Friday, November 21, 2008

No more dumping your teenagers

Nebraska has put an age limit of 30-days for children who can be abandoned at hospitals under the state's safe haven law. That's because almost three-dozen children, mostly adolescents, have been surrendered to the state at Nebraska hospitals since July. The safe haven law allows parents to abandon their children at hospitals with no penalty. Some of the kids were driven or flown in from states as far-flung as Michigan and Florida. Can you imagine that vacation?

One wonders why states have made it so difficult to put children in foster care or mental health programs that parents feel compelled to rush the process by abandoning them.

The whole situation also reminds me of how our society -- human society in general -- has turned procreation into an idol. Even among people who don't buy into the anti-birth control teachings of various religions tend to talk about procreation as if it is the be-all and end-all of human existence.* I am at an age when many of my peers are procreating, or trying with all their might and the assistance of medical technology to procreate. In all but a few cases, they seem to be doing it with a vague, naive and unarticulated assumption that they will have wonderful, well-behaved, healthy children who will bring them joy that is, for the most part, uninterrupted by the selfishness, solipsism, and semi-sadistic tendencies that are a natural part of childhood -- not to mention the violence, mental illness, and chronic or fatal health conditions that, while not universal, are common risks of the human condition.

I'm not saying that every parent who dropped a kid off at a Nebraska hospital had this kind of naivete about parenthood, but it would be a statistical anomaly if none of them did. And so parents and children both become victims of the cult of family.

It's not that no one should ever have children. But I do wish parenthood were more often undertaken with the same forethought and weighing of pros and cons that other major decisions are. While a person can't anticipate every problem that might arise, I think it's important for potential parents to ask themselves how far they are willing and able to go in nurturing other human beings** from infancy to adulthood.

*It is, but only if you believe that our sole purpose on earth is to propogate the species at all costs; an extremely materialist and anti-spiritual argument if I've ever heard one.
** Because it could be triplets, even if you're only planning to have one!

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