Translated from MSZ 4-1980
Family happiness in theory and practice
After we found out about the insatiable need for meaning among the intelligentia, which is currently returning to the family circle and discovering the object of commitment and sacrifice in children who are supposed to thank their parents for this, we no longer dare rule out the possibility that MSZ readers, after having been disappointed for years by a boyfriend or girlfriend, might fall for the idea of having children in order to finally be able to give and receive unconditional affection according to the saying
It’s not hard to become a father ...
There’s already something oppressive about this idea, which is why complaints arise like clockwork that problems grow up with children and raising them is more difficult than herding cats. But nobody lets it be for this reason. On the contrary – good advice is very much appreciated and that’s why it’s not supposed to be given. The zealous inspection of parental practice is not supposed to criticize it, but to lament its success, which never quite occurs the way that the ideology of raising children would like it to. This does not mean, of course, that it does nothing: the explosive mixture of effusive love and disciplinary exasperation that is showered on the child always has one result: the child learns to use his will in a manipulative way – a reflection of his parents’ struggle to raise him that is just as bleak as it is successful.
… but being one is very
“Am I doing this correctly?” is the question of mothers and fathers anxious for a universal standard of parenting which is by no means oriented only at the academically educated. It’s as if growing up could fail. Every society has accustomed the young to adapting to its reality and getting along properly by means of praises and reprimands, carrots and sticks. The silly worries and insecurities of parents about the “right way to raise a child” is exposed by their sureness that their daily arbitrary rebukes of the child do not necessarily harm him and cause all sorts of side effects and possible longer term consequences. The ideology of raising children, on the other hand, wants us to believe, for example, that the worst thing about parents beating children is not that they want to break the will of their offspring, but that they impair the little creature’s future learning ability and so their life chances. Which is why the opinion persists that a good spanking never hurt anyone. Every child learns to stop shitting his pants as well as walking and talking, and that’s why nothing is “determined” in “the most important first two years.” It’s not just the parents’ hope that their child will be better off than they are, which, by the way, could be expressed simply by taking caring of the child as well as the parents’ means allow. Rather, those who “mean well” for their still so unfinished and therefore considered “cute” creatures quickly ignore their little subjectivity by lovelessly problematizing whether they are doing what is best for the child’s future. The fact that the latter is determined by what the society decides makes its members suitable in terms of education and careers can’t be forgotten even by concerned parents who would like to deny this fact by taking it into account in the family and making life difficult for their dear little ones with the demand that they must learn to behave “properly” because only “well behaved” children are loved. Even if childish “manners” do not guarantee a career as a president, one is nevertheless proud of having “done everything” to make the young citizen in the playpen obey stupid rules or promises at the right moment and thus making him socially presentable.
The parents take on the certainty that the little squirt has no choice but to train his will in the required nonsensical manner – something that is supposed to “belong” of him at one moment and then doesn’t the next – as an attentive commentary on how advanced the “stage of development” of the respective Häwelmann is now. As doubtful as the joy of older people may be in the ability of their offspring to adapt to their commands and to try out whether and how they are suitable for making their own “demands,” it is inevitable that nasty tones erupt in the family when the childish will makes use of its moral means against his caretakers: something the brats are forced to get the hang of quite quickly and according to their childish needs and possibilities. Then the whining brat gets all worked up and learns that they are just a means, the use of which is subject to the interests of the adults and gives their parental power the irrational impact of being justified. “We still get the (!) say,” they say, and the whining child learns to be tactically shrewder the next time he has to engage with the grown ups who he can’t understand, but on whom he depends.
Happiness in a corner
All the bickering about the brats’ stubborness and silly smarty-pants attitude, by which parents could become clear about the reason for such home-made difficulties – their own work raising a “decent person,” necessarily enforced by parental whims – is not considered by them as what it is objectively, but merely as a “problem,” because they see all their freedom and their happiness in persevering with the obtuseness of the young as their highest purpose in life: in return, “difficulties” – especially those of children – are gladly accepted, since they attest to the stupid parental logic that adversity and sacrifice only make the noble intention of raising children appear all the more glorious. The pathetic contentment of such abstraction artists, however, does not bring them or their victims any closer to the ideal little world they are trying to create away from the big evil one. They endure domestic quarrels and strife with their brats simply because they see their love for them as excluding them and their child-raising ideas from criticism, as well as their spawn – a kind of luxury that also has room in the tiniest shack. As a simple woman said: “My child is my life.”
Wherever this doting love strikes, no child ever grows up more sensibly. His stupidity and weakness are precisely the qualities that the circus around him relies on. They pat and pamper and cheer the little guy for already being able to say wee-wee maker to his cute thingamajig and don’t register without emotion when he can’t control it again. And even if he sometimes deposits something, because it is crap that has to be removed, the mother still sees him shining in the rosy light of Mephistopheles’ perverse paean: “seen from the rear view – Those rascals now are really appetizing!”
This attitude transcends sex differences in the parental personnel, but it takes physical form in the mother’s expression – as can easily be seen on her mindless, henlike face. Of course, this is not because these women would have fallen for the magic three Cs (child, cooking pot, church), which is then magically contrasted with the “independence” of professional activity, but has to do with the fact that, just as they are normally forced into occupational dependence, they are bound in addition to the family, in which they can look after their handful of needs, which for them also includes raising children; they voluntarily face this constraint as their “greatest task,” which distinguishes them from men.
Also not pure joy
Professional mothers like the gawking Karin Struck (“The Mother”) have made a lucrative business for themselves advertising this, although especially open-minded male assessors of the parenting scene have at all times successfully used this propaganda:“This means to guard and preserve this unconscious, still unclenched, but therefore original life.” (Rosenberg, The Myth of the 20th Century)
It thus also becomes clear that the ideological demand for the “abolition of gender-specific parenting roles,” which would like to see fathers sharing in the parental joys of motherhood all the way up to birth, does not arise from male envy of female privileges, but owes its existence to the free intellectual nonsense that theoretically every possible meaning should be drawn from raising children in order to increase its imaginary pleasure.
This luxury is indulged in by more and more parents, who obviously have more time than their neighbors who are busy with their work lives and allegedly not so fond of children – which is not true, yet regularly “proved” by pedagogically erudite parents with whatever theater they put on with their super babies: essentially, apart from the additional material costs for its care, they only distinguish “everything they do for the child” with more nonsense about its stupid babbling being a child-raising problem. They want to know that “skin contact” is better than a stroller, which is why they strap the sweet burden on their backs, argue about the necessary length of the breastfeeding period, which is not as long as it is for some Negro peoples due to a lack of milk (“how do they do it?”), run around with manuals and specialist journals which claim without challenge that it is very dangerous to give candy to children for doing “something good” because they will then “later in life often comfort themselves with other substances ingested through the mouth: cigarettes, alcohol, or even drugs” (Federal Ministry for Youth, Family and Health), etc. etc.
Where’s the class character in this?
All these silly assumptions change nothing in principle about the parental practice that in bourgeois families also spawns little creeps who have learned how to use the crazy affection of their parents to demand proper treatment of their “case” of growing up. Because they are so well trained in the elementary gimmicks of morally scamming the loved neighbor and know every trick in the book about the goals in bringing them up, they soon find a chance to act out like the parenting problem they have always been treated as when developing their little personalities. In developing this skill, children who get too much enjoyment out of their daily performance as budding adults may develop greater abilities to present themselves accordingly. This allows them to better express their childish nature – they are either well-behaved, not only knowing it might be useful, but also self-confident that it already is useful, or they are naughty, calculating the other way around for the same enhanced importance – but the advantage, also in relation to their peers, is not on their side, because their means, unlike those of their elders, are limited to being well-behaved and refusing to be and a peer can always punch them on the nose. The special character “formation” of little creeps from “good homes” can therefore be safely ignored – as can the special delusion of their producers, which some fans of egalitarian child raising won’t want to hear, but is already well-established in this country thanks to parental help.