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In the Mad Men first season closer, Betty tries to convince her husband to join the family for Thanksgiving. But what about creating memories for the children? (Forgive my paraphrasing… I don’t know the actual quote and won’t until the episode comes ’round again.)

And I thought, as those words (or other words nothing like those but going for the same affect) were spoken, Is that why we do it?

(The theme of the particular episode is nostalgia, and I’m not going to tackle all that in this post; I will get back to that in the not to distant future.)

The notion that seeding future memories is our sole motivation for bringing happiness to our children is one that infuriates me.

I am pretty sure that we should be giving them happy childhoods so that they can be happy people, and not just due to the parts they remember. I am pretty sure that doing right by our children involves giving them a happy family (if one is available), not just a portrait of one.

Even if little Johny or Sally or Billy or Cindy Lou Who is too young to remember that Daddy missed Thanksgiving, that kid will still be present for a holiday meal where Daddy is missing and Mommy is hurt and resentful. The kid might just be impacted by that. Damaged? Doubtful. But Daddy being there is a genuine contribution whether little so-and-so remembers the event or doesn’t.

I have a whole lot of nieces and nephews ranging from two months to seven years (and a 17 year old). And it feels so good when they shine their cute smiley love all over me. And it feels so good when I earn the good aunt points. But it’s just not about that. It’s not about how well they show me their love, or more specifically, how well they show me that they know I love them. Their job is not to behave in such a way that Aunt Roberta has an accurate barometer for how good a job she is doing, auntwise. They show me the love? Bonus. But my job is to love them regardless of how they appear to receive that love.

I think a lot about how children are viewed and treated and spoken to. I shudder when I see a parent casually yell at their kid in a way they would never speak to an adult. I see people discuss things in front of children with an assumption that because the child seems too small or too distracted, the adult discussion is not being heard or absorbed.

Mad Men continues to illuminate everything that horrifies me in this arena; the children on the show, while they may be loved, are not considered fully human. They are more like pets or accessories. And I suspect that as the series advances and the children get older and the 60’s become the 60’s, a whole lot more will be revealed.

I hope you all had a happy few holidays and that you loved the hell out of your kids.

(Cross-posted back on the homefront.)

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