Monday, July 23, 2007

The Baby Arms Race

Today is my 36th birthday. My daughter Cassie probably thinks that is remarkably old. Recently, there have been a number of births and pregnancies in my social circle. I’ve begun to think that different people take different strategies when it comes to raising a family. I don’t mean the actual parenting, but relating to the number of children to have. This seems like the perfect day to examine the Baby Arms Race.

There are people I know in all different parts of the country that are trying to follow the Chinese Model. You, dear reader might ask, what the heck is the Chinese Model? This is not a matter of who has the best Moo Goo Gai Pan. The model I’m referring to is more biblical than anything else. Be fruitful and multiply. Those families you know that have numerous children. A friend of mine from graduate school was the 2nd youngest of 21 children. That is an extreme example even for this model. I’ve got friends living near Mandeville who are expecting their 4th son, and they will probably still try for a girl.

The other extreme is the European model. These people have decided they are going to have one, maybe two children. You might wonder what is wrong with that…. Nothing until these same parents start bragging that their spawn is more accomplished than Einstein. Some kids are going to roll over or walk sooner than others. Some might speak sooner than others. Finally, some children are inherently more extroverted than others. For most of you this is not news, and yet, many parents examine every single thing that happens to their children for signs of future greatness or, even for a problem that needs to be corrected immediately.

People that follow the European model might get three high chairs because they cannot choose between the offered colors. Or they might get a Versace burp cloth, to one up the neighbors down the block. Very often there are expectations that come with this treatment. “I will treat my child by giving him/her the very best, and I also want him/her to go to M.I.T. or Harvard” Expectations go through the roof. These people might only have one or two children, but they will be expected by their parents to be better than those children from larger families.

I’m certain that I’ve fallen into some of this very reasoning. Can we afford children? We had that conversation 3 years ago. We have managed to figure out how to manage our finances appropriately. All children should be valued, whether you are going to have 1,2, or 21. I don’t think comparing children is fair to parents or children. By the way, Cassie is the best child ever.

Why did I go on this rant? President Bush has said that he would veto funding for a program to give health care to poor children. He continues to give billions of taxpayer dollars to kill men, women and children in Iraq, but he won’t allow funding for health care to poor children that would not cost the government anything. To pay for this program cigarette taxes would be increased. Maybe, he misunderstood. Is he trying to leave every child behind?

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