Friday, June 5, 2009

A Letter To A Friend

Two nights ago, I went out with the “Boys”. The first stop was an open-house at a local brewery to sample one of their fine ales. We spent enough time there to get fashionably warm (never mind the extreme heat of the day), but the wee 4 oz beer-snifters were going down fast. Eventually the crowd seemed to sense danger and started moving quietly to the exits. So did we. We decided to head to the next stop which was one of Victoria’s many ocean-view brew-pubs. There were four of us, and we had a beer inside while waiting for a table outside in the beautiful setting sun. We had a bite to eat, and did the usual small talk. There was “Brandon”, “Jimmie”, myself and “Toni” (not their real names). I have known Toni only off and on for about ten years. She is an attractive, fit personable young woman who can hold her own joking or debating with the “Boys”. As the evening wore down, “Jimmie” got a call and headed home, leaving “Brandon”, Toni and myself. The conversation eventually circled round to me and family; how I raise my kid(s). Then she dropped a bit of a bombshell.

Toni wants to have a baby. She wants to raise a child alone. She wants to enquire about AI (Artificial Insemination). She asked what I think…


“This is wrong”… was my initial reaction. Why does she want this?

“Are you financially stable?” I asked her. “Do you own your own home?” (I knew the answer).

“I have a good job” she said. “No, I don’t own a house.” Yes, she does have a good job. Working full time, she could pull in about $60,000. I don’t think she’s there yet, though. When you look at your yearly income, it seems like a massive bag of popcorn that you can grab huge hands full at a time snarfing down with great verve! Truth is, when you consider all the bills; food, clothing, Hydro, Cable, phone, cell-phone, Property taxes, utilities, entertainment, emergency, insurance and all the other hidden things, it soon comes clear that one income only stretches so far.

I look at my own world and see that we barely eke out our own existence. We have a mortgage for $390,000 which has a monthly payment of $2,250. With two incomes, this is OK… barely: On my own… Impossible! This mortgage keeps a modest 1100 square foot, two bedroom duplex in our possession. Without this roof (and shower and laundry facilities!), a permanent job would be impossible. This house also must be maintained for my son, on the off chance that he has some debilitating accident and cannot work. If we die (The wife and myself), there is an insurance policy which pays off the mortgage and gives a modest income for a time. This insurance costs about $90 per month (it used to be $150 when we were smokers). These two bills alone eat up my entire income. If I was a single father I would never be living in my own home, or insuring myself to pay out anything. For me it would be renting… probably with a roommate, or working two jobs to try and get ahead (thus never seeing my child!)

Money… Financially Toni is better of than I am, I understand. But there are other things to think of other than money to raising a human being. This is important to understand: a child is a human being, not a toy or a possession that ceases to exist when they turn 18. “Children” never stop being dependant on their parents. (I could go on about a few of my friends here, but that’s a different subject) Some lucky folks have brilliant children, who work hard in school, study well, find a career-path early and head down that path as soon as they are finished high school. Some parents, however have normal children who become entangled in school cliques, skip out, fail final exams, give up early and spend two to five years struggling after school ends to try to “Find Themselves”. We refuse to let our ten-year-old become on of these “Self-Finders”.

Debate… The one thing that I think is vital to raising a child to be a worthwhile member of society, is the ability to make qualified decisions. Without the ability to reason, a person continually will fail. With two parents in the home that the child resides in, there will always be some discourse: whether good or bad, there will be different opinions! In a house with only one parent, there can never be (without the appearance of said parent going nuts!) any true debate! How can one parent give two answers? My wife and I always have varying ideas. She wants a perfectly spotless house, I want the boy to be polite. Sometimes I am too lenient, sometimes she is. This give and take is witnessed by our son daily! If it was just I raising my son alone, there would be days of “Nice Dad” and days of “Angry Dad”. This may appear to a young child as “Flip-flopping”: the ability to trust may be tougher to engender.

Day Care… in the early years of a child’s life, they require more care per day than they will later on. Finding that care is difficult enough for two working people, let alone someone who is… well… alone! I realize that there is EI (employment insurance) which gives you one year off, but after that… there are no guarantees. There are no other government programs available to ensure an infant has care while the parent(s) are at work.

There are subsidized housing programs, and I have met many Single mothers who have had to use Subsidized Housing and their children have grown up healthy strong and vital. But even though the kids have moved on, Mom is still in an apartment, never having been able to buy a house.

Internal Clock… “My Babymaking Clock is fast running out!” This is a myth, and in itself for me is the worst reason of all to feel the need to procreate. There are girls having babies at 14. Is this an appropriate time? There are women having kids well into their sixties. Good Idea? There are parents with learning disabilities having children. Wise? There are some families who have sixteen kids and are grandparents when they have more. Would this be considered a good thing? None of the examples here have my vote of confidence. The truth is there is never a great “Biological Time” to have a baby. No more damned Murphy Brown ideals, please. Can we all stop living our lives according to some magazine or TV show? When you are financially and emotionally secure and have support from your community… this is the best time to make a baby.

I have thought about trying to raise a child as a single parent, and every time I do, I always come back to the fact that it would be so tough. In the ten years that I have spent with our boy, there have been great times of learning and fun, and equal to these, there have been times of great trouble and sadness.

I think that my final advice to anyone who wants to become a parent by themselves should… Buy a puppy. I am serious. I don’t mean to sound cruel or insincere. A puppy would show you how difficult it would be to answer all my questions. Housing - try and find an apartment that takes dogs: the same for kids. Day Care – a puppy will require as much attention as a human. Responsibility – If after you have this puppy, you find yourself leaving it locked up in the kitchen while you go out to the pub, perhaps you should rethink “having” a human being. One difference between a dog and a baby is that a dog is probably going to die before you do. Dogs for the most part don’t talk back to you. Dogs are fiercely loyal, and don’t have a lengthy puberty or go through “Teenage Angst”. Dogs might turn vicious, and you don’t feel shame when you “Put them to Sleep”.

If Dogs aren’t your style, or you suffer from a short attention span, then try a gerbil or hamster. Maybe a bird? How about a pet snake?

Anyway… I don’t want to sound demeaning. I have put some serious thought into this subject. I think that everyone wants the best for their kids. For me, this means planning ahead. FAR AHEAD. Think of everything. Think past your own years. Imagine the world of the future. Imagine your son or daughter growing old. If after all this, you can still see “creating a new human being under your protection” as a good thing… Go ahead!

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