Reminder: Kids Are People Too.

I often suspect that our outwardly child-centric culture (the one that obsessively tracks celebrity “baby bumps” and coos over the latest convert to parenthood, the one that freaks out when couples try to limit family size or seek permanent pregnancy prevention through surgery) is actually deeply allergic to the concept that children are, in fact, not accessories but actual human beings. I’ve argued before that our obsessive adoration of all things “cute” and child-like actually points toward a callous disregard for the actual lives of actual small human beings.

The recent case of a Tennessee mother returning her adoptive son to Russia with a note saying she no longer wanted to parent him (“I’ll remember you all in therapy!”) has given us an opportunity to consider a whole tangled web of complicated ethical issues such as the moral ins and outs of international adoption and the lack of structural support for parents with children they feel unequipped to care for. However, as Pilgrim Soul @ The Pursuit of Harpyness points out, it also suggests the level to which our culture has accepted the commodification model of parenting.

My question, you see, is this: what is our culture teaching people if they are consistently displaying the signs of believing that child rearing and child care is some kind of consumer lifestyle in which they will metaphorically purchase happiness by “selflessly” devoting themselves to a child? That the care of children is not viewed as a collective responsibility but rather an optional joy, and when it turns out that the experience isn’t joyful, that it’s too hard, you just, you know, go back to the store. Complain about the service you received. Call it a day. What happens or doesn’t happen to these kids when they are basically unwanted, no one talks about. That’s somebody else’s problem.

This manifests in more ways than clueless Tennessee women putting foreign children unaccompanied on planes. It manifests in the fact that foster care systems are often a disgrace, that school systems are a low funding priority, and that this country, for example, doesn’t have a functioning health care system to support people who do parent children of the non-Wheatabix-cereal-box-beauty commercial variety. These attitudes, I’m saying, have consequences. Generation after generation of these kids suffer both emotionally and materially from our habit of demanding certain habits from them, and no one really gives a shit. When was the last time you heard a politician get on his high horse about seriously reforming child services, and I mean, not in a “those social workers must be fired” kind of way, but in a “let’s have a conversation about whether this is the kind of society we want to be” way?

Go read the whole post @ Harpyness, since it’s totally worth it. And now I have to get back to polishing a presentation for Saturday’s conference.