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Home arrow Psychology arrow The philosophical parent : asking the hard questions about having and raising children

Children Come from Us

What's so special about having kids?

Parenthood can begin by accident, or with minimal effort. Even if there is some forethought, the desire for a child can be so primal that there is no real “why” phase, no deliberation. “Why?” is a natural question for people who have to work harder to become parents. The more effort goes into starting a family, the more one has to think about the basic question: Why is this so important to me? Or even more basic: What am I going to have, if I have a child?

Wanting to have a child is different from wanting other things. If you want to have a dog, you probably enjoy being with dogs, and often pay friendly attention to the dogs you encounter. Some of your dog-desire will be satisfied by being with other people’s dogs, or visiting the dogs at the animal shelter. But you can want to be a parent without having the slightest interest in babies in general.

If you want to have a dog, you probably have some kind of dog in mind: big or small, long-haired or short-haired. But people don’t start thinking “What kind?” after realizing they want to have a child. It’s not just that we don’t have much control over the kind of child we create. It’s not terribly important to us to have this kind or that kind. We just want to have “my child.”

That is the crucial thing: our own. Wanting to become parents is wanting to stand in a very special relationship to another person. Most of us want to have our own, come what may. Ordinary people try to conceive, to have "my child,” no less than beautiful and talented people do. Simply having "ours” or "mine” matters when it comes to baby-making more than practically anywhere else.

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