Sunday, November 18, 2007

An open letter to anyone who is ever going to have kids

Sometimes you can really be pleasantly surprised. I randomly had a very nice, very substantial, two-meal long second date.

We were going to have just lunch and wander around in the fall sunshine. And so we had lunch and wandered. But then headed over to Old Town. We strolled and did errands. We looked at boats. We compared art taste at the Torpedo Factory.

And then he asked if I'd like to have dinner as well. Even though that was hours away. Which I did. So we had hours to fill. Which we did. With wine and conversation. Much more conversation than wine. But as our first date was relatively unfiltered, our second one was even more so.

And one of the things I said was the following: That I have gotten so very cautious. I used to take people at face value. And now I don't trust anyone for a long, long time. Not only do I not trust; I expect crazy.

The people I click with fast, the ones I have the easy and intense rapport with? So often they're damaged, beaten, crazy. It just takes some getting to know them. But now I just wait to learn about it.

I like you? Huh. What did your dad do to you?

I don't have kids. I don't know how hard it is. I don't know how much patience or strength it takes.

But what I do know a lot about at this point is how mistreated kids grow into adults. And so what I want to say is the following.

Holy fuck, people, think about how you treat your kids. Because truly, when you treat them terribly, you fuck them for life. And they grow into damaged, damaged adults.

I cannot even tell you how many guys I've met who could be lovely, amazing people. Who are so utterly lovable, except that they're completely unable to believe they are. And they cannot give anything of themselves. Or trust other people. Or feel anything.

For some of them it's that their dads beat the shit out of them as kids. Or their moms did. Or one or the other parent drank a ton. Or slept around and had a reputation for it. Or humiliated them in some way. Or just plain said enough angry, hateful, scarring things that they're convinced they're unloved and unwanted. Even as adults.

There are myriad ways to make your kid feel like the world around them is a massively scary, lonely, hostile place, not to be trusted.

This is not to say that they grow up to be financially unsuccessful people. Some of the most financially successful people I know were really mistreated as kids. Because money? Is safety. It means they will never need anything from anyone else.

And god, at this point, I've met some sweet, sweet men. Who are pretty much fucked for life.

They're so angry that the vitriol has eaten away their entire stomach. Or so unable to trust that they are ready for flight at any moment. They expect the worst of people, and therefore solicit it. Or are so devoid of the ability to feel that, while they function decently in the working world, they are complete and utter emotional cripples.

Be cautious of your kids. They're fragile. You can break them on the inside really easily. And even if they seem fine and whole, those scars never, ever really heal.


  1. This is part of why I am never having kids. Because I don't want to screw them up.

  2. This is part of the reason why i wat to have kids, so i can make sure they get all the love and support they need so they don't become fucked up like the people i have seen.
    very true/accurate entry

  3. Honest and Caring. Nice post.

  4. I think kids are much more resilient than we think, but I also think they need all the love and involvement parents and anyone else can give them. I have at least one friend who has grown into a fine man from a truly horrific upbringing, and it was because even though his parents were narcissistic monsters and feckless and impecunious idiots, he had other adults who involved themselves in his life.

    He, sadly, has joined the "I'm not having kids because I'm not doing that to anyone" school, but at the same time, he does exactly the opposite with every child who enters his life. Love doesn't conquer all, but for a child, knowing caring involved adults, parents or not, can be a lifesaver.

  5. i seem to be drawn only to men who are damaged in some vital, emotional way. took me a looong time to realize i can't save them. in one case, a boyfriend's dad told me not to waste any time on mourning losing him because he 'wasn't worth my time.' i'm far from fearless, but hearing that made me realize how incredible supportive parents are.

  6. yeah...what you said..
    wish i had said that!

  7. SD - It's a huge responsibility that so many people don't give enough thought to beforehand.

    Anon - Thank you for sharing.

    Sean - Thank you!

    Foilwoman - I think you make a good point about other adults stepping in. I'm sorry about your friend, though. I do think having lived through awful things and being strong enough and self-aware enough to get through could make you an excellent parent.

    jess - It's true - it took me a loooong time to realize as well. That makes me so sad. How could his dad say that about his own kid?

    S-B - Thank you!

    Jordaan - That's pretty. I like her a lot.

  8. I want kids just so I can get this call from their Kindergarten teacher:

    Teacher: Mr. Kidfuckerupper? We were reviewing colors today and when I pointed to the colour red and called on Chester, he said it was "Alligator."

    Me: snort

    T: Excuse me?

    M: giggle-snort

    T: hangs up in disgust...

  9. This is a long comment. Apologies in advance. And while it's kind of pointed, I'm not mad at all, just a little riled up.

    With that said:

    Not everyone who had a fucked up childhood is fucked for life. Not by a longshot. And I'm absolutely certain that you didn't intend to insult me by saying this. Because I had a fucked up childhood, and I'm a decent husband and father.

    It's also not true (you didn't say this directly, I'm inferring here) that people who DIDN'T have a fucked up childhood are class-A SuperParents, either. People can fuck themselves up just fine, I think.

    It's our responsibility to create the best possible world for our children, and if our parents were fucked up, all the more reason to pave a new path.

    Sometimes it's not easy.

    I'm finding that as I get older, and my kids get older, there are new and crazy challenges that ping off my psychology in ways I've not yet experienced, and things I thought I understood perfectly well suddenly have new angles and edges. But that also what completely rocks about being a parent. The bookends of experience keep widening and widening.

    I don't know. Maybe I have just the right mix of PTSD, HyperVigilance, Alcoholism, and ADHD to make it all work.

    But I think not. Because I know a boatload of amazing parents in AA, some of whom have unbelievably painful stories... and all of these folks are achieving the same goal: being the best parent possible, and continuously working towards being better.

    I think it's important to note one last thing: it is impossible to understand the impact having children has until one actually has children. You can study it, read about it, make predictions... but you do not know how you will be, act, and feel until it happens.

    There is no relative frame of reference for parenthood. Nothing matches up.

    Anyway, hi.

    R | C

    ps - Kids are stronger than you think, but that's another comment.

  10. Hey Rich - Thanks for the thoughtful and thought-provoking comment. I'm in agreement with you, actually - not everyone who grows up terribly is fucked for life. And there are plenty of fucked up adults from good childhoods. Me, I find (or actually, they find me) the ones who grew up fucked up and can't seem to get past it. Anyway, I emailed you.

  11. Lots of people who shouldn't be having kids are... and lots of people who should be aren't.

    That said, it's often really hard to say which category someone falls in ahead of time. I've got a couple of friends and acquaintances who, if I had had to guess, I would have said they wouldn't make good parents... but I've been presently surprised with each of them.

  12. I agree with you in that what parents do to their kids can ruin them for life, I'm a great example of that. But, I also feel that people who had such bad examples, and were able to pull out of it, make the best parents.

  13. gacracker - Ya know, I'm OK with that. It's funny and not malicious.

    VVK - I think that it's probably true that you just never know.

    Rich - Thanks!

    AT - I totally agree with you that people who have worked through it all can make awesome parents.

  14. Ouch! Need to hear that once in a while when I'm so wrapped up in my own crap that I don't check in with my kids enough.

    Point taken from you and from the other commenters.

  15. Oh, no, Lis! No! The people I'm writing about had parents who beat the crap out of them. Or who neglected them - like, really neglected them - not spent an extra hour blogging at night. Your kids clearly have a strong sense of their respective selves and high self-esteem and I think that's the most telling marker of a good parent. They know you love them and they know you are totally, solidly there for them.

  16. It's funny (or not) how very much I can relate to this. Screw those parents who fuck up their kids.


Tell me about it.