May 28 2010

Parenthood changes you

Category: family,societyharmonicminer @ 8:13 am

In The Difference Being a Parent Makes, Al Mohler makes some interesting observations about Steve Jobs’ decision not to market “porn apps” for the iPad:

Political scientists and sociologists long ago came to the realization that one of the most significant indicators of political behavior is parenthood. Those who bear responsibility to raise children look at the world differently from those who do not. In fact, parenthood may be the most easily identifiable predictor of an individual’s position on an entire range of issues.

Parenthood by married parents both living at home is an even better predictor. Single mothers still go pretty left as an average, on a range of issues, reflecting in how they vote, among other things… but Mohler’s point isn’t without weight.

Now, along comes Steve Jobs to prove the point. Jobs, the Maestro of Cool at Apple, recently engaged in a most interesting email exchange with Ryan Tate, who writes the “Valleywag” blog for the gossip Web site, Gawker.

On his initial email to Steve Jobs, Tate complained about what he described as a lack of freedom in Apple’s approach to the approval of products for its “App Store” for iPods, the iPhone, and the iPad. “If Dylan was 20 today, how would he feel about your company?,” Tate asked. “Would he think the iPad had the faintest thing to do with ‘revolution?’ Revolutions are about freedom.”

Apparently, Tate was upset about some of the restrictions put in place by Apple. Among those restrictions is a ban on pornography.

Steve Jobs threw Ryan Tate’s definition of freedom right back at him. Is Apple about freedom? “Yep,” said Jobs, “freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom. The times they are a changin’.”

One of the interesting dimensions of Steve Jobs’ leadership at Apple is his habit of answering selected emails personally. It appears that Ryan Tate’s complaint got under Jobs’ skin. It is even more apparent that Jobs’ response irritated Ryan Tate.

“I don’t want freedom from porn,” Tate asserted. “Porn is just fine.” Jobs sent back a remarkably insightful retort, informing Ryan Tate that he “might care more about porn when you have kids.”

Even if Jobs decision is “pure business” and not based on a personal preference of his own, namely not to market easily available porn apps to kids, it is still remarkable that he was so transparent in his observation that Tate might feel differently about the matter if he had kids.

Young people are all about freedom.  They want to do what they want to do, and they don’t want to be told different.  Of course there will be exceptions, but the pattern is clear.  For this purpose, I consider most adults before late middle age who have no children to be “young people,” again with many exceptions.  I simply observe that you aren’t really a grown up, in most cases, until there is someone in your life whose welfare is WAY more important than yours, and for whom you are chiefly responsible.  I include in the list of “grown ups” many people who really, really want children…  but for some reason can’t have them.  And also, it’s fair to include in the list of “grown ups” those people whose lives really are mostly about service and caring for others, priests, ministers, etc.

If you don’t have kids, and think you belong on the “grown up” list, fine, I won’t argue with you.  But I think it’s a fair observation that parenthood changes you.  It reforms the habits of your mind.  You find yourself looking at a great many aspects of our culture through an entirely different lens, one which is focused on the welfare of someone for whom you are responsible, and whose outcomes matter enormously to you.  You find that your freedom seems less important to you than your kids well-being.

You may notice that much of the freedom you so prized in your unfettered, pre-parenting state is now less than worthless to you…  and further, you may find that a culture that encouraged you to exercise that freedom now seems threatening to your children.

I know a lot of people who lived pretty “free” lives, right up until they had kids.  And then, one day, they saw something on TV, something that had never bothered them before, took a look at their child taking it all in….  and changed the channel.  And then blocked it.  And then went and looked in the mirror and wondered about themselves.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that parenthood makes you start thinking about eternal things a bit more, even if you hadn’t been too concerned about it up to that point.  If you really, truly love your children, sooner or later you’re going to wonder how you’d handle it if one of them predeceased you.  And that makes you start wondering what meaning their life would have had if they died young.  And that opens the door to serious consideration of all kinds of very important questions.

God has ways of getting our attention, even if we’re hard of hearing. 

And a little child shall lead them.