Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Children: Keep Your Receipt!

Russians - Sting (mp3)
Dirty Wings - Megan Slankard (mp3)

Something about watching an adult so easily give up on a child makes us, as a country, quite beside ourselves with rage. "The Case of the Intolerable Russian Boy," as it would read in an Encyclopedia Brown collection, has created the unique situation where Russians and Americans can agree on something: that the Tennessee woman who sent her adopted son back on an airplane to Moscow must be one of the most unstable and/or abhorrent human beings on the planet.

Initially, I felt a similar rage. With such limited knowledge about what happened, we're left only with the key -- and very upsetting -- facts of adoption and subsequent abandonment. We say we don't care about the reasons, that what happened is beyond excuse. This is, however, always easier when we don't really know the details.

Having had a few days to chew on it, however, I've had a change of heart. And here's why: some parents suck at being parents.

Sometimes it's child-specific. I know plenty of couples who have three or four children, and one of them is just awful. Or the parents are just awful for that one kid. Sure, the parents love it, but it's not a particularly good child, and the connection is often forced out of guilt or some sense of responsibility. They even refer to it as "it." And I'm not just talking about adoptions here. Sometimes there's a kind of emotional cavern between biological parent and child, too.

But... what if? What if it was legal to give up on a child?

Now don't have a cow. Just hear me out.

If parents weren't connecting emotionally, or if the kid was grossly and chronically misbehaving, why can't the kid be returned just like a faulty pair of shoes? Better than drowning them in your bathtub or sinking them at the bottom of a lake in your beat-up car with South Carolina plates, right? Seriously, isn't being sent to an orphanage by a parent who doesn't really love you better -- or at least no worse -- than being raised by Susan Smith or Joan Crawford or the mom in Precious?

Were giving up on a child legal, parents could even make exchanges. Trade one kid in, and shop around for an acceptable replacement that might better fit the family dynamics. That way, more people who were curious about becoming parents could try it out without feeling like it was some impossible lifetime commitment. Try it out! Don't like it? Give up or swap and try again!

Isn't that what this country is about? The freedom to take few test drives without being shackled for life with a lemon?

Sure, there'd have to be strict rules and regulations. You couldn't just have some lady with mental issues trading children back and forth like baseball cards. That would be crazy.

But we all know those dads who just can't stand babies. Hates 'em. They make his skin crawl. So maybe he and his wife could wait until kids were four or five years old and take a few in at that point. Meanwhile, you'd also have those moms -- and I KNOW you know one -- who really only seems to love babies until they're old enough to talk. So they could just return the kids once they've approached The End of Diapers and pick up a new one.

That whole It takes a village to raise a child stuff is true, right? Why not cater to all of our individual best strengths as parents rather than put someone incapable of dealing with adolescents through the agony of having to be a parent to unruly teenagers? Give 'em to someone better-suited for the hormonal assault.

I'm willing to bet that, if our children realized they could be dumped at the nearest Child Trading Post if they pissed us off too badly, they'd be a helluva lot better-behaved. Our kids would be precious little friggin' angels, and they'd be pooping themselves for fear of being returned.

You won't eat the pot pie I made for you for the 14th straight night? Buh-bye. You won't mow the lawn like I asked? By God, I'll find a Kindergartener who will, and who won't cry and whine about it, or get their stupid fingers chopped off by the blade. You won't make your bed with hospital corners? Back to the warehouse with you!

(And yes, there would have to be some kind of policy about not returning children who have been permanently disfigured or damaged in accidents.)

Seriously, we only get to be parents a few precious times in this life. Most of us aren't cats or dogs who can spit out a whole litter at a time (apologies to Octomom and Kate Gosselin). With such limited chances, shouldn't we be allowed to make the best of it, rather than being stuck with some biological or adoptive tar baby that glues us in with governmental laws and social mores? Sure, it could screw the kids up a little in the head, but wouldn't that happen anyway? If they're being raised by parents so clueless or awful that they'd give up on them? Why not at least make half the equation better, since the kids are screwed either way.

For some reason, I envision this happening in Wal-Marts. Kind of like a pet placement center with corporate sponsorship and supervision. You could get your groceries, your electronics, your home and garden sundries, and, if your child wouldn't sit the hell still in your buggy, you could drop the bastard off at the Child Placement Center and get one who will. There would probably be some kind of receipt involved. And maybe a small return fee, like at Blockbuster's.

Sometimes you just can't have your kids and your freedom, too. And this being America, we need more freedom, and less of being tied down and chained to the needs and whines of... well, of most anything, but especially children.


Daisy said...

Would this new exchange system of yours also allow children to exchange their parents? Seems like by the teenage years the people row of the Walmart would be glutted with both unwanted teens and parents.

troutking said...

I really like Sting's first solo album. What happened after that?

Anonymous said...

Sting put all of his energy in Tantric Sex after that.

Billy said...

@Daisy -- Since when did anything in life have to do with the children? It's about us, dammit, not them!

@trout -- I must confess to being, while by no means an ardent fan, quite fond of his first four solo albums. "They Dance Alone" and several others on ...Nothing Like the Sun are amazing, as is the courageous attempt at a concept album with The Soul Cages. From there, I confess to having lost interest. Coming out with Greatest Hits albums tends to kill my verve for most artists.

BeckEye said...

I think we should just leave all the baby raisin' to people like Angelina Jolie.

jed said...

one has to have a license to catch fish....

Bob said...

Probably the only decent thing Sting has done solo, except for that song that that dead woman, Eva Cassidy, sang: