I was standing at a corner in Kansas City, waiting to cross the street to the library where I sometimes write when I noticed a middle-aged man sitting in the grass. His hat was soaked with sweat, which was hardly a surprise as it was 102 and he’d just finished mowing the grass owned by the company with the corner lot.
He looked up at me.
“Hot one, huh?” he said.
“Yeah, man,” I said. “I’m glad I’m not you. That looks like torture.”
I pointed at the lawnmower behind him.
He turned to the red Toro. Then he looked back at me, wiping his face with the sleeve of the T-shirt issued him by Tito’s Landscaping.
“Well, you know how it is, I got kids to feed.”
I nodded and the light changed and I didn’t think anything more of it.
Until I did.
Even though we’ve been taught by our parents, by our teachers, by our priests, by movies, by books, by network sitcoms – by instincts that tell us to self-propagate – that having children is a noteworthy achievement, we’ve mostly come to terms with the fact that kids aren’t flesh-covered miracles.
Sure, we congratulate friends who announce pregnancies. We dote on other people’s babies. We sometimes pretend that every successful human birth really is a phenomenon as rare and breathtaking as a white buffalo or the section of Katy Perry that stretches from navel to neck.
But for the most part, our attitude is, well, good job I guess, but it’s not like we were about to run out.
We no longer view the act of having a child as particularly “noble.”
But raising a child? That’s a different matter.
Rape* and Immaculate Conception notwithstanding, people in developed countries have kids because they want to have kids.
*Legitimate and otherwise.
There are accidents, to be sure (damnable pleasure centers!) but even in the case of those “accidents,” someone made a decision somewhere along the way, be it not pulling out or forgetting the Ortho-Cyclin.
(If you don’t believe that and instead, believe that all babies are God’s tiny wish buckets, do me a favor and get right the shit off this website.)
There are no surprises: we know where kids come from, we know that life is going to change when they get here, and we know that they will cost…
And we know that to pay for that fuckton, we’re probably going to need to work a job.
Kids for you = a job for you.
Yet this notion prevails: that working to support your children is somehow noble; that when the guy from Tito’s tells me that he’s working to support his family, I am then supposed to dutifully congratulate him on his responsible nature, even though there are now 7 billion of us Daywalkers on Planet Earth and I have no doubt that we’d be fine without his kids, my (theoretical) kids, or Shawn Kemp’s (plentiful) kids.
Working to support your children is noble in the same way that working to support your gambling habit is noble, or that working to support your baseball card collection is noble, or that working to support having a Lamborghini Diablo is noble.
In other words, not noble at all.
And in fact just as selfish, when you peel away the layers of tradition, biological reinforcement, and societal approval.
You wanted a thing, you got the thing, now you have to pay for the thing.
What I’m saying, dude who has to mow yards for a living because he’s got two kids at home, is that I’m sorry you have to mow yards for a living.
That shit looks hot, and hard.
But I’m not sorry you have to mow yards for a living because you think you did the world a favor by putting your unsheathed man mallet inside your wife’s unprotected glory goal.
That was your idea.
And I just changed my mind.
I’m not going to the library; I’m going to CVS to buy a hundred condoms.
It’s hot out here, and I don’t want to mow anyone’s yard today.
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