The Radical Notion that Children are People
I have no beef with people who choose to be childfree. I mean, there are enough people in the world that having people willingly abstain from breeding is probably a better choice than creating more consumers for diminishing resources. I get it. I really do.
When I was thinking about having a baby, I examined my motives in a typically rigorous fashion and concluded that I could come up with no really good reason to justify having a child. (Well, I had one: my husband had almost died when we’d only been married for four months. But that’s another story.)
Carry on my husband’s family name? Archaic. Because my DNA is so awesome it shouldn’t go to waste? Please.
In the end, I just threw up my hands and said, “I don’t have a good reason. I just want to have a baby.” And so I did. Rather more quickly than I was expecting.
What I find bothersome — no, offensive — is the blithe statement, “I’m not going to have children because I hate kids.”
Before I became a parent, I just thought that was an unnecessarily harsh way to justify your choice, and possibly overly defensive. After I became a parent, I found it personally offensive.
My experience with babies until I had my own was confined to a few babysitting gigs as a teenager and perhaps a couple of interactions with my friends’ kids when I was in my twenties. My feelings towards babies could have been best described as PROFOUNDLY UNCOMFORTABLE. But I was never a person to say that I hated kids.
Conversely, when I had a child, I did not automatically love all children or even find them tolerable. There are kids that I like and some that I dislike. This has been true since my daughter’s earliest days of preschool. Because all of those little people have personalities, and even if you’re an adult, some personalities just don’t mesh.
After my daughter was born, hearing people say they hated kids got my hackles up immediately, and it took me a while to figure out why.
It’s because my daughter is a person, and hearing someone say they hate a whole group of people who aren’t like them because of their behavior and appearance generally has an “-ism” after it: racism, sexism, ageism, ableism. None of which are good things either in theory or practice.
If you say, “I hate kids,” but take out “kids” and put in a different collective noun, such as “women,” “homosexuals,” or “people of color,” you sound like a bigot. Any intelligent person would be within their rights to call you out on that. But for some reason it’s okay to say that you hate kids, all kids, any kids, and that includes my kid. Because your choice to not have a baby makes this a reasonable explanation. And I don’t really think it is.
You don’t have to justify or explain your decision not to have children. I realize that lots of people wait for that followup explanation, “I don’t want kids because…” but honestly, it’s nobody’s business. “Because I don’t want any” is perfectly reasonable. I know that’s not the case all the time, but you do not have to come up with the nuclear option of “I hate kids” to justify yourself.
Just because I’m a parent doesn’t mean I find that misbehaving toddler in the restaurant any more pleasant to endure than the childfree person does. I might be able to understand why the kid is having a tantrum a little better, but it doesn’t change my wish for the parent to remove the child until they’re under control.
My immediate response to “I hate kids” is “Screw you, you don’t even know my kid. My kid is awesome.” Because my child is a person, and she is her own person, and you don’t have the right to judge her any more than you have the right to judge someone else based on their appearance. Dislike my daughter if you must, but dislike her as an individual. Because that’s what she is. That’s who she is.
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