the crushing weight of responsibility


I’m a bit confused about parenthood.

  • Parents usually make a choice to have children.
  • Parents usually knowingly provide all the code that makes the physical body of their offspring.
  • Parents are usually responsible for all the environmental factors that impact on the development of their children.

That all makes sense, right? So why do parents blame their children for acting up, misbehaving or being disobedient? It’s all the parents’ fault – they chose the child’s existence, they provided the physical body their child has available for processing information, and they are responsible for the provision of all the input that result in the child’s behaviour.

I always assumed that religions with creator deities were so successful because they provide a seductive extension of protective parenthood – the strong invisible father figure who loves, teaches, understands and ultimately controls everything. But I’m beginning to wonder if part of the appeal is to wiggle out of the crushing weight of responsibility that comes with being parents ourselves. A kind of “It wasn’t me! God made her!”

Imagine little two-year-old Maggie having a temper tantrum. Here are three differing potential parental responses:

Silly Parent:Β “There goes Satan making little Maggie sin again, I’d better go discipline her so she sees God’s light and behaves like a proper Christian child” Β (Satan + free will in child = temper tantrum)

Sensible Parent: “I hope this natural developmental phase passes soon or I can find some way to pre-empt it in the future.” Β (nature + not knowing answer = temper tantrum)

Realistic Parent: “Shit! She wouldn’t be doing that if I hadn’t forced her to exist! She wouldn’t be doing that if I’d structured her day differently! She would stop if I could work out what the hell is wrong!” (forced existence + poor parenting = temper tantrum)

It is a crushing weight and I’m hovering somewhere between sensible and realistic.