Walking through the Charleston market today I spotted a t-shirt for sale that read “God gave us children so that death wouldn’t be so disappointing.”
I’m not squeamish about t-shirts. In college I wore many vulgar t-shirts that I am now too embarrassed to discuss. I still enjoy wearing or gifting t-shirts that are mildly snarky or rude. But I can’t recall a t-shirt I found as offensive as this t-shirt.
What person buys this t-shirt? I assume someone does because someone thought they could make money producing this t-shirt and someone else–someone with a stall in the Charleston market–thought they could make money selling this t-shirt. What parent wears this t-shirt? Are there really parents so disappointed in their children that they are willing to publicly advertise this fact?
As the child of elderly parents, I take tremendous comfort in knowing that they are proud of me. As the parents of nine and eighteen year-old daughters, my wife and I take tremendous pride in how well they are turning out–a fact we remind them of consistently. My wife and I deliberately chose parenthood and chose each time when to become parents. It’s a gift that modern technology allows but which was denied to past generations. I assume that people like us–people who choose to be parents as opposed to becoming parents by “accident” or “mistake”–choose to become parents because they desire to be part of the process of loving and nurturing the next generation of homo sapiens.
Most humans find meaning in mentoring their successors and those who choose to become parents often find their greatest meaning in being that mentor to their children. I cannot conceive of a parent who chose parenthood deliberately wearing such a t-shirt. Folks who choose to be parents might, on occasion, find their offspring disappointing–spend enough time with any human and you are bound to have moments of disappointment. But I cannot believe anyone who chose parenthood would find his or her children as disappointing as this t-shirt suggests.
However, I could conceive a parent who became a parent through a less deliberate process buying and wearing that t-shirt. To a parent who never intended or desired to be a parent a child is, conceivably, a major disappointment. I imagine the child of the parent wearing this t-shirt and suspect that knowing my parents felt this way about me would be one in a long line of blows to my self esteem.
Being perpetually–as opposed to occasionally–disappointed in a child is an excellent way to destroy a child’s self esteem, which probably drives that child to engage in behaviors that only increase that parent’s disappointment. Publicly proclaiming this disappointment through this t-shirt only makes a horrible situation even uglier.
Our first duty as parents is to love our children wholeheartedly. Deliberate actions which undermine our children’s self esteem are a form of abuse. It is my hope that the manufacturer of these t-shirts loses his or her shirt (pun intended) when these shirts don’t sell. It is my further hope that these t-shirts rot on the venders’ racks.