We want a kid but don't think it's right to have one

How can you bring a kid into the world when you can't know in advance if the kid wants to exist?

By Cary Tennis

Published April 18, 2008 10:10AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I desperately want a child. I want, my husband wants, we want.

However, my husband and I purposely will not conceive a child. The reason is, we feel that what we want is not the most important thing. The most important consideration is toward the person who is most directly affected. The most important consideration is toward the child.

Making a life-altering decision without consulting the one most affected seems wrong. Also, there is a chance that once the child is grown, he may look back and feel, "I would have preferred nonexistence. There, I would have remained safe from all harm."

Also, any harm that comes to the child would be my fault and my husband's fault. If we had not conceived the child the harm would not have occurred. Do many other people think this way?

Wanting/Not Wanting

Dear Wanting/Not Wanting,

Many other people may not think this way but it is an interesting way to think because it hints at a world in which existence and nonexistence are inverted, in which not only can you have empathy for beings who do not yet exist but they can take revenge on you later even though you did not know exactly what you were creating. In this world we do not know whether what we create will thank us for it or smash the windows of our car.

If such a world exists, it implies that many other things we create may also take their revenge on us in ways we do not understand: that novels may refuse to be sold or read and paintings may refuse to be seen, that music may refuse to be played properly and movies refuse to be shown. It might explain why so many works of art seem to find such poor fates: They are taking revenge on their creators. They did not want to exist in the first place. They resent us. They laugh at us. They scorn our pitiable attempts to create beauty. They show each other their scars, like cosmetic surgery victims in the waiting room of torts attorneys. Perhaps they despise us for our hubris, too, for acting like gods so poorly, for not knowing our limits.

We know that in creating we steal fire. But what if we are harshly judged by the things we create? What if they take revenge on us for our sloppiness and lack of brilliance? What a terrifying world! No wonder sometimes the blank canvas can inspire such fear! A world like that would paralyze you into not creating or procreating, either one.

And children do look at their parents with pity and contempt. Maybe there is some love mixed in, and a bit of gratitude, but at one time or another they say, See you later, suckers, I'm off in your convertible to see my girl whose skin glows like silk and whose eyes shine like diamonds unlike your skin and your eyes, which let's not even go there.

And then maybe eventually in a thousand years all the things we have created finally calm down and allow their beauty to be discovered and they express belated gratitude to their creators -- like when children reach their 40s and suddenly say, Hey, by the way, thanks, Mom.

Perhaps many parents would say that is exactly what happens. But you cannot ask the kids before they exist whether they will appreciate being brought into being. So the logic, if you can call it that, does not serve. It is a logic to which there can only be one answer, so it is not really logic. It is fear and reluctance posing as logic. The truth of it seems to be that if you want kids you go ahead and have them and if you don't, you don't.

It's a crap shoot. By creating, you introduce uncertainty.

This is true of art and of childbearing. If you feel the drive to create then what do you do? It is somewhat anarchic. You have to just start typing, or fucking, or putting cells in test tubes or whatever. The typing or painting is like fucking in that you just start in and it takes you over. And the results may not be what the world seems to require. Often the results are not what the world requires. As in love, you start in and you are lost in it and what comes of it is beyond your moral categories. The world may not approve of your love, or of your writing, or of your decision to have a child. The world may say to you, there is enough writing in the world already, we do not need any more writing taking up the shelves, we do not need another child eating up our kale.

It is to some extent anarchic and selfish. So you don't have much else to go on except what you want.

OK, now we've got to tackle this one bit where you say any harm that would come to the child would be your fault because you created the child. That doesn't sound quite right to me. Well, it's true that if the child didn't exist then no harm could come to him. But that's different from saying it's your fault.

It's not your fault. Things are connected but that's different. Everything is connected. If you want to have a kid, if you are crazy to have a kid, I don't see why you don't just have the kid and see what happens.

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