Thursday, March 20, 2008

As a man about to enter my thirties, it should be no small surprise that I have more than a few friends who either have or are expecting children these days. And I wish them the best. Obviously it's better that people I like and trust are out there raising kids than we leave it all to those idiots in Florida who put fireworks in cats and drink lighter fluid. Clearly it is no small feat to raise children. It's exhausting and messy and frustrating*. But there's also great moments, to be sure, moments of love and pride and family goodness. I should point out that if you're reading this (hell, if you can read at all), you probably know far more about childrearing than I do. But for my own edification I continue.
My point is you're also given the chance to mold a tiny little human being. You have the opportunity of taking all of your knowledge, your skills, your fears, your hates, and your weird foibles and smush them into this little genetic imprint. Not that you should, but it's there. and this is why I think I would make a horrible parent, treating a child more as an experiment (if I tell him that he's allergic to cheese his whole life, will he grow up to hate Swedish people? If I let ants crawl on her face, will she have no fear? etc..), but I'd like to think that were I faced with the task of raising a child, I would pass on a set of morals and standards that are both earnest and respectful. At least until he/she was old enough to learn things for themselves. I was brought up with a pretty sensible moral belief system and even though I wouldn't say I adhere to it all that well, I at least know what I should be doing.
I've been going over these moral codes lately, because sometimes these can offer a lot of insight into where you might think you're going wrong. Sometimes it's nice just to remind yourself what the right thing to do is. and I think that one of those that does a great job of putting everything in perspective is:
Gene Autry's cowboy code
  1. The Cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.
  2. He must never go back on his word, or a trust confided in him.
  3. He must always tell the truth.
  4. He must be gentle with children, the elderly, and animals.
  5. He must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.
  6. He must help people in distress.
  7. He must be a good worker.
  8. He must keep himself clean in thought, speech, action, and personal habits.
  9. He must respect women, parents, and his nation's laws.
  10. The Cowboy is a patriot.
Sure, some are a bit naive, and that last one is completely intangible, but I still think it's a pretty fair set of beliefs to maintain. So there you go. Tack that to the wall and let a cowboy raise your children. It won't change diapers, but pretty soon we'll have robots for that. Cold, steel robots.

*That said, though, it drives me nuts to hear people complain about how superheroic they are for having children. You're right. I have no idea how hard it is to have children. But I have enough of an idea to know that I'm not ready for it. I respect and admire decent parents all the world around. But stop acting like you're the first person to do this. Cavemen did it. 14 year olds did it. That Juno did it**. So take pride in your parenting skills and do a good job of it. and let your child know how hard it is to raise them, not some random person on the street***. It's the American way.

**I think. I didn't see it. she probably gave it away at the end like a lazy coward.

*** and yes, this gripe was inspired by a chance encounter on the street. Not any of you wonderful people****. Seriously. Put your throwin' rocks away, unless you've recently seen me on the street in Upland, CA.

****I already know the shit I'ma catch for this. but that's why there's a website. If you want in on this, just say the word.

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