Saying Goodbye to Our Cat

The brown cat on the left side of my blog banner is named Mischief. When I was setting up my blog, I wanted a picture that wasn’t a stock illustration and that showed part of my family. For privacy reasons, I didn’t want to post photographs of my husband or children; I decided that our cats were cute family members, so made their picture my blog banner. Until very recently, Mischief was an ornery, affectionate little beast who lived up (or down) to his name and felt it his duty to pee on anything we left on the floor. After a rapid decline due probably to an underlying cancer, the vet recommended we euthanize him, which we did yesterday afternoon.

My husband and I have done our best to help our children understand what is happening. The 6-year-old cried a great deal yesterday, and spent every spare minute with Mischief; the 5-year-old had periods of intense crying in between seeming perfectly happy; the 3-year-old accepts that Mischief is gone and says this makes him sad, but hasn’t actually cried or appeared to grieve. “I wish I could be like him,” sobbed our daughter, looking at her youngest brother cavorting happily around the table.

“No, I’m glad you’re tender-hearted,” said my husband.

“We’re sad because we love him. It is good to feel love,” I said.

“Do you think Mischief loves you?” asked my husband.

My daughter wrinkled her nose and looked skeptical. “I don’t know about that,” she said. We laughed, but it seems to me that Mischief did love her and her brothers, even though they sometimes chased him around the house with Nerf guns. (Unloaded Nerf guns, I should add.) At dinnertime he’d put his paws on us and beg for food, and if someone left the table he’d hop on the missing person’s chair and start trying to sniff plates. He accepted pats from all of us, even the overenthusiastic three-year-old.

Today there wasn’t nearly as much weeping, though every now and then a child will say forlornly, “I want Mischief.” We dug him a little grave in our yard and painted a headstone for him, and told stories about his funny antics. Our surviving cat, Neko, seems to be doing well enough. Life goes on. And watching my kids dealing with their sadness, I am pleased to see that they can grieve the passing of another, and also that their grief is starting to lessen a little bit. There is a time for mourning, and a time for rejoicing, and it is important that our kids learn how to confront sorrow. Alas, they’ll have plenty of practice with it.

Now, in the Grand Scheme of Things, grief over a cat is a small thing compared with the grief that others are suffering as they lose their human friends and relations. This grief occurs every day, and just now it is in the news in an unusually prominent way. But I do not think it minimizes human suffering to cry over a little brown cat who used to enjoy swatting balls out of the air, almost suffocated himself in a cat nip jar, and started (and lost) numerous fights with his brother. The loss of a beloved pet reminds us that living things are not disposable or interchangeable, but unique beings; Mischief will no more sit on our lap, or smack his brother to get him to play. We do not notice the fall of every sparrow, but we will notice the emptiness he leaves.

Rest in peace, Mischief.

Song of My Three-Year-Old, Walking With Daddy

I am walking, all by my se-LLFF

And I’m not getting in the stroll-EERRR

And I’m walking, by my se-LLFF

Which is much more better, than dri-VIING

And I love bun-NNIEES

And they like to hop

And I’ll grow up to be a dad-DDYY

And I’m not getting in the stroll-ERRR

Which is at our house

And I love yo-UU

And I love every-bod-EEE

And I love Jes-USSS

And Jesus is Go-ODDD

And God is Jes-SUUUS

And I love singing this so-NGG

And this is the best song in the wo-RLLD

And I love peo-PPLE

And Jesus is peo-PPLE

And God is not peop-PPLE

But God is Jesus

And a car is com-MING

And look there is some tras-SHH

 

Hey look two doggies!

 

And I love dog-GGIESS

And I love Rudolph the Red-nose Reindeer

And is it Christmas

And I’ll sing Christmas songs

And I haven’t seen Rudolph in awhile

And we’re catching up to Mom-meee

And Sister and Brother

And I haven’t done anything bad today

I haven’t done many bad things today

I did one bad thing today

And I love singing this song

And it’s the best song in the world

And there is grass here

And I don’t want it grow here

 

A Really Useless Set of Conclusions

I’ve been busy making up homeschool lessons for my oldest, so I haven’t had much time to write. I’ve carefully looked over graphs of the COVID-19 spread, read articles on the health and economic effects of shutting down for various periods, watched our politicians racing to blame each other and fight over stimulus bills, and considered the plights of old folks, young folks missing milestones, low-income workers, and medical personnel, and I’ve come to a number of conclusions:

  1. I haven’t any idea just how dangerous this virus is, and it’ll be a long time before we know just how many people have had it.
  2. I haven’t any idea if any of the new treatments are going to help.
  3. I don’t know when a vaccine will be available, though I was cheered to see that SARS-Cov-2 doesn’t seem to mutate as wildly as influenza.
  4. I don’t know just how badly our economy is going to be hit.
  5. I don’t know if our social, economic, and cultural habits will change in a lasting way.
  6. I don’t know if we should be rigorously isolating at-risk folks and getting everyone else back to work and school.
  7. I don’t know if the gigantic stimulus bill is going to help in the short term, though it’s hard for me to think it’ll be anything but a disaster in the long term.
  8. I don’t if the outbreak will become something seasonal. I don’t know if it’s affected by warm weather.
  9. I don’t know how many people are infected and dead in Iran, but I’d bet good money it’s more than in Italy or Spain, let alone the ridiculous numbers the government’s putting out.
  10. I’m not trusting that China’s numbers have leveled off as much as they say they have, but I’ll accept what they say unless and until evidence to the contrary comes to light.
  11. I really don’t think the epidemic or the world’s reactions are a plot by anybody. I think there’s a whole heap of blame to go around for reacting poorly–starting with the authorities in Wuhan, who are ultimately responsible for COVID-19 turning into a pandemic–but I don’t know what other leaders should have done, or what they should be doing now to make the best of a bad situation.
  12. I trust doctors more than I trust economists or politicians, but since politics, economics, and medicine are all mixed up together it’s hard for me to trust anything anyone says. I still like that neat Hopkins map, though!

So, to sum up: I know nothing, and I have no opinion on what is the Best Thing to Do Now. Is anybody else in my boat, or do you all know what the real situation is and what we ought to be doing about it?

Musings on Coronavirus

Yes, all right, I admit that the last thing the world needs is another random post on COVID-19. I’m sick to death of seeing Facebook posts, memes, lists, and newsletters, most of which either repeat the same sensible advice (wash your hands, don’t hoard masks, leave some toilet paper for the rest of us), express fear about the virus, or tell us to stop fearing the virus. The articles about people’s personal experiences living with the virus or the effects of the quarantines are interesting, on the other hand, and I really like the pretty map Johns Hopkins put out! It would have been neat to see one for the H1N1 virus, which killed somewhere in the hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.

Actually, let’s talk about swine flu for a minute. It is unknown just how many people it killed–the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated slightly less than 300,000 in 2009, with a case fatality rate of…er…less than 1 to more than 10,000 deaths per 100,000 cases or infections, depending on which study you believe. The review I just linked to was published in 2013, four years after the 2009 event, and still the case fatality rate is not definite. Do not expect to see firm numbers on the fatality of COVID-19 any time soon.

I would also like to talk about the flu season that has no catchy name and has passed nearly unnoticed by the press–the 2017–2018 flu season, which killed 61,000 Americans and was the deadliest flu season in 40 years. This is five times the number of Americans dying from swine flu. If you asked a random American which year in the 21st century was the deadliest flu season year, though, I would be prepared to bet that many would answer “the swine flu season,” or maybe the 2012 season.

Note that in discussing other epidemics, I am not engaging in whataboutism here; the at-least-4,584 dead of coronavirus as of this writing will increase, and even if this disease kills mainly old or chronically ill people that will be a lot of deaths. If my mother or in-laws catch coronavirus and die of it, I won’t say cheerfully, “Oh, well, they were old and sick, anyway,” and many whose loved ones are at risk are infuriated that this population seems to be dismissed as unimportant. I am delighted to hear that children and working-age adults don’t seem to be particularly vulnerable to coronavirus, but it is worth repeating that old and sick people are still valuable, beloved human beings. In addition, health systems burdened with coronavirus may cause increased mortality for other conditions, as hospital beds, equipment, and medical personnel won’t be as readily available.

With all this acknowledged, it is still very interesting to see coronavirus so much in the news. China continues to be locked down! Italy is quarantined! Does the Pope have coronavirus? Look at the big red circles on the map! Coronavirus: Coming to a location near you. My kid’s school, my local politicians, and my church have all sent out messages about the coronavirus assuring us that they are monitoring the situation and will provide appropriate recommendations as needed. Why all the fuss?

My husband thinks that the hysteria is mainly driven by liberal media determined to bring down Trump. He may be right; certainly the stock market’s steep drop isn’t helping Trump’s position, and whatever action he takes or does not take can be suitably derided and howled at by lefties. I don’t think that’s the whole story, though; especially after the SARS, bird flu, and Ebola outbreaks, a Novel Virus Emerging From China (or Africa) has become a paradigm for scary stories. (Interestingly enough, the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome [MERS], also caused by a coronavirus, didn’t garner as much publicity in spite of a case fatality rate higher than 1 in 3 patients.)

China itself signaled that coronavirus was a big deal when, after shutting down suggestions of a novel viral illness in December, it reversed course and attempted to control the rapidly-expanding outbreak by imposing harsh, extended quarantines upon millions of Chinese. Perhaps it’s wrong to call their response “unprecedented,” but it’s hard to think of comparable measures in recent history, at least. I believe that these extraordinary measures fueled interest in the coronavirus and its effects, and prompted the rest of the world to follow suit.

If stringent restrictions succeed in keeping the global disease burden down, then people will scoff, “Oh! That COVID-19 only killed X thousand people; totally unjustified hysteria” when in fact these restrictions may save many lives and prevent many more hospitalizations. Extended lockdowns, however, have their own dangers; a downturn in the world economy may cause more sickness and death because of less opportunities to earn money and less availability of food and medicine. Who can say whether overreaction or underreaction will cause more harm?

We’ll see what happens when the dust clears. In the mean time, yes, wash your hands; if you want to prevent coronavirus with elderberry syrup or booze, that sounds like a fine measure to me. (I’m picturing a brunch that includes fruit for the vitamin C, pancakes topped with elderberry syrup, and screwdrivers or mimosas. Good way to distract you from being housebound if you’re in quarantine.) And please, don’t follow my example; post on anything you like, any story at all, but not, please, on coronavirus. Thanks.

All of Us Rude Parents

Before it became a feminist news outlet, I enjoyed the Scary Mommy site. The volume and variety of content reminded me a bit of that song from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: “Something familiar, something peculiar, something for everyone…something appealing, something appalling.” Every now and then stories from the site pop up on my Facebook feed, including one titled “Gentle Parenting Isn’t Always Easy, But It Is Rewarding.” I finished reading it with my prejudice against “gentle parenting” intact.

Frankly, it isn’t necessarily the parenting methods described by self-proclaimed gentle parents that annoy me as much as the self-congratulatory title, which all too often accompanies a holier-than-thou attitude toward their own parenting and a blindness to the good in others’ styles. When looking at a gentle parenting article, I am always prepared to find heaps of scorn for parents who don’t follow this “scientific, evidence-based approach,” and who also deny that the tenets gentle parents espouse (empathy, respect, understanding, and boundaries) are in fact common to most good parents. What are parents who don’t adopt the “gentle” moniker? Rude? Harsh? Nothing good, you may be sure. We bark orders at our 2-year-olds and beat them mercilessly when they cry, creating cowering, emotionally-stunted messes who need lots of therapy to help them overcome their ungentle upbringing.

The current post begins by focusing on “the judgment that tells us we shouldn’t snuggle our babies to sleep. You know, out of fear that they will become “too attached” to their brand new mommy or daddy.” Strawman alert: people recommend that you put your child down sleepy but awake not because they don’t want your kid to be too “attached,” but because doing so allows your child to (eventually) soothe himself to sleep. Most people recognize that it’s hard to do this with newborns and describe this as a gradual, dare I say gentle, process.

“We’re told that nursing our baby on demand instead of sticking to a strict three-hour block-schedule is going to make our infant “spoiled” (as if that’s such a thing). If we wake up for the fifth time in one night and decide to rock our babe to sleep yet again, we are creating “bad habits.”” This author completely ignores the fact that feeding newborns on demand is widely promoted by the American Academy of Pediatrics and most parenting resources; the “Baby-Wise” approach of timed feeding hasn’t been popular for awhile, though it’s still there.

The author then states that if we were dealing with adults, no one would disapprove of cuddling and comforting them back to sleep. This paragraph is a veritable cornfield of straw men:

“When adults are upset and shedding a tear or two, sometimes the gentle touch or tight hug from a loved one is much needed.” (When adults cry, it’s usually because something terrible or sad has occurred. Babies cry regularly, and most of the time we snuggle them in response.) “On those nights when we are too restless to sleep, we enjoy and appreciate the closeness of our partner to keep us company.” If my husband is suffering from insomnia, he does not wake me up because he’d enjoy some company. True, we sleep together, but when I was living with my brother as an adult I never wandered into his room and woke him up to keep me company; nor did he do the same to me. “If we wake up aching and down for the count with a fever, it’s comforting when someone is by our side and eager to care for us until we are better.” I personally know zero parents of ANY parenting philosophy who don’t care for their sick kids at night. My husband and I have never said to our young kids, “Ah, sorry you threw up. Be a good kid and throw your dirty stuff in the laundry, huh? See you in the morning,” and I cannot imagine even the strictest of parents doing such a thing unless they’re actually negligent or abusive (which is different than having a different parenting style).  

After telling us that babies communicate by crying, the author goes on “We hold them while they ride out the tummy troubles, squeeze them extra tight as they are cutting a big mean tooth, and we rock them to sleep ten times a night with droopy eyelids when it’s needed.” Yes, duh. We all do that. Here’s the big question: How often is “needed”?

The author provides an absolutely bonkers answer and establishes her mommy-martyr cred in the next few sentences: “Our children’s need for us knows no bounds (says the mother who was up every hour, on the hour with her five-year-old this week). We are never off the hook when it comes to the high demands placed on our shoulders as a little person’s parent, and it really is so short lived…there isn’t some magical number in age where our kids stop needing us, nor should they ever feel like they are “too big” for their parents to stop being intentional with the way they are cared for.” We have, then, the author’s real thesis, which is not “We should snuggle and care for our babies” (not controversial), but that in some ways at least we should never stop treating them as babies.

Now, she and her 5-year-old have my sympathy if her 5-year-old was so sick that she was up every hour on the hour–unless the child was ill with a vaccine-preventable illness, in which case I have no sympathy at all for this author. But it is simply nonsense to say that our children’s need for us “knows no bounds,” and we’re “never off the hook.” Rather, a child’s need for us knows very definite bounds that change as the child grows up. A newborn really does need more or less constant feeding, snuggling, and attention. They don’t need to be taught how to tie their shoes; that comes later. A three-year-old child does not need that same proximity to their parents, and should possess the skills to be a little bit independent. A thirteen-year-old child needs something else again. These needs may differ from child to child, or be fulfilled in different ways from parent to parent, but they are not boundless, nor are they static. Barring medical or developmental problems, 5-year-olds should not be getting up at night as often as 5-week-olds.

I have no idea what “there isn’t some magical number in age where our kids stop needing us, nor should they ever feel like they are “too big” for their parents to stop being intentional with the way they are cared for” actually means, but coming on top of the other stuff it sounds very much like the author is okay with bed-sharing into the kids’ tween years, breastfeeding until approximately the same age, and not instituting barbaric practices like a regular bedtime.

The author then attempts to prove that “gentle parenting” is necessary because Young kids aren’t able to manage their emotions just yet, and even some (almost all) adults struggle with it from time to time. It takes years and years to teach our children how to live in this big, big world that can be quite intimidating to even the bravest of them all. And as a parent, it is our responsibility to help them navigate it. Not to say, “Sorry, kid. You’re on your own for this one.” This is a fine mix of some obvious truths and foolish advice. It is absolutely our responsibility as a parent to help our kids navigate this world and deal with their own emotions. And guess what? A vital part of that process is to sometimes say “Sorry, kid. You’re on your own for this one.” If we swoop in to rescue our kids from every distress, we get fragile kids and adults without the necessary resilience to cope with the problems of everyday life. This is failing our children in a big way, and I believe it’s seen in the ever-increasing rates of mental health issues among our youth.

The author continues to miss the point when, after delivering a paean to the most precious, valuable beings on the planet (children), she says that “I’ll be the first to admit that it isn’t always fun waking up with a screaming baby many times throughout the night. But as much as it’s not always fun for me, I have to consider just how not fun it is for my child at the same time. No one wants to scream until their throat is dry, scratchy, and hurting.” Exactly right. This is why you teach the child, at an appropriate age, to soothe themselves. In the long run, you are decreasing their distress by giving them the tools they need to put themselves back to sleep when they wake up. There are many paths to a good night’s sleep, and some children don’t respond well to sleep training, but at some point the kid shouldn’t need Mommy to make it through the night.

She is also creating monsters when she does things like fill up her 5-year-olds’ cups in the middle of the night. “Sometimes I’m internally screaming, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!” when one of my five-year-olds insists on needing another drink in the middle of the night. Then I remember how many times I fill up my cup from dusk to dawn,” [how often does she get up to pee?] “and how little it takes of me to refill my child’s  Frozen 2 water bottle one last time. These are the things I do for my kids that some people might consider “over the top,” but I make no apologies for the way I choose to parent.”

“Make no apologies,” huh? This author is free to parent however she wishes, but she would be much wiser to tell her 5-year-old kids, “If you want a drink, the faucet is over there. Now don’t wake me up again unless there’s blood, vomit, or a fire. We need sleep in order to be good parents to you, and you need your sleep, too.” Even during the day I make no apologies for pointing out the water dispenser to my thirsty kids and telling them that they’re welcome to help themselves to a drink.

I’ve spent this post attacking the author’s approach to parenting. I don’t generally like to do this; as I’ve said before, kids do fine no matter how you parent them, as long as you’re not actually abusive or neglectful. But I cannot stand the smug, self-righteous tone of mommies (it’s nearly always mommies) who declare themselves “warrior mamas,” or proudly proclaim their superiority to Those Other Folks who don’t babywear or who give their kids time outs (let alone swats on the behind). I get it: You’re a parent, you love your kids, you’re doing your best. So are we all, rude parents included.

Who’s Responsible?

A police officer arrested a 6-year-old girl who was having a tantrum and hitting her teacher. He ziptied her wrists and booked her on battery charges, bragging that she was the youngest suspect he’d arrested. He arrested another 6-year-old that day, and was fired about a week later after people expressed outrage at his actions.

The arrest shouldn’t have occurred.

But neither should the girl’s outburst.

Schools are in a difficult position. They risk lawsuits if they restrain children who are lashing out, and unfortunately more children are lashing out as mental health problems multiply. Matt Walsh calls this incident “criminalizing childhood,” but I disagree; it isn’t normal childhood behavior for 6-year-old children to hit their teachers. Unfortunately, it appears to be becoming more prevalent. Mental illnesses are up among our kids; so is antisocial behavior.

My sister-in-law and I were discussing this subject over lunch. Owing to redistricting, her daughter’s school will become more crowded, with an influx of kids who have been known to exhibit bad behavior. Naturally, she is worried about the effect on her child’s learning and social development. We discussed other problems, too–most of which boiled down to the fact that schools are expected to provide social services, therapy, counseling, and basic life skills. Schools are ill-equipped to do this; they must operate under certain constraints, they are subject to a great-deal of top-down diktats, and most importantly teachers are not social workers, nurses, therapists, police officers, or the parents of their students.

Indeed, schools are in many ways trying to fill in for parents who cannot or will not provide for their kids in some way. “When I taught preschool,” said my sister-in-law, “I always told the parents at the beginning of the school year, ‘You know your kids better than I do. If you see a problem, please come talk to me about it, because you know what your kids need.’ Even though I spent a lot of time with them during the day, I didn’t assume that I knew everything about how they were doing. That was up to their parents.”

Now, saying that many of our kids’ ills spring from poor parenting is true, but insufficient. “Parenting” itself is, as I am fond of saying, highly influenced by culture. What values, skills, and knowledge are prized? What sorts of relationships are normal? What resources are needed and available, and who provides them?

But then again, how are values, skills, knowledge, and relationships developed but by parenting? We have here a chicken-and-egg problem, in which social and relational failings cause problems in children who grow up to be parents and may repeat the dysfunction they experienced as kids. Children with separated parents are more likely to experience bad outcomes as adults than children who live with both parents, and they are also more likely to separate themselves when they become parents. This becomes a dreadful positive-feedback cycle, in which brokenness leads to brokenness–although none of it is inevitable; the sources I’ve linked to also note that many children of divorced parents do fine in the long run.

It is ironic that we’re seeing this kind of deterioration, given that more is expected of parents than in past ages. We don’t have to just bear, feed, clean, shelter, doctor, discipline, and educate the kiddos–no, we have to spend time enriching them with the plethora of books, apps, and educational experiences available to them. We don’t send them off to plow the fields at 11, but to soccer camp instead. And yet we have children who hit their parents and their teachers; rude, entitled children who don’t know how to behave decently toward others; helpless children who cannot manage money, do laundry, or cook a meal at age 18.

Mind, I see plenty of parents who are taking care to instill respect, decency, diligence, and self-sufficiency in their kids. My area and my kid’s school are filled with children who are generally well-behaved; little snots sometimes, as all children can be, but not violent or antisocial. But as schools try more and more to fill in the place of parents, they enable parents to abdicate their responsibilities toward their children. I don’t want to take away free breakfasts or free lunches from poor kids, but I also don’t want schools trying to teach my kids how to navigate the complexities of social, emotional, sexual, and spiritual development; that’s up to my husband and me. And as long as we do our job, our child should not end up on the news after being hauled away in the back of a cruiser.

The Revolution Is Incomplete

I was oddly cheered by my daughter’s dinnertime report of some teasing she’d experienced at school. She explained that some kids had noticed her being nice to an unpopular boy and had started chanting “[My Daughter] and [Other Kid] sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G….” The same thing had happened to me when I was a child in school, but unlike young me my daughter wasn’t particularly bothered by this rather weak insult. She has assured me that she isn’t going to be mean to the unpopular boy in response to these comments, and she seems to understand that the dumb or rude things kids say are not worth getting upset over.

As we discussed the incident, my daughter wondered, “Why don’t kids ever tease me about being nice to my friend M? I spend a lot more time with her.” She thought for a moment, then said, “Is it because…is it because…she’s a girl, and boys can only get married to girls, and girls can only get married to boys?”

I said yes, I thought it was. “So even though I spend lots of time with M people know that I can’t kiss or marry her.”

And there we have it; despite every enlightened person’s best efforts, the first-grade social scene remains stubbornly hetero-cis-normative. The teasing children have identified my daughter and her friend as members of a subset of human beings called “girls,” and the unpopular child as a “boy”; they have even imported the assumption of heterosexual relations into her relations with the two. The revolution is incomplete.

 

Relevant, If Not Obviously So

This blog is about parenting–chiefly about my experiences, thoughts, and helpful hints on raising children, along with the occasional humorous piece. Every now and again, however, I step into what may be called “relationship territory,” as in this piece, this one about troubleshooting one’s husband, this one, and this one. Parenting is not the main focus of these posts, so why are they on the blog?

One reason is that this is my blog, and I like to write about what interests me; certainly, consideration of the roles and relationships between men and women in contemporary America is interesting. I grew up in a household in which “feminist” was always considered a dirty word, but found in adulthood that I’d absorbed a great deal of feminist ways of thinking without realizing it–specifically, pedestalizing women; believing that men should fix romantic relationships by endlessly accommodating women’s feelings; thinking that one shouldn’t actively search out a romantic relationship because you should have a full and complete life on your own, which may be what God intended for you; and ignorance of some of the causes of lowered marriage rates.

My husband introduced me to Dalrock’s blog, which has just concluded, but whose first five or so years are full of valuable posts that help make sense of contemporary relations between the sexes. I didn’t agree with everything Dalrock wrote, and still less with everything the commenters wrote (especially as time went on), but there are some excellent insights both into the larger State of Things and into my own blind spots. Dalrock eventually ran out of things to say and has stopped posting, but I hope he will maintain his archive. Currently, I enjoy reading Boxer’s blog (note that he sometimes uses crude language and says unkind things about Christians; however, he’s funny, clever even when he’s playing the fool, and genuinely considers other perspectives), Sigma Frame, Gunner Q, and Derek Ramsey’s blog (very thoughtful). Even when I disagree with these men’s posts, there’s often something to be gained from them. ETA: I also like to read The Transformed Wife.

There is another reason for occasionally straying from questions of diapers and schooling into how feminism has affected (infected?) the relations between men and women, and it’s obvious with just a little thought: You need bits from a man and a woman to make a baby, and the baby’s got to be housed in the woman for several months. The baby then has to be raised by someone, and its development is greatly affected by who that someone is and what his or her relations are with others. A child who grows up in his mother’s household, visits his father occasionally, and watches his parents date and perhaps remarry is learning something different about relationships than a child who grows up together with his biological parents. Parental abuse and abandonment matter; adoption matters; being raised by two men or two women matters; growing up with feminist or patriarchal parents matters. Therefore, considering the natures of men, women, and relationships is pertinent to parenting, which does not occur in a vacuum.

Finally, our children will grow up and inherit a certain kind of world. In order to prepare them to succeed in this world, we must have an accurate idea of its conditions and challenges. My sons should be warned about false rape accusations, misandryst family courts, and church cultures that pretend to uphold the family but are really ready to side with women in most cases. My daughter should be warned that men prefer debt-free virgins without tattoos, her fertility has unrelenting temporal limits, and that many men may be gun-shy of marriage because feminism has poisoned the well so badly.

I’m only eight years into marriage, but I haven’t yet found it hard. Life is hard, but marriage has made it easier, and more joyful. Obviously, circumstances such as death, disability, or financial trouble would strain our relations, but we both know we’re in it for the long haul and we’re happy to be so. I’m immensely grateful to be parenting my kids along with my husband, and sharing his goals and vision. My children exist in the context of my marriage, and for this reason I think it’s appropriate, once in a while, to consider relations between the adults who are responsible for making and raising babies.

Late Abortion

A man and woman decided that the child they had together was enough, and wished to obtain an abortion for the son the woman was carrying. A commonplace story, except for the matter of timing; the woman was at least 28 or 29 weeks along, meaning that it would have been hard to find a facility willing to kill her viable child. They ordered some misoprostol from India, took it, and left their born-alive son to die. They put him in a shoebox. Both have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and some other charges.

Pro-life advocates can point out that it is hypocritical to charge a woman with obtaining her own abortion merely because the child’s gestational age is greater, but most people at most points along the spectrum of opinions about abortion will feel some revulsion at a woman disposing of a healthy baby who could have lived outside her womb. A fetus at 28 or 29 weeks looks very much like a baby, and engenders sympathy accordingly.

This story is not the one people tell when discussing the legality of late-term abortions. Most stories of late-term abortions are moving narratives about parents who are excited to welcome their new child, have painted the nursery and had a baby shower, only to discover that the child has something terribly wrong with it that will condemn it to an inevitable, painful death. These stories are generally told when people discuss the legality of late abortion; how dare you condemn these parents who are trying to make terrible choices and who are acting in their children’s best interests?

But just how many late abortions are obtained because of lethal anomalies? (After viability, a threat to the mother’s life is no reason for an abortion–doctors can simply deliver the child if the mother has developed severe preeclampsia, for example.) There aren’t good data to answer this question, but researchers believe that they “make up a small minority of later abortion” cases. One study shows that the top reasons for delay in abortion were not recognizing the pregnancy, being unsure about whether to abort the baby or not, disagreeing with the child’s father about whether or not to kill the baby, or having trouble finding a suitable abortion facility and paying for the procedure.

The authors of this study note that women who obtain late abortions are often young, single mothers, depressed or dealing with other mental health issues, substance abusers, or women fitting more than one of these categories. One mother profiled discovered her pregnancy at just five weeks, but her husband would not allow her to obtain an abortion; after counseling, she found the courage to leave him and kill his child. Now she hopes to raise her (living) daughter as a single mother. The author concludes that “women in our study who obtained first‐trimester abortions and women who obtained abortions at or after 20 weeks’ gestation were remarkably similar.”

Research such as this study isn’t widely publicized any time there’s talk of a bill restricting late abortions. Although the author tries to create sympathy for the women profiled in the paper, this simply isn’t going to create the same tug at the heartstrings as the tragically-bereaved couple who must make an agonizing choice. Instead, it looks like most women who get abortions at advanced gestational ages are obtaining them for the same reasons that women get earlier abortions; they have simply encountered some obstacle (ignorance, finances, relationship) that prevents them from ending the pregnancy earlier.

The women also appear to regard their children in much the same way as do women who get early abortions. Some do fret and waver over the decision, but ultimately the child’s life is subject to the woman’s convenience. The child is not considered to have a right to life, unless the woman ends her pregnancy in the inept, furtive manner that I described above.

The next time that people bring up the inhumanity of restricting late abortions, remind yourself that those difficult cases they trot out in support of their position are a minority. Those parents’ stories are being used to support the murder of unwanted viable babies.

Fairness Through Inequality

Have you seen that meme where you are urged to inoculate your kids against socialism by giving one kid $10 to clean the bathroom, then taking away $7 of that money and distributing it to the siblings who didn’t help? It’s silly and trite, and I doubt anyone’s actually followed this “advice.” (Though I must admit to eating some of my kids’ Halloween candy and informing them that I was giving them a lesson in taxes.) But certainly, if you explain socialism to children as “People who work get their money taken away to be given to people who don’t,” you’ll get (for a little while, anyway) devout anti-socialists.

Fairness is a big deal to kids. They are, predictably, much more concerned that everyone behave fairly to them than they are to be fair to others, just as toddlers learn how to cry “Theeey’re not SHARING with me!” long before they consistently share their own things with others. Man is a selfish animal, so the beginning of a great deal of moral development is selfish too; once you have the principle “I want to be treated like X,” you have the basis for “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

In the home, parents should be the guardians of fairness and justice. Those who have a “golden child” and a scapegoat are rightly castigated, and both the golden child and the scapegoat suffer as adults. But upholding fairness does not always mean that we give equally to our children; a mentally healthy child must be loved, cared for, and nurtured, but shouldn’t be given the same extensive treatment that her sister with bipolar disorder needs. Children with Type 1 diabetes will have more medical appointments than children without. This is common sense, though there is always the danger that the “normal” child will feel (and may be) neglected because the parents are focusing on the child with problems.

Fairness also means giving more to children who earn it. Not more love, security, and necessities–never that. No child should have to earn such things. But going back to that silly meme, a child who does an extra task should be paid for it, and his siblings should not. A child who is well-behaved should be given privileges that his poorly-behaved siblings are not. The family should not be some kind of social-Darwinism experiment, but parents are failing their children if they don’t provide positive incentives for their kids to be diligent, truthful, obedient, and kind.

We cannot prevent our kids from crying that we are being “unfair” to them, even when this is not the case; a child watching her brother buy some expensive toy with money he’s earned may think it most unfair that her parents aren’t buying her a toy, too. But if parents consistently practice fairness toward their children, they should grow up with a more balanced sense of what is fair and what is not, and be equipped to be decent members of society. Sometimes that means giving a lollipop to just one child, which is certainly promoting inequality, but ultimately is upholding fairness.