How To Parent In This Unruly Age

The family tomb in India where I won’t be buried because I haven’t been Christian for 1700 years

The news has long since started to intrude on my life, but it’s still stories to my children. Stories of poverty, stories of shortage, stories of suffering. But, as of yet, nothing that they’ve experienced. We’ve protected them from that with a wall of family money, but I wonder how long that will hold out. Suffering is ringing the bell every day now. I wonder how long till it just comes inside.

An ‘uncle’ died of an OD—a death of despair—but they don’t know why or understand how. There’s no fuel for the car but we pool vehicles with the neighborhood and they still get to school. They see me giving money to the now myriad beggars, but they’ve never seen me run out.

We talk about a ‘new normal’ but this is all they’ve ever known. They know but don’t quite know that something is terribly wrong. They’ve never known ‘right’ at all. I worry about them growing up like this, but everything is relative. It’s us old-timers that are worried. The new-timers can’t miss a stability they never really had.

And of course, we have it easy, behind our invisible walls. Many kids are truly hungry, they can’t not know the gnaw. Many kids are seeing parents truly lose it, they can’t avoid the yelling and violence. Far too often I hear stories about mothers killing themselves and their children. The wolf* is in the village, if not at our door. For our children, it’s just a story, but many real children are really getting devoured.

The knowledge of this eats me up. It’s painful to feed my children knowing that so many go without. We give away constantly, but it’s never enough. It can’t be enough. There just isn’t enough. People talk about a global food crisis but that’s just a fancy word for famine, and it’s already started. And it’s only getting worse.

The entire premise of modern parenting has been that you make a better life for your kids, but that hasn’t been true for generations, and it certainly isn’t true now. My generation was only really able to buy homes, cars, and start families by remaining children. I received parental support until I was in my 30s. My wife still does.

I say ‘really able’ because of course some people were able to do it ‘on their own’, but that’s just the exception that proves the rule. In Sri Lanka, it’s nearly impossible on a ‘normal’ salary to have a ‘normal’ life in Colombo. It’s also become impossible for ordinary people in the west to educate, work, buy a house, and raise children on their own, certainly unlike how it was for white boomers. Education today makes you a debt peon, work gives you just enough to pay interest, houses are scooped up by speculators, and children are a joke. ‘Child care’ is a capitalist commodity, just another thing you don’t have money for.