Today's Opinions, Tomorrow's
Take Care of Your Own Kids
By David G. Young
WASHINGTON, September 9, 1997 --
Aaah the single life. It's fast-paced, fun and care-free. Singles can
go on exotic vacations and live in exciting places. And they can do it
all without the responsibility of taking care of children.
Sometimes, however, this description seems less applicable to the lives
of singles than those of typical American parents. With each passing day,
responsibility for children becomes less and less a factor in parents'
lives and more the job of the taxpayer.
Last week, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to spend $34 million of taxpayer
money to help parents keep their children from buying cigarettes. Bill
Novelli, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids called the vote "a
great victory for America's kids."1 Not in my book. While
the vote may be a victory for irresponsible parents who have no control
over the drug habits of their children, it is undoubtedly a defeat for
Senator Tom Harkin(D-IA), a supporter of the measure, said the vote
was won due to the diligence of supporters who packed town hall meetings
over Congress' August recess.2 Ironically, the legislation might
not be needed at all if activists had spent less time lobbying and more
time taking care of their kids. Such hypotheticals, however, ignore the
reality of our age: Child rearing in the late '90s has become a completely
hands-off sport. As a consequence, the lifestyles of fun-loving singles
like me have had to be curtailed.
Well, I'm fed up, and I'm not going to take it anymore. It's time for
the public to rise up and demand that parents take care of their own kids.
Consider the following abdications of parental responsibility:
- In order to keep their kids from underage drinking, you might expect
parents to lock up the booze cabinet and check their daughter's breath
when she staggers in at 3 a.m. This obvious answer is just too much responsibility
for members of Mothers against Drunk Driving. MADD is seeking zero tolerance
penalties against restaurateurs and shopkeepers who sell beer to their
kids. (At their kids' request, of course.) Zero tolerance, where enforced,
leads to irritating scenarios like 75-year-old men getting turned down
by bartenders for not having a photo ID. MADD is also seeking registration
of beer kegs (I can just see the waiting period coming) to keep their kids
out of those all-night keggers.
- Parents increasingly are asking others to take care of their children
while expecting others to foot the bill. A Children's Defense Fund report
estimates that 13 million American children are put in day care, most while
parents are working. The same report urges public funding for child care,
warning that "states that fail to invest adequate resources in child
care and early education will jeopardize parents' ability to work."3
- Since it's obviously too much to ask parents to pay for a babysitter,
the job is given to the TV. Shows with significant violence and sexual
content have long been relegated to late night timeslots, but that still
isn't enough. A bunch of parents got really mad that NBC's Friends
was in the early primetime slot given its silly sexual innuendo. As a result
of parental complaints, we now have a worthless television rating system
and Friends' producers were told to give the characters' racy banter
- The internet has so far remained free of such repressive parental tinkering --
thanks to the Supreme Court -- but hasn't been for a lack of trying. Dissatisfied
by NetNanny and other monitoring software, parental activists sought to
sanitize the net for their children's unbridled perusal. As Christian Coalition
leader Ralph Reed said, "[W]e just want our children to be protected
from cyberporn."4 Protected, as well, from the inconvenient
need for parental guidance.
- Cigarettes are the family fascists' cause du jour. Camel Joe and the
Marlboro Man are history, much to the chagrin of adult fans of the characters.
Apparently, the two marketing creations had more power over people's kids
than the parents did themselves. It's hard to compete with a character
on a billboard when you only spend an hour a day with your kids.
- Rage against cigarettes is helping remove yet another parental responsibility --
providing medical care. Thanks to the children's health care law passed
last month, the federal government will pay for uninsured children's health
care coverage, funded partially by tobacco taxes and partially out of the
pocket of the single guy.5
- If these laws make you crazy enough to buy a gun and join a militia,
then think again. In many urban jurisdictions, you will face tough obstacles
put in place by family fascists who don't think it's safe for guns to be
in the home because children may play with them.
It's no surprise that such outrageous laws get passed. Everybody wants
to be an advocate for kids, and it is virtually impossible to find principled
legislators who will stand up against this kind of legislation. The Democrats
believe "it takes a village to raise a child," and the Republicans
believe in government promotion of family values. Both philosophies are
wrong. It is unacceptable to ask those who have chosen not to have children
to take responsibility for those who have. I do not elect to be part of
a proverbial village to lessen parental responsibility. Nor do I elect
to uphold family values to lessen the need for parents to protect their
The message for parents should be simple: Take care of your own kids.
If you don't want to take care of your own kids -- if you think it shouldn't
be your responsibility -- if you think it's too expensive -- if you think it
is too much work -- but most importantly, if you think others should be responsible --
then for God's sake don't have them.
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, September 3, 1997.
Washington Post, September 4, 1997.
5. Children's Defense
Fund (Uninsured children's health care is to be partially payed by
tobacco taxes and partially be general revenues.)