We Have a Strange Attitude Toward Our Children

Americans have ambivalent attitudes toward their children. They spoil them shamelessly, but made sure they become nothing.

Now that I have written that sentence, right off the top of my head – I have to stop and think it over.

I made an important decision when I was in college – I was not going to have any children! I was not going to make another child suffer as I had. And this was one thing Beth and I agreed on – no kids! Probably the only smart decision we ever made in our miserable marriage.

My brother was our family hero, when he was barely old enough to walk. He ran away from home – twice, and my parents had to get the police to find him. He knew, very clearly, that he was not wanted – and he was right!

My parents were not unusual at all – they were like all the other parents around them, in the Forties, in the Midwest – awful people, and proud of it! But they did give us one advantage – we were going to graduate from college, and have a successful career. We might be miserable – but we were going to be a success.

I became an Electronic Engineer – U of Illinois, 1959 – even though I had no interest in Engineering. But this made no difference – there were plenty of jobs (good paying jobs) where you had to have an engineering degree – but did not have to do anything! This suited the young women of the time – who had ignored us when we were Engineering students – because we had to study, instead of just having a good time. But once we had a steady income that could support a family, in a new house in the suburbs – we became the ideal husband. A little boring, perhaps – with all that technical stuff, stuffed into our brains, but that could easily be overlooked.


So I became nothing – but a successful nothing. And all the other nothings had children – who they spoiled disgracefully – and they also made into nothings. I have seen this many times – a successful parent with their failed children. But I did not try to explain this mysterious process.

Actually, this was not a mysterious process at all – we all become whatever we are supposed to become – without thinking about it at all. This is how human cultures are formed. As children, we become like the adults around us. The children in our time, were told “Be nothing!” And that is what they became.

When their parents spoiled them – they denied them a childhood where they could become themselves – an unique individual.

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