mystical unicorn child
May 23, 2010, 6:00 pm
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: , , ,

Guess which culture insisted a young or newly widowed woman be quickly married again:  the turn of the century Roman state, or the contemporary fledgling group called Christian?  And, of course, the corollary question Is implied:  which left her alone?  Today we automatically assume Christian because our own Christian groups are conservative and fetishize marriage and family.  But the correct answer is the Roman state which put a much higher value on family for many reasons, I’m sure not the least of which was control.  The early Christians, however, saw a single woman as being primarily related to God, and her other relationships as distantly secondary.

In her essay on Mother’s day quoted below, Anne Lamott describes elements of the blood ties fetish prevalent in conservative life.  The qualities she describes are vicious:  selfish, judging, alienating.  The worst is the belief that people without children can’t love or know love; that they are somehow less human.  And she doesn’t stop there.  She describes parents who dehumanize their kids, like a remodeled room in the house, and how if you do this you destroy them.

So if children aren’t toys nor agents of personal fulfillment, what are they?  What if parenting is principally about bringing children out the door and properly introducing them to the world?  They aren’t schooled in the spare room or the basement; it’s not our knowledge only that will help them, but other, different knowledge too.  They are fully ours and fully the world’s.

From the essay Why I Hate Mother’s Day:

Don’t get me wrong: There were times I could have literally died of love for my son, and I’ve felt stoned on his rich, desperate love for me. But I bristle at the whispered lie that you can know this level of love and self-sacrifice only if you are a parent. We talk about “loving one’s child” as if a child were a mystical unicorn. Ninety-eight percent of American parents secretly feel that if you have not had and raised a child, your capacity for love is somehow diminished. Ninety-eight percent of American parents secretly believe that non-parents cannot possibly know what it is to love unconditionally, to be selfless, to put yourself at risk for the gravest loss. But in my experience, it’s parents who are prone to exhibit terrible self-satisfaction and selfishness, who can raise children as adjuncts, like rooms added on in a remodel. Their children’s value and achievements in the world are reflected glory, necessary for these parents’ self-esteem, and sometimes, for the family’s survival. This is how children’s souls are destroyed.

Anne LamottWhy I Hate Mother’s Day