God gave us children so that death wouldn’t be so disappointing?

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.

 

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  • Nicholas fogelson

    Maybe the creator intended it a sincere statement rather than as sarcasm – ie I am not dissapointed in dying because my children survive me. Either way such shirts are about as stupid as trucker hats.

    • Nick:

      I hadn’t considered that interpretation. Atrociously sappy rather than vilely mean? Even with children, I ain’t looking forward to dying, though I guess there’s some comfort in my children, hopefully, surviving me.

  • Well said, Greg. Our society is falling apart and this t-shirt is just further evidence of that sad fact. There are far too many unwanted babies. And that stems from a lack of responsibility in our society. The t-shirt simply states what we already know: far too many people are having babies that don’t really want them, can’t support them and aren’t going to take care of them! Chris and I chose to be parents, too. And Thomas is the focus of our world. We also choose to associate with like minded people socially. But can you say that about the majority of your clients? Probably not. I haven’t run the math, but I’d say less than 10% of the people I represent would find that t-shirt offensive. And that is sad.

    My mother used to object to the TV show “Roseann” because the main character was so ugly to her kids. Mama was right, as always. But that show was popular for a long time (and is still syndicated). More evidence of the decline of our morals and values.

  • You reacted to that tee-shirt in the same manner that I react to lawyer jokes; however, we cannot dictate taste, sensitivity,and morals.

    I have always liked the question, why do grandchildren and grandparents get along so well? Answer, they have a common enemy. I do not know how my children feel about it, although I first heard it from my son years ago.

    I would be willing bet you even money that the offensive tee-shirt was a present from a child and that while you, M.J., and I do not like it, that family thought it was cute.

    • Thomas,

      Perhaps the blog wasn’t clear but I didn’t see anyone wearing the t-shirt–just a vendor selling it.

  • An informal poll on Facebook finds the shirt mean and or offensive.

  • Amen

  • Reese

    Wassup wit chew people? What a bunch of humorless, vanilla responses! The tee-shirt in question is adapted from a line spoken by Holland Taylor’s hilarious character (Evelyn Harper) on the now defunct TV show Two and a Half Men.

    I loved my parents and I drove them crazy. I love my daughters and they drive me crazy. And vice versa.

    I would much rather laugh about it than cry or be frustrated.

    • Wassup wit us people is that most of the comments on this blog come from family law attorneys. Another comment comes from an obstetrician. We are all daily first-hand witnesses to the tremendous dysfunction that results when people conceive and bear children haphazardly. It probably was always this way but one would hope that access to modern contraception and legal abortion would greatly reduce its incidence. Taint happening.

      I know the attorneys who commented on this blog and I believe they went into family law with the goal of protecting children and helping enable parents be better parents. Sometimes it feels like our efforts are akin to bailing floodwaters with a thimble.

      The mindless parenting that gives rise to the market for these t-shirts fills me with existential dread by making my life’s work seem irrelevant. It’s normal and appropriate to be disappointed in one’s children on occasion. Publicly proclaiming that disappointment and make that disappointment appear a permanent condition is dispiriting.

  • Wendy

    I actually find this statement hysterical. I was looking for it because I remember it from the TV show “2&a half men” and I wanted to make sure i quoted it exactly!!

    Maybe it is that your children are at an age (or were – I realize that this is a couple of years old) where there are still under your control but just wait till they move out :)

    I think this is the spirit in which this was said because both of her children were grown men when she said it. I agree, it would probably be in poor taste if you were talking about minors… however, they are still your children no matter what age they are and adult children can be exasperating!

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