A newborn baby found in a dumpster in Dalhart, Texas; a woman who abandoned her infant child at a subway platform and walked away; a man who left his22-month old son in a hot car to bake to death while he exposed his private parts to women on the Internet. These are just three recent newsworthy accounts of parents who did not want their own children. But, parents not wanting their own children are not new. It is as old as human history. How many baby girls throughout history have been slaughtered because of primogeniture—the need for a male heir? How many children are born everyday to women who “get pregnant” after a “hook-up” but who otherwise have neither the desire nor the financial or emotional ability to nurture or raise a child?
According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, there are over 2 million children in America who live with grandparents or some other relative because their natural parents, for whatever reason, cannot care for them. Over a half million of America’s children are in foster care, and, each week another 60,000 enter the system. But this data does not address the hard reality of why so many children end up “in the system” because of parental abuse of neglect. Black children account for over 25 percent of children “in the system.” Black children are roughly 11 percent of the general population. In 2012 more than half of the children entering the foster care system were children of color.
From a “purist” point of view, an unwanted child is a child whose parents did not plan for the child’s conception or birth. These parents did not intend for the act of sex to result in the birth of a child. And, from the moment of that child’s birth, or at some point after birth, the parent or parents have no wish or desire to remain or become responsible parents. There are millions of children in America who are “unwanted.” The mother of little Cooper Harris, the 22-month old who baked to death in a hot car, spoke at his funeral and said that she would not want him back. Such a statement is revealing on many fronts. She spoke about all the “life challenges” and disappointments that the dead little Cooper would not have to endure. Her statements were cold and callous by any standard. But what about the actions of parents toward their unwanted children behind closed doors all across America?
Why do parents not want their own children after they give birth to them? At the extreme end are children who are the product of rape for whom the birth mother cannot emotionally bond with the child. At the other extreme are selfish, narcissistic, mothers especially, who are too immature to love a child and meet its needs. Somewhere in the middle are people who cannot financially afford to care for their children so they give them away or otherwise leave them behind. Somewhere in the middle also are people who harbor resentments toward a child because of painful or turbulent events and rejection issues with the child’s other parent. Somewhere in the middle also are parents who have become drug or alcohol dependent and who develop serious mental and emotional issues that make them incapable for loving or caring for their own children. Somewhere in the middle also are parents who had no clue about what it would take to raise a child before they “got pregnant” and gave birth so they dump their children off on someone else. What is the life of an unwanted child?
To be an unwanted child is to be on the receiving end of lack of life’s basic essentials because of an absent father. To be an unwanted child is to be deprived of natural and nurturing hugs, kisses, and “I love you” from a caring mother. To be an unwanted child is learn how to interpret and navigate the sound and feel of hatred and resentment from a birth mother whose daily actions make it clear that the child is a hindrance or a burden on her life. To be an unwanted child is to learn how to accept sudden and unexpected physical punishment from a hate-filled mother who follows up each blow with the words “I dare you to cry.” To be an unwanted child is to be left behind to be raised by relatives, especially, grandmothers, while the birth mother “goes on with her life.” To be an unwanted child is to go to bed crying because a mother who said she would be right back didn’t return. To be an unwanted child is to grow up ashamed of being “illegitimate” in the company of other children who dare to use the words “my mom,” and especially, “my dad.” To be an unwanted child is to draw and color fictional “mommies and daddies” living together as a family under the same roof. To be an unwanted child is to learn how to make your way in this world alone and adrift emotionally scarred while trying to manage self hatred and self rejection. To be an unwanted child is to grow up cynical and hypercritical about the commandment to “honor thy father and thy mother.” To be an unwanted child is to grow up and promise that your own kids would have more than you had. To be an unwanted child is to learn to suppress your resentment toward the once absent parent who wants your money or your time in their old age after you manage by the grace of God to eke out a successful life of your own. To be an unwanted child is to grapple with how to forgive an elderly parent whose resentment of your existence is still alive and well. To be an unwanted child is to learn, as an adult, how to manage and conceal all the painful memories of what it is like to be an unwanted child. I know all this because I was born an unwanted child.
Copyright 2014 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.