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Advice | Carolyn Hax: Grandpa-to-be scoffs at the couple’s reason for not having children


Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Caroline: For years my oldest son and his girlfriend said they would never get married; she was against it. Then, five years ago, she gave in and they married, happily ever after.

They are financially secure: well-paying jobs, no debt for their college degrees, a rental property they own outright, a manageable mortgage on their house, new cars.

Indeed, my son and his wife worked hard, but we and the in-laws also supported us all the time.

But there’s a problem: our daughter-in-law steadfastly refuses to consider children – and our son stands by her decision.

Her reason – or the reason they support – is climate change. In her view, it would be the height of cruelty to bring a child into a world facing such an apocalyptic and nihilistic future.

I admit that our country has these and other major problems. But there’s an existential question here: What have my and my wife’s lives meant if we haven’t instilled a fundamental will to survive in the next generation?

To complicate matters, they put all their time and energy into biking, hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, etc. We are desperate that our younger children will make the same lifestyle choices – especially under the influence of their older sibling.

To many observers, it seems that our children are spoiled. And on some level that is true. But the urge to face an uncertain future and procreate in the face of adversity is believed to be part of the human condition.

Every generation faces a serious threat. My father’s generation was told to shoot Hitler. My generation learned to “dive and take cover” to avoid nuclear destruction. How could climate change be worse? Any advice?

in despair: Some may think it is a great achievement to raise children who see a life for the sake of life as meaningful and complete.

“Some” are me. I think.

I also think your expectations would be a class A felony if there was such a thing as crimes against borders. The couple’s prosperity does not mean that children are the required, expected, or even logical next step. The condition for children is that they want them (if equipped for their care). Your wish to have children from them does not count.

And oh, holy wow, your support commits them to producing grandchildren for you, not at all, not a little, not even the fading memory of a little written in the sand.

If they were to cut kids because they wouldn’t fit in their kayak, I’d support that just as strongly. But being responsible for kids is enough of a lift without multiple existential ones decentralized threats, which means we can’t just go to war or go to the negotiating table with them and get them to stop.

Some parents-to-be are not impressed by this, others are, and I fully support both. Bullish reproduction “supposed to be part of the human condition” – according to whom? Is there a packing list?

The couple decides on their condition. And people only “steadfastly refuse” when others ask repeatedly, don’t they? So stop. Repeatedly. to ask.

Her “giving in” (gosh!) to marriage is not an invitation to put another of her principled positions in a vice.

So one more piece of advice: support the ever-loving issue, this couple, this right. Or else I’ll throw more metaphors at you.

If anything will keep your younger children from procreating under the dramatic orange skies of a planet on fire, it’s not your daughter-in-law; it will be your unwavering certainty that people owe your children.

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