The Daily Truth with Jack Marx


I'd like to talk this afternoon about parenthood, that state of human existence that is widely perceived as an elevation to some higher moral plane. There are realisations, they say, that do not enter the minds of the childless, whose life experience remains as an apprenticeship until graduation to the family way, which invests one's voice with newfound powers of gravity and compassion. Nothing brings a hush to the debate quite like the words of a "concerned parent", and those who chose to do combat with such voices will very quickly find themselves branded merciless enemies of humanity. Children are the future, and those who speak in the name of the children are surely the voices of the "better world". Well, it ain't necessarily so. Personally, I would like to see those who become parents immediately struck from the electoral roles, for there is no voice quite so potentially corrupted against the better wishes of the wider society than the mother or father who loves their child more than anything else in the world.
It is worth remembering that the "miracle" of parenthood has occurred some 90 billion times. It's not an easy adventure to embark upon, by any means, but, as an attainable state for an individual, it's hardly a magic trick, or a feat of human ingenuity. Take away the love and the personal wonder of it all, and what we're basically talking about is a bodily function that, for the great majority of both the brilliant and the stupid, is virtually unavoidable. One might just as well offer cigars and congratulations when a man or woman emerges from the toilet.

It should also not be forgotten exactly how this parental state is most often initiated - a man and a woman so lustfully engaged as to have entwined themselves in an embrace the calibre and temper of which would not be accepted in the public arena. The man becomes so sexually thrilled as to uncontrollably eject fluids that, if left upon some civic landmark rather than injected into the womb of the female, would cause a municipal uproar. It is richly ironic that depictions of this very act are the most common targets for annihilation in the crosshairs of the "concerned parent".

There can be no denying that the pregnant woman is perhaps the most precious creature known to humanity, the tenderness afforded her by all humankind only surpassed by that extended to the child itself. And, as a parent, I know there is no experience quite like the birth of the child: the breathtaking knowledge that a new life, with all its wonders and horrors, has just been created by you; the awesome transformation of girl to mother. It's indescribable, and I've never read an account of it that was any good.

But this is a very personal experience, so overwhelming in emotional impact that its exclusive nature is easily forgotten, an all too common mistake of the infatuated parent being to assume the rest of the world is infatuated, too. Like Catweazle dazzled by the miracle of "electrickery", new parents are often understandably oblivious to how boring their baby appears to the masses. This delusion will pass, but something else will (hopefully) remain: love, that wildcard in the scheme of things, the blind loyalties and hatreds that accompany it so often the nuisances of humankind's nobler endeavours.

For some time after the birth of my own boy, I was troubled by an altogether unexpected affliction: a loathing of other children. Where I had expected fatherhood to invest me with a newfound affection for all kids, the very opposite occurred, and for a few years I struggled with combative urges when in the company of other parents and their children. At the time, I put this down to some ancient biological instinct - one that ensured I would not find another child so pleasing as to move me to abandon my own - and, as I observed the behaviour of other parents at day care centres I realised I was not exactly unusual. Parents did battle over anything, always on behalf of their voiceless child. The parents of an anaphylactic boy, for example, who pleaded with a nursery to ban the nut products that would be fatal to their child, were opposed by parents defending their three-year-old's "right" to eat peanut butter sandwiches. The legendary parental concern for all children was never more absent with parents' anxiety over their own child's quality of life always triumphing over the common good.

For me, this unsavoury suspicion of other children withered as my own boy grew, but what remains is a love and a loyalty that can be defeated by nothing. My support of issues about which I was once quite passionate is now entirely dependant on how they affect my boy, and, if to were to come to such extremes, I would break any law, extinguish any life and mow down any army to protect him. When it comes to the interests of the broader community, my jealous love for my child renders me a completely unreliable member of society.

In the realms of "concerned" parenthood, I do not believe I am a novelty.

Posted by Jack Marx
May 14, 2007 2:05 PM