At some point in their life, most parents of teenage children would have asked a question very similar to the one Cypher asked in Matrix, “Why, oh, why didn’t I take the blue pill?” Did I really have to have these kids? Don’t get me wrong, I have no particular beef with my children, they are both very nice kids. Besides, I am not at all a demanding parent, which makes everything work out quite nicely. But this general question still remains: Why do people feel the need to have children?
Let’s start with an answer that gives us a warm and fuzzy feeling — before taking it apart. We say profound things like children give our life meaning, purpose, focus etc. They are the legacy we leave behind, our reflection in the dome of many-colored glass staining the white radiance of eternity, as it were. (I can name a few parents who would be horrified at what they are leaving behind, by the way.) Is it really true though? Do we procreate so that we leave a bit of ourselves, hopefully a better version of ourselves, behind? I doubt it. I thought about it for a while, and came to the conclusion that people have kids mainly because other people have kids. We do it because we are supposed to. Our parents may think ill of us if we don’t. Besides, when people become parents, they are typically not at an age where they worry about leaving behind legacies and so forth.
We do have another line of thought, a cold and impersonal line of scientific rationality, that we can use in answering this question. We procreate because we are genetically programmed to; evolutionary biology says so. Our genes are DNA machines with survival algorithms running on them – survival beyond our physical bodies. The primitives of the survival algorithm express themselves as our higher level conscious intentions and aspirations, as well as our subconscious instincts and tendencies. Procreation is the most direct manifestation of the survival agenda, so it generates the necessary warmth and fuzziness in our conscious awareness. Another manifestation would be our sexual instincts, transforming procreation into a very rewarding recreation.
Now that we know this genetic “conspiracy,” what do we do about it? Well, I believe we have already subverted evolution in our own ways. Why not mess with this genetic program as well? I know quite a few people who have, and they seem none the worse for it. I am sure you know some of these happy-go-lucky folks too. But, it has to be said, the parents among us show a certain amount of smug satisfaction when looking at the intentionally childless. I guess that also is probably a part of our genetic makeup.
Well, regardless of what I say in my blog, most of you will have children. So my advice is simple — make the most of it, be a good parent. And spend as much time as you can with your kids when they are young, before they turn into teenage mutant terrors. It will mean some sacrifices though, and those romantic getaways will have to wait until your golden years. But the kids will grow through their terror years. And leave, if not physically, emotionally. A few lucky ones among you will have made lasting bonds and meaningful connections with them, and the rest of you will spend your twilight years complaining about your ungrateful progenies who don’t appreciate your sacrifices (meaning, your money-making endeavors, as though you do it for them). Here is hoping that you find yourself on the right side of that divide.