A Most Revealing Question

I am quite sure that I was not the only child to be continually asked, “Why does everything have to be so difficult with you?” It is my impression that this is a very common piece of rhetoric. Now, a child cannot deconstruct his parents’ gamy utterances, because he has almost no experience of the wider world against which to set them; and prevention of such comparisons is a vital part of parenting.

Let us then consider the exasperated question, “Why does everything have to be so difficult with you?” The implication is twofold: one, that bringing up a child ought not to be so difficult; and two, that there exist other children with whom everything is not “so difficult”.

Since every intelligent person knows that creation of a new adult citizen from the raw material of an infant is always going to be an extraordinarily difficult undertaking, it follows that any enterprise in which no great difficulty is expected is not that undertaking of creating an adult but something else entirely. What should we call that activity in which no great difficulty is expected to disturb the gratification sought, an activity that is meant to be its own reward? Why, we may call it parenting, placing the emphasis not on the object, the child, but on the subject, the parents – their social roles and their emotional utility from the performance thereof.

What then of the second implication, that that there exist other children with whom everything is not “so difficult”? Difficulty will always accrue to the person who focuses on his own aims and needs but neglects to consider opposing interests, such as the existence of independent individuals. Non-difficult children will inevitably be those who do not have interests incompatible with those of their parents. The question, “Why does everything have to be so difficult with you?” thus resolves into a reproach for causing criminal deprivation of pleasure and convenience. It is a complaint about not getting it all one’s own way, a poorly-articulated protest against the disturbance of one’s own expected felicity by the child’s perverse refusal to keep to the script – or to intuit the real script.

Posted on January 11, 2010 at 22:56 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: PARENTAL STATUS TECHNOLOGY, My Son, The Doctor

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