I recently had a long, meaningful conversation with a former girlfriend when she said she had learned a lot about herself in the past several weeks. I asked her specifically what these were. Among more profound familial lessons was her new life decision that she was never going to have kids. She had expressed similar sentiments in the past, but it had since become definitive, and unless something changes significantly in her life in the next ten years, she said, that is how it is going to stay. As her former partner, when she would bring forth such ideas in the past, I would be selfishly disappointed of such a bold statement as if it were an avoidance of commitment (like this is something I should ever be sour about), but now, after a week of heading up a Kids’ Camp, I can understand her new realization. And though I would never plainly state what she has, I am currently examining the possibility that I hate kids.
Thirty-six community children ran my ass ragged through their extreme energy and stubborn defiance to simple participation. Their guiltless tears and their visible joy of catching frogs disgusted me. I shouted more than I spoke. I swore at children in utter resignation. I wished for their demise under my breath, and sometimes over my breath. I could tell which children had structure and discipline in their lives, and tried to rationalize the multitude of the children’s flaws with the difficult lives of their parents. But mostly I blamed the children themselves.
Nearing a quarter-decade of life, my peers are deciding that their libidos and personal energy can be well-spent on the magic of progeny. This is admirable. What has been called ‘our greatest resource’ is comprised sadly of miniature caracatures of the absolute worst of ourselves. The disorder-diagnosed, bed-wetting, pill-prescribed, blatantly selfish human beings that will one day be the drivers of our communities and councils of our cities. Tar sands seem almost preferable.
People always say that it is different when it is your own kid, a truism that I cannot speak to. And I guess that is something I could look forward to; the chance to unimpededly warp the mind of a human unlike I have ever been able to do before because of previous parenting/brainwashing. My closest comparison is eating a rotten vegetable from my own garden; it somehow still tastes better than the neighbours’.
The one kid at camp that wasn’t addicted to meat, sugar, video games, or attention, still managed to annoy me. He ate what I ate, he enjoyed reading rather than pestering other children, he was interested in science. But because his parents (with whom I likely have much in common, who likely eat the way they eat for presumably the same reasons as I) brainwashed him to a painful degree, it bothered me. If my child grew up with my exact ideals, I’d be disappointed; zero surprise, zero independent thought, zero digression. Zero evolution.
But children, you may say, are impossible to hate. Their crooked teeth, their high pitched voices, their clear vulnerabilities. Their innocence and foibles and miniature features that formulate the broad term of ‘cute’.
When I drove back into town, minivan exploding with bottles of old condiments and lost-and-found underpants, I waited at a red light next to the gaudy yellow lettering on forrest green back drop of the lamest chain store in the world, DOLLARAMA. I waited at the red light behind a massive SUV with stickers on the back window—stick-figures representing each member of the family including dogs and cats, but with the former father-figure sticker visibly scratched off. The truck next to me, the ultimate fan, had an upside-down novelty Roughrider license plate, showing off his true partisanship and devotion to ignorance. The light turned green and I grinded my teeth.
Parallel to my former partner’s realization, I could say I have come to my own. I do not hate children. I hate who the children will inevitably end up being. That is, their parents. I hate their future selves and their parents for reasons that I just now understand. Because they are both selfish, ignorant morons. But this examination also reveals that I hate children because they make painfully evident the things that I loathe in myself. Over-controlling, short-tempered flakiness that I despise in others, and only see in myself when I am telling a child named Denzel that he is an idiot. Though I have been well aware of the fact for sometime, it was humbling to see how unprepared I am to be the guardian of offspring.
I hate the children because the children are me.