Translated from MSZ 4-1980
Family happiness in theory and practice
After our findings about the insatiable need for meaning among the intelligentia, which is currently returning to the family circle and discovering children as the object of commitment and sacrifice which should thank their parents 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 motto
It’s not hard to become a father ...
There’s already something oppressive in this sentiment, which is is why complaints come up with monotonous regularity that problems have grown up with the children and raising them is more difficult than herding cats. But nobody lets them be because of this. On the contrary – good advice is highly appreciated and will therefore not be given here. The eager assessment of parental practice aims not to criticize it, but to lament its success, which never quite comes about the way the ideology of parenting would like. That does not mean, of course, that it does not exist: the explosive mixture of effusive love and disciplinary exasperation that is showered on the child always has one definite result: the child learns to use his will in a manipulative way – a bleak and successful reflection of his parents’ struggle to raise him.
… but being one is very
“Am I doing this right?” is the anxious question aiming at a universal standard of parenting that is asked not just by academically educated mothers and fathers. As if parenting could fail. Every society has accustomed the young to adapting to its reality and to particpating properly, by means of praises and reprimands, carrots and sticks. The parents’ silly worries and insecurities about the “right way to raise a child” is unmasked by their practically presented certainty that their daily arbitrary rebukes do not necessarily harm the child and cause all sorts of side effects and possible long-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 lowly creature’s future learning ability and thus 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 to walk and talk, and therefore not by a long shot is anything is “determined” in “the most important first two years.” This isn’t just an expression of the parents’ hope that their child will be better off than they are, which could otherwise be asserted in practice by simply taking caring of him as well as the parents’ means permit. Rather, those who “mean well” for their still so unfinished and therefore “cute” creatures quickly override his little subjectivity by lovelessly problematizing whether what they are doing is beneficial for the child’s future. The fact that the society determines what is suitable for its members 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 with stupid rules or promises at the right moment and thus making him socially acceptable.
The certainty that the squirt has no other choice but to train his will – something that is supposed to “belong” to him at one moment and then doesn’t again – in the required unreasonable manner is presented by his parents as an attentive commentary on how advanced the “stage of development” of the respective Häwelmann is. It’s doubtful that the older people enjoy the ability of their offspring to adjust to their commands and to try out whether and how they are suitable for announcing their own “demands,” but it is inevitable that ugly tones erupt in the family when the child’s will uses its moral means against its caretakers’ will: something that the brats are forced to get the hang of quite quickly and according to their childish needs and possibilities. Then the whining brat runs wild and gets carried away with the idea that its just a means whose use is in the interests of the adults and gives parental power the irrational force of being justified. “We still have the (!) say,” they say, and the whining child learns to be tactically smarter the next time it has to deal with the big ones who it can’t understand, but on whom it depends.
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 the 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, as well as their spawn, from criticism – a kind of luxury that also has room in the smallest 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 that the little guy can already 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 professional activity is then magically contrasted with as “independence,” but has to do with the fact that, just as they are normally forced into vocational dependence, they are additionally bound to the family, in which they can look after their handful of needs, which for them also includes raising children; they voluntarily face this compulsion 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 which, even in bourgeois families, produces a little creep who has learned, by means of his parents’ crazy attention, how to demand that his “case” of growing up be treated properly. Because they become so well trained in the elementary tricks of morally putting on the dear neighbors, and because they are savvy to every trick in the book about the pedagogical objectives pursued on their behalf, they soon discover an opportunity to play the role of the parenting problems 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 in the knowledge that it might be useful, but also in the self-confidence that it is already 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 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.