Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Your Child is NOT Your "Legacy"

Of the common lies told to you by people scared of life (which I will make a post on later) one of them is that somehow there is value or importance in carrying on a name or leaving your genetic material behind in the form of a child.  And commonly I am asked when people find out I had a vasectomy;

"Don't you want to leave a legacy behind?"

I look at them funny, because I'm curious what they believe the definition of "legacy" to be.  So obviously, it's time for another lesson.

Understand simply doing what an estimated 50 billion humans have been doing for the past 2 million years (breeding) is nothing great, nothing grandiose, and nothing special.  I don't care how many "baby showers" there are or how many trillions of dollars are spent, or how precious you think you're little baby is.

Humans are INCREDIBLY common


and none of us in the universal sense are special.

Having said that though, what I don't understand is when people have a kid, in terms of their own personal legacy they seem to forfeit their individuality and any dreams they may have had, and instead focus on the child.  Now understand I am NOT saying that if you bring a child into the world, your first and foremost responsibility should not be that child.  It should be.  What I'm saying is the instance a couple has a child, it's as if 100% of their own personal achievements now have no meaning.  How so many people now pride themselves off of simply bringing another human being into the world, and then like a tired runner, "eh, that's far enough.  I've exercised enough for the day."

Forget climbing Mt. Everest. 
Forget starting that company.
Forget white water rafting in Colorado.
Forget the 3 month vacation in the south of Europe.
And forget that book you always wanted to write.

My life is defined by my ability to test the temperature of Gerber food.

Now, before I go on, I want to discern very clearly what my criticism is here.

It is not "having children."  It is not, "whooping up the DINK lifestyle."  It is not "mocking people who have children."

It is a genuine question of curiosity - "What changes in people when they have a kid that they now think their legacy is limited to, defined by and embodied in that kid?"

Or another way to put it,

"Why does the focus of one's personal legacy go to another human being?"

Now I can't answer these questions (but I welcome other people to try), but what I can do is refocus people's thoughts as to what truly is going to be your legacy, because "legacy" is not what you "feel" it should be.  It's going to be what it IS.

In short your legacy is YOURS.  YOU will determine YOUR legacy, not your child. It will be your mark on this planet, how you did unique and interesting things specific to you, and how people will remember you by.  The fact you had a kid does NOT affect your legacy, simply because they're so common.  Having kids is nothing special.  But starting a company IS special.  Working on art or rebuilding old cars IS special.  Writing music, climbing mountains, competing in sports, writing books, heck, there was a guy on "The Tonight Show" who took bird droppings and made jewelry out of them! Those things ARE special.

And the reason I bring it up is really not to mock people who have the ho-hum life and can't understand why I don't want to carry on a last name or leave some of my genes behind.  It's to wake those people up and say, "Hey, buddy, I know you have a kid.  But you also have your own unique and interesting life.  What do YOU want to do with it?  You can't just want to sit around all day doing the same ol', same ol' all the time.  You can't think your only purpose in life was to bring that kid into the world?  Because, by default logic, what's his/her purpose?  Merely to do the same?"  

And it's not even that having a legacy is a mutually exclusive event with having children.  If anything it's a complimentary event that enhances both your lives through hobbies.  How great would it be to rebuild a classic car with your dad?  Or build kites from scratch?  Or brew beer together?  Or...um...do whatever girly things moms and daughters find interesting.  Having a true legacy will only benefit your child.

Of course, maybe I'm being too optimistic for the average American family today.  I picture chemistry sets, go karts, writing books, working in the garage on inventions and other 1950s-esque scenes in my mind with a clean cut father with a pipe in his hand passing on his wisdom, skills and inventions.  Perhaps I should just accept the average "legacy" will be "your father like baseball" and "your mother liked reading Harlequin romance novels."


Jim said...

Look at many of the great minds of the past, they had no children. Some were even completely celibate. On that front, Tesla comes to mind.

Children are not accessories folks. They require a lot to ensure a good future. Problem with today's parent(s), they look at having them as fitting in yet unfortunately pass on the responsibility of raising them to someone else. Thus their legacy is not being passed on merely because their ideals aren't being taught. And their children are in fact becoming nothing more than drones.

Anonymous said...

My kid is my legacy because I'm raising him to be strong, independent, maybe a little rakish, and with a bit of luck he will be irritating pansy ass leftists long after I'm pushing up daisies.

How can you not support that, Cappy?

Amy said...

No, kids are not your legacy. They are individuals who will have their own interesting lives and do interesting things. In the end, we are all in this alone. That is not to say that we are meant for loneliness or that throwing in your lot with a husband or kids is a bad thing, but our individual actions and thoughts determine the course of our lives, and only we can make those decisions. Sometimes they are motivated by the presence or actions of others, but we are still the deciding factor of our actions. This is why external, coercive force grates.

However, kids are an extension of yourself on a genetic level. The drive that many have to procreate and select appropriate mates, whether they know it consciously or not, is all for gene propagation. In that sense, it is a legacy, but not solely the mother's or the father's. The new combined being carries forward, for good or ill, the traits of all previous generations.

"Vanity" legacy is false. Deciding to have children, or not, is a major thing, especially if you do want to climb Everest one day, or write that novel or just be free to go wherever, whenever. Those are powerful arguments in the "against" column. But the things you talk about, like restoring an old car or "girly" stuff between moms and daughters, is fulfilling to people who want that out of life. It keeps the human race going, and hopefully for the better. Having kids without the intention of sharing the best of yourself with them is a shameful thing.

Anonymous said...

You make a lot of good arguments against not having kids. But in the end it is just casuistry.

The urge to have children is instinctive as is the love you have for them after they are born.

This is not a topic which is fitted to rational argument. The argument of parents that this will 'preserve their legacy' is an equally futile rational type argument.

Might as well try to have a rational argument about sex.

Anonymous said...

I have a slew of thoughts regarding this topic....but I better settle on one.
There seems to be a "cloud" of something that settles over parents brains when they birth. I think it's a normal process that helps to preserve the species. This cloud is a tribal unifier and imparts a collegial feeling towards "your people". The older generation embodies in the younger generation the ideals of the group.

Unfortunately, our society has once again taken something simple and created a monster. Hm, kind of matches their children.....


Anonymous said...

With the birth of my kids, I came to realize that the point of life is to make more life. Nothing else explains what you feel. Everything else is just crap humans made up along the way.

It's not bad or depressing, it's a coming to terms. However, people that aren't able to handle that tend to show that by abusing or being shit heads to their kids.

The legacy part is what you do with your time left with your kids, i.e. turn out a person or another turd.

Anonymous said...

Cappy, I think you are looking at this from a very post-modern, atomized individual perspective. (This is fine; I would say most people talking about their "legacy" are operating from the same place.)

Bear in mind that, for centuries, the family has been the organizing force of society. When we used to talk about our children being our "legacy", it wasn't "ours" as in ourselves but as in our family's. Family names live on, generation after generation. Continuing to build the family legacy handed to you from your forefathers used to be the most important duty of a man, at least in the middle and upper classes. Even the poor worked to raise their family's status.

The best way to explain it, ironically, comes from Game of Thrones:

Tywin Lannister: Your mother's dead. Before long I'll be dead, and you and your brother and your sister and all of her children, all of us dead, all of us rotting underground. It's the family name that lives on. It's all that lives on. Not your personal glory, not your honor... but family. You understand?

~M. Steve

Average Married Guy said...

Our family agrees with this philosophy, and my wife and I both have really cool hobbies and interests that we do together with the kids as much as possible and raising them with values so that one day to fend for themselves in the world. Some of our philosophies (for example, on nutrition - we follow Paleo mostly) are not exactly mainstream (yet), but it creates some interesting discussions and critical thinking activities. Both my wife and I looking to make our own marks on this world, show our kids proper values so they can be prepared for life, but never have we thought them as our legacies.

I do see a lot of other families whose lives revolve around their kids and have limited other interests (including their spouse) beyond raising the kids. I think it's bizarre.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Cap.

In 50 years "Worthless" will be exactly that. But maybe at least your kid will take you fishing.

Pulp Herb said...

I'm going to have to disagree here Cap.

Children CAN be a legacy. They are neither the only thing that can be nor are they automatically a legacy, but they can be.

I have no problem in considering myself part of my parent's legacy, especially my father's legacy. You see him not only in my looks, but more importantly in the values he taught me. Hard work, a manliness that includes doing things with your hands (even if I'm a better mechanic than he ever was thanks to the Navy), a strong work ethic, and a lot of other once common masculine values that are dying.

In contrast, my mother's legacy is in her other kids. She's been a school teacher for 50 years. She's certainly not a glorified baby sitter. Although she's determined my nephews not go to public school because that's what too many new teachers are. However, the mark she made is families that went to the school to get the rest of the kids in her class after the first one did. She's reached the point of having kids of prior kids (we moved enough she hasn't done grandkids).

I told my sister when she dies I have no idea where we're going to get a hall big enough for the service. You run into her kids everywhere in El Paso, which isn't exactly a small town.

Finally, for some people, especially more traditional men, having a son to carry on the family name is a dream.

CBMTTek said...

Cappy, I think you are being a bit harsh here. But...

I do agree with your point. There are entirely too many parents that seem to think their ability to participate in the biology of reproduction is somehow worthy of note. It is the equivalent of asking for recognition because they are capable of breathing on their own.

On the other hand, some parents actually do a good job of leaving behind something of tangible distinction, and are capable of raising children to fully realized adulthood. In that case, both their child and non-child related accomplishments could realistically be considered their legacy.

Then we have the well to do and accomplished parents of the OWS protesters.

Enough said on that.

It is not the having of the children that ensures a legacy. It is not the carrying on of hte name that does it, nor the genetics. Anon 6:24 hit the nail squarely on the head, it is HOW you raise your child, and how that child turns out that is your legacy to future generations. Again, reference my comment on OWS protestors.

Chris said...

How many women did much more than 'go to college' and 'buy stuff' before they had children?

How many guys do you know who are over 30 and have no idea how to fix something simple on a car?

On that note, I'm with Anon on the idea of 'legacy'..

Aurini said...

I agree with the thrust - that the bovine, obsequious breeders in their mcmansions are the utmost in dull conformity, and yet another symptom of our degenerate culture - but I think you're attacking an effect, rather than a cause.

Having a real legacy, as you put it, is not sometihng that the majority are capable of. You and I are smarter than the average bear, and it's within the realm of possibility for us, but the average bear? He really ain't all that bright. Popping out babies, and avoiding prison, and pretty much all the legacy these people are capable of.

It's like drugs, or the swinger lifestyle; both are things which the upper tiers of society are able to engage in without destroying themselves, but the same doesn't go for the proles. For them, social malaise often follows (I'm not saying we should ban them, but a shaming culture would probably be good here).

But as for the obsequeiousness, which I think is your major complaint - again, the feminist attack on masculinity kills the masculinity of prole fathers.

Anonymous said...

Squeezing out a runt is not an accomplishment. I used to work in the mall when I was in HS and I'd see the white trash and ghetto moms with their four kids by four fathers tagging along behind them. They didn't accomplish anything. Their duty to that kid, as far as they see it, is to make sure he or she makes it to 18 alive, and anything else that happens along the way isn't their problem.

Society is not built by such people, though. 'Revolt of the Masses' (great book, btw, go read it) makes the very good point that societal success is not natural, that it requires work. Raising a kid that behaves respectfully and responsibly, that contributes to society, that keeps a healthy society alive? That is an accomplishment, and many people are woefully incapable of doing so. You see people who leave a legacy in the form of raising great kids (though they should definitely accomplish things independently), but this notion that every guy who can blow his load in a chick and every girl who can keep a kid alive for 18 years is doing anything of significance is bunk.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Genghis Kahn laughs at you from every corner of the world.


Anonymous said...

On the simplest level, you are an evolutionary failure if you don't reproduce. Doesn't matter how fast, strong or intelligent you are. Unless you're someone like Alexander the Great (who had no sons) the only legacy you will have is through your kids.

Maybe the world doesn't need more humans, but it needs more intelligent humans. By not procreating, you are literally wasting the genetic gold you have.

Jay said...

I'm lost here Cap.

You want a return to American 1950s values and societies, but yet you promote a (21st Century Western-European, Nanny-state, "The State provides, so why bother having children I want a vacation in Aruba.") lifestyle.

I agree having a child is not a big deal. Any moron with a dick can make a baby, but it takes a Real Man to be a Father to his children.

Raising a child is the legacy...not making one. If you are able to bring a life into this world, raise it with good moral values so that kid ends up becoming a mature adult with his own family and achieves something good such as (being a doctor, or starting a business or charity) then you know you have done good.

If your kids winds up a bum or a Kardashian...then you know you have failed.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Your fooling yourself if you believe kids are legacy. Legacy is a talent you leave behind that's remembered years after your gone. Nothing talented about sex or genes.

Anonymous said...

Having a child isn't a " legacy ". I've seen plenty of people that have kids but no legacy conversely I've seen people that have a " legacy " but no kids. A true legacy is what you do with your life. I believe people that have kids can still leave a " legacy ". After all do they share their hopes , dreams , goals with their offspring. If so they left a " legacy ". Or did they explore their hopes , dreams , and goals. If so they left a " legacy ". A legacy isn't the ability to reproduce but simply what you've done with your time here.