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The Paradox of Parenting

  • People care for their children. They care that their children be alive, do well and live in the best possible world.
  • People also care for their grandchildren, but mostly only after they are born and exist. It is difficult to care for the lives of people whom we will never meet.
  • How many people are really concerned about how their grandchildren will do in their old age?
  • Do we really care for our grand-grand-grand-children who will live a century from now? Do we care what world they will live in? Do we care whether they will be poor or rich? whether there will be peace or war? Probably not.
  • Do we care if the human race will still exist a million years from now? Probably not. In fact, most of us think that at some point the human race will disappear.
  • A thousand years from now? A century from now? The horizon really seems to be the children: people care that their children stay alive and stay well throughout their lives. To some extent people also care for the children of their children, but a lot less.
  • The horizon is therefore defined by how we can influence their lives. If and while we can affect the outcome, then we care for the outcome.
  • We have no emotional attachment to the future ages in which we can no longer affect the outcome, and we won't even know what the situation is.
  • But then it sounds like a contradiction. Why care about your children's survival if you don't care about your children's children's children's survival? If it makes no difference to you what happens to your descendants one thousand years from now, why should it make any different what happens to your children today?
  • It must be about us, not about them.