Make Babies

May 5, 2012

In general, artists are narcissists. That is probably a little mean to say, but it’s true. We’re encouraged to introspect, then create according to our deepest emotions, and not to compromise on our vision. Nobody is more in tune with the self than the artist, just go ask any artist you know. We protect the self, project the self then sign our signature on every art work just in case you forget what the artwork is really all about. There is a cure for art narcissism.

I can divide my life into two segments, before children and after. Having a kid is the most life shifting moment of life because if you remain a narcissist after having children they’ll simply die. So imagine how strange it is to be in a group full of artists only to see them cringe in horror at the thought of having children. That’s right, some of the most creative people in the world refuse to create the most important thing we know of… people.

What bugs me about modern parenting is how everyone acts like they don’t know what to do. If you have kids, you’ll be perfectly equipped to be a parent. 14 year olds have been good parents, and 80 year olds have been good parents. Your inexperience is not what will make you a bad parent. If I had to wish for something that could help just about every person I know, I wouldn’t wish that the writer would get that movie deal, that the businessman would get that promotion, I would wish that every person could be a parent.

Most people who don’t want kids concoct an elaborate chain of excuses; I need to work on my career, I can’t take the responsibility, the world is a terrible place for children, the world is over crowded. Each argument is easy to refute with a little common sense, but my point is that we’re really good at coming up with excuses against having children and that any old excuse will do.

One reason why I love being  a parent is that very little else I do in life is of significance. I’ve created thousands of pieces of art, made games, played games, been on TV but the one thing I couldn’t live without is my family. This is where the coal miner is given the same keys to happiness as the most famous actor. The billionaire who has a child dying of cancer would trade his entire fortune for that child. The world’s most famous director would give up every Oscar to keep their kid alive, and the decision would be pretty easy.

If you ever wonder what title will be more important in your life, just go ask your mother or father if they can think of a better title than mother or father. Go do it, right now. I guarantee you that they will find their position as your parent to be greater than any other accomplishment in their life… and that is true no matter how big of a success they are and no matter how big of a failure you are.

As for career vs. family, when I’m old and the rest of the world has turned their back on me, my career won’t be there for me. On my deathbed, I’ll want to be surrounded by my family, not my art table. These days, as much as I love to draw all of the time, I’m at least as excited over my 6 year old daughter’s artwork as anything I come up with. Parenting taught me how to not just love art, but to love little artists. I love them enough to create a few of them.

33 Responses to “Make Babies”

  1. Benmanben Says:

    I think some people are meant to remain single.

    • maybe so, but don’t let that be another excuse. :P

    • Kenny Brown Says:

      Perhaps so, but having children can be a great cure for narcissism, and that’s the point here.

      • Kenny Brown Says:

        1 Corinthians 7:32-33; I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs —how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided.

        The Apostle Paul disagrees with you… but what does he know.

      • Benmanben Says:

        Really? Do you not know what I refer to?

        1 Corinthians 7:8;
        “I say there therefore to the unmarried and the widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I,”(KJB.)

      • tennapel Says:

        v 26 shows that it’s regarding “the present crisis” which I assume is because Christians were being slaughtered. In that case and at that time of crisis, it was better to remain single. If everyone followed that preferred advice the world would end.

      • Benmanben Says:

        Well I suppose if too few people reproduced it would be bad.
        But that doesn’t mean some people shouldn’t remain single.

      • tennapel Says:

        “Should” is a moral word. I like to hear a moral argument for why people should remain single. In Paul’s time, I’d bet he was longing for fellow single people to disseminate the message of faith. It was particularly dangerous when a Christian was captured, and they would feed his family to lions if he didn’t renounce the faith. That hardly applies to today, and it’s hardly the reasoning for why many people today pursue singleness or fear having children.

  2. This is good stuff man. Good stuff.

  3. Frobman Says:

    Very interesting read there. One that’s been bugging me for a long while.

    Well, other than something about very young children that bug me, I usually think I may better off not have children. Someone who’s pretty anti-social more or less and not that right in the head, and also barely able to take care of himself, wouldn’t it be bad for a kid to have a father he can barely connect to? Sure, that sounds like an excuse, but it’s a concern of mine. Though if I do have kids somehow, I shall still try to do my best with them regardless. After all, it’s not their fault they’re born and all that.

    But that’s just me. And if I find somebody, which seems very unlikely, but we’ll never know.

    • tennapel Says:

      Young children bug me. I was at one time very anti social, and not right in the head.

      Some people (like sociopaths) wouldn’t be fit for parenting, but I’ve met all types of really geeky people who did very well as parents. In fact, some people are failures at everything but being a parent.

      • Thomas Says:

        Frobman, I used to be just like you when I was a teenager. I thought I hated being around kids. Then my aunt died and my two little cousins moved in with me and my folks. Having kids close to you and depending on you will change you. I suppose having children of your own is that times a million.

        Kids are not that bad at all, actually. You won’t find in them the malice or falsehood that you see in most adults. And that is probably what got you into being anti-social in the first place, right?

        Btw Doug, you should really do some Chesterton comics. I saw a drawing you made of him recently on another blog and couldn’t stop thinking about it. Chesterton comics. How come nobody ever thought of that? Well, to be fair Neil Gaiman did. But he didn’t use the “character” well enough at all. He didn’t even use the right *context*, for Christ’s sake.

  4. Here is why this is an interesting post. On Friday I was driving with my family up to our local ski hill to take some runs. On the way I thought – Hey, I’m an artist. I am creating family right here right now. Memories, quality time together, experiences. All of it was a part of the whole project I am constantly creating. One that lasts and has value. Your post is the flip side to that.

  5. muttman Says:

    I thought for a long time that my antisocial geekiness would forever trap me in singleness. However, by God’s grace, I found the perfect woman for me and fell madly in love. Now married, we have two very young geeks who are the apples of my eye. Two things are abundantly clear to me; 1. kids make it extremely difficult to complete creative projects because of the attention they require, and 2. they are sources of great creative inspiration. Even though the time and energy required to be a parent is extraordinary, I realize that these years will forever forge my creative path. One day, I’ll be the father of adult children and I’ll have the memories of magical moments where we made stories and adventures through the house and back yard. Being a creative parent is like bootcamp for being a creative story teller. Sometimes it’s not exactly the kind of story you want to tell, but if you can captivate the mind of a 4 year old you feel empowered to continue mankind’s oldest tradition of passing on great stories. No better feeling than that for a story teller. Also, aren’t the best stories also the most simple premises. There’s a danger, a victim, and a hero. And the good guys

    I loved this post – because being a dad has been the best creative experience of my life. I wouldn’t trade a minute of it, even the hard times, for any high profile contract.

  6. Zax Says:

    Guess I should keep the dating game going then…

  7. Well said.
    Kids are unique in our culture in that there’s no Madison Avenue campaign trumpeting their virtues and encouraging husbands and wives to start their families. Yet babies are rewards, blessings; being a mom or dad is the sweetest and hardest work you’ll ever do.
    With so many reasons given *not* to have kids, it’s refreshing to see this: a very good reason *to* have them!

  8. M Kitchen Says:

    In our latest “Kitchen Bros. Comic Book Podcast” I made the observation that I’ve created as many children as I have comic books (five).

    So I (obviously) agree with these sentiments.

  9. Sanits Says:

    Awesome, made me think. Needed this :)

  10. Pope Pius XII’s words to Newlyweds:
    “It will depend on you whether those innocent souls, whom the embrace of Infinite Love desires to call from nothing, shall come to the threshold of life, in order to make of them one day His chosen companions in the eternal happiness of Heaven. But alas! If they remain merely magnificent images in the mind of God when they could have been rays of sun that illuminate every man who comes into this world (Jn.1:9), they will remain forever nothing but lights extinguished by the cowardice and selfishness of man!” (“Dear Newlyweds”)

  11. Jessica Says:

    This is incredibly encouraging to hear–especially coming from another artist. I am 24, married, and am an aspiring artist….I will be blatantly honest: the thought of having kids scares me. I am afraid that my identity of who I am will be absorbed into a pessimistic cultural portrayal of an unhappy mom who wishes to be “free” again. It’s easy to believe in that outcome….and yet, I know that that only happens if you allow yourself to succumb to that cultural mentality.

    “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.” Psalm 127:3-5

    This is the truth that I know I must believe in. I know that I must fight against the lies and remember that God didn’t give me the talent of art all for naught. Deep down I believe that an artist can be both passionate about their work as well as their family. With all that said, thank you for affirming the truth. One day when we have kids (and I truly wish to someday!), I’ll definitely need to remind myself of that. :)

  12. Lindsay Says:

    what a wonderful post, i enjoyed it. It is amazing how being a parent changes one’s perspective on things, how many things that seemed important once seem trivial now. I am a mum to 5 gorgeous and amazing children and would do any thing for them.

  13. Gazzer Says:

    Love you and your work, Doug and I’m glad you have found so much fulfillment as a parent. I’m kind of puzzled, though, why you felt the need to encourage people to have children since that’s exactly what most people do, even when they probably shouldn’t. If there’s one thing people are good at, it’s reproducing. And what about encouraging them to adopt children who are already here versus making new kids? Don’t we have a surplus of crumb-crunchers right now and not enough good homes to meet the demand? Seems like a better thing would be to take care of the children who are already here than to punch out little copies of ourselves.

    I know it’s your blog and your place to speak your mind, but I think it’s bad advice to encourage people to go against their own doubts and misgivings and have kids in the hope and belief it will be the best thing for them. What if it’s not, and what if those parents regret having kids – or worse – parent in a way that is abusive or in a way where the child knows he or she wasn’t wanted. Kids, as you know, are smart little cookies and they can read disapproval at a really early age. If you hate being a parent, you’re kind of stuck. You don’t get an undo when you decide being a parent is not for you.

    There are many people who simply shouldn’t be parents, but have kids anyway and I’m not talking about societal sociopaths. I’m referring to the people who don’t have their lives in order or those who live irresponsible and dangerous lives and for whom having kids doesn’t magically flip the responsibility switch. I have several acquaintances who didn’t magically become better people by reproducing. They had children and continued to live the way they always lived it, except after having kids their poor choices affected not just them, but also innocent lives who didn’t ask to be created. The children of these kinds of people are neglected, mistreated and abused. I know you care about kids, so I’m sure you wouldn’t advise out-of-control people to just ‘make babies.’

    Then there are the countless kids born in miserable third-world countries who’ll never know much of anything resembling a happy life. I wonder if you would give the same advice about having children to people in places like North Korea. But maybe I’m missing the point and you are only advising people in first-world countries with lots of freedoms and opportunities to have kids. I’ll re-read your post and see if I missed something.

    As I said, I think it’s wonderful you are happy as a father and find your children to be a source of wonder, pride, joy and inspiration. And I would never try to discourage someone who really wants children to not have them. However, I think it’s worth saying that those of us out there who have no desire to be parents are doing the right thing by not making kids we don’t want. How sick would it be to make a life you didn’t really want in the first place and then have to spend the rest of your life living with the consequences? It would be better to never find out, in my opinion.

    • Gazzer, you said exactly what I was thinking, and in a far nicer way than I could have managed.

      Also, I think having children to cure your narcissism is .. well … kind of narcissistic. I have an artistic father who is a narcissist and I can tell you that damage was done, and that we no longer speak. I am an artist too, and I will never create life to “fix” what’s wrong with me. The idea is appalling and utterly selfish.

  14. Doug, The wife and I are making another (here in L.A.!) Due around Thanksgiving, and it’s a girl. This will be #4 for me… can you believe it?!? – Webster

  15. […] If you are an artist and don’t think family is art – check THIS out.  Making babies is the highest form of […]

  16. Anthony Says:

    I believe in this so wholeheartedly. Thanks for posting these important thoughts. Family is so important to art and the artist.

  17. This specific article, “Make Babies TenNapel’s Weblog” displays the fact that u really fully understand everything that you r writing about! I really definitely approve. Many thanks ,Shanna

  18. […] kids is a life not worth living. It was after the discussion on Mark’s blog, but I found this post on the blog of the preeminent cartoonist Doug TenNapel and it expresses better than I could the point I was trying to make (here’s an […]

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