Found in Translation

What a child – whether a girl or a boy – hears when you say something like this is “you never had to be born, I wish you didn’t exist, you are a burden I don’t want.”

“Children” isn’t an abstract concept to a child. It’s a direct reference to him or her.

Making an adult feel good about her life choices isn’t worth hurting a child. If you are neurotic, find a specialist, get treated, and stop expecting the world to dance around your neurosis. Children don’t need “a counter narrative.” They need love and to be left in peace by unhealthy adults. The way to make sure a child is happy with her life choices as an adult is to love her today and avoid turning her into a training ground for her counternarratives.

By the way, I have a friend who never married or had children. Unlike the psycho doctor I just quoted, my friend is intensely fine with her life choices and it doesn’t occur to her to use children to make herself feel better.

And it’s not just this subject. “Not everybody needs to go to college.” Absolutely true. But when you say that to an actual kid, what he hears is “you are stupid and I don’t love you.”

“Why would you cry about something so silly?” Your inner life is unimportant and I don’t love you.

“Your Dad always does this annoying thing.” You are annoying and I don’t love you.

Before anybody says that you can’t always control every little thing you say, no you can’t. Instead of treating symptoms, address the problem at its root.

2 thoughts on “Found in Translation

  1. I dunno. I do tell my kids they don’t have to go to college. But that’s in the context of college being of very questionable utility– when we discuss this, I emphasize the value of trades, because people will always, always, need someone who can fix stuff, or build stuff. Whereas scholars are only valuable in times of plenty. In our discussions, it’s good to be both: I want them to go to college, if they know what they want out of college (my eldest is really into aviation engineering– but who knows what he’ll be into when he reaches college age?), and how to get it. But I want them to have some concrete, viable marketable skills first, so that they don’t have live in penury while they do it, and then spend years paying of debt. And also, so that if they really want to study something with no real career path attached to it, just for the love of… philosophy or ancient languages or something, they still have a way to make a living in the real world.

    What I tell my children when I tell them they don’t have to go to college is that they need to be good at something useful… and then if they want to also go to college, that’s cool. But college is no substitute for real-world skill and experience, it’s not where you go to “find yourself” and it’s certainly not worth going into massive debt or putting off marriage and kids for.

    Priorities. It’s not because I think they couldn’t hack college: they’re bright kids and I think they’d do great. It’s that I think college is mostly a scam these days, and I don’t want them suckered.


  2. I think the strong counter-narrative that kids of all kinds should get is that their “learned elders” are often advertising agents for social movements that aren’t necessarily beneficial to the kids themselves, but are probably highly beneficial to those pushing them.

    Because it’s easy work propagandising those who haven’t developed protections against this kind of ritualised memetic abuse.

    Definitely beats earning a living through hard work …

    The real counter-narrative?

    “Hey, kid? See that plantation? Do everything you can to stay off it, because it makes someone rich that isn’t you.”


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