Driving through suburbia one day with my
family I began railing against the waste associated with all the
big, green, well-watered, well-fertilized lawns wrapped, moat-like,
around every home. To me, it was pretty clear that the harms of
huge green private lawns outweigh any possible benefits.

Mira Levitan

However, I was told very succinctly by my parents that,
“When you have kids of your own, you will understand that a
nice grass-covered play area for your children makes a lot of
sense.” It’s a line parents use a lot to justify
selfish and destructive personal decisions and to defend a lack of
political involvement. “Sure I’m against the war, but I
can’t go to the protest because Jimmy has a soccer
game.”

Frankly, I’m sick of all this “when you have
kids” crap. Sure, having kids will change my opinions and
make me discover new truths, but it won’t change the
realities of the problems of the United States. All it will change
is that by having kids I will become more selfish and less
rational. Yeah, kids change peoples’ outlooks — for the
worse.

Why do twentysomethings abandon their anti-materialist outlooks
and buy Christmas presents or not run the organic farm they have
always wanted to operate? Why do parents work at corporate jobs
they hate and support a system that they used to believe was wrong?
Because they think it will better to provide for their kids, making
for happier boys and girls.

Agitators for having children argue that kids teach selflessness
and give parents a sense of responsibility for others on a level
that is unattainable any other way. Nonsense. Nothing is perhaps
more selfish than having children.

An immediate consequence of pregnancy is a turn toward selfish,
irrational personal decisions. People who hate the suburbs and
would never move out there on their own, suddenly feel the need to
move out to a gated community where the kids have access to
supposedly better schools and where kids will be
“safe,” leaving cities to rot as places not
kid-friendly enough.

So many parents justify their selfishness and absence from
political movements by arguing that, “As long as I raise my
kids right, then I’ve done good in the world.” This
logic, followed to its conclusion, amounts to nothing: Kids raised
right who raise their kids right to raise their kids right adds up
to three generations where nothing got done. Parents should not
lull themselves into apathy with the “teach your children
well” mantra.

With a myopic view of the needs of their own children, parents
may take to politics but only when it immediately and directly
effects their children. So parent teacher associations are home to
bitter feuds over little Kaytlyn’s social studies test while
bigger issues are ignored. Mothers and fathers may have opposed the
war in Iraq, but were too busy “raising their kids
right” to find time to protest or write a letter.

And where parenthood doesn’t create apathy it breeds
conservative Republicans. Many conservative appeals are aimed at
parents’ selfish interest in what is supposedly harmful to
their kids. “Think of what this does to our children”
is the argument used in conservative opposition to violent video
games, movies, music, pornography, gay marriage, abortion,
inheritance taxes, limits to suburban growth and decriminalizing
drugs, to name a few.

I’m not advocating that our generation not enter into
parenthood. But we should not rush. Wait until we are in our
thirties at least. And then we need to raise our kids right by
example. Parents who work in corporate jobs for the money, who stay
in marriages for the kids and plant lawns for T-ball aren’t
succeeding in raising their kids right.

As the next generation of parents, we cannot model ourselves on
the apathetic boomers who gave up their activism to keep their kids
safe. We should set real examples for changing the world throughout
our parenthood.

Political involvement and a willingness to stand up against a
system of oppression are the best ways to each our children
well.

In his “Letter from Birmingham City Jail,” Martin
Luther King Jr. stated that it wasn’t the Ku Klux Klan or
George Wallace that were the barriers to change, but the everyday
Americans who simply didn’t care or didn’t get
involved. Today, the majority of parents who gave up their
progressive views are worse than those who never held progressive
views and it is they who are the greatest barrier to change in the
world.

Piskor can be reached at
“mailto:jpiskor@umich.edu”>jpiskor@umich.edu.

 

 

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