I Am a Selfish Parent

Justin - Clifton, Colorado
Entered on May 15, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: parenthood

I believe that as a parent, I am selfish. I’m not talking about taking more than my fair share at the dinner table, or making everyone watch the news when they all want to watch a movie. I am referring to my belief that the very act of creating a child is, in fact, the epitome of selfish behavior. Actually, people rarely have children for reasons that aren’t selfish.

My wife Carolyn and I love our two children dearly. My daughter Payton was our first, and with her was created a special bond that I know will hold our family together forever. When my son Hunter came, we counted our blessings and noted how lucky we were to have offspring of each sex. This had been exactly what we were hoping for.

We are lucky, there’s no denying that. Both children are happy and healthy; both exhibit a fervent desire to live and to grow. But what have I to offer them? We’re certainly not wealthy. But then, I’ve never been a very materialistic person. I can only hope that my children won’t be either.

But my belief springs from a deeper well. It is so strong, so compelling, that I feel guilty each and every day. I’ve brought these two lives, two beautiful souls, into a World with misery, starvation, violence, ignorance, disease, disaster — the list goes on. Armed with nothing more than euphemisms and fairy tales — the tools of a storyteller — I am charged with preparing them for the World I have placed them in.

It was I who placed them here, too. We could argue over whether or not God played a starring role but in the end, I am complicit. They were never asked whether they would like to spend the next zero-to-one-hundred years hanging out on this ball of dust and gas somewhere in the Milky Way. They weren’t given the choice of refusing to be born into a system that will require them to labor for their very survival or worse, and far more trivial, for “social acceptance.”

The fact that I derive pleasure from their existence is just the final coat of varnish on an odd and twisted carving. Indeed, my wife and I will take pleasure in all that our children do for years and years to come. But there is no guarantee that they will always be happy. This is, after all, an unfair and unpredictable existence. What can I possibly tell them when the hammer falls on them?

There are good moments in this life. There are even great moments. Then there are the kinds of moments that can take your breath away and leave you in awe of how wonderful and complex life can be. But does it all even out in the end? Can I promise my children, “Everything will be alright,” without making myself a liar? Will I comply with my duty to admit to them that which I believe?