Monday, May 27, 2013


It's a lovely word, isn't it? It just glows with positivity. To comprehend, absorb knowledge and show an ability to decipher its meaning. In a more emotional context it denotes acceptance, tolerance, even forgiveness. Understanding is, to me, what gives our sentience as human beings its meaning. We can learn and grow from that learning and we can sympathize with others. It's the kindest part of our rational minds.

But is it something that we only acquire upon bearing children? More and more people I encounter seem to think so. You see, I had two other topics bouncing around my head for this post, but both of them came back to one inescapable fact that the childfree face all the time: we don't understand. I'm going to try to wrap my head (and yours) around this problem


This is always the first hurdle. Parents and even expectant parents will dismiss the possibility that someone without children has any knowledge about parenting or that they ever could have, and that's just plain wrong. I'm an intelligent person. I'm a psychology enthusiast with peripheral interests in anthropology and sociology. I can talk about studies on advertising targeted to children, nutritional value of processed, pre-packaged lunch foods, even debate the merits of certain educational methods. But to a Breeder, none of that matters. My knowledge is moot, and I have no valid opinion. To them I am simply not a parent, therefore I have no valid opinion.


The main argument I get after being dismissed is always the same: it's not just that I don't understand, it's that I can't. Not being a parent simply makes my brain incapable of having the knowledge required to form a cogent argument. And that, my dear friends, is the biggest load of hypocritical bullcrap that the Breeders toss around. It's parenting elitism at its finest, and it's wrong. Somehow, by not having children, I can't have a valid opinion on circumcision or the environmental and economical impacts of cloth vs. disposable diapering. I also can't comment on the economics of raising children without drawing ire from some. I admit that I lack perspective. I don't know firsthand what it's like to have and raise children and I probably never will. But that's one aspect of a far more complex situation. It doesn't invalidate any math, logic, or downright common sense I might have.


Naturally, I don't go down without a fight in these arguments. I produce more facts, quote more sources, and deploy more logic. The discussion goes back and forth until, inevitably, the other party scoffs at me or shakes their head saying "you just don't understand". In my experience, that's always been the battle cry of the defeated who won't admit to it. I give them the floor, beg and plead with them to make more arguments and defend their position, but they don't. They walk away, leaving me with an armload of supported arguments that go unacknowledged in the face of their experience which is summarily determined to be superior. It's sad in some ways and incredibly frustrating in others. I don't necessarily want to win, I just want to hear the opposing viewpoint. I want counterpoints other than having my lack off offspring being pointed out to me. I want to understand.


I am not a car guy. I don't fix my car when it breaks down, I get a mechanic to do it. Heck until recently, I couldn't even change my own oil. But I can sit down with you and explain how an internal combustion engine works. I understand the principles behind all of it. So if I'm talking to a mechanically inclined person, I can carry on a conversation and we can exchange ideas even if I'm not practiced in his or her field. My knowledge is recognized and an intelligent discourse is established. Not so with parenting. "It's not the same" I hear. This is the aforementioned elitism rearing its ugly head. I don't know if it's a defense mechanism because they feel their way of life is being attacked or if it's because I'm not part of the club; I'm not one of the cool kids doing all the cool parenting things, so I don't get a say. Who knows? I'll probably never get a straight answer.


At heart, I'm a scientist. I pick a problem apart, analyze it, experiment with it, and proceed with the most beneficial solution based on the information at hand. That approach can be used with almost all of life's problems. Emotions get in the way, consequences make us second guess ourselves, but the method always remains sound. That's why I'm such a pain in the neck to debate with. I throw out argument after argument, as rooted in logic as I possibly can. I'm a born talker (and, to a certain extent, writer). I can talk my way through just about anything.

But somehow, this never gets me anywhere when I try to have a sensible conversation with a Breeder. I guess I never will understand.

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