Of the Education of Children

But, in truth . . . the greatest and most important difficulty of human science is the education of children. For . . . after that which is planted comes to life, there is a great deal more to be done, more art to be used, more care to be taken, and much more difficulty to cultivate and bring it to perfection. . . . it is no hard matter to get children; but after they are born, then begins the trouble, solicitude, and care rightly to train, principle, and bring them up.
montaigne, “of the education of children”

To the young woman who approached me last year after one of my muddled and peculiar readings and told me she was about to have twins, which I wasn’t going to say anything about even though she was incredibly vast in the uteral area, but one thing you learn at Guy School is to never ever comment on what seems like a pregnancy unless you see a leg sticking out where you shouldn’t be looking anyway, which reminds me later to discuss name tags and how they are always exactly at the breast level where you should not be looking no matter what; and who said also that she and her husband had a two-year-old child already, and she knew I had once been in her position, as a parent of one small agent of entropy with two more imminent, and did I have any advice for her?

I never yet saw that father, howsoever headlong and spillacious his son or daughter, or later surly and sneering and vulgar with his or her mobile phone permanently glued to his or her palm even if it is dinner or a wedding, who would disown that child, although to be honest I have often thought about disowning most of my children, and I know many a man who has contemplated this also; and I would guess many a mother has been in similar position, with the distinction, subtle but telling, that this headlong or later surly child actually lived inside her once upon a time, down by the kidneys and the spleen, actually attached to her by a long tube rather like the tubing that you use when you distill whiskey. I am no obstetrician, as yet, but the fact that children live inside the mother, like tenants in an apartment building but without the rent and utilities and security deposit and maintenance man who just will not for heavenssake fix that thermostat, and then eventually, again like tenants, are forcibly ejected or evicted and must seek for new accommodations, is endlessly interesting to me, and not something, I feel, that we celebrate enough for the sheer whopping oddity of it.

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