Parenting Month Finale: Why I Don’t Want to Reproduce

March 2, 2012

Parenting Month is coming to a close.  I’ve had a lot of fun.

A funny thing happened this week in one of my classes.  The kids were being silly and were asking me if they could call me all kinds of made up names.  You know, silly nonsense names that just popped into their heads.  One girl blurted out, “Can I call you ‘Dad’?”

After I laughed my face off, I said, “No.  No one calls me Dad.”  I’m still laughing about that one.

The kids had a hard time with that.  They couldn’t understand how I could be married and not have a kid.  I tried to explain that they don’t just hand you a kid when you get married.

My path toward parenthood is far from over, but before I take a break from talking about it on the blog, I’ve got a confession.

I really really don’t want to reproduce.  That’s what I’m scared of.

Spanking, TV, Go-Gurt, and Everything Else

If I wanted to, we could talk forever about the minutiae of parenting.  It boggles my mind how many decisions there are to make.  I could talk endlessly about spanking or time-outs.  I could fret over how much my kids will consume of TV, sugar, or “Go-gurt.”  Which, while we’re on the subject, I have opened dozens of packages of Go-gurt while on lunch duty.  What ever happened to yogurt coming in cups?  And where are kids supposedly going while eating yogurt from a tube?  I always tell kids to sit while eating.  Plus, I think most kids assume “Go-gurt” is really a word.  All around, a really dumb product.

Anyway, I could talk about that endlessly, but I won’t.  Because the debates will never end.  Someone’s way of parenting will always be different, and many of them are valid.  Somewhere, a lot of parents see some advantage to teaching their children to eat dairy products from tubes, even though they lack the finger strength or motor coordination to open the packaging.

I want a kid…quite a lot.  But what I don’t want to happen is to reproduce myself.

Carbon Copies

“Reproduction.”  It sounds so natural, doesn’t it?  But I think a lot of people take that to heart.  They have children to validate their own existence, to fulfill them, to be a miniature carbon copy of themselves.

That’s what I think of “reproducing.”  Making a little mini-me to run around and look up to me.

The thing is, I think I have a few things going for me.  I have some positive traits.  There’s some things I want to pass along to my kids.  I’d prefer it if they agreed with my politics, but that’s unlikely.  I desperately hope they follow my faith.  But I have a heck of a lot about me that I don’t want to reproduce.  My flaws, shortcomings, sins and faults, I don’t want to reproduce those in my kids.  I don’t want to teach them to make the same mistakes I did (which kids will do just by following parents’ examples.)  Inevitably, I will reproduce some good parts of myself, but there’s bound to be some bad stuff too.

Be An Individual (The Kind of Individual I Want You to Be)

In a lot of ways, parents don’t want to just reproduce.  They want their kids to live better lives than they did.  But I think that often translates to just money and success.  We want our kids to have more money and stuff than we did.  Big deal.  And everything else, we think we pretty much nailed, so our kids should take up our torch forever.

Then, so many parents are disappointed when their little replicants defy their expectations, like a science fiction movie gone wrong.  Anyone else hate Blade Runner?  Man, I do.  Anyway, I chuckle quietly at the punk or hippie liberal parents who say they want their kids to grow up to be “individuals” and to “choose their own path,” while they dress the kids exactly like themselves.  I wonder if those parents change their tune when their kids grow up to work in corporate America and vote Republican.

What say you?  Is parenting really about “reproducing?”  What parts of yourself and you spouse do you hope your kids replicate?  What do you hope they don’t?

23 responses to Parenting Month Finale: Why I Don’t Want to Reproduce

  1. Hi Matt,

    I’ve heard that having children is like having a bowling alley installed in your brain.

    The duty of parents is not to reproduce, but to survive, (That’s spoken as the father of three daughters and three sons).

    Want them to be like me? Hell, I don’t want to be like me!

    Anyhow, I wish you and your wife good success in your quest; There is a purpose in what you are going through.

    John

  2. You don’t want your kid to have your hansomly good looks matt? LOL!!!! j/k…

    I think it just might be a little dangerous to go down the mindset that we don’t want our kids to be like us…well, uh…in the bad since…

    Because then i assum we imply that we don’t want them to bring them in this sinful nature and this sinful painful world…

    But, we have to keep in mind of this Wonderful God who has saved us…and how loving and compassionate he is with our bad self…

    I think having my kids experience God to the fullest, out weighs them being like my bad self….100% of the time…

    God Bless Matt!

  3. You may not want to…but God wants you to.

    There are a lot of competing ideas out there. Islam is growing…and fast. We need to make more of us.

    😀

  4. The bright side is that you might have milk-allergic kids like I do. Go-Gurt problem solved!! You will discover Oreos and Mrs. Freshley’s Honey Buns have no milk or egg in them at all. More things than you imagine are made with flour, sugar and a ton o’ oil. :/

    • I am slowly discovering that just by trying to look out for my own health. Discovered that the store brand yogurt is mostly corn syrup. We’re training kids, and ourselves, to think that everything should taste like ice cream. Barf.

  5. Lol, such an awesome post. Yeah, I can relate… As my 7 month old Zoe sleeps next to me. She’s awesome. Mainly because she takes after her dad. Also because she’s such a fiercely strong person. Already.

    I’ll make sure to keep some onesies saved for you… :-)

  6. Parenting is hard, but you aren’t doing it on your own. Having kids is scary only if you focus on the “what ifs” instead of on God. Can you trust Him enough to believe that the family He gives you is His perfect will? Don’t look at the giants. Trust God that in giving life, He is giving His best.

    And about “reproducing”… God made us kids in His image and look how we turned out. 😎 Actually, I think my kids are much better than me in lots of ways. All I really want is that they love Jesus. If they focus on God, everything else will fall into place.

  7. You’re right. We shouldn’t want to “reproduce”. We should want to love and “be fruitful”…and there are different ways God calls us to that.

    Peace, and thanks for this month!

  8. I certainly didn’t want my kids to be like me. Even my wife calls me a melancholy nerd.

    I am guy, and the last 3 were girls. I didn’t know anything about ballet, fashion design just to mention a few. Hey, you just learn as you go.

    It is interesting what the genetics actually copy. My friend says our youngest looks like my wife on the outside, and me on the inside. :)

    Kids learn a lot from just watching us. So, there is always time for us to grow, and change. I just hope that I am setting a good example.

    A lot of these decisions can’t be made in advance. The best advice I ever got about being a parent, came from the kids friends. Be sure to invite them over as often as possible. :)

  9. Well, since we’re planning on parenting through adoption, I think that we hope to influence our child to find their identity, but to also be secure in knowing that we care greatly for them.

  10. I’ve heard a guy on another comment page (one that was a bit removed from this one) describe parenting like having all of your sanity and emotional well-being located in your…um, “nether regions”… and then walking pantsless through a bad neighborhood carrying a sign that says “Please kick me in the groin.”

  11. Thanks for writing this post, Matt. It’s as though you took my thoughts and put words to them.

    No kids yet for me, either, and the thought of having one terrifies me. I want to be a mom, want to have children–but the responsibility scares me. I don’t want to reproduce little mes. A part of me thinks I need to fix all of my problems first–but then I’ll never become a parent.

  12. As a child who often accidentally brought home cafeteria spoons in her lunchbox and an adult who often has to beg a spoon off a colleague to eat my microwave soup at work, I can maybe see the appeal of spoonless yogurt. I still don’t buy Go-Gurt, though.

    I never personally worried about the “reproduction” aspect, but I see my husband get very upset whenever our daughter seems to display melancholy moods because he thinks he cursed her with it. I think he’s just projecting, but either way, he wouldn’t do that if the child didn’t have his DNA!

  13. My husband is terrified that he will pass on his ADD to our kids. It’s very likely in our oldest son….but more than I see hubs’ ADD, I see my stage fright in him. When he knows people are looking or listening, he freezes up. When he forgets, he’s animated, smart, funny, etc. Before I met my son, I think I always assumed there was some trauma in my past that made me shy. Apparently it’s genetic because he has it too (and I know there’s been no trauma, because I’ve been with him all his life).

    Before I had kids, I think I was of the opinion that nurture had more to do with behavior and attitudes than nature. Now that I have them, I’m not so sure. They are unique from (before) the moment they are born. They’re not me, they’re not my husband, they have some qualities of both of us, but they’re neither of us and are their own, unique selves.

    My oldest daughter _looks_ like my replicant, but is very little like me (or my husband) in personality.

    Anyway….I guess the point to my ramblings here is that there is no one better equipped to deal with raising a child who has some of your failings than you – the person who has dealt with them over the years. Maybe you haven’t quite mastered those things yet – but you sure know some methods that _don’t_ work. Maybe they’re things you’ve beaten and can help your child work through from the beginning using your experience from the end.

    I get the being terrified…I really, really do. But God made you _you_ on purpose, and He’ll make any kids He brings your way uniquely _them_ on purpose, and He’ll bring you all together at exactly the right time on purpose. Love Him. Trust Him. Perfect love casts out all fear.

    Anyway….thanks for putting up with me this month! Best wishes as you move forward! Also, I’ve not read much of her stuff, but maybe it would help you guys: http://www.naturallyknockedup.com/start-here/

  14. Thing is, Matt, unless you clone yourself somehow, you’re not going to have your own little Mini-Me. (Even cloning isn’t always 100% of the original genetic material, from my understanding.)

    It’s the combination of what your child gets from your wife and for you, and the ways the genes combine will surprise you.

    I look very much like my mother. I sound like her. I have some of the same voice inflections. She gave me her lack of directional ability (although I can at least read a map), her seasonal allergies, and her circulatory system that transports cold in a most excellent fashion but not heat. Dig into the deeper layers, and you find my dad. His sense of humor. The fact that I am so deeply emotional. His gift for and love of words (my mom gave me some of that, too). Dad and I exist on the same kind of emotional plane. We’ve rarely had problems understanding each other. (My mother can equally baffle us.)

    My sister is almost the complete opposite. She looks much more like my dad than my brother or I do. She inherited his sisters’ flair for the dramatic. But she’s wired much more like my mom. She and Mom seem to inhabit the same plane, in the way that Dad and I do. Things that baffle me about Mom also tend to baffle me about my sister.

    My brother is the hodge-podge mix, not clearly delineated by either parent. Rather, he’s the family stew: random stuff from relatives got thrown into him. There are ways he’s much like my dad. There are ways he’s frighteningly like my mom (although he would NEVER admit to such a thing).

    That’s the fun of genetics. You never know quite what you’re going to get.

    And that’s also how you won’t have a Mini-Me. You’ll see things in your child that are so clearly yourself, but then the next thing you see is so clearly your wife that it’s scary. But it’s also cool.

    Genetics can also be scary. My best friend is blind due to a genetic disorder that her parents were both carriers for…and they didn’t know that until two of their three children were diagnosed with RP. She’s got three kids of her own now, and I think it’s hilarious to see both her and her husband peek out in each of those boys. None of their boys have both recessive genes for RP. They’ll just be carriers. Her younger brother (also blind) is the friend I mentioned who’s adopting two kids out of Ethiopia.

    For me, it’s very interesting to watch my children grow. In college, for a psych class, I had to write a paper about nature versus nurture, and our parenting experiment here is challenging whatever I thought about which would have more effect on a child’s life. I can see bits of the girls’ biological parents showing through…but I also see mirrored myself and my husband.

    Some day, your kids–whether homemade or store-bought–will say something that will make you shake you head, because you have NO idea where it came from.

    And then you’ll hear yourself say the exact same thing two days later, and wonder how you missed it.

  15. I agree with you, Matt, about not wanting to reproduce yourself. My husband and I have been unsuccessful at having our own children, but there are certainly aspects of both of us and of our families that we would not want to replicate in a child. I pray that however we have children, be it biologically or through adoption, that we can teach them how to follow Christ’s example. I wrote an article once about teen ministry entitled, “Do as I say, not as I did” because we want our kids to make the right decisions, even if we didn’t make the right ones, ourselves, when we were their age. It’s funny, though, because I remember as a teenager telling my mother that I wasn’t her and that she couldn’t expect me to behave and react exactly like her, but as I get older, I realize more and more exactly how much I really am like her.

  16. I agree with you ~ reproducing should never be our intent. I have two children, sometimes the DNA thing is down right creepy, but most times I have two children who are extremely different from one another, and most certainly me. I try to listen closely to what it is they are telling me about themselves, and about this life that I wouldn’t know if I didn’t know them. Great post :)

  17. Our eldest daughter recently turned 18. Since then, we have returned Stateside from the mission field. She now is embarking on all things that should have been experienced by any ‘normal’ American teenager by her age, i.e., learning to drive, seeking out college prospects, getting a first job, etc.

    I always worried that I was instilling in her – me. A carbon copy. What I didn’t realize is what a great job I was doing. I was teaching her all along to make good decisions and because of that she is able to see the not so desireable traits and cast them off. At the same time I was teaching her how to work hard and be faithful and trustworthy and gentle and submitted to authority and teachable.

    After 2 weeks on her very first job, she is now being trained for management by a boss who KNOWS that she is leaving for college in July. She ran the whole show by herself at work Friday – nice!

    A carbon copy of me – yup – and a darn good one at that.

    Go-gurt goes in their lunch that is packed for school so that you don’t have to be concerned with whether or not your kitchen spoons come home with them. It also serves double duty as a popcicle if frozen. Yum!