Polyamory and Children

If ever I were to defend polyamory it would be on the grounds that consenting adults should be allowed to sleep with whomever they please. Throw kids into the mix, however:

In theory, I should be writing another post on pregnancy. If I tried in this exhausted state, what would come out is my own emotions and reactions to my experiences of pregnancy in polyamorous relationships, not all of which were good. I guess if I were to sum up the badness it would be: it was difficult and hurtful for a woman who was supposed to be part of a quad with me, to want me to have nothing to do with her pregnancy, and then want to be heavily involved in my own pregnancy later that same year. Of course, that whole relationship was a disaster. None of us handled the situation well, and a lot of people were very hurt before it ended.

Imagine my surprise.

Probably the one who was hurt the most was my husband, who left the relationship, left behind me, his brother, and the two children of his heart who he now never sees, living half way across the country. Thankfully, and due to a series of very messed up circumstances, involving extended family, Division of Youth and Family Services, and a messed up legal system, the children had been living with my parents and had barely seen him for a year, as well as being young enough that now, three years later, they barely remember him, so they weren’t nearly as hurt as they could have been by his leaving. Though, sometimes, a few times a year maybe, my daughter asks for him.

This did not come out of a clear blue sky: it is a direct consquence of involving children in a polyamorous lifestyle. How do you think these kids are going to turn out?

And I suppose if this post has a point, that should be it. There are no legal ties to the children of our poly partners. And if things end, it can be so easy to walk away, so much less hurtful to leave them behind rather then see them constantly and be reminded of what we lost.

Well, yes. If the descriptions of polyamorous relationships are anything to go by, being able to just walk out the door with no responsibility is one of the primary attractions of the lifestyle. What you are describing is a feature, not a bug.

But if we chose to bring children into a polyam relationship, whether we are the biological parents or not, we have a responsibility to them.

If that were true you’d be keeping children well out of it. Instead, you choose to satisfy your own lifestyle desires first and try to shoehorn the kids in around them.

I hear it said so often in polyam forums that a relationship that ends is not a failure if it simply ran its course and everyone moved on . . . but, when you bring children in, whether they are born into the relationship, or brought in from previous relationships, we owe it to them not to let the end of a relationship with our partners, take us away from the children who also have a relationship with us.

So what’s the priority here? Your sex life or the wellbeing of the children? If the latter, why bring them into the lifestyle at all?

There is a little girl who called me her parent, and whose face lights up whenever she sees me, who is not allowed to spend time with me.

/facepalm

There are two children sleeping upstairs who have a father they will probably never see again.

/bangs head on desk

This is wrong, and I cannot change it. But I can hope and pray that those of you who read this, will do everything in your power to make sure these things never happen to the children in your life.

Because our children deserve better than this.

Yes, they do. So quit the polyamory, find a proper partner, and build a normal, stable environment to raise them in.

The more I read about polyamorous relationships the more I realise they are underpinned by a staggering degree of selfishness on the part of everyone involved. Except the kids, of course; they have no choice in it.

Share

Rotherham and Charlottesville

I’m with Streetwise Professor here:

The battle over the monuments is not really about the monuments. It’s not even really about the legacy of the Civil War. It is about the left’s vision of what America was, is, and will be. Here’s the most important thing to remember. The hard-core left that is the driving force behind extirpating the icons of the Confederacy does not see it, or the Old South, as an exception, a deviation from an otherwise laudable and righteous history: they see it as just one manifestation of the fundamental evil of America, evil that is writ on every page of history from 1607 on down. In this worldview, the United States has been, from even before its formal beginning, characterized by racism, sexism, and oppressive capitalism. It is not something that is basically good, but which has fallen short of achieving its lofty ideals: it is something that is fundamentally rotten, and which must be transformed by any means necessary.

There is an argument to be had regarding the future of Confederate monuments and statues, but nobody wants that. The people calling for the removal of the monuments have no idea who Lee was and are probably incapable of understanding the complexities of the Civil War. The Confederate statues are simply the latest in an ever-expanding list of political demands issued by an unelected mob which, for now, appears to have the run of the place. Rest assured, if every Confederate monument was taken down and melted into scrap this evening, the mob would be on the streets demanding something else by lunchtime Saturday.

One doesn’t have to like General Lee, the Confederacy, or slavery to realise that clamping down on this poisonous and dangerous movement ought to be a priority for ordinary Americans. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to want to, perhaps believing the mob can be appeased, or contained, or kept away from them and their families. Realistically speaking, they may be right: most people’s lives go on unaffected by the mob, and choosing to ignore it rather than risk serious escalation isn’t completely ridiculous. But they may be wrong, and when it is their door being burned down it will be too late.

One of the most shameful events in British recent history is the Rotherham child abuse scandal. What makes it doubly shameful is that it fell to the odious, far-right leader Nick Griffin to raise stink about it – which cost him a night in the cells for his efforts. Everybody else stayed silent while teenage girls were being systematically abused with the authorities covering it up. This is bad enough in itself, but if the sole voice trying to raise the alarm is a neo-Nazi, then the country has deep problems indeed. My point is that it should never have been left to Nick Griffin to bring the plight of the Rotherham teenagers to public attention, ordinary people should have been doing that and they didn’t.

So lets go back to Charlottesville. Why did it fall to a bunch of neo-Nazis to defend the Confederate monuments from a mob bent on destroying American society? Where was everyone else? Sure, I know their motivations for protecting the statue were far from pure, and pretty damned disgusting. But that’s what everyone said about Nick Griffin: he’s only highlighting teenage girls being gang-raped because of the race of the perpetrators. Sorry, but so what? We should ignore the outrage because the one person trying to do something about it has impure motives? As far as cop-outs go, that’s a Saturn V.

Perhaps those who elected Donald Trump thought they’d done their bit in November to stop the systematic destruction of America’s history and institutions and didn’t need to do any more. Hopefully after Charlottesville they’ll now understand what is at stake and not leave the defence of what underpins their society to a gaggle of neo-Nazis chanting racist slogans. If they can’t or won’t, or start mincing their words in order to maintain their social status with those who hate them as Mitt Romney and others did yesterday, we should conclude it doesn’t mean that much to them. If that’s the case, then the mob will deserve their victory.

Share

Polyamory and Mental Illness

Via Twitter, I found this advice on talking about mental problems when in a polyamorous relationship:

If your partner is constantly battling suicidal thoughts and you want to talk about how they never do their share of the dishes, stop. Is it fair that you are doing most of the dishes? No. But they are literally fighting for their life and asking them to take energy away from that battle to hash out a schedule for the dishes isn’t fair to them either.

Being in a relationship with someone who is severally mentally ill (or physically ill, or sometimes just dealing with life shitting on them) means prioritizing. Yes, it is annoying as fuck that you are doing all the dishes. But who does the dishes is not as important as keeping everyone alive and healthy. Before you can fix the dishes problem, your partner needs to heal. That, as I have said elsewhere, takes time.

As is so often the case with stories related to polyamory, the example could easily apply to a monogamous relationship. This is probably deliberate, because it deflects attention from the serious issues that are unique to polyamory. Were the example to be specific to polyamory, it might read:

If your partner is constantly battling suicidal thoughts and you want to talk about how you want to sleep with your other lovers more often, stop. Is it fair that you can’t sleep with your other partners? No. But they are literally fighting for their life and asking them to take energy away from that battle to hash out a schedule for sex isn’t fair to them either.

Being in a relationship with someone who is severally mentally ill (or physically ill, or sometimes just dealing with life shitting on them) means prioritizing. Yes, it is annoying as fuck that you can’t be with your other lovers as often as you like. But having sex is not as important as keeping everyone alive and healthy. Before you can fix the sex problem, your partner needs to heal.

Putting it like that raises the obvious question: should someone who is mentally ill be in a polyamorous relationship in the first place, given the additional stresses and burdens such an arrangement inevitably brings?

Or is being mentally ill a requirement?

This post is part of the Polyamory and Mental Illness blog series.

One would almost think the two to go hand-in-hand.

Share

Trump and Charlottesville

It is becoming clear that whatever did or didn’t happen in Charlottesville, it is now the latest thing over which to call for Trump’s removal from office. The idea that a New York property tycoon who happily saw his daughter convert to Judaism in order to marry a Jewish guy is a white supremacist is absolutely laughable, but then so was the collusion with Russia story and look at how long that ran for. The media only dropped it when it started looking like the only people that would be found colluding with Russia were Democrats, and now they need another reason to call for Trump’s impeachment.

Nobody should be surprised by what’s happened in Charlottesville. As others have pointed out, particularly Brendan O’Neill, this is the inevitable outcome of the identity politics which predated Obama but became a defining feature of his two terms. The usual suspects – the media, deranged lefties, and Democrats – have predictably blamed the whole thing on Trump and when he failed to single out their ideological enemies for special criticism, instead preferring to condemn all sides, they took it as proof that he is in fact a Grand Wizard of the KKK. At this stage, one wouldn’t expect anything else.

In addition, you have the Never Trumpers and gelded Republicans condemning Trump, mainly because they don’t like the Alt-Right and, with a lot of them being Jews, don’t like the anti-semitism which plagues those quarters. Their complaint is that in his latest speech Trump differentiated between the Alt-Right and Nazis, which to me seems rather uncontroversial even if there is some overlap. The problem is, the Republicans and Never Trumpers are only marginally more in touch with the millions of voters who put Trump in office than the lunatics calling Trump a white supremacist.

I don’t have a much in common with the Alt-Right politically and they come across to me as a bunch of immature blokes who’ve spent too much time in the comments of red-pill, PUA sites, but they’re a potent political force (for now) and they’re not Nazis. I like that they’re upsetting the cosy apple-cart of the loony-left Democrats and the pointless Republicans because it was an apple-cart that needed upsetting: best it’s done sooner by a bunch of clowns wearing Pepe the Frog t-shirts and a reality TV host than a seriously nasty and capable bastard backed by proper money and interests. As has been pointed out repeatedly, Trump was a symptom not a cause, and his election ought to have served as a shot across the bows of the political establishment, particularly the Republicans, that forces beyond their control are building in American politics. It’s a warning they seem determined to ignore.

The term Nazi has been thrown around so much that when real Nazis show up waving swastikas the only people who care are those who think a Nazi is anyone to the right of Bernie Sanders, and decent Americans who think they ought to say something. I can imagine that after eight years of Obama embracing the BLM movement, race riots in Ferguson and elsewhere, and endless accusations of racism, an awful lot of white Americans are simply shrugging their shoulders at the appearance of a gaggle of supposed Nazis carrying torches they bought at Home Depot. The expectation is that we all rush out to condemn them, but a yawn is probably more realistic. Nobody sane is buying the Nazi bogeyman, and nobody thinks Trump is a white supremacist. I suspect most people aren’t even particularly concerned over his handling of the issue, having learned to ignore the hysterical screaming from the media.

Trump”s opponents have tried the Russian puppet, and now they’re trying the Nazi smear. The old adage of a dead girl or a live boy would more likely get him on the front cover of Vogue than out of office these days. I’m genuinely curious what they’ll try next.

Share

Charlottesville and Robert E. Lee

From the BBC:

The “Unite the Right” march was called to protest against plans to remove a statue of a general who had fought for the pro-slavery Confederacy during the US Civil War.

The statue in question, located in Charlottesville, VA, is of General Robert E. Lee. Whilst the BBC’s description is technically accurate, the description is misleading, probably deliberately so: their coverage of Charlottesville is a litany of innuendo and smears, including Trump being a white supremacist. One wouldn’t expect anything else from the BBC of course, but it’s worth looking closer at Robert E. Lee and the reasons why he fought for the Confederacy.

When I was in Nigeria I read James McPherson’s excellent Battle Cry of Freedom, which tells us (pages 280-81):

Lee had made clear his dislike of slavery, which he described in 1856 as “a moral and political evil.” Until the day Virginia left the Union he had also spoken against secession.

But with Virginia’s decision, everything changed. “I must side either with or against my section,” Lee told a northern friend. His choice was foreordained by birth and blood: “I cannot raise my hand against my birthplace, my home, my children.” On the very day he learned of Virginia’s secession, April 18, Lee also received the offer of Union command. He told his friend General Scott regretfully that he must not only decline, but must also resign from the army. “Save in defense of my native State,” said Lee, “I never desire again to draw my sword.”

Most officers from the upper South made a similar decision to go with their states, some without hesitation, others with the same bodeful presentiments that Lee expressed on May 5: “I foresee that the country will have to pass through a terrible ordeal, a necessary expiation perhaps for our national sins.”

In other words, Lee didn’t fight for slavery and secession – and actually opposed both – but regretfully resigned from the United States army in order to defend his native Virginia – the same State that now wants to tear down his statue. I found the reasons various people gave for choosing sides in the American Civil War fascinating, but the complexities of each choice have largely been ignored in contemporary discussions on the subject. I guess the BBC and their ilk prefer to stoke the flames of a race war by implying Lee was fighting to preserve slavery.

Well, they’re getting what they wanted, aren’t they?

Share

Coming from Behind

I was on holiday without a TV and so missed England’s 4th-test victory over South Africa at Old Trafford, which saw them win the series 3-1. The match was pretty much over when England scored 362 in the first innings and South Africa were 84-2 in reply.

When England got absolutely thumped by Australia in the 2013/14 Ashes, I made this comment about the Australian team:

Despite their success, this team has yet to demonstrate it can follow even a modest first innings total or bat a second innings from behind

One of the great things about test cricket is that a team always has the time to overcome a massive deficit, and one of the defining features of a decent test team is its ability to bat patiently and relentlessly for hour after hour, accumulating runs or eating up overs. In the past, it was common for test batsmen to arrive at the crease some 400+ runs behind and be quite unfazed: the likes of Langer, Lara, Tendulkur, Chanderpaul, Sangakarra, Ponting, Smith, and Kallis understood their job was often to climb mountains when batting second or fourth. Not for nothing was Rahul Dravid called “The Wall”.

Nowadays, most test matches are decided on the first and second days: a side wins the toss and bats first accumulating a modest total of between 350 and 400 runs. The side batting second falls miles short, affected by what is called scoreboard pressure. If the side batting first can’t accumulate a decent total, they’ve pretty much lost the match. The last time I saw a test match where the team batting first scored a very good total (400+) and the other side came out and matched it, the players were very different from those we have today. Also, batting out for a draw seems to be a thing of the past: South Africa were the masters of it, with Faf du Plessis – the current Proteas captain – having taken part in a couple of great escapes himself. However, with the departure of AB de Villiers and the demise of JP Duminy, he lacks the partners to do the same now.

One of the most magnificent cricketing performances I’ve seen was in the first test of the 2010/11 Ashes in Brisbane, when England batted first and scored 260, then Australia replied with 481. Andrew Strauss and Alistair Cook walked out for the second innings staring at a 221 run deficit and the likelihood of a humiliating defeat. Strauss fell first having scored 110 with 188 runs on the board, and then Jonathan Trott came in. He went on to score 135 with Cook scoring 235, declaring on 517 for 1. The match was drawn but that batting performance from England’s top three when faced with such immense scoreboard pressure set the tone for the rest of the series, which England went on to win.

These days that would never happen. No two batsmen in the world today could walk out to a 221 run deficit and bat to 187-0. I don’t know if it’s the influence of T20 and one-day cricket meaning players are not exposed to scoreboard pressure, or if players are picked more on explosive power and all-round abilities rather than patient accumulation and a solid defence, but test teams rarely seem able to come from behind and win or save a match in the modern era. It’s a shame, because this was what made test matches exciting, and differentiated them from the shorter formats. I hope things go back to how they were.

Share

More on Gendered Pronouns

I’ve written before about gendered pronouns:

The supposed problem is that the use of “he” or “she” infers sexual attributes to the person in question which they might not like, but this might have more to do with the nature of English grammar than a desire on the part of an ancient system of Patriarchy to impose their characterisations on unwilling recipients.

My guess would be that this is being driven by people who, not having the first clue about languages (including their own), are basing their entire objections on an implication that simply isn’t there.

Commenter dearieme said something similar recently at Tim Worstall’s:

When I was a boy the singular gender-neutral pronouns were he, him, his. The notion that the referent of he, him, his must be male is a modern fallacy, originally American of course.

One only needs to look at how we refer to animals to see that often gendered terms can be gender neutral. We go to feed the ducks even if there are drakes present. We point to a herd of cows even if they’re actually bullocks. A flock of sheep may well contain a ram, but we don’t nit-pick. A herd of deer probably has does mixed in, and a pride of lions usually includes a few lionesses.

It might be time for the post-modern grammar experts at The Times to come out in defence of he, him, and his.

Share

Commentary on North Korea

There has a been a lot of commentary over North Korea during the last few days as Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump let each other know their respective policies. Naturally, this has prompted people who know nothing about North Korea (or at least, hide their knowledge well) to score points against Trump. I was rather disappointed to see that Mick Hartley, who is usually pretty sound on North Korea, approvingly quote this garbage:

President Trump is an impulsive egotist with a lot to prove and he’s generally surrounded by yes-men. His threat of “fire and fury like the world has never seen” sounds very much like the nutball threats which the current leader of the Kim family and the North Korean state news agencies frequently make – various rage-and-threat-speak about seas of fire and other such nonsense.

This is a really bad and dangerous situation to start with. It was bad when President Obama left office. It’s gotten much worse since – through some mix of US threats and North Korean testing out the new administration. The worst possible thing is a President who is stupid, impulsively emotional and has something to prove, which is exactly what we have. (You think his litany of failures as President so doesn’t make him eager for a breakout, transformative moment?)  At the risk of stating the obvious, threats like this from a country that has the ability to kill everyone in North Korea at close to a moment’s notice can set off a highly unpredictable chain of events. What if North Korea issues more threats? Presumably Trump fails to respond with a nuclear attack and reveals his threats as empty or – truly, truly unimaginably – he launches a nuclear attack. These are not good choices to face.

The situation with North Korea would be an extreme challenge for a leader with ability and judgment. President Trump is simply too erratic, unstable and dangerous to be in charge in a situation like this.

This piece is not about North Korea at all, it’s about what the author thinks of Trump. North Korea is simply the excuse to write the words down, and adds no value whatsoever. Trump is surrounded my yes-men? Like James Mattis? And hasn’t a rather defining attribute of Trump’s presidency been that he can’t seem to get anyone around him to do what he wants? If any article you read on North Korea focuses mainly on Trump and his supposed inadequacies, it can be safely ignored.

North Korea has been an intractable problem since its formation. Many people are leaping up and down blaming America for Kim Jong-Un’s behaviour and that of his father and grandfather, but this is reflexive ignorance or anti-Americanism, especially now Trump is involved. Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan, and a host of other places in which America has meddled, the problems caused by North Korea can be laid squarely at the feet of the ruling Kim Dynasty, the Soviets who created it, and the Chinese who support it. Blaming the Americans for antagonising the North Koreans is like blaming West Germany for antagonising the Soviets.

It’s not as though America hasn’t tried every approach it could. The idiots wringing their hands over Trump’s rhetoric seem to have missed that every president since Bush Snr. tried and failed to get North Korea to behave, and often acted in full partnership with the UN and China, Russia, and other partners. Every one of them failed, and Trump has inherited a problem which has arguably been made worse by his predecessors’ failures either to take it seriously or to believe the lies told by Kim Jong-Il. At the very least, Trump is trying to deal with the same shit-burger his predecessors did, only now it’s nuclear-armed. The problem is not one of Trump’s own making, and is not being made worse by language, but we can be sure half the west will fall over itself to criticise Trump and downplay the nature of the North Korean regime in order to score political points, undermining any attempt to solve the problem.

Sensible commentary has been provided, as usual, by Streetwise Professor:

North Korea represents one of the most daunting challenges imaginable. Although the North Korean military has aged and obsolete equipment, and would lose in an all out war, it could inflict massive casualties on whomever it fought. Further, it has the Sampson option: with massive conventional and chemical artillery forces in range of Seoul, before it was consumed in the inevitable retaliatory strike, North Korea could kill tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of South Koreans.

As I said, any commentary that emphasises Trump and downplays the enormous challenge North Korea represents can be safely ignored. I think there’s going to be a lot of rubbish written on this subject in the coming weeks and months. Hopefully Mick Hartley will adjust his filter and give us more stuff like this:

All of which sounds fine, but negotiations with North Korea have never worked in the past, simply because they never stick to their side of the bargain.

More importantly, it’s simply not true that Kim only wants to survive. What he really wants – what he’s working towards – is reunification of Korea, on his terms. Not to grasp that point is to fail to understand the dynamics behind Pyongyang’s aggression.

And this:

North Korea would not need intercontinental ballistic missiles to strike South Korea, whose capital sits just 35 miles from their shared border. Pyongyang has had the ability to detonate nuclear devices in Seoul via short- and medium-range ballistic missiles for years. There’s also reason to question the wisdom of nuking a proud, democratic city of 25 million people before attempting to rule it.

What an ICBM does for North Korea is establish deterrence in the event of a reunification campaign.

Kim Jong Un thinks “the nuclear weapons will prevent US from getting involved,” Sun said. “That’s why we see more and more people making the argument that the North Korea’s nuclear development is not aimed at the US, not aimed at South Korea, but aimed at reunification.”

Rather than this:

And, despite the promise of a firmer hand on the tiller in the shape of the president’s new chief of staff, General John Kelly, the crazy tweeting persists, and casual threats of war erupt from a man on a summer golfing break.

This could, in other words, all turn out much worse than even the president’s wary advisers, who know war (though far less ferocious war than this would likely be) may think. And if the war hype is all a Trump fake, it will be shown to be such. And as is usually the case with Trump fakes, others will pay the bill while he continues to golf.

Share

Two Quotes

Two quotes, totally unrelated.

The first from Streetwise Professor on Emmanuel Macron, with which I agree and wish I’d written myself:

I must confess that I may have misjudged M. Macron. I pegged him as a cipher whom Merkel would dominate. But if anything, Macron is proving to lean more towards Napoleonic ambitions, labeling himself “Jupiter” who aims to overawe the petty squabbling political nation.

Macron left some angered, and others nonplused, by his bonhomie with Trump during the president’s visit to France on Bastille Day. This actually makes perfect sense, and is the best demonstration of his intent to be his own man, rather than a Merkel flunky. As Empress Angela’s pretensions continue to swell, Macron knows that he needs a counterweight. He further knows that Merkel disdains Trump, and Trump don’t think much of her either. So the clever thing to do is to build a relationship to Trump. It signals independence. It will aggravate Angela. And it will provide Macron with some muscle in his dealings with Germany, and with the EU.

The second is from the comments at ZMan’s concerning one of Barack Obama’s attempts at appearing cool. I quote this simply because I found it amusing:

My favorite “Race to the bottom” moment with Obama was when he invited a bunch of rappers to the White House for the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, which was designed to help keep young black men free from entanglement with the criminal justice system. Obama was giving a speech, when the ankle bracelet of one of the rappers present started beeping. Rick Ross (the rapper in question) had been charged with kidnapping earlier in the year.

Heh!

Share

Today’s adults are the product of modern parenting

There’s a great episode of South Park where Cartman’s mother gets so fed up with her son’s unruly behaviour she enlists the help of a “dog whisperer”. He basically trains Cartman as he would a dog, zapping him every time he steps or says something out of line. Within a short time Cartman is a perfect little gentleman. However – and this is IMO the real genius of the episode – Cartman’s mother doesn’t like it, because she no longer has anyone to fuss over and dote on: her son is now independent of her. She then undoes all the dog whisperer’s work because her sole reason to exist is leaping in the air whenever her spoiled brat son says “jump”. Without this, she is lost and lonely. Matt Parker and Trey Stone have got modern parenting nailed to a T.

I don’t have kids and no longer get asked why, but back when I did I would flip the question around: why do you have kids? You’d be surprised by how many of the answers were effectively to fill a void in the mother’s life. Quite a few would talk about receiving “unconditional love”, and after a while I’d reply that you can get that from a dog. I was only half joking: if you need unconditional love then you are perhaps better off getting a pet than having a child.

I’ve spent the past decade or so observing my friends and colleagues starting families and raising kids, plus I trawl through online forums such as Mumsnet occasionally, and I try to compare it to my own childhood. The difference is vast. Now I don’t think our household in the 1980s was typical, my parents were old-fashioned and our upbringing was probably more in line with the 1950s or ’60s, and perhaps if I’d seen a more typical childhood my views would be a little different now.

Probably the biggest difference between then and now is that in a lot of modern families the kids run the household. This is by no means universal, but in a lot of cases the kids say something, shout out, or demand something and both adults stop whatever they’re doing to appease the child. This happens every few minutes, hour after hour, day after day. The kids have the adults wrapped around their fingers, and are clearly the ones in charge. A power play has taken place, wills have been tested, and the parents have been found wanting.

I’m fairly sure it wasn’t like this a couple of generations ago. I seem to remember when growing up there were “kids space” and “adult space” and I’m not just talking about physical space. There were conversations between adults that kids knew they were not allowed to intervene in, activities they ought to stay away from, and things they mustn’t touch. Sure, the kids would test these boundaries but they were rigorously enforced, leading to a separation of adult and children’s spheres. If the radio was on and my parents were listening we generally knew not to come in an make a racket. If we did, we’d get a bollocking, not be indulged. Nowadays there is no adults’ world and children’s world: everything is the children’s world, up to and including what is to be watched on TV.

A lot of modern parents seem unwilling or unable to set boundaries, which involves disciplining the kids. I have seen some do this well, some do it half-well, and some just let the kids do as they please. When it comes to disciplining kids, a lot of mothers I see simply can’t do it. They can’t bear to see their kid upset so they don’t maintain the boundary. A typical example is two adults speaking about something important and the kid comes running up:

“MUMMY MUMMY MUMMY! MUMMY MUMMY MUMMY! CAN I PLAY WITH MY LEGO?! MUMMY MUMMY MUMMY! CAN I PLAY WITH MY LEGO?!”

Mummy’s response is: “Listen Toby, we’ve told you not to interrupt when adults are talking. Of course you can play with your Lego, darling! But don’t make a mess!”

Then Toby responds in an excruciatingly whiny voice: “But I can’t find it! I don’t know where it iiiiiiiissssss

A conversation then ensues about where Toby has put his Lego. By the time this is over, the other adult – if he’s me – has wandered off and poured himself a whisky. For all Mummy’s insistence that Toby shouldn’t interrupt adults, she is allowing him to do just that. Multiply this across a hundred different scenarios and Toby clearly has the run of the place.

What Mummy should have said is: “Listen Toby, we’ve told you not to interrupt when adults are talking. Go away!”

But then Toby would have cried and wailed and sniveled and Mummy’s heart would have broken and she’d have caved in, and I’d be off trying to find some whisky anyway. The problem is too many mothers – and an increasing number of fathers – want to be friends with their kids, and think their job is to smother them with love and affection and avoid all instances of them being upset. Their actions seem to be more about getting their kids’ approval and make themselves feel good instead of raising their children to be functioning adults.

It’s not about discipline per se, it’s more about consistency and resolve. I’m not saying parents should whip their kids, but if they’re going to tell them not to do something or give them a bollocking, it needs to be consistent and sustained. I was in a house some years back when a four year old boy hurled a framed photo to the floor. The adults made their shocked faces and said he was a naughty boy and sent him to stand in the corner. Within five minutes he was making faces at the same adults who were laughing with him and calling him cute. Within ten minutes he was eating a chocolate ice cream. What do you think the little brat learned from that episode, then? He should have been sent to his room for two hours minimum, permitted to scream his head off, and given the cold shoulder afterwards. But parents lack the resolve to do it.

One of the things I hear most often is darling Toby is “a fussy eater”. I am relatively certain that this is a modern phenomenon. I didn’t like some of my mother’s cooking but I was hungry so I ate it. I am sure the generations before me, and people in other countries, simply couldn’t give their kids choices. It is not unusual now for mothers to make separate meals for each child because “he just won’t eat it”. I’ve suggested not giving him anything else, and every mother says “Oh, I tried but he screamed and screamed and just wouldn’t eat it.” I bet this went on for all of twenty minutes before she caved in, whereas my mother would have kept me there until bedtime and then had another go with the same stuff the next day. As millions of children in poor households demonstrate every day, kids will eat anything if they’re hungry enough.

Kids refusing to eat are simply testing their parents’ will (unless they are genuinely ill). When a child pushes a plate of “strange” food away and says “I don’t want it!” he’s probably overfed. Guaranteed he’ll be eating chocolate before bedtime, and likely had a packet of crisps an hour previously. When I grew up the whole family ate together, sat at a table. When we’d finished we had to ask permission to leave the table and that was only granted if everything had been eaten. The table was the only place we were allowed to eat, and mealtimes the only occasion. Most households I walk into noadays has a kid walking around the house snacking on something, leaving a trail of detritus behind him.

Now this might all seem like unfair criticism, and I don’t mean it to be. If this is how parents want to raise their kids, good luck to them. I don’t have kids so it’s easy for me to sit and carp from the sidelines, and if I was raising a tribe perhaps I’d be equally guilty. But this is what I have observed, and it’s amazing how defensive people get when I simply describe what I’ve seen (and I fully expect to receive plenty of responses to this along the lines of “Oh but you don’t understand, with my Toby I really did try everything!”) But that isn’t the point of this post either.

Rather, it ties into my previous post about the modern generation being both unwilling to moderate their behaviour and unable to cope with the consequences, such that they demand to be protected from them. They can’t communicate, and nor are they prepared to compromise. They expect immediate delivery of even their most whimsical and petty desires, and the whole world ought to stop and fall over themselves to bring it about. The reaction of so many supposedly functioning adults to the Google Memo – the author of which has now been fired – is ample proof of a society whose young and even not-so-young adults have the mental strength and capacity of infant children. And have a look at this article:

Why Professional Cuddling Is Booming Under Trump

The reasons one seeks out a professional cuddling experience range from average adults seeking connection, those on the autistic spectrum, those healing from sexual trauma, adults dealing with sexual dysfunction or for older virgins to practice touch in a safe environment. The elephant in the room during some of these sessions, though, is the current state of the country’s affairs. Since November – and the election of Donald Trump – professional cuddling services have seen a spike in client interest.

These people are not functioning adults. Of course, every generation thinks the next one is soft and society going to the dogs, but the difference then was the next generation wasn’t wringing its hands and whining about how difficult life was. This isn’t the previous generation complaining about the next, it’s the current generation complaining about the world as they find it.

So whose fault is it? It’s tempting to blame technology, just the same as TV, rock ‘n’ roll, and video games were used to explain why previous generations opted for delinquency. This article seems to think the iPhone is to blame, but as I said in my previous post, I think that’s a symptom rather than a cause: kids are using the iPhone to help cope, rather than a handset making them useless.

I think the fault lies squarely with the changes in parenting. An early sign of this new approach was when parents started shouting at teachers for chastising their brats, rather than clipping the brat himself around the ear for making the teacher yell at him. With both parents now working, perhaps they feel guilty for not spending enough time with their kids and so strive to make every moment “special”. Perhaps households being much wealthier has simply given them the luxury of being run by kids: the family would die if they tried this in a developing country.

Whatever the cause, I feel confident there is a link between children raised in such a way and the propensity of young adults to struggle to cope with the world and hanker for a patriarchal authority to regulate it such that they don’t have to. I’m not necessarily saying modern parenting is wrong, but if people are wondering why so many of today’s adults are rather wet, they might want to look at how they were brought up.

I’ll wrap this up with an anecdote. When I visited Lebanon in 2010 I attended a family party at my host’s house, a small affair so only about 60 people. The women sat at one side of the room and gossiped while drinking wine, the men sat on the other and gossiped while drinking Johnny Walker, and the children played on the floor. Young boys were permitted to join the men, and eat at the adults’ table, around the age of 14 or 15, and it was a big thing for them. They had to demonstrate the maturity to do so, and I saw them sat around with bum-fluff moustaches trying their hardest not to come across as infantile children. Their immaturity was obvious, but their parents and relatives set them expectations as to how to behave “now they were men” and they tried their best. Young boys looked forward to being accepted into the ranks of men, and strived for it.

I can’t help thinking any clash of civilisations will be won by those whose method of raising children produces the most successful adults. At this rate, the West is going to struggle.

Share