Thursday, May 10, 2007

Reflections on Baby Wager's First Birthday

It’s a very big week for Mrs. Wager and myself as our son turns one on Saturday. Baby Wager has now fared much better than the multitudes of fish and plant life that have had the misfortune to be placed in my care. I am enjoying the fatherhood experience more than I could have possibly imagined, but I’m afraid that I’m starting in the middle of the story again.

About nine years ago, I was working on a project with a guy in his thirties (and he seemed old to me at the time). Let’s call him Ego Maniac (not his real name). One day, he had just got off the phone with his wife and was shaking his head in disappointment. I tentatively asked if everything was alright.

Ego Maniac sighed and said yes, it’s just that his son was a bit of a disappointment to him. I was blown away by this statement. I pressed EM a little further. “How so?”

“He’s just more into video games and band than he is into sports.”

“Is he healthy? Does he get in trouble? Is he doing OK in school?”

EM shook his head at me condescendingly, “You don’t understand, we’re just nothing alike.”

I was horrified. “Why should he be an exact clone of you? Shouldn’t he find his own way in life so long as he isn’t doing stuff to hurt himself and others?”

Ego Maniac paused and asked me, hypothetically, if I had a son, would I have him circumcised? I immediately answered yes.

He gained confidence. “See? You would want your son to look like you!”

I didn’t even hesitate when I countered with, “That has nothing to do with it. I’d just like for him to have the opportunity to get a blow job in sixteen or seventeen years.”

I was a long way off from becoming a parent at that point in my life, but I started to think about it a lot after that conversation. I decided that my goal as a parent would be to help my child learn how to make good decisions. Good decisions do not need to be the decisions that I would make, but decisions that would lead him or her down a path towards their own happiness.

I happen to really like sports. I feel that my high school life was enhanced through sports. I gained confidence and grew my social network by being involved in a sports program. However, should Baby Wager not like sports and choose to participate in band – that’s OK with me. Band is a good decision. He can learn confidence from band, be around other students with common interests, interact with other adults, and it looks good on a college resume. It might not be what I want for myself, but so long as he makes good decisions, I am successful as a parent.

I wholeheartedly believe in discipline. My son will learn that his decisions have consequences. The more good decisions he makes, the more freedom he will be given. If he starts making bad decisions, he will find he has less and less privileges. If I am successful, he will leave our home equipped to find his way in the world and care for himself.

I will not, however, threaten him with “I brought you into this world and I can take you out.” It’s stupid, cruel and not true unless I’m willing to face murder charges. I will not expect him to revere me. His respect will be earned. There will be times when he will not like me and I’m sure those will be the most difficult times as a parent. It’s part of my job.

I guess that’s how me and the fictional Yahweh differ. Yahweh created humanity so that they could revere him and he constantly gets disappointed with His own creation. The moment they stop worshipping Him, he’s ready to flood the earth or commit some other act of genocide. Yahweh plays favorites amongst His children and wants to keep them from attaining success. See Tower of Babel. As for me, my child and I have years to figure out who he is. It is my goal to ensure that he is successful on his terms and reaches his potential, not mine.

19 comments:

robustyoungsoul said...

Great post, and happy birthday to the tyke.

WYG said...

Sorry this is a little off topic, but I don't think circumcision is ethical. You are modifying a person's body without their consent. You wrote, "I didn’t even hesitate when I countered with, “That has nothing to do with it. I’d just like for him to have the opportunity to get a blow job in sixteen or seventeen years.”" Although less extreme, that is the same reasoning beggars use in India when they cripple their babies, so they will have an opportunity to earn more money.

Check out the Penn & Teller Bullshit episode on circumcision, or google around. It's a barbaric custom rooted in religious superstition!

Small Fish in a Big Pond said...

@wyg Perhaps you are unaware that studies have shown that circumcision dramatically reduces the risk of HIV.

Circumcision can reduce the rate of HIV infections among heterosexual men by around 60%, a study suggests.

The South African study, reported in Public Library of Science Medicine, found it had a protective effect for some of the 3,280 young men involved.

Circumcision is thought to help protect against HIV because cells under the foreskin are vulnerable to the virus.

Read the article on the BBC News website:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4371384.stm

So if your partner was having a baby, wyg, would you not cut the umbilical cord because you didn't have both the baby AND the mother's consent to modify their shared body part? How ridiculous can you be?

Atheistwager said...

@wyg
No worries about being off topic because it is pseudo relevant. I would, however, like to clear a few things up and then open the doors to debate.

1. The point of circumcision in this particular story had nothing to do with religion. It was one father’s claim that I would do anything to make my son “like me”.
2. Female circumcision is not up for debate. It is cruel and involves the removal of the clitoris which removes pleasure from sex for females. I don’t know how anyone can be for it.

Your assertion is that male circumcision is a left-over religious tradition. I will respectfully disagree. I think the one thing everyone here will agree on is that the US is predominantly a Christian nation. Christians view circumcision as optional. Jews and Muslims make a very small fraction of the US population, yet most male babies born in my generation in the US were circumcised. The thinking at the time was that circumcision was “cleaner” and would help prevent infections – it had nothing to do with religion. The reality of the situation is that only a small minority of men are ever going to have problems with their foreskins so I will agree that by and large the procedure is unnecessary for most. Most men my age were circumcised due to junk science not religion.

That being said, where is the basis that it is mutilation? There is a statistically relevant sample size of men who have experienced sex with and without their foreskin. The conclusion is, based on surveys, that most found sex better or the same without their foreskin. Please see http://content.karger.com/ProdukteDB/produkte.asp?Aktion=ShowAbstract&ProduktNr=224282&Ausgabe=230970&ArtikelNr=85930.

I think on this issue, to circumcise or not, there is no right or wrong answer. The pros for not circumcising comes down to being natural and avoiding an unnecessary procedure. The pros for doing it is that it is cultural prevalent (at least in the US) and does no harm. It’s a hard choice but I can understand both sides.

MasterJediDan said...

@ Atheistwager

I knew that somehow you would fit the Bible into your post...so here goes. At the tower of Babel, man simply received the consequences of putting themselves higher than God, which was the intent of the tower. Again, during the O.T. God didn't destroy Israel with fire as soon as one of the Israelites stopped worshiping Him, He waited...and waited...and waited for them to repent of their sins, sending prophet after prophet to tell them to turn from their ways. He only used occurrences such as the Babylonian captivity when Israel had stopped listening to Him completely and they continued to worship idols. Sort of like the consequences your son will receive when he is rebellious, etc. (not meaning the literal consequences, but the idea of being punished when one does something wrong)

Bible student said...

@AW, mazal tov

If “crazy” Noah was building a boat, the size a football stadium, in your neighborhood, word would get around.
If it took him 50 or 60 years, most everybody would know.
When you asked him why, he explained that there would be room for you to get in. (2 Peter 2:5) God may have decided in a moment, men had years to improve their swimming skills.

God had the problem of his angels mating with women of that day and producing dangerous hybrids. That could not stand. (Genesis 6:4)

By the way, I checked, Bill Cosby did not invent that bit of child rearing (take you out). He probably heard it from his mother. It’s an old joke!

For Baby Wager’s sake, please lighten up. He will revere you naturally, if you let him. If you encourage his sense of humor, he will be more enjoyable.

Warren said...

@JediDan

I'm sorry I don't care what anyone says there are two possible conclusions one can draw from the Tower of Babel story. Either:

a) God is a dick who sabotaged his imperfect creation because they were all getting along.

or

b) It's an old parable intended to explain why all of us "children of god" don't speak the same language.

Call me crazy but I'd vote for option b, but maybe that's just because it's hard for something that doesn't exist to actually posses petty human emotions.

@AW

Just wanted to say that I admire your approach to parenting. More people should take it.

Atheistwager said...

@bible student
I actually think I owe you an apology. I think I might have been a bit harsh with my words. Sorry! Truth is, I don't believe I've even parented yet. Feeding, comforting, changing, and spending time with a baby is nice but the really hard parts such as providing guidance and discipline comes later. I haven't been through this yet so I don't have much room to talk. I don't think discipline applies to <1 year olds.

@MJD
I think you've mentioned in your posts that you are planning on being a Comp Sci major. Guess what? That's a good decision! Just remember it's only one decision and if the path isn't working for you, you have still set yourself up in a way that leads to lots of other options. You can switch majors or transfer schools and still be making anothere good decision. It may all work out for you to which is cool as well.

I really hate the story of Babel for all the reasons that Waren laid out. I think jealousy of your children and their accomplishments is the worst form of pettiness. The whole notion of God sending prophets to warn them of their idol worshipping is bunk too. There are people running around today claiming to be prophets and that doesn't mean we should listen to them.

It was only 100 - 150 years ago that Joseph Smith was claiming that God Himself had authorized polygamy. Eventually, Utah wanted to be a state so the head prophet of the LDS Church came out and said God changed his mind. Why does God need to talk through a mouthpiece and make it an act of faith? Why not smite all the false prophets?

On a side note, does anyone know of anyone worshipping idols today? It just doesn't happen anymore, yet the world is not any better.

WYG said...

Hi, Thanks for the replies.

To Small Fish:

Cutting off the entire penis would also reduce the chance of getting HIV later. I rather just teach my son to use condoms. If an adult wants to get circumcised, they can be my guest. My problem is with infant circumcision. An infant has no choice. The umbilical cord is not part of your body. It comes off naturally anyway, I mean chimps don't have doctors cutting it off in the wild, right? I guess they bite it or something. Anyway, I don't think the comparison is valid.

You don't have to call me ridiculous, if you think my argument is. I think the umbilical cord comparison is more ridiculous.

To Atheist Wager:

I'm not an expert on the origins of infant circumcision in America, so I apologize for over speaking. The Penn & Teller episode said it was rooted in 19th century beliefs that circumcision is cleaner and prevents masturbation. Maybe it is cleaner, and I do believe everyone should be free to do what they want with their bodies, cut, pierce, tattoo whatever. Just not to infants.

The study you linked to is interesting, and may be true for adult males who were circumcised, but we can't compare males circumcised soon after they were born to uncircumcised males. It would be comparing subjective experience between individuals. You can't say for sure that you don't lose sensitivity over time (ie. years of growing up) when the head of the penis is unprotected by the foreskin. The interior of the foreskin should be a naturally lubricated mucus membrane. This is lost over time when circumcised.

Again an adult can make the decision later in life. If you think it's better done to a baby because you forget the pain, I don't think that is a ethical position. Could I torture you if I could somehow make you forget later? I've also heard it's very likely babies experience pain more intensely than adults.

Everyone should just step back out of their culture for a moment, and think about how bizarre it is to cut skin of babies' penises.

MasterJediDan said...

@ Atheistwager

Some religions still do have some types of idol worship, the biggest one probably being Buddhism, there are also other religions in Asia that worship idols. The Catholic church today could also be seen as having some part in idol worship, with the "relics" they practically worship.

Molly said...

@ MGD

I'm going to take an educated guess here and say that you've never been to any sort of Buddhist event, or know anything about it and that you've never been to Asia and really have no clue what religions they practice there.

Buddhism forbids idol worship and the practice of keeping images of Buddha in the home is seen as been similar to keeping a picture of your grandparents, it is merely a method of cherish Buddha.

When you get a bit more specific about what "religions" in "Asia" you're talking about, then let me know. I've been there several times so I'm pretty familiar.

Catholics (who, for the record, if I had to pick a religious group I dislike the most, would be them) don't practice idol worship either.

Atheistwager said...

@wyg
I think a strong case can be made for circumcising. However, I think the analogy that is most apt is the piercing of young girl’s ears. In our culture, most women prefer to wear earrings. Maybe it’s strange, maybe it’s barbaric, but that’s the way it is. One could argue that a girl could make up her own mind at some point and get her ears pierced if she wants to. That’s fine. I’d even go so far as to say that a young lady could do this before her 18th birthday. However, some parents pierce their baby girl’s ears at 6 months. The procedure does cause some pain and it’s done without consent. However, the ear still functions just fine and I’d be willing to wager that the girls are not scarred by the process.

I agree with you that condom education and not sleeping with prostitutes would do wonders for cutting down AIDS in Africa. I don’t think circumcision is the answer for this problem. It’s really a tough issue with no clear cut right or wrong.

Bible student said...

@Molly

i·dol n. 1. An image used as an object of worship. 3. Something visible but without substance.

On those two parts of the definition from the American Heritage Dictionary, Catholics are guilty as charged.

My first clue that I was in the wrong place.

Molly said...

@bible student

If that is the definition that you are going to use then every single religion ever is guilty as charged.

Bible student said...

@Molly

Most of them. How about yours?

Molly said...

@bible student

Since I worship nothing, that makes it pretty easy to avoid idol worship.

MasterJediDan said...

@ Molly

For the other religions in Asia, I meant the tribes (like in India) that have their own religions.

WYG said...

@ atheistwager

I apologize for the delay, I couldn't get online for some time.

I understand your comparison to piercing kids ears, and although I feel even that is crossing some ethical line, I don't think it approaches the same degree as that of circumcision. Of course my comparison of complete castration was very extreme, there is obviously a range to these acts. For example:

1. Crippling infants (amputation, skull wrapping, etc., which beggars are known to do in India.)
2. Female circumcision
3. Male circumcision
4. Piercing
5. Vaccination

I think we can all agree 1 and 2 are unethical. 5 also causes pain but there is no lasting damage (ignoring mercury conspiracy theories) and there is a definite benefit. I'm not convinced 3 and 4 are equivalent. Piercing does not remove nerve bearing tissue, does not modify the structure of the organ, and finally it can in fact heal over time leaving only small scar.

Thank you for your thoughtful replies, but so far, I am still of the opinion that this issue actually is clear-cut. (unintended pun?? ;-)

wbabbit said...

As a person that was uncircumcized until age 22, I have to absolutely agree with AW. I wish I had been circumsized my entire life. Being uncircumcized was annoying at least, and embarrassing at worst.
(like it or not, junior high/high school kids are some mean SOB's)

On a side note, it's nice to see with fewer exceptions everyone is starting to be more civil to one another here...

And happy belated birthday to Baby Wager