Thursday, March 25, 2010

investing in possible futures.

it's spring, and all of the ladies and gentlemen of the greater boston area are blooming baby bjorns, and so many of my friends who don't already have one or two are in various states of negotiations on the subject, and everyone's in the mood to talk about it, and damned if i'm not also reading a book on the subject (also, jason kottke reposted the trailer for the film, 'babies', which reignited my passion for watching it). if you're reading this blog, chances are i've discussed this subject with you yourself-- but, listen, i have a self-imposed blogging quota to meet. i'll try to add something a little fresh in order to hold yr attention.

i'm pretty much in love with the babies my friends have grown, and are growing, and are planning to grow, but i've always thought that any kids i raise will be kids i adopt, and something about this stance has recently become more clear to me: if i do adopt kids, it won't be because i'd rather adopt kids than grow them myself, but because i'd rather raise kids i've adopted than do anything else at all. there are approximately infinite answers to the question of how one should spend one's time and money, how one should love, and i don't see why the choice between raising a kid you adopt versus raising one you grow is more ethically salient than the choice between adopting one and doing something entirely different-- spending your life writing blog posts, for example-- or between growing a baby yourself and devoting your life to the sea. there's just a lot of ways to spend what you have, and they all have their advantages and drawbacks, and we each have our values and moral imperatives, and things we take special pleasure in.

richard russo says the following: 'you won't be a fully vested citizen until you have someone you love more than life to hand this imperfect world over to', and i think he's probably roughly right. there are awful parents and saintly childless crusaders, it's true. it's also true that the protective impulses that parenthood brings will probably tend, just like self-protecting impulses, to skew our judgment in ways that are sometimes destructive-- particularly toward others, toward the larger world. nonetheless, it's easy to see what RR's saying. and i don't suppose that there's a better way to learn more about science and magic and justice and injustice and pleasure and pain and goodness and badness than by attentive child-rearing. i suspect that raising kids would be for me, as it is for many people, exceptionally challenging and gratifying, and these are good reasons to do it.

but russo also writes: 'don't worry too much about the world they'll be born into, which will suck, because that's what the world mostly does', and i believe that, too, but maybe a little differently. it might sound odd or extreme, but i do think that the potential horrors that life throws at people, in addition to the horrors that people (who were all once the children of parents-- probably even some good and loving and optimistic parents) grow up to inflict on one another, makes the prospect of bringing children into the world an ethically risky proposition. i don't mean to suggest that these risks are necessarily prohibitive, but they are, i think, profoundly concerning...and possibly prohibitive. they concern the shit out of me, anyway. i do believe that taking a kid in the world and investing yourself fully in her, despite the risks inherent investing in anything as uncertain as someone else, strikes me as being one of the most unqualifiedly sound and satisfying choices that life allows for (assuming that building families and helping kids grow is one of the things you like to do best of all). but bringing new kids in the world in order to invest in them in this way is, i think, a distinct and distinctly dicier proposition, ethically speaking. you bring a kid into the world, and you can't make any promises to either about how the other is going to turn out. the risk you take, i can't help but notice, is so much more than yours. 

1 comment:

Drew said...

This makes me happy. I agree with your inclination as well. As you once intimated to me outside of Shaw's in Porter Square, it seems like we're well on the way to a world in which it would be unethical to "grow" your own children (as you put it) when you could adopt. As I sprint into my "late" 20s, and everyone around seems to be getting married and "growing" their own babies, it's hard not to reflect on my own desires about the topic. I know that I don't want to get married, and I know that I do not want to pass on my genetic material. But I'm totally open to the idea of adoption, and indeed, I think that it might be imperative that I do.