When I was a child I liked children. Little kids attached themselves to me, and I loved them. My adolescence lasted more than 20 years, though, and I avoided children the whole time. Maybe my aversion to children was a way to separate myself from them, or some such foolishness. In my early 20s, I didn’t like Snake’s son trying to climb up my leg because he got to play while I had to play grownup, all suave and stuff.
When I became a father I was past middle age and ready. There’s nothing quite like watching someone start from scratch, and being a father this long has changed the way I think about children and people generally, as usual.
People prize innocence in children so much that we’re persecuted for allowing a child to learn, as though retarded emotional growth is a good thing. Childhood is just a stage of life. Everybody does it. I think judgment is always suspect, even if it’s warm and fuzzy.
Once my wife and I made hot love while one baby or other was present and awake in the bed with us. Some people would have locked up the two of us and taken the baby away because we allowed him to witness good sex. Those people are social primitives and act out of fear and superstition. I bet Neanderthals didn’t like the unnatural Cro-Magnons, either. And yes, he’s odd.
Having a child entails total power, and some of us think power should be exercised as much as possible. I know a couple who compete to limit their child, making continual fine corrections in her personal childishness. Her every move is scrutinized for deviations from the ideal. I imagine how I’d feel and I want to help her escape. She seems to take it in stride—it’s reality, after all—but my imagination makes them hard to be around.
My imagination also makes it hard for me to be with an old friend of mine and his son. My friend—I’ll call him Prafulla—is a decent sort and his son—I’ll call him Asshole—is a bully. He hits and kicks Prafulla, he threatens to misbehave if Prafulla doesn’t do as he wants, and when I’m with them every couple of minutes I want to drop-kick the child. I don’t though, because what looks like plain meanness to me is simply what the two of them have worked out so far and it’s none of my business anyway. At some level even my sons are none of my business. That’s what I’ve heard.