlers, parents insist on bringing children who won’t behave into Mass. Children below the age of reason are not bound to attend Mass. If you need to bring a toy to occupy your child during Mass that child should probably not be there. Conversely I have seen very young children both at Catholic Mass, but more often at Protestant services, who are quiet, attentive and reverent. One reason for that is that they understand what is happening is important. The other is that there parents will not stand for them to behave in any other way.

Generally speaking if your child can be made to behave in a nursery school storytime, at a movie, or during any other activity they can be made to behave at Mass. If they can’t, because they are simply too young either leave them in the nursery or do what my friends family dose and attend two different Masses, so that one parent can stay home with the very young children.

I don’t disagree with Anon and TerryC are correct that babies are disruptive, but where we part ways is our expectation of how calm and controlled public life should be.  I like having  little kids at Mass (there was a rambunctious toddler at my baptism who yelled ‘Yay!’ after each person was confirmed).  But even when they’re less adorable in their interjections, I like having them there because babies and children are a part of life, even for people who don’t have their own, and it would seem strange to me to have them excluded from people gathering together to form the Body of Christ.

I don’t claim that anything so sacramental is happening on an airplane, naturally, but it does seem strange to expect that this part of our life and community should be kept out of our way.  It’s bad for the parents, who are isolated, but it seems far from salutary for everyone else to have a norm of kids being mostly invisible, unless you’re in one of their spaces, like a playground.

I appreciated Broken Whole’s analysis of the conversation:

I love the (telling) comparison between the baby and the cellphone—both because it shows how much we want to treat children simply as manageable objects and because it reminds us how manageable objects (cellphones) are growing ubiquitous while unmanageable people (children) are increasingly absent.

When I’m at home, and need quiet work space, I try to control my environment.  But, although I don’t like to deplete willpower carelessly, the main thing I want to have control over is not my surroundings but my reaction to them.  I can arrange to make people less of a burden on me (or, more often, scrupulous try to avoid asking anything of anyone else), but I’d rather be able to welcome connections to others, and stop trying to parse encounters according to which of us inconvenienced the other.

C.S. Lewis opens The Weight of the World with:

If you asked twenty good men to-day what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point.

Unselfishness is a kind of training virtue.  It can help you work up to Love, but isn’t really the same.  It’s a useful heuristic while you’re growing, but you eventually grow beyond it.  But being around babies and other people who can’t be polite and unselfish and reserved yet can be a nice way to take off the training wheels.

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as an Editorial Assistant at The American Conservative by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • Peter S.

    Should adults with mental illness or disabilities (e.g. Tourette’s) be excluded from Mass if they can’t “behave”?

    • leahlibresco

      At one of the DC parishes I attended, there was a teen who had Tourette’s or something similar (he yelled–sometimes words, sometimes not) during Mass. It was startling and a bit off-putting to be sure, but it would have been worse for him to be excluded.

      (totally not motivated by the loud, frightening cough I have for about a third of the year)

    • Theodore Seeber

      Absolutely not.

      Having said that, here in the Archdiocese of Portland In Oregon, we have the ArchPDX OPD- Office for People with Disabilities. Being a special needs parent myself and a Knight of Columbus, I’ve helped out with their local Adaptive Mass Program and the yearly “Together in Hope” retreat.

      I have to say, the only time I’ve been truly relaxed in a Mass in the last 7 years of raising my 9 year old son, has been in an Adaptive Mass- where he’s usually one of the higher functioning “kids” (I put that in quotes because several of the special needs people served are older than I am- even if they might have a mental age below 10).

      The purpose of the Adaptive Mass is to provide an opportunity for such people to come to Christ in the Eucharist.

    • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com Jake

      I have (relatively mild) Tourette’s. No swear words, but obvious and distracting sounds. It has gotten substantially better with age, but there were several times when I was younger that I had to remove myself from a quiet public setting (e.g. Church).

      If someone can behave most of the time, but has occasional fits of misbehavior, then removing themselves (or having a parent removing them) to cool off during a fit seems reasonable. If someone is perpetrually unable to behave, then perhaps social situations where good behavior is neccessary are something they should avoid? That was my solution, anyways. I suppose it would vary by the type and degree of mental handicap the person had.

      • Kenneth

        I miss the Tourette’s gang! In the late 80s through about the mid-90s, every news room I was in had a guy with Tourette’s. Some had the chirping or clucking thing. One guy had just barely audible obscenity laden arguments with himself. Good guys, though, all of them, and very benign specimens in what was a whole eco-system of neuro-psychiatric disorders in the news business. The reporting staff was full to the brim of depressives, bi-polars, drunks, autism spectrum folks (more or less the mild end).

        As you went up the production and managerial chain, you’d move from the sandlot of the DSM to the major league personality disorders and psychopaths. There was usually one guy on the night layout desk and invariably one with his own office and an “executive editor” title who was at the chill-your-blood “it put’s the lotion on its skin” end of the pathology pool. No idea how any of this pertains to Mass except that I’d rather deal with the folks who vocalize inappropriately than the ones who bottle it up for some darker release down the road…. Besides, any Tourette’s vocalization is likely to be more interesting than what the priest is talking about on a given day, and infinitely more wise and compassionate than what most bishops ever say.

  • JeezusHimself

    Yeah, even baby Jebus was probably an annoying little putz when his diaper was full of doodies.
    Although I’m sure Jebuses doodie smelled like roses.

    Bwahahahahahahahahahahanahahhahahan!!!

    • Theodore Seeber

      Apparently you’ve never had to change the diaper of a breast fed infant.

      It’s amazing how much it *doesn’t* smell.

      • Ashley

        Is smugness over one’s personal choices a Catholic virtue?

        • Theodore Seeber

          I’m autistic, so perhaps I misunderstand the question.

          Procreation is a vocation in Catholic circles. If you are called to it, there is no choice.

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  • Sharon Cabana

    My daughter and I were recently baptized, confirmed, and participated in our first Eucharist in the Roman Catholic Church. We have been going to Mass and RCIA since January 2012. There are usually many children at the Mass I attend, and I have always been struck by the attitude of the Priest when a child cries or fusses. The Priest rarely acknowledges it and if they do it is with a smile. Child or not, if anyone makes noises they can’t control, it seems to me the least any of can do is to be gracious and work to be loving.

    • grok

      @Sharon,
      A warm welcome to you and your daughter to the church!
      Your experience is the same as mine-at the daily mass I go to, one of the Priests has said explicitly several times that babies/children are always welcome, we should not be bothered by some noise!
      My experience at Protestant churches (just one or two, don’t want to generalize to all) is a little different- less tolerant. I think perhaps one reason may be that Protestant churches seem to me to be more focused on the pastor/minister. It feels to me like it is largely his/her show. The central focus is on the sermon etc. Babies are rushed out of church during the sermon lest they interrupt the message that he/she is trying to give us.
      In Catholic churches it is more about the liturgy. Everyone knows the drill, we are all marching through the order of mass together, and yeah there might be a little noise, but hey that’s not going to stop us!

  • http://thinkinggrounds.blogspot.com Christian H

    Something that struck about so much of that thread post was the dehumanization of children. It seemed as though some people did not think others had a right to occupy public space if they happened to be children (or overweight? or Arabic-speaking? those came up). This is very entitled behaviour–”I am the norm for this space, I can define its standards, others cannot”–but what bothered me even more is that it denies other people their personhood/humanity based on age and self-control. (Of course, the idea that self-control should be a requirement for participation in public life is as old as ancient Athens–recall that Aristotle’s defense of slavery and patriarchy is based on self-control–and is the basis for our lamentable treatment of the mentally ill.)

    (Also, I noticed parents being kind of condescending to non-parents and vice versa. Neither the decision to have children nor the decision not to have children makes a person a better arbiter of social conventions and/or rights of access to transportation.)

  • Ryan

    Leah, on a tangental note, I’d like to thank you for that illustrative picture. As the parent of a toddler, that blog really resonates with me.

  • http://diabeticbirth.blogspot.com Beth Turner

    I like what you said about controlling yourself, not only your environment. I take very seriously the responsibility to control whether I go on an airplane with children who might be loud, knowing that it may be disruptive to some. I plan the entire trip around, “What will I do if a meltdown happens at time X?” I bring toys, I bring snacks, I break them out strategically. I consider whether my child is ready for this trip, and whether it’s good for him. I try to time naps so that the child is drifting off to sleep as the plane ascends because I’ve figured out from past experience that they get sleepy around then. Sometimes, they don’t make a single peep! But sometimes, every single one of the contingency plans I made has failed and the baby screamed himself to sleep on my chest for 30 minutes next to a single man in his thirties who was probably annoyed, bothered, sympathetic, and embarrassed for me all at the same time. And this was after I debated for weeks whether to take this particular trip at this particular time in my child’s life to see this particular person, go to this funeral/wedding, etc.

    I can tell you that even though I have children, it still takes some effort to control my response to other children when I’m on an airplane. When I hear a baby scream, I try to assume he’s tired/hungry/bored/his ears ache and that his parents are either a) learning how to identify those problems, b) did everything they could to prevent them, and c) are doing everything they can to relieve them. And if they seem like they don’t care about the disruption their child is causing, I assume they are just totally zen and then I try to emulate them. If they are screaming back at their child, I assume they might be really stressed out about their sister’s upcoming wedding or their grandfather’s recent death. I dunno, it just takes a little imagination…put yourself in their shoes and imagine what it’s like to travel with children and think how you’d want others to respond to you…perhaps your parents did it with you once long ago…or maybe you’ll feel the need to do it in the future…

    I trust you to make that decision, don’t worry too much about how I’m going to feel about it. I’ll manage.

  • JackieD

    I’m always somewhat bemused by the “no young children in mass” opinion, because I’ve been to several (usually Protestant) churches where that was the case, and it’s depressing. Whether because they’re all filed away in a nursery or because there are no young children, the impression I walk away with is “this is a dying parish”. As a visitor I have no real idea what the situation is, but it’s a gloomy, doomed feeling.

  • Hanan

    >If you chose to be bound to a screaming and inconveniencing organism

    Organism?

  • Val

    The implied narrative in this and the prior post – that our culture increasingly treats children as inconvenient objects, as opposed to some notional past championed by “traditional” Catholic virtues – is simply false.

    • Brandon B

      I agree with you about these posts imply. Can you support your conclusion that the implication is incorrect? Do you have evidence to the contrary, or can you argue that others have misinterpreted the evidence we have?

      • Val

        How old do you think “children should be seen and not heard” actually is?

        Funny… I usually hear modern traditionalists complain about our culture’s permissive attitudes towards children, not its tight rein on their behaviors.

        • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

          Small families do end up having more permissive attitudes. Larger families have no choice. They have to get organized or it just isn’t going to work. If there is only one or two children then it is tempting to let them run the household. You can let them pick what the family will have for dinner or do for entertainment. So a culture with less children can actually have more annoying children. It causes the general opinion of society on children to be be much more negative.

        • Theodore Seeber

          Near as I can tell, 1945 or so. And it has never been prevalent in rural communities, where children are valued.

    • Theodore Seeber

      The data I’m aware of says otherwise. We live in a culture where 1:3 babies conceived, are aborted before birth. Where it is “normal” to use contraception to avoid pregnancy to the point that 99% of women do so at some point in their lives. Where artificial estrogen is a major pollutant in most urban water supplies.

      It isn’t just those who are born we treat as inconvenient objects, it’s also those we don’t allow to be born.

      • ACN

        “Where it is “normal” to use contraception to avoid pregnancy”

        *GASP*

        *CLUTCHES PEARLS*

        *FAINTS*

        • Theodore Seeber

          I’m just saying it is a sign that society, in general, has decided that children are worthless.

          • Alan

            No, it isn’t. But I don’t have any hope you understand how fallacious you are.

          • Theodore Seeber

            If it isn’t, then why do we have a 33% abortion rate? Your conclusion does not fit the data, and thus your hypothesis is rejected.

            If children were still considered to be blessings from God instead of worthless intrusions into one’s earning potential, abortion and contraception would be unused.

            Next time, at least come up with an alternative hypothesis that fits the data.

          • hypnosifl

            No, it’s a sign that many people don’t think fetuses have the same moral worth as children. Just because you equate the two doesn’t mean it makes sense to equate everyone else’s attitudes towards fetuses vs. children.

          • http://twitter.com/KatieAkel Katie Akel

            Ugh, even if you don’t think fetuses have the same moral worth as children, the fact is fetuses eventually become children. Ergo, aborting fetuses = not wanting children. It’s not that complicated. And it’s not a stretch to connect that attitude to a culture where children are seen as an optional inconvenience. You can/should grant that regardless of your ideas about the moral worth of children or fetuses.

          • hypnosifl

            Aborting fetuses = “not wanting children RIGHT NOW”, not “not wanting children at all” (though of course some don’t, nothing wrong with that). Every sperm and egg cell has the *potential* to eventually become a child, would you say that everyone who doesn’t avail themselves of every possible opportunity to conceive (whether through contraception or just turning down opportunities for sex) is therefore showing that they don’t want children or view them as an “optional inconvenience”? If the moral status of the fetus of the fetus doesn’t enter into the argument, why is one form of preventing a potential child from being realized different than any other?

          • http://twitter.com/KatieAkel Katie Akel

            I wasn’t making an analytical argument. The idea is that people and institutions and norms are conditioned by physical realities and what is or is not possible in the world. So separating sex from conception, for example, is a radical change in the human condition and we adapt accordingly. When we made it so sex didn’t necessarily cause pregnancy and pregnancy didn’t inevitably result in children, we also changed the attendant cultural infrastructure such that children stopped being a normal, ubiquitous part of the social world. Sure, it’s related to other things as well: technological innovation leading to a greater sense of autonomy and lowered annoyance threshold, etc. But let’s not pretend that technology doesn’t matter, or that sexual and familial norms aren’t intertwined, even if only because they historically have been.

          • hypnosifl

            OK, so your argument isn’t specifically about abortion and is meant to apply equally to all forms of contraception? No doubt the ability to avoid pregnancy if desired makes children less ubiquitous, but I don’t see why the ability to plan for children amounts to seeing children as an “optional inconvenience” as opposed to valuing them and tolerating occasional annoyances from them. No doubt there are some people who wish they didn’t have to share certain kinds of public spaces with children, but I would guess you could find plenty of peole with the same attitude in the 19th century, especially among the more well-off who had nannies to take care of children whenever they wanted to go to some public space like a restaurant or a play. And isn’t it reasonable to guess that the entitled NYT letter writer was similarly well-off, at least upper middle class? I think you do have to consider class issues here, contraception is just available to people who aren’t as well off, but I think attitudes like the one expressed in the letter are much more likely to be seen among people whose money gives them the sense that they should be entitled to avoid certain kinds of ordinary inconveniences in life.

          • http://twitter.com/KatieAkel Katie Akel

            The ability to plan for children doesn’t “amount” to seeing them as an optional inconvenience. That’s what I meant when I said I wasn’t making an analytical argument. When we talk about norms, as opposed to beliefs, we are necessarily talking about the sort of thing that can be constructed and enforced by most members of a given community in the course of their daily lives, which is (1) conditioned by physical realities, and (b) constrained by basic facts about human interaction and “lazy” thinking. So the stable set of norms we had when procreation was an omnipresent fact of life was to accept them as part of the social world (nuance that as you must), but now we have moved to a stable set of norms (at least in certain milieus) wherein children are a deliberate, laborious, ordeal to be undertaken well into one’s adulthood. I’m not convinced there is a stable middle-ground, not on a societal level. It just seems clear to me that everyone around me thinks a certain way about children and that they wouldn’t if reproductive realities were different. I personally use birth control, but I would dearly love to have children as soon as I reasonably can. (Which, in this world, means significant financial stability, ergo not for another few years.) But my friends think that my boyfriend and I are freaks for talking/being excited about marriage and children at 23.

  • Fr.Sean

    I tend to think if you’re trying to find the truth is something like this you have to look at the extremes to shed light on what might be right. No Children at Mass would make absolutely no sense. Children make up part of the body of Christ so not having them there would be an incomplete church. Furthermore we know Jesus said, “let the Children come to me, ” as well as saying, “in order to enter the Kingdom of God we need to be come like children” (in simplicity and trust in God). I think children bring a refreshing sense of Joy and wonder to the Mass. Finally bringing them to Mass is a subtle reminder to them, or cultivates a habit that this is what one does on Sunday (not to mention remember that we are Blessed at Mass on Sunday’s and some of those blessings we may not be entirely aware of). However, if they were running all over the church or being overly disruptive that wouldn’t be helpful either. Regardless, in my opinion we need to error on the side of having the whole family there and encourage them to behave if at times they become a distraction.

  • http://bensix.wordpress.com BenSix

    If you chose to be bound to a screaming and inconveniencing organism…
    I agree that parents should, as most parents do, seek to minimise the exposure of their fellow citizens to their childrens’ bawling but it is a tad strange that they can be viewed as nothing more than someone’s lifestyle choice. These are, after all, the humans that will grow up to staff the restaurants, churches and hospitals that we might decide to frequent; pay the taxes that might pay for our medical care; have the children that might preserve the species and so on…
    I mean, one might think these are bad things but, still, it’s hardly equivalent to drunkenness or misbehaving mobile phones.

    • Hilarious Results

      I think that commenter’s reference to flu is more frightening. Since when are children a virus? Oh wait … nvm

  • deiseach

    “there was a rambunctious toddler at my baptism who yelled ‘Yay!’ after each person was confirmed”

    That’s the appropriate reaction :-)

    Matthew 21: 15-16: “But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became angry 16 and said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,
    ‘Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies
    you have prepared praise for yourself’?”

  • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

    I wonder about the Unselfishness vs Love thing. I really doubt it applies today. Many people would say something like being true to yourself is the highest virtue which is kind of the opposite of Unselfishness. Love has changed in meaning. In Lewis’ time it was more sentimental. In our time it has become more sexual. We just don’t know what it is. St Thomas said it was willing the good of the other as other. Now we talk more about tolerating the evil of the other. Even with the babies, we should tolerate them. How many would go beyond and affirm the family. Let them know how cool it is that they are able to travel. Let them know you saw a person and not an annoyance.

    I know I appreciate it when people do it at mass. People do tell us quite regularly how much they love seeing our big family. We have a little guy with Downs Syndrome who is really cute so I think he generates many of the comments. Still people love to be loved. It feels good to know someone saw you as a person willed your good.

  • Mike

    The more kids at mass the better IMO. They are a reminder of where we came from and where we’re headed and an indicator of the health of a congregation and its optimism about the future. Children bring a wonderful sense of being alive where ever they go and basically go around making the world a better place. So the louder and more rumbucious the better.

  • TerryC

    I did not advocate excluding children from Mass. I advocated that parents exercise reasonable discipline at Mass. Part of the reason for that is what is happening during Mass. A Yay after confirmation indicates an understanding of the significance of what is happening. Rolling a toy around the pew while trying to talk about it over the prayers of the priest does not. Trying to talk during the consecration about the picture book that they’re looking at does not. The very fact that they are looking at a picture book rather than listening to the prayers or praying themselves does not.
    If we expect our children to eventually understand the full significance of the sacrificial nature of the Mass, the place where heaven and earth meet, it is incumbent that they understand that the Church sanctuary is not just another room where they can play and talk and run. It is important that they understand that something is going on which is different than what happens in the movie theater or auditorium or living room.
    If a child is praying too loud, or singing off key, or excited because they are Mass I have no problem with that. I have a problem with parent treating Mass like its just another meeting they have to take their kids. Don’t they realize that if they’re spending all their time trying to entertain their child they might as well not even be there, because they sure aren’t paying attention to what’s going on either.
    So good for kids yelling, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” Not so good those yelling, “My Barney car’s stuck.”

  • http://OneFamilyManyFaiths.blogspot.com Y

    Most of the protestant congregations with which I’m familiar have nurseries for children without self control. If more of us would share our time and resources with young families, maybe we would have less anxiety in the world.

  • Guest

    It all boils down to an argument over cultural entitlement – and which side of the issue one thinks is more entitled to their approval and approbation. There isn’t going to be any agreement but it sure bumps up the blog hits.

    • Theodore Seeber

      The difference, being, of course, that one side will actually still be around a hundred years from now.

      • Guest

        I think both sides will still be bickering. The parents with little kids now will grow old and complain about the parents with little kids then.

        • Theodore Seeber

          That’s a rather charitable look at it, especially since as a parent I get more derisive comments from people like Alan above who don’t like breeders at all (and who I would assume, thus don’t have children themselves and never will).

  • Michael Matthew

    A bit of irony……………

    Is it not interesting that some people participating in mass find an aversion to young, generally innocent, children. But yet right above or near the focal point of mass, the altar, (at least it should be) is an image of a dead corpse that is bleeding, tortured, humiliated and yet we seem to have no aversion to this at all. Just an observation.

  • Izzie

    Forgetting the response of the rest of the world, to a child’s cry during any public event. I am more concerned about the parents, who , are not able to enjoy Mass or any other public event, because they are trying to sush their child, or trying to control them. In that case, maybe it is better for the well-being of the parents to leave them in nurseries.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1069731366 Karen Cox

    JeezusHimself — Refer to Luke 2:52 “Jesus grew in wisdom, and in stature, and in favor with God and man.”

  • http://www.withouthavingseen.com Ryan Haber

    Spot on, Leah. I can’t help but think that the tendency to exclude children from public places is connected with a number of other things.

    The anonymous comment you quoted above is funny, really. It reminds one of Swift. Children as organisms, indeed. It’s hard to gauge the moral and spiritual vacuity or callousness of a person to write such a thing. One prays it is satire, but senses it is not. You have to laugh.

    To follow up on Lewis, because selfishness is a vice, it doesn’t really follow that unselfishness is a virtue, as such. I am behaving perfectly unselfishly right now, by eating my own lunch and not pining after my neighbor’s.

    On the more menacing front, it is certainly closely tied to abortion. You cannot have killed a child without having precarious relations with other children thereafter, for a very long time. You cannot support killing the right to kill inconvenient children without seeing them as inconveniences that can and should be cleared out of the way, at least from time to time. You cannot favor fetal stem cell research without having instrumentalized children – and thus, effectively, all the adults who were once children – in our minds and modes of operating.

  • Dagnabbit_42

    It’s very simple:

    People are not stuff. Don’t treat them as stuff.

    And, (*cough*) we have an especially bad habit in our civilization of treating people as stuff when they lack the capability to speak up for themselves in an articulate and adult fashion. (Ever notice how, despite the number of women waiting until very late to have children, the number of Down’s Syndrome citizens seems to have dropped to a vanishingly small sliver of the populace? Odd, that.)

    As a consequence our risk of treating the very young and the very old and the very infirm and the very dependent as stuff instead of treating them as people is especially high.

    It follows that as a society we should be extra-careful not to commit that error; we should err on the side of being happy for the existence of the toddlers in our midst and encouraging the often tired, stressed, or apologetic mothers and fathers.

    Cigarette-smoking has obviously gone from indicator-of-coolness to indicator-of-nasty-dysfunction. That Native American with the tear running down seems to have changed social attitudes about littering. And our collective repentance from the vicious way in which America of the 70′s treated soldiers returned from Vietnam has borne some good fruit in the now-reflexive “support our troops” attitude of most civilized folk.

    So it is not impossible that, with concerted effort, we might make public heroes of mothers and fathers, and welcome children into our society instead of seeing them purely through the lens of the inconveniences they bring.

    And if we’re so myopic that we must see people as “stuff” — as tools to be used for our own ends rather than persons with an infinitely valuable story of their own — then, given the risk of demographic winter in some nations (if I recall the U.S. teeters on the edge of replacement rate but hasn’t really plunged over the cliff), perhaps seeing children as investments rather than inconveniences isn’t so unreasonable?

    At least, making it easier for parents to contemplate having more children would, in the end, have some advantages for us. Some young whippersnapper needs to be around with the skills and energy to perform routine maintenance on your ventilator when you’re 97, y’know.

  • Fiddlesticks

    “But it was your choice to have a child (well, again, assuming it was your choice to have the child), you should live with the consequences. People with the flu are expected to stay home, and they didn’t even chose that state of affairs about themselves. If you chose to be bound to a screaming and inconveniencing organism, you should also be choosing to sequester yourself until that organism stops being so inconveniencing.”

    I’m trying to get my head around this comment. It seems to be suggesting that people who don’t choose to have an abortion are selfish or stupid or inconveniencing the rest of society or something. Is that what the person meant to say?


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