I never thought that I owned my son. Implicit with having a child, and the inherent parental bonding, I, like most parents, would do anything to protect our children. That includes shielding them from pain, even when it might be necessary like the vaccination or tetanus shots. The notion that I don’t own my son combined with a consciousness that he is his own individual has led me to make parental decisions that err on the side of his autonomy as a human being.
I never spoke of owning my son
It was when he recently passed his driver’s license test and took another step towards complete independence that I realized I never told my son Walker that I owned him. I can’t remember ever telling Walker, “…because you are my son you must do XYZ.” I never asserted ownership of him by virtue of being his father that he should modify his behavior or perform a task.
Responsibility versus ownership
I was consciously struck by my avoidance to lay claim to my son when I thought about how I speak of and to him. Rarely will I introduce Walker, as “my son” to somebody and I have never told him he must do something because he is “my son.” The absolute weakest excuse for compelling a child to modify his or her actions is because you own them in some weird parental sense.
Do I mark my child forever?
The collision of perspectives, child ownership versus stewardship, happened before Walker was born. The central question at that point was whether to have him circumcised. My two primary resources for the decision were the Bible and my gut. Apostle Paul said let people circumcise their hearts and not their bodies. My default instinct is to do to others as I would have them do to me. Walker didn’t get circumcised.
Children are not Ikea furniture
A child is not a project. You don’t get to stand back at the end of the day and gaze with satisfaction at what you have built. Some parents try to etch their initials on their child which is almost universally met with push back from the prodigy. The thought of exerting some sort of ownership over Walker gives me this nauseous feeling of trying to be a slave owner. Walker, or any other child, wasn’t born to be anybody’s slave. And he successfully reminds “his” parents of it every day when he doesn’t put away the dishes or clean up after “his” projects.
Parental decision that hurt
There are numerous decisions parents must make when raising a child. Health care decisions that must necessarily cause pain are the toughest. I didn’t have to think too long before deciding that Walker should have surgery to permanently repair a broken leg even though I knew it would prolong and probably enhance his pain. It was a decision based on making him whole again after the accident and not subtracting from him.
It’s a similar dilemma when it comes to having ‘your’ child vaccinated. Just like having you baby boy circumcised, there are the issues of illness and death from the procedure or vaccination. I may be guilty of going-with-the-flow when it came to having our child vaccinated. Aside from the possibility of injury, I knew I wasn’t taking anything away from him. I don’t fault my parents for having me vaccinated or circumcised. But there are times when I wish I got to make the decisions that permanently altered my body forever.
Parental identity of child ownership
Our goal has always been to help him develop into an independent adult. Our decisions have always been colored with the realization that we don’t own him and he must eventually mature into his own man. This has actually helped when, as a parent, we have to deal with the inevitable challenges to authority or just plain teenage lethargy. But honestly, I stand in shock when parents profess ownership over their children. No amount of rational argument to the contrary will change the opinion of these parents who revel in being ruler of their subjects for at least 18 years.
Productive and sustainable
The best we can hope for is to forge a strong partnership with our son or daughter to help them mature into productive and sustainable adults. If I tried to exert ownership over Walker our relationship would be exponentially more difficult. I don’t own him and he doesn’t own me. Parents co-exist with children in an odd symbiotic relation where in no case should a mark of ownership ever be placed upon the child.